You’ve heard it a million times: the early bird gets the worm. And it’s no secret that corporate America certainly plays by this rule; in one study, some 90% of high-ranking executives said they start their day before 6 a.m.—some much earlier than that.
But it’s not just the hour successful people wake up that sets them apart; it’s what they do once their feet hit the ground that really makes the difference.
Studies have shown that the first hour or so you’re awake truly sets the tone for everything else that happens in your day. And the most successful people? They don’t just leave that hour to chance. They all have killer morning rituals to set them on a path for success for the next 12 to 18 hours ahead. In other words, a morning ritual.
Having a morning ritual breeds consistency, sets your focus for the day, and believe it or not, even helps you sleep better later on that night. We’re going to skip the trite advice (make a to-do list the night before!) and get straight into the meat of creating a morning ritual that actually sets your day up for success.
Change your view of motivation
What does motivation mean, exactly?
In the context of morning rituals, most of us would describe motivation as an intrinsic feeling, one of being rested and ready to jump out of bed the moment the alarm goes off. Maybe you envision it being driven by your sheer passion for your career or your desire to help others.
But in order to mold a new morning ritual—especially if you have a bad snooze-button habit—you have to change this antiquated view of motivation.
Rather than thinking of motivation as some magical supply of feel-good vibes you randomly get or something you can only harness when it “hits” you, instead think of it as a quality you have to train yourself to have.
Just like you can’t pick up a basketball and start hitting tons of three-pointers with no practice, you can’t suddenly start waking up at the crack of dawn and expect it to be easy. It’s going to take work, training and yep, some discomfort to build your morning motivation.
Make your morning ritual a non-negotiable, something you have to do even though it sucks. And guess what? Over time, it’s going to suck less and less. As you begin to see the transformation in your life, you’re going to build up more and more motivation to stick with it.
Motivation is something that grows over time, especially in the case of morning rituals.
Exercise—but for a different reason than you think
You’re a smart cookie. You know exercise is good for you and comes with loads of benefits to your body.
As you’re building your perfect morning ritual, though, we want you to momentarily look past the health benefits and instead look at exercise for more selfish reasons. Working out is literally a secret hack to help you get more done during the day and sleep better at night.
When you exercise, be it pumping heavy iron or simply taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood, your blood starts pumping more powerfully through every part of your body. This delivers more of the juice our brains need to think clearly—blood and oxygen—and the heightened brain activity sticks around long after our workout has ended.
There’s a weird thing about clear thinking and exercise. Scientists don’t really know why working out leads to the feeling of a clearer mind, but most agree the sensation of improved brain function is real and not just perceived.
If you want to compete among the best in your business, you need the added mental advantage physical exercise brings. That’s precisely why it needs to be part of your morning routine.
But wait—there’s more.
When you exercise during the day you sleep better at night, just one more advantage to having a sharper mind to do business the next day.
Millions of Americans are willing to try all sorts of things to get a better night’s sleep, from popping pills to maintaining crazy diets to undergoing hypnosis. Why wouldn’t you forego all of that and simply spend 20 minutes of your morning routine working out?
When you look at these huge advantages, making exercise part of your morning routine is a no-brainer.
Tackle your most important (and least favorite) task
Mark Twain famously said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
In other words, get the most daunting task out of the way and the rest of the day will feel easy.
This doesn’t mean you have to spend your morning doing your taxes or something else completely tedious; instead, it might mean you focus on that huge project that requires your undivided attention.
Around 9 a.m. the phone tends to start ringing and the emails begin piling in. You’re much less likely to be distracted if you’re working on that important task at 6:30 a.m.
Crossing off a task of high value (or something you’ve been putting off) first thing in the morning gives you a sense of accomplishment that will help guide your success mindset the rest of the day.
So, to recap, the perfect morning ritual involves three steps:
- Make getting up early a non-negotiable—don’t rely on “motivation” to do it.
- Exercise to give yourself clearer thinking for the day and better sleep at night
- Work on a challenging/tedious task that requires your best brain power
After that, the rest of your day will be smooth sailing. And when you do encounter rough waters, you’ll be much more apt to navigate them quickly and effectively.
Do you have a morning ritual you rely on? Share it with us in the comments section.
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Entrepereneur and author Tony Robbins talks about how to use rituals to achieve any goal you might have: