How to start your day better in 30 minutes or less
There are a million reasons why we have bad days, but there’s one way to have more good days. Here’s what I learned.
I recently came across a great episode of the Tim Ferriss Show where Tim speaks with Tony Robbins about how Tony is so ridiculously positive all the time. For those who have followed Tony for a while, you know that he is pretty much always on his game, always cheerful and positive. So often, in fact, that you begin doubting his humanity sometimes.
But surprise surprise, as it turns out Tony isn’t a perpetually happy guy. In the podcast, Tony explained to Tim that each day is largely determined by a priming process. This is a process that most people overlook, myself included, but that is vital to improving your mental strength for the rest of your day.
It goes like this…
State → Strategy → Story
Let me explain. Let’s say that I wake up nervous (state) about a project deadline that’s coming up. I know that the project is late and that I need to figure out how to get it back on track.
I get ready for work in the usual way (hint: this is the problem).
I make coffee. I take a shower. I get dressed. I run out the door.
I get to work and I begin a strategy session on how to get the project back on track. I brainstorm, draw diagrams, create tables, but nothing seems to be working.
I think to myself, “why am I so frazzled by this that I can’t even think straight? Why is this so hard!” (stories)
While you might think that the problem in this scenario is the late project, the real problem is starting in a bad state.
According to Tony, if I begin my day in a nervous state, that frame of mind will transfer to my thinking throughout the day. When I begin trying to apply my strategic brain, instead of seeing solutions to the problem I will see more problems in the problem. I’ll start making the problem bigger rather than smaller.
And, when I’m so frustrated, I’ll begin telling myself self-effacing stories like, “why can’t I figure this out? Maybe I caused this? Why did I let this happen?”
None of this is helpful.
MOST PEOPLE’S SOLUTION
I’m sure we’ve all been there where a problem consumes you so much that you can no longer pull back and see it for what it is. You work it and rework it in your mind but simply can’t “think straight.”
When this happens, most people turn to a friend. When you explain the problem to that friend one of two things will happen.
Either that friend is a good friend who tries to challenge your thinking and offer a fresh perspective. Or, that friend is a bad friend who just reaffirms your current beliefs and tries to “comfort” you.
Assuming you have good friends, this can be a very effective solution. Getting a second perspective on a problem is incredibly effective at minimizing the problem and putting it in it’s place.
The only issue with this solution is that you’re relying on other people. While your friends may be open to helping you once in a while, no one wants to be friends with that guy or girl that’s always complaining and talking about their problems. In this scenario you’re essentially taking your negative state and spreading it to others. Not ideal.
THE TOP PERFORMER’S SOLUTION
Top performers are normal humans just like us, but they tend to be just slightly better for some reason. I can guarantee that pretty much all top performers depend on their friends just like in the above scenario. The difference is they don’t rely on their friends all the time.
They learn strategies to reduce problems rather than grow problems.
Let’s take a fresh look at the our initial example.
There are many states you can wake up feeling:
happy, nervous, sad, angry, tired, anxious, bored, excited, etc.
Whatever state you wake up in doesn’t really matter and it’s unrealistic to think you’ll wake up happy and positive every day. In the podcast, Tony explains that the most important thing is to move from your current state to a good and strong state before you do anything else.
How do you do this?
There are many ways to move to a positive state:
Rick Rubin does 20 minutes of sun exposure
I do 20 minutes of brain flushing and 30 minutes walking in the park
The commonality between all these techniques is that they’re physical. There’s a saying that the mind is a kite and the body is the string. In order to move the kite you must move the string.
Waking up and trying to think positive thoughts is a pretty useless exercise. Our brains, especially after just waking up, are not very good at manipulating themselves. Tony explains that instead of trying to address the mind, it’s far easier to address your physiology. This can vary from person to person, but starting with something like a physical exercise or a breathing exercise is pretty well tested.
After listening to over 100 different morning routines over the last 6 months, I began experimenting with different ways of waking up. A lot of these routines I found in the book Tools of Titans which details the morning routines (plus much more) of 100+ amazing humans. Here are the top 5 I found most effective (and easy) for myself:
- Morning walk (30 minutes)
- Meditation (20 min. with an app like Calm, preferably in the sun)
- Breathing exercise (10 min. of deep inhale & exhale. See Wim Hof method)
- Morning run (30 min at a medium sustained pace)
- Hot+Cold shower (15 min warm, 1 min cold, end with 1 min warm)
Regardless of which morning routine you choose, I highly recommend thinking about how you start your day. If you currently have a morning routine, perhaps it’s time to try a new one. Try to experiment.
It seems like such a simple practice to add to your life, but it’s been incredible helpful. After consistent practice of about 6–10 days I’ve noticed I’m much more level-headed and resilient to stresses now. By no means is my morning routine perfect, nor do I accomplish it every morning, but it’s been amazing to see how much calmer I can be now in chaotic situations.
As always I hope that this has been helpful to you. If you liked this article I would super appreciate it if you could hit that green heart button below!
If you want more info on meditation, gratitude practices, or breathing exercises you can find it at the links below.
And if you’d like to listen to the entire podcast episode with Tim, Tony and others, here it is: Tim Ferriss Radio Hour Meditation, Mindset, and Mastery