Welcome to Day One

Many begin; but few make it past the end of the beginning.

Motivation is a fickle servant. It animates you, igniting a small guttering spark in the darkness, wrenches you out of mere thought and into decisive action toward the towering goal you’ve erected on the far-distant horizon.

It’s a long way from here to there, yes; and sure, the traversal is anything but a clean, straight line across. But you’ve got this flame burning inside you; and even if it isn’t combusting rocket fuel and shooting you out of a cannon full of elan, esprit and all those other vivacious French words every morning, it is there to warm you and light the way. And if you forget? Well, you won’t; but in case you do, you can “remember why you started”, “begin again with the end in mind” and start to run back through that playlist of 10.7 million motivational videos YouTube has compiled for you.

Now let’s talk about what’s actually going to happen to you.

Tomorrow you’ll leave the fecund gardens of January 1 behind, always so ripe with promise.

Soon the novelty of your new project, new relationship or workout program — let’s assume for a moment you have one or several of these — will fade.

Mood will begin its slow, indomitable grind against you.

Alternative paths to your “best self” you never seriously considered before will seem newer, better, easier, more plausible and more “like you” with price tags that suddenly seem almost reasonable.

The pull of other priorities will start sucking the oxygen out of your initial enthusiasm, and before you know it, the fire you feel today — the first day — will be reduced to quenched and dying embers.

If you’ve ever been to this place — sometimes referred to as “the brink of failure” — you’ve been to The End of the Beginning (those who know him well call him TEB).

Maybe you’re there again, right now — already, 13 hours in. The cumulative effect of too many well-laid plans laid low asphyxiates the spirit.

No one has to tell you getting past this isn’t easy.

But there’s this implacable truth out there in the trackless wastes you’ll be unceremoniously schlepping through 4, 17, 44 , and 128 days from now. Something as fundamental as the pillars holding up the sky (take your coats and boots back off: there aren’t any pillars) and tectonic plates creeping beneath you that will not be denied. Novice or elite, dilettante or devastatingly adept, take this as axiomatic:

Unless you take great care to do otherwise, you will slouch through an entire life stringing together “one day” after “one day” in a tragicomedy of ceaseless beginnings.

And the awful, unfiltered truth: nearly everyone around you waking up to 2018 will prefer to warm themselves with the “hope” that new beginnings create, sacrificing new logs to the same fire over and over, effectively turning hope into the end goal, content in the delusion provided by the next new thing to never fan their flame into a blaze.

You have to choose to be different, every day. Qui playing with matches with one hand but pouring water over them with the other.

Commit. Set yourself on fire.

If that sounds “hardcore” — good.

Quit trivializing your aspirations, your talents, your time, your relationships, and your potential. Despite — or more likely, because of — the morbid glut of crises all around us, collectively and individually we are beset by a crippling pandemic of The Casual.

How’s that working out? Start taking yourself deadly serious for a change!

But how do you do that? Lofty words; but where does one begin? Let’s spend the next few paragraphs outlining just that.

Start by going to bed early in a room and with a routine you’ve designed to give yourself the best sleep possible. On waking (no snooze button), begin executing by following a simple morning practice. Before everything else, mine includes:

1) Drinking a tall glass of water: because whether you feel it or not, you’re really dehydrated. Water is life, and having some of it right up front just levels everything else up.

2) Holding a deep bodyweight squat and a couple other invigorating movements that take no longer than 90 seconds to flow through: because quality of movement in the beginning of the day impacts mood and outlook. Try a deep squat to open the hips up for 20–30 seconds and then the top kind of this 2-3 times:

Thank me later.

3) Making the bed: because a simple act of discipline, ordering your environment, effortless accomplishment and finishing what you started — however trivial — spins off behavioral feedback loops with power out of all proportion to the effort it took to straighten some sheets

4) Praying: because nurturing a relationship with God in a spirit of thanksgiving and humility takes priority over everything else. Even if you aren’t theistic or aren’t comfortable getting “metaphysical”, a time of meditation or even handwritten journaling in which you explore and express thanksgiving is essential

5) Sit in a silent room alone for at least a few minutes, still the rush of thoughts about all that you have yet to do. Breathe and set your mental focus on the day ahead, the people in it and the very short list of already-set goals created for it.

That’s it. That’s it?! Yes. The magic isn’t so much the planning, designing or contemplating of the practice (in fact, sophistication is a hindrance); but the doing.

My challenge to you, whether you’ve never done this before or have tried it in the past but slipped away from it:

Start every morning — all of them, without fail — during the period of January 2–31, 2018 spending 15–30 minutes with this practice. At first, you may have no idea what some of it looks like (especially nos. 4 and 5). In fact, starting to explore what those steps are for you is the first real test here, after ensuring you’re awake and have carved out the morning time necessary to do this justice.

Don’t look for motivation to get up. Find 15–30 minutes. Full stop. Go to bed 15–30 minutes earlier. Don’t move it to a before-bed routine, don’t game it by doing 1–3 and then 4–5 during your commute to work. This (or something just like it) is what “deadly serious” looks like.

You already have a morning routine of necessity. Now see how powerful — and even, yes I’m going to say it: transformative — to get in front of that with a morning routine by choice.

What can you expect? To learn a lot. About what it means to choose to develop a new habit, rather than circumstances dictating habits to you. About how precarious relying on motivation can be (because whose willpower isn’t vulnerable 15–30 minutes earlier in the morning than when you’d otherwise wake up?). About how much real mastery you have over reordering the simplest aspects of your life.

And slowly, you’ll learn about execution. About feeding that spark you have from a deeper well of intention and strength that is vastly superior to all those empty motivational calories you’ve been hungrily choking down.

So make your resolutions; but realize that the resolve you need to accomplish them is a different animal altogether. Commitment to a simple, surefooted morning practice is the touchstone you return to each time you wake, breaking the cycle of ceaseless beginnings and ensuring that today isn’t just one day, but Day One.

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