Tell me how you start your day and I’ll tell you what your life looks like.
I used to hate early mornings. I was the prime example of a night owl and the snooze button was my best friend. Until one day, I realized an important truth.
The morning is the most decisive part of your day because you start with a clean slate. What you do in the first hour after you open your eyes determines how the rest of your day goes, so get a head start.
Unfortunately, most people start not only on the wrong foot, but crawling through a war zone on all fours. They wake up tired, snooze their alarm, spend 20 drowsy minutes on their phone before they wolf down two pieces of toast and their first cup of coffee hits, then rush out the door for work. But that’s not all.
Like a coffee stain you got on your shirt during breakfast, you carry this attitude through the day. How do I know? Because I’ve done this countless times. Looking back at it now, I want to slap myself in the face. But it’s early morning as I write this, and a whack over the head isn’t a good way to start my day, whether deserved or not.
Turning your morning from Apocalypse Now into a time of peace, preparation, and prosperity isn’t rocket science. In fact, it only takes a few specific actions that improve your day 80/20 style — and none of them will take more than ten minutes.
Your Morning Starts the Night Before
First things first. You can’t have a great morning if you wake up completely tired and sleep-deprived, barely able to keep your eyes open and remember your own name.
According to the American National Sleep Foundation, adults should get 7–9 hours of sweet slumber every night. However, one third of Americans are chronically sleep-deprived and the consequences are a dime a dozen. Bad mood, lower cognitive and motor performance, weaker immune-system, increased risks of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and a bunch of other nasty stuff you don’t want. Long story short: Do yourself a favor and get enough high-quality sleep.
#1: Save a Life
“Helping someone might not change the world, but it could change the world for one person.”
Imagine you saved a life first thing in the morning. You’d feel meaningful, accomplished, and important. You’d know that no matter what happened today, you already did something that counts.
You don’t have to be a lifeguard or work the suicide hotline to do so. All you need to do is ask yourself a simple question.
“Who needs me today?”
Humans are hardwired for having problems. Your friends, family, and coworkers all struggle with something, sometimes more than they’d ever admit. But every morning, you have the chance to make a difference in their lives — and in yours, as well.
An 80-year Harvard study has found relationships are the biggest determiner for your happiness, so make sure you nurture them.
Shoot someone a short message to wish them a great day or let them know you’re thinking of them — because sometimes, all we need is assurance we’re not alone. We need to be reminded that no matter how dark the sky is, the sun lurks somewhere behind the clouds. And we’re not the only one waiting for it.
Every morning, I text one of my contacts. Sometimes it’s short and silly, sometimes it’s long, deep, and thoughtful. Sometimes I lack creative juice and say “I can’t think of anything cool to say, but I still want to wish you a happy day.” You wouldn’t believe the difference such a simple message can make in other people’s lives — and your own.
Start your day by connecting with someone. Improve your relationships, and you’ll improve your happiness.
#2: Water Is Your Friend
“Drinking water is essential to a healthy lifestyle.”
— Stephen Curry, multiple NBA champion, MVP, and All-Star
Look, I don’t want to be the 623rd guy to preach drinking water is good for you. You’ve heard it all — but you still might not understand how important proper hydration is, especially in the morning.
A 2–3% (yes, with a dash in between) dehydration can lead to significant impairments of your motor and cognitive skills. When you sleep, you don’t drink anything for eight hours, but lose 500–750ml of water on average through sweat and evaporation. Hydration in the morning is key to wake up, get going, and improve your body’s and brain’s performance.
I recommend half a liter right of water right after you get up. It sounds like a lot, but it’s only two large glasses. Try it and thank me later, just like my financial advisor did.
When we met for the first time, we had a long talk about the water bottle I carry around and the importance of hydration. The whole nine yards. Next time, he told me he started drinking more water as well, especially in the mornings, and was flabbergasted by the results — namely being more fit, awake, and focused.
Much of your morning grogginess and tiredness can be cured with a few big gulps of your favorite H₂O. Prepare your drink in the evening and hydrate as soon as you wake up.
#3: Your Perception Determines Your Reality
“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”
How much morning time do you spend on your outfit and how much on your mindset? Tell me, which one will have a bigger impact on your day — what you look like, or what you feel like, how you behave, and what you think?
Your perception determines your reality. If your glass is half full or half empty doesn’t depend on the amount of water, but on how you see it. You can literally change your world and your life by changing your thought patterns and beliefs.
If you believe you’ll stay focused, distractions won’t bother you as much.
If you believe you’re full of joy and bring good vibes everywhere you go, you will.
If you believe you can’t be stressed, you’ll stay calm.
You don’t need a voodoo doll or black magic to cultivate these beliefs.
Dr. Joe Dispenza, one of the leading neuroscientists, expert on belief systems, and multiple TED speaker, says all you need is a vivid image and elevated emotions. Your brain can’t distinguish between real and vividly imagined experiences. This placebo effect can cure phobias, but it will also change your beliefs and perception of the world.
Every morning, I work on my mindset, which helps me deliver more value to clients, make more money, stay focused, and improve my relationships. The formula I use is simple, but powerful.
Affirmation + Vivid Visualization + Elevated Emotion = Improved Mindset
For example, to improve my focus, I recite the following affirmation:
I don’t let myself get distracted. I focus on the matter at hand and follow through. I know what’s important and stick to it. I feel unstoppable, focused, and calm.
Then, I recall a situation in which I have focused on my work — putting my headphones in and zoning in on my writing. I feel into the emotions it generates — being unstoppable, focused, and calm.
Every time you go through this cycle, you simulate the experience to your brain. Over time, your identity and mindset changes because to your brain, you experience these situations all the time. And as Will Durant said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
#4: Choose an Active Instead of a Reactive State
Technology is a great servant, but a bad master.
80% of people check their smartphone within 15 minutes of waking up. Let’s take a step back here and play dumb — what’s so bad about reading mails and messages first thing in the morning? It’s not that you spend valuable time getting your retina lasered away by a bright screen, but that you transition from an active into a reactive state.
When you check your phone, you react to the outside world. A message activates a certain memory, a photo makes you envy someone who’s on vacation, and a mail from your boss stresses you out. You let others decide about your morning instead of taking the rudder yourself.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, “immediately turning to your phone when you wake up can start your day off in a way that is more likely to increase stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed.”
You don’t have to hide your phone in a cupboard. Just turn off your WiFi or put it in airplane mode the night before. This way, you won’t get distracted by numerous notifications popping up.
Stay away from your phone as much as you can in the morning. Be active instead of reactive and don’t let your attention and thoughts get hijacked.
#5: Do Nothing
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
— Marcus Aurelius
I’m a huge fan of doing nothing. Not laying-on-the-couch-watching-TV doing nothing, but actually doing nothing and being in the present moment. This nothing-time is one of my greatest sources of inspiration, ideas, and improvement.
When you start your day with a few minutes to watch your thoughts and feel your body waking up, you’ll inevitably be more relaxed and at peace. No rush. No commitments. Just slowly waking up and doing nothing.
Every morning, I sit in silence and meditate for 15 minutes. I watch my thoughts come and go, and pay attention to my body. I ground myself in myself — and I carry this anchor with me throughout my day. It’s during this time that I cultivate the inner peace and strength I can feed on, no matter what happens in the next 24 hours.
Take some time to do nothing. It’s your life, and part of your morning should belong to you just being you.
How you start your day is how it will unfold. Your days become weeks, your weeks become months, your months become years, and your years become your life.
Your morning time is an exclusive opportunity to kickstart your day. To make the most out of it, do any of these five things after you wake up.
- Save a life
- Drink half a liter of water
- Work on your mindset
- Don’t check your phone
- Do nothing
“Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.”
— Wayne Huizenga
I help men create a vision for their lives, make an impact, and achieve their dreams by being more authentic. Sign up for my free 5-minute newsletter and become part of the Authentic Men Tribe!