THE BATTLE IS FOUGHT ANEW EVERY DAY
At 4:38 am I awoke.
Within a minute or two it became incredibly clear: My entire life was but a precursor to one small decision.
To decide what sort of man I would be.
The voice was back. So silky smooth and convincing. It paraded excuses dressed as reasons as to why I didn’t have to get up at 5am and do my routine.
- I had got into bed at 11, thus giving me only 6 hours sleep (WAAAH).
- I didn’t have my phone (deliberate? Perhaps).
- I hadn’t set an alarm.
- I was tired and needed sleep, otherwise I would get run down (see point 1).
And so on and so forth.
My goal to this point had been to maintain the morning routine for three weeks. This was the final day of an otherwise successful twenty-one.
And I was about to throw it all away.
I tried convincing myself to go back to sleep. I “needed” sleep. My self-sabotaging intention was to sleep in regardless of the goals I had set myself.
Fuck the goals, the little voice said. Sleep instead. You need it. What is this routine anyhow? Just a bunch of pushups and sit-ups. They don’t get you nowhere.
But I remained awake. Torn. Listening to the war raging in my skull, and in my body. I felt the familiar weight in my solar plexus that signalled I was about to do a thing I didn’t want to do.
And I really didn’t want to do it.
I got up.
Discipline Equals Freedom
The morning routine is an exercise in personal discipline. As Jocko Willink says, discipline equals freedom. The more discipline you can create in your life the more freedom you will have to create of your life what you want. Your deepest desires become that much closer and more achievable as you become more disciplined.
The hardest part is finding the balance between Superego (the internal policeman) guilt and the personal satisfaction of discipline, and this balance is different for each person. The mental and spiritual practices in this post will go some way towards uncovering your personal attitude towards discipline.
Mental and Spiritual – Not just for Geniuses and Hippies
The last two parts of the The Best Morning Routine Breakdown Ever focussed on the physical aspect of the morning routine, and the reasons for starting a morning routine. This time round we are going to look at the mental and spiritual practices I use in my protocol.
I define the Mental as the talents and skills of my mind that I can actively improve. Things like memory and intelligence, and aspects of creativity like the technical skills in drawing or writing.
The Spiritual I define as my connection to the subconscious. Within the subconscious lies the definition of our gods, whether they be Religious (like Jehovah), Practical (like Efficiency) or Emotional (like Guilt). The goal here is to improve this connection so we can uncover our own obstacles to success, and find out who we are.
In other words, through spiritual practice we can find our personal definition of success, and find the quickest route to it. Your capabilities, talents, likes, dislikes, and emotional temperament are just some of the diamonds waiting to be mined, and finding these treasures puts you on the fast-track to whatever the fuck you want.
Yet another list
When making my routines I think about what I need to improve in my mental and spiritual life. I ask questions of myself.
Do I want to be more present in my day to day?
A better memory?
Do I need to improve my resolve and persistence?
I then list practices that I know (or suspect) will get me big wins in these areas. This list tends to get pretty big:
- Meditation (self awareness, self discipline)
- Pranayama/box breathing (self awareness, increased oxygenation, mental clarity)
- Image Streaming (intelligence increase, visualisation practice)
- Visualisation (creativity, goal achievement)
- Writing (skill improvement, goal achievement)
- Autogenic/hypnotic tape (goal achievement)
- Drawing (skill improvement, creativity, visualisation practice)
- Journaling (self awareness, goal achievement)
- Relaxation practice (self awareness, hypnogogic practice)
- Bioenergetic Bodywork (self awareness, subconscious connection)
- Double N-back (intelligence increase, memory improvement)
- Conscious Reading (intelligence increase, rational thinking)
I then select from this list based on my goals for that month. Doing the same thing for a minimum of three weeks will give you a healthy dose of it’s effectiveness. It’s short enough a time that if it really is a bag of horseshit you won’t have to do it for too long. But it’s long enough to get past the initial “oh crap this is horseshit” stage that most mental and spiritual practices have lurking beneath their patchouli scented exteriors, and into the good stuff they are renowned for.
Again, this is the value of the morning routine: habitual behaviour can make desperate practices viable if done consistently.
Freezing My Noodle Off
To this list I add a cold shower, because that is undoubtedly the best goddam way to start the day ever. The cold shower sets the tone for the entire day. It s a combination of physical, mental and spiritual, in that it gets frighteningly cold, I need incredible resolve and fortitude to get in and stay in, and it creates a sense of easy calm afterwards. I thoroughly recommend it.
So how does my list currently look?
- 5am wakeup
- Immediate cold shower
- 50 Pushups supersetted with 10 sec hollow body holds
- Reverse shoulder walk
- Cossack squat
- Couch hip flexor
- Back roller
- Meditation 15min
- Autogenic Tape 5min
- Double N-back 10min
- Writing until 6:15 (Usually 20 – 30min or 300-500 words)
This routine is undoubtedly the best thing I’ve ever decided to do for myself. Every, Single, Day is awesome. I have a huge win each morning, and the rest of the day I spend with an inner smile, knowing that I’ve kicked serious ass.
Final Notes on the Morning Routine
Your should feel amazing after your morning routine. This means vibrantly alive, healthy and alert. If it’s not like that at the moment, tweak it until it is.
The first day will probably be great! You’ll run and tell your friends how awesome your new routine is… and then sleep in the next day. The challenge lies in maintaining the routine for at least a week or two to get over the hurdle of consistency. Keep at it!
Start small, and work to big. It took me a long time (at least a year or two) to get to the above. Just getting into a routine of getting up early was a big challenge for me, with lot’s of backsliding. But persistence pays off.
If the above seems too comprehensive, then including at least one thing from each of the categories Physical, Mental and Spiritual is great way to think about starting a routine.
The battle is fought anew EVERY SINGLE DAY.
It doesn’t get any easier to do these things, it just becomes more habitual.
If you lose one day, that’s fine. Fight again the next day.
This battle will last your whole life. Focus on winning it more, and don’t sweat the occasional loss.
Back to 4:38am
In bed that morning I realised that this was the most important decision in my life. One question ran through my head over and over:
When life gets difficult, what sort of person would I be?
The man who does what he says? Or the guy who just mumbles along like everyone else?