A Morning Routine

by Christopher Lovejoy on November 21, 2010 · 1 comment

There was a time in my life when I did what came naturally in the morning after I woke up.

The problem? I didn’t get much done, or if I did, it was hit and miss.

Today, after years of testing and tweaking, I have a morning routine that works for me.

In what follows, I discuss my routine to illustrate Pono, the seventh and final principle on the Huna Path.

The Implications of Pono

In my recent post, Harness Your Power, I raised the specter of releasing all constraints on your conduct and behavior.

While this might be a fun exercise to do in your imagination, I wouldn’t recommend that you do it in the meet world (which is not to say I’ve actually tried this in the meet world).

Making and keeping a commitment to design, establish, and follow a morning routine is your way of saying “yes” – not to discipline per se, but to the fruits of discipline.

In my view, the principle of Pono can help us to acquire and relish these fruits.

Pono says ‘effective’ is the measure of truth: “if it works, it’s Huna”.

What does this mean exactly?

The implications of Pono, in the context of the Huna Path, are highly instructive.

First, all systems (artistic, scientific, technical, personal, philosophical, ideological) are arbitrary – they’re all made up (including the system of principles upon which the Huna Path is based); there is always another way of being, having, or doing (or thinking about them).

Knowing this liberates us to extract the truth, beauty, goodness, or utility from  any system for whatever purpose we wish – to lead, guide, help, heal, design, construct, create, perform, manage, direct, or produce.

We use what works.

Second, customary ways of doing things are arbitrary.

When helping someone, for example, it isn’t necessarily better to apply one technique over another – or even to discard a technique because it didn’t work with someone in the past.

We use what works.

Third, Pono implies not only effectiveness, efficiency, and success, but also goodness. The better way is the way that works to produce the goodness, to bring about the healing (for example).

Let us now apply these insights to something as mundane (and yet, as potentially useful and fruitful) as a morning routine.

A routine that works for me

Here’s a quick overview of my morning routine:

I typically go to bed at night by 10 pm and I usually fall asleep within 5 to 10 minutes.

My alarm is set for 6 am, but I usually wake up before then, usually within an hour of 6 am. While awake, I either let my mind drift into fantasy or I meditate on my breath.

I get out of bed at 6 am, relieve myself, and prepare a cup of tea.

Drinking tea is an important ritual for me as it serves to anchor my attention for what’s to come.

While waiting for the water to boil, I complete the first set of my (modified) tai chi exercises.

After preparing my tea, I set it down on my desk to cool, and complete my tai chi exercises.

I then sit down to meditate on my breath and do it only as long as it takes to normalize my breath – to allow a slow, deep, steady rhythm of breathing to emerge naturally.

After this, I pull out my exercises on emotional releasing (The Sedona Method) and, while drinking my tea, release any and all concerns that I might have picked up in the previous 24 hours.

With this complete, and while drinking my tea, I pick and choose from among several reference sheets to do any of the following: do holistic releasing on my state of mind if I feel this is necessary, visualize beneficial outcomes for my life to come, or reinforce certain ideas that are important to me.

I then do my vision improvement exercises (using Rebuild Your Vision), spending no more than 20 minutes on them. Since May of this year, I’ve made progress to lessen my myopia and improve my eyesight (for those who are interested, I’ve gone from -6.75 L, -7.50 R to -4.75 L, -5.00 R).

After this, I go for a quick jog, which I find very energizing.

Upon returning, I prepare a mug of cocoa and get to work on my current blog post.

I typically spend no more than an hour on it, ending off at a natural break in my writing while making sure I have a sense of anticipation for my writing for the following morning.

At around 8 am, I put my computer into hibernation mode and lay out my yoga mat and do a 20-minute session.

I follow this with a shower and breakfast.

At around 9 am, after eating breakfast, I get to work on writing my latest book, where I commit myself to working for (at least) one hour.

There’s more, but this sequence will suffice to make my points.

Why this routine works for me

Since starting my routine, I’ve noticed and realized more than several benefits.

First, it compelled my focus to eliminate distractions. Knowing what I’m doing ahead of time, I can easily eliminate any tolerance that I might have of being distracted from following my routine.

Second, even on mornings when I get out of bed feeling less than inspired by my routine, I know from experience that (eventually) one or more of my activities and rewards will rekindle my inspiration.

Yesterday is a case in point.

I woke up feeling less than my best. Nevertheless, I assumed a detached state of mind through the witness perspective and followed my routine. By the time I finished eating breakfast three hours after waking up, the four hallmarks of my fulfillment had returned (vitality, clarity, buoyancy, serenity).

Third, not only does my routine build a satisfying momentum toward meeting my objectives, it also reinforces my confidence toward meeting them in a timely manner.

This momentum, and the confidence that goes with it, is quite robust.

If my routine is interrupted, like it was when I had groceries delivered to my home, I am naturally motivated to take care of them quickly so that I can pick up my routine where I left off.

Last, but certainly not least, my routine has given me a deep sense of accomplishment overall. There’s something very fulfilling about having control of your time and energy for a period of time.

Essentially, and more formally, a morning routine is beneficial for four reasons:

  1. it establishes a basis for personal meaning
  2. it provides you with a way to reinforce your sense of purpose
  3. it channels your energy in desired directions
  4. it bolsters or sustains your sense of personal worth

A morning routine sets the tone for your day; it compels you to keep your focus, to keep your energy high, to maintain your confidence, and to keep you moving forward with a sense of accomplishment.

How a routine might work for you

How might you best design, follow, and establish a morning routine?

As with any design consideration, structure determines behavior.

Take, for example, chairs. A rocking chair and a swivel chair behave differently because (obviously) they’re structured differently.

The same goes for morning routines.

In all likelihood, your morning routine will look and feel quite different from my morning routine because we’re probably both looking for different behavioral outcomes.

You might, for example, be more focused on being, rather than having or doing. Or, you might be focused more on some mix of being, having, and doing. Or, you might be focused mostly on having.

In light of these possibilities, morning routines are not carved in stone. I liken morning routines to organic creatures with capacities to grow and evolve in directions that you get to dictate – at least until they mature into predictable yet reliable creatures with enough flexibility to make it worth your while.

For me, consistency with flexibility are the hallmarks of a morning routine.

I prefer fairly rigid time frames so that I can be fairly flexible within these time frames with what I choose to be, have, or do – and having control over how much, how long, and how often.

A natural way to set time frames is with the use of anchors.

As I mentioned earlier, drinking a cup of tea is one such anchor. It marks the beginning of a time frame, and I’ve conditioned myself to finish my cup of tea near the end of the time frame.

Notice also that I’ve strategically inserted rewards within the routine to keep my motivation high. This is especially useful at the beginning, when you start to establish a new routine or a fresh version of an existing routine. For example, a mug of warm cocoa is my reward for jogging in the cold of winter or on a cold morning (I live in Canada and winter mornings can sometimes get quite cold).

A solid yet flexible morning routine flows. There’s an inherent logic about it that feels satisfying to the soul and fulfilling to the spirit. When you reach the point where all of your activities in your routine flow into each other easily and effortlessly, you’ll know you have a winner.

Here are some suggestions to get you going:
Train yourself to get up at the same time every day. This will support your quest for consistency. I know this can be hard to do sometimes, but with an attitude of failure is not an option, I’ve found that turning on a bedside lamp in darkness immediately after the alarm goes off can do wonders for getting you going.

Block a period of time over which you have full control (over time, extend this period into the morning as much as possible or desired). It might be as short as half an hour or as long as an entire morning.

Start slow and easy, if you feel this will help, and build from there. Choose a modest time frame (say, half an hour) and pick one or two activities (exercise, meditation, or writing, for example) that you’d like to do and keep doing on a daily basis. Do this for a week to start and extend from there.

For more ambitious routines, identify anchors and activities for this time period and line them up in a sequence that initially feels right (easy, comfortable, energizing, supportive) to you. This might require some testing and tweaking as you go along. Do what works for you.

Keep testing your sequencing until you’re satisfied and adjust as necessary for maximum flow.

Remember, consistency (with flexibility) is essential for making this work over the long-term.

This advice isn’t so much about discipline; it’s more about relishing the fruits of your discipline.

Thoughts to Inspire

In the light of Pono, your routine is completely arbitrary. By this I mean that there is always another way of setting it up, of sequencing it, of following it, of establishing it.

No one way of doing it is necessarily better than another. Stay flexible but strive for consistency. Use what works. Embrace what resonates and release the rest.

Certainly, you want your routine to be effective and efficient, but if you feel like you’re merely going through the motions, it’s time to refresh your routine. Remember the goodness in Pono.

That is, remember to check in with yourself once in a while: does this routine feel good to me?

Nevertheless, your commitment to maintaining your routine will face challenges. Challenges to starting it, challenges to staying on track, challenges to completing it for that day.

Just stay the course for a while – a week, perhaps, or better yet, 30 days (including weekends).

You can learn a lot about yourself from training yourself with discipline. Go easy where you feel that would help. Push hard where you think that would be necessary. But keep going.

Meeting challenges is a natural part of living.

Successfully negotiating, navigating, and resolving challenges as they come up is a natural, normal, healthy part of living, loving, learning, and growing. Having a robust routine will definitely help you with this.

Having a solid yet flexible morning routine that flows like warm honey, that extends as far into your day as you wish, serves to motivate you strongly or inspire you deeply to get other things done later in the day. It also keeps you on track and holds you accountable to yourself day after day after day.

This accountability, I believe, is the key to resolving your issues, meeting your challenges, and getting things done.

And finding lasting fulfillment in your everyday life.


Previous post:

Next post: