Have you ever had one of those days, you know where from the time you wake until you go to bed everything seems to go wrong? We all have at some point in time, however what may surprise you is that how we start our day usually predetermines how the rest of our day shapes up. Think about that for a moment. If you inadvertently sleep in in past the alarm clock going off, cut yourself shaving, leave the house in an argument with a loved one, spill hot coffee all over your pants, or have car troubles, chances are the rest of your day will follow suit. Conversely, if you get up before the alarm goes off, listen to your favourite music while getting ready, and laugh and joke with a loved one before heading out the door with time to spare, chances are your day will take on a more positive and happy undertone.
While nobody can predict unfortunate events (such as spilling hot coffee on yourself or car troubles) as we begin our day, there are a number of rituals we can incorporate into our morning, such that we start our day off with positivity, a present awareness, and the confidence and control to face unexpected events, such that the rest of our day is destined for success.
This is nothing new or revolutionary, for the greatest Leaders throughout history had morning rituals and habits they executed daily. The late Steve Jobs in a speech to a graduating class at Stanford said, “For the past 33 years I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” Benjamin Franklin started every day at 4 am. Until 8:00 a.m., he would wake, wash, eat breakfast, and think about what he would accomplish for the day.
While no daily ritual can 100% ensure a smooth and uneventful day, regular morning habits that are aligned to ensure the triadic core of mind, body and spirit are nurtured and fed will prepare you physically, mentally and spiritually for whatever life/work throws at you.
Here are my 10 morning rituals I utilize in my Warrior Leadership lifestyle each and every day:
- Get up Early – Getting up by 5am every morning will instill a discipline and structured routine to your mornings. It’s one reason the military instills this habit in its cadets from the beginning of their basic training. More importantly, it will enable you to do things for you, without the interruption of others, time constraints, and distractions. If you get up in just enough time each day to eat, get dressed and head out the door, chances are nothing additional/beneficial to your mind, body and spirit will be executed. I love being up early, before anyone else, for there is a peacefulness to it, a period of “my time” unencumbered by anyone or anything. One of my idols, Robin Sharma, is so fixated on the importance of rising early that the title of his new book is “The 5 am Club”. I actually get up at 4:30 am each work day, scaled back to around 6 am on the weekends, as my daily goals and tasks are different than during my work week, plus I tend to stay up a little later on weekend nights. Keep in mind, getting up several hours earlier than you have to, requires you to actually get up when the alarm clock goes off, not consistently hitting snooze, or lying in bed awake for an extra hour. You will have to actually get up in order to achieve the following 9 key morning rituals. Oh, and let’s not forget, the key to rising early is getting to bed early enough to still get sufficient rest, else the whole ritual will be self-defeating.
- Do Something Beneficial for your Mind, Body, and/or Spirit – Since you’re up early, uninhibited by distractions, it is time to do something for your mind, body, and/or spirit that will develop, hone and nurture your triadic core of Warrior Leadership, promoting positivity, health, and well-being, preparing you for the day’s challenges. Some people like to exercise, others meditate, and some people reflect upon their vision/dream and what they need to do today to augment that vision/dream. I prefer light brief exercise in the morning, coupled with a short meditation session. Love to also listen to my favourite music, as it induces calmness and positivity. I save my longer, harder workouts for the evening, as it is a great way to flush the mind of problems, destress, and download all the day’s chatter. I will elaborate further on this in a subsequent article, detailing the top 10 things to do to end your day. Some mornings I’ll watch a short podcast or educational video from one of my mentors, all adding to my storehouse of knowledge and sculpting my mindset before my day begins.
- Fuel Your Body and Brain – Too many people skip breakfast, grabbing a quick coffee, and never see solid food until lunch rolls around. If you ate dinner at 6 pm, went to bed at 10 pm, and got up at 5 am, already you’ve gone 11 hours without providing any fuel for your body and brain. Physically and mentally you’re depleted, and your day is just starting. If you wait until noon to actually eat and drink anything of actual substance, you can add an additional 7 hours to this tally (and we will not count coffee as any food/drink of substance), meaning it has been 18 hours since you last provided yourself with the necessary fuel to think and operate at peak optimal efficiency. Do you think this doesn’t impact your mood, perception, problem solving, and overall state of mind? What about your ability to face adversity, challenges, and unexpected difficulties that may come your way? You probably charge your cell phone more often than you’ve fueled your body/brain. So, eat breakfast, ensuring it consists of healthy food and beverages, not empty caloric choices that will only last until 7 am.
- Make Your Bed – You may ask “Why would I want to do this? I’m an adult and I’m just going to get into it again tonight?” While that may be true, and as an adult there is absolutely no rule or pressure applied to you to do this, it is exactly why you should do it. Let me explain. As a child we lived under a structure of rules, chores, and expectations that were made clear to us by a parent/guardian. One of those rules/chores was to keep the house tidy and for many that meant making your bed. As an adult, you could keep your bed unmade 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and there would be no ramifications, the choice to do so is totally up to you. Forcing yourself to do something you don’t HAVE to do generates discipline, structure and organization to your mindset. In my forthcoming book I discuss a technique for controlling emotions and fears by consciously choosing the path of most resistance. For instance, if you have patience issues, I suggest you pick the longer line at the grocery store, get behind the slower driver in traffic, even though you are in a hurry, and force yourself to confront your emotions and control your response. I’m now so accustomed to making my bed each morning, I’ve had several instances where I am ready to leave for work and I have had to remove my boots and go make my bed, as it had slipped my mind. Try it, if nothing else you’ll have a well-kept bed! Your mother would be so proud.
- Laugh – Those who have had detailed discussions with me, and those I’ve mentored on Warrior Leadership know how important laughter is to overall physical, mental and spiritual health. Some of the best Leaders I have worked with and for are those who know and appreciate the importance of laughter. It builds positivity, promotes calmness, and even strengthens the immune system. Whether it’s reading a funny joke, comic, quote, story, of just reflecting on a funny situation in your past, take the time in the morning to make yourself smile and laugh. I usually check the daily Dilbert cartoon each morning to incite a chuckle. Additionally, my morning commute to work usually takes 15 minutes to drive each day, so I take that time to listen to some of the comedy channels on Sirius satellite radio. It makes the drive less stressful, and puts me in a positive mindset, so when I arrive at work I am feeling happy and prepared to face the day’s challenges with an optimistic positive attitude.
- Identify an Improvement Opportunity – Every day is an opportunity for improvement, but improvement can only occur if it is identified and actively pursued. It literally takes five minutes for you to self-reflect and identify one thing you want to work on each day, so don’t miss such an opportunity or provide meaningless excuses for not doing so. “I will be more patient today”, “I will express thank-you to those who work for/with me today”, and “I will communicate more clearly and effectively today” are just a few of the endless examples you can conceive. Identifying them at the start of your day will give you an entire day to actively try to improve. Additionally, consciously pursuing an improvement throughout your day will enable you to improve your ability to face any challenges you encounter. Working on patience, communication, gratitude, engagement, etc. will all enhance your skills when faced with adversity.
- Stretch – In my book I talk about my grandmother and how flexible she was even in to her 90’s, able to press her palms flat to the floor without bending her knees. We often neglect this physical aspect of our bodies, focusing more on strength, cardio, and weight loss. Remaining flexible throughout our lives prevents injuries, enables us to move more confidently, and promotes blood circulation and overall physical health. I love to do a light 5 minute all over stretch in the morning, as I find it helps me become more awake and prepares my entire body for a light workout and the day’s activities.
- Express Love – We’ve all heard the stories of people losing loved ones and regretting telling them they love them the last time they saw them. Worse yet are those stories where people lose a loved one and the last memory they have is that of an argument with them. One doesn’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day to let those they care about know how much they mean to them. Let your loved ones know how much they mean to you each and every day, prior to leaving home, for you never know when it will be your last. Expressing love will not only make your loved ones feel special and cared for, but it also induces happiness, peace, and calm in your mind, one more thing to set up your mindset for the day ahead. If you leave the house before anyone else is awake, leave a note on the fridge, put sticky notes in your kid’s backpack, there are many ways to communicate how you care.
- Get Motivated – Every morning, I like to start each day by reading one of my vast collection of motivational quotes I’ve collected over the years. It takes 2 minutes to search Google for “motivational quotes”, so don’t think it’s a time consumer. I then think of my own goals and vision and how I will move one step closer today to realizing those goals and my vision, engaging my mind, my focus, and the day ahead, motivated to make a difference, to get one step closer to actualization of my dreams. If your mindset is not engaged and aligned with your passion, motivation will be non-existent.
- Leave Early – Leave home early enough such that traffic, construction delays, or whatever life will throw at you has little to no effect on arriving on time. You’ve aligned your body, mind and spirit in your previous morning rituals, don’t let the unexpected delays of life set you back before you arrive at work. Punctuality is a disciplined effort that every great Leader through history has exuded, so make sure you give yourself enough time to always be punctual, in a stress free manner.
As I have already mentioned, nothing can guarantee a day without adversity, troubles, challenges, or upsets, but ensuring your mind is in the present moment, harmonized with your body and spirit, will ensure you can face the day’s unexpected moments with confidence, poise and calmness. Try these rituals yourself, add some of your own ideas, mix them up every week to keep it evolving and exciting and you will see an amazing change for the better.
Kerry is a Leadership Specialist, a Professional Engineer, Coach, Mentor, Speaker, Author, and Martial Artist. He has amalgamated his corporate leadership knowledge with his martial arts training, to produce his own style of Warrior Leadership, where Development of Mind, Body, and Spirit are amalgamated and transcended. His book, “Warrior Leadership – A Transformation of Mind, Body & Spirit for Everyday Life and the Workplace” is available worldwide on Amazon. He is available for speaking engagements, seminars and personal coaching/training!
Be sure to follow him on Twitter @KerryKBrown for tweets on Warrior Leadership.