It seems counter-intuitive at first, but it’s more logical than you think:
The premise around daily habits is that we are controlled by them much more than we realise. According to researchers at Duke University, approximately 40% of our daily actions are habits. Somewhere along in the months and years of our lives we fell into beginning our days doing pretty much the same things in the same way at the same time.1 And this, regardless of whether or not these habits help us start our day calm and refreshed or stressed and running late. An example: checking our email or social media first thing out of bed.
A theory states that how you start your day influences how it will unfold and whether or not you’ll be your most productive self. It determines whether you’ll feel happy or stressed, centered or frustrated. The motivational coach Jim Rohn once said that if you don’t drive the day, the day drives you.
Who wants to continue feeling overwhelmed, unproductive and unhappy when there’s a technique known to help avoid all that? Personal coaches in the United States have observed that there is one common habit among those who are successful in their lives and we can chose to adopt it to improve our own lives. Furthermore, this common habit is found among people working in vastly different domains: business leaders, authors, athletes and artists.
Are our morning habits making us anxious and stressed or are they energising and focusing our minds before beginning our day?
The common habit practiced by successful people is called a “morning ritual”. Each of us already has one without knowing it: we get up in the morning in the same way, have breakfast (or not) in the same way, prepare our coffee in the same way, check our email or FaceBook page at the same time. Some of us have consciously chosen to do these things but many have just drifted into these habits without really thinking if they are supporting and preparing us for our day in the best way possible. Are our morning habits making us anxious and stressed or are they energising and focusing our minds before beginning our day?
Successful, happy people have chosen certain activities that they find nuture and strengthen them so as to prepare them for whatever the day brings. And they perform these activities as a ritual every morning: that is to say, they’re done in the same way at the same time every morning. In this way they don’t have to wake up every day and waste energy deciding if an activity is good for them or not and whether or not they’ll do it.
They have analysed what energises them and constructed a ritual around those things. They “run” that ritual every morning before any claims are made on their attention or energy by work or other responsibiliities. In this way, when they walk out the door to start their day, they’re strengthened and calm and ready for whatever comes their way. They are not starting their day stressed, rushed, frustrated, worried or angry.
What do you think of this idea of a morning ritual? Have you tried it and, if so, how did it feel? If you don’t think it’s possible for you, why do you feel that way?
- Current Directions in Psychological Science, Duke University, T. Neal, W. Wood, and J. Quinn: “Habits-A Repeat Performance”: http://web.archive.org/web/20110526144503/http://dornsife.usc.edu/wendywood/research/documents/Neal.Wood.Quinn.2006.pdf