I used to consider myself a night owl. In college, I would schedule midday classes whenever possible so I could stay up late without forfeiting sleep. Later, as a mom with three children under the age of five, the wee hours of the night often brought quiet space to write or work on my coaching business.
Several years ago, however, things changed. Or more accurately, I changed.
After many less-than-stellar (okay, crabby) mornings, a realization struck me: I often started the day on someone or something else's terms, causing me to feel like circumstances controlled me rather than being the leader in my own life. I slowly started rising earlier, spending a few quiet moments alone before the bustle of the day began.
Before long, I found that I felt more focused, patient, and peaceful. I gained a clarity and presence that had previously eluded me. I became much more intentional and productive, without changing much other than my morning routine. My mornings felt more purposeful and the effects lasted throughout the day. When I began encouraging my coaching clients to develop a morning practice, they experienced similar results.
If you long for more meaning and purpose in your life, are a victim of your snooze alarm, or wish you felt greater fulfillment at the close of each day, pay careful attention to your mornings. Here are 10 simple ideas to consider:
1. Give thanks.
Nothing beats starting the day with gratitude. Have you experienced a work success recently? Did your child have a great day at school yesterday? Is the sun rising, meaning you've been given the gift of another day? We have much for which to be thankful, and beginning your day in a place of gratitude instantly raises your mood and emotional state.
A lifelong journaler, writing is the foundation of my morning practice; I pour my heart and mind onto the pages of my journal and nearly always experience a breakthrough, insight, or at least a cleansing of sorts. Even if you don't consider yourself a journaler, putting pen to paper for even a few minutes can clear your mind and support your wellbeing.
3. Read inspirational text.
I typically choose a devotional, poetry, or a few pages from an enlightening book. One of my clients randomly selects an entry from a book of motivational quotes; another reads a portion of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. I recommend something uplifting and positive.
The options here are endless: go for a run, engage in a yoga practice, do a series of situps and pushups, or simply wake up your limbs with some gentle stretching. I periodically combine this with the next tip and start the day with a meditative walk.
How amazing would it feel to clear your mind from constant chatter? Health experts, athletes, physicians, spiritual teachers, and more boast the effects of meditation, and beginning your day with it can increase your likelihood of returning back to it throughout the day, too. Consider a class or a guided meditation app to get started.
Create a mental picture for your ideal day, year, or life, then dwell on it for a few moments each morning. Once a year, I like to create a vision board - a collage of photos and words that represent my vision and goals - to support my visualization.
7. Savor the silence.
How often throughout your day do you get to experience true silence? No phones, no email notifications, no interruptions? Simply sitting in the silence, or combining it with prayer or admiring something of beauty, can be a rare gift these days.
8. Set your daily intention.
As you think about the day ahead, with its various activities and interactions, how do you want to carry yourself? Choose a word that represents who and how you want to be throughout the day, then call it to mind frequently. Words I have found powerful include: energized, joyful, focused, purposeful, and calm.
9. Review your "Best You."
Who are you at your very best? Capture it onto paper and take a moment to review this each morning. I have a one-page document that holds my vision statement, purpose statement, guiding principles, values, and goals. A quick scan of this each morning provides a centering effect and reminds me of my 'why.'
10. Step outside.
Even in the cold Midwest winter months, I love to step out on the deck, look up at the sky, and take a few deep breaths. It reminds me of the vastness of the world, the beauty that surrounds us, and the good fortune of another day to make a difference in the world.
How you begin your morning sets the tone for your entire day. Choose one or two of the items above, or ask yourself what would best serve you.
Then, tonight, turn your coffee maker to auto-brew, set your alarm and place it on the opposite side of your bedroom, and drift off into a peaceful sleep -- confident in the knowing that tomorrow will begin with purpose, intention, and a focus on what matters most!