“Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books…” – John Wooden
For those of you who have not heard of him, John Wooden was one of the winningest coaches in basketball history. At one point in his career he lead the UCLA basketball team to 10 championships in 12 years, including a streak of 7 championships in a row.
Although I don’t see myself as much of a sports fan I take wisdom and inspiration anywhere I can find it. The secret to John’s success was his intense focus on making each day a masterpiece. He strove for perfection in every practice, every drill and every game. He didn’t focus on winning championships; he focussed on making every moment as good as it possibly could be.
In keeping with John’s philosophy my personal goal is to make each day I live a virtual masterpiece. It is my dream to make each day of a picture of perfection. Just like John Wooden I know that by working hard to make each day as good as it can be I am well on my way to creating a simply incredible life.
To be clear I suffer through the same challenges and trials as everyone else on the planet. I know that my dream of a perfect life is impossible, but that doesn’t stop me from making an effort.
For me the math is simple. I don’t want to rely on external forces to determine the quality of my life experience; I want to maintain that control. In other words I choose to proactively control the quality of my day regardless what is going on around me. As a result of an intentional focus on creating great days is that I build great weeks, months and years.
Through trial and error I have found that the very best way to ensure a really good day is to make sure I create really good morning by following a really great routine.
“A morning like no other” is the post that captures my morning schedule.
Just like all of you I have a very busy life, but with just a little effort I have managed to carve out the time I need to do the things that I need to do to dramatically increase my odds of having an awesome day.
I have to illustrate a key point here; this is MY MORNING ROUTINE, it isn’t my wife’s routine, or my son’s routine. It is time I take for myself in order for me to be the very best person I can be for them and the rest of the world.
My morning routine has become the foundation of my physical and mental health, my creativity and my productivity. I have actively created the habits and routines that allow me to start each and every day off with energy, enthusiasm and optimism.
If you decide to incorporate some of my practices into your day please remember my 5 rules of habit formation. I have the developed the acronym SNACK to make it easier to remember.
Start so small that you can’t fail,
Never miss two days in a row,
Attach a new habit to an existing habit,
Keep going when you mess up.
Almost everyone says they want to have amazing days, but yet very, very few people take the time to slant the odds in their favour. In fact, the only people I know of who have actively created well thought out, useful and comprehensive daily routines are people who I have taught to do so.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know of many tremendously successful people who have created great rituals and routines for certain aspects of their lives. But most of those people are successful in only one or two domains. I have seen people who have created great wealth, but have few relationships or little health. Other people have focussed heavily on creating healthy bodies, and even great careers, but they did not take the time to look after their emotional wellbeing.
Real success comes from having a truly balanced approach to life. You have to look after all the important areas including health, wealth and happiness. You also need to pay attention to all of the important pieces that fall within those areas, such as relationships, relaxation and purpose.
It is also important to know that the creation of a great life is a process as well as a goal. Success and happiness are not specific points in time and space, you have to work constantly to create and achieve them.
While creating an awesome life is a mammoth long-term goal the creation of an awesome morning routine is a very simple process that can radically change your life. You can set aside the beginning of your day to install the routines that give you the results you want. For most of us early morning is the best time for us to deal with our personal priorities.
Years ago I created a daily routine that enables me to achieve fantastic results in every important aspect of my life. The activities that I engage in each and every morning have allowed me to achieve more health, wealth and happiness than I ever expected. The majority of the success I currently enjoy came as a direct result of my daily habits and routines.
I invite you to incorporate some of these things into your life and if you choose to you might just find yourself living a life that is exceeding your expectations.
A note about scientific validation.
I give lots of reference materials in this post and I want to make one thing very clear. I am a proponent of scientific research and results and I am dedicated to finding and implementing practices that actually work.
I avoid sources that I feel are biased and I do not recommend anything that I haven’t used.
Overall I try to be very open and honest about what has worked for me, in the hope that it will work for you.
Also it might be useful for you to know that I am not loyal to any system or process. If I find a system that works better for me I change.
If you are still with me please read on to learn more about;
A morning like no other
- I go to bed at 10:30 pm and get up at 6:05 every day.
“Early to be, early to rise makes a man, healthy, wealthy and wise,” Benjamin Franklin.
By going to bed at the same time every night and getting up the same time every morning I stabilized my circadian rhythm and gotten into a great sleep/wake cycle. In other words I have perfectly adjusted my biological clock so I fall asleep quickly and wake easily, with very few restless nights.
This one action alone has been proven to improve both health and productivity. Some of the health benefits include regulation of hormones and reduction or even elimination of various sleep disorders.
Going to bed and waking up at inconsistent times can result in an abnormal circadian rhythm with are associated with a wide range of health issues such as bipolar disorder, obesity, diabetes, depression and seasonal affective disorder.
If you are interested learning more check out THIS Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet produced by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
- I journal for 10 to 20 minutes
My journaling process is one of the most important things I do and I simply never miss doing it.
If I have the time I will journal for 20 minutes or even longer, if pressed I do it in 10.
Journaling also has a variety of scientifically proven benefits including; reduced stress, enhanced thinking and problem solving skills, clarification and resolution of problems as well as recognition and prioritization of opportunities.
As part of my journaling I write about three things that I am grateful for. To add more challenge I never write the same item down twice in the same week. This one aspect of journaling has been proven to hardwire your brain to look for the good things in life and increases happiness by at least 20%.
I also write down my daily goals as well as my life goals. I also capture any ideas and insights that have occurred overnight. By writing down my goals I am always sure to move toward them each and every day.
Finally I record the result of my various self-experiments. For example I have tested the results of caffeine on my resting heart rate and blood pressure, (no impact on my heart rate, lots of impact on blood pressure)
For more information on the benefits of journaling check out THIS article from the University of Rochester Medical Centre.
- I spend 20 minute in meditation.
By and large I always aim for 20 minutes, but if pressed I will manage on 10 minutes.
As a rule I cycle through various meditative practices. Some days I go with a focusing meditation, other days a guided meditation and I don’t decide till I sit down to meditate.
While I won’t go into details of meditation here, I will assure you that daily meditation was my first step in building an incredible amount of focus and clarity in my life.
The one thing that I never change is my meditation posture. I always sit cross-legged on the floor (in quarter lotus position). I find that if I get too comfortable I either fall asleep, or get a wee bit too relaxed.
Once again, I didn’t randomly decide to start meditating because I was looking for a reason to get up earlier in the morning. I did my research.
While there are many, many blog posts and websites that tout the benefits of meditation I went looking for the most reliable sources of information that I could find. The sources I found include THIS article from the Mayo Clinic and ANOTHER article from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- I go through a basic yoga routine for 15 to 20 minutes.
To look at me you wouldn’t think that I am much of a yoga guy, but I love the fact that I am working on my mind, my balance and my flexibility all at once. Although I am not particularly bendy, nor a Lulu lemon guy I still love my little yoga routine.
I practice yoga for the proven health benefits. Once again there is lots of evidence to prove that yoga is beneficial to people of all ages and can have particularly big impacts for mature adults. Check out THIS great article from the American Osteopathic society.
Personally I think of yoga a form of active meditation and it is a great bridge between my meditation and the more physical challenges that are also part of my daily practice.
For those of you who are interested I centre the majority of my yoga routine on the sun salutation and also include variations of the warriors pose, downward dog and even a few stretches from my martial arts days.
If you are interested there are lots of free resources on-line, or if you want drop me a line and I will hook you up.
- 3 times per week I do high intensity interval training (12 minutes)
Short bursts of high intensity interval training are awesome for all aspects of cardiovascular health.
The 30 minutes of HIIT training I do per week is in addition to my regular cardio training regimen and is my attempt to do something that increases my fitness on a daily basis.
My current HIIT program is;
2 minutes moderate intensity warm up,
2 minutes burpees,
1 minute moderate intensity recovery,
2 minutes burpees,
1 minute recovery,
2 minute burpees,
2 minute recovery.
This type of program is, once again, proven by science to have tremendously positive impacts on all elements of cardio and could actually be better than lower intensity training. For more information check out THIS episode of the Tim Ferris experiment called The One-Minute Workout Designed by Scientists by Dr. Martin Gibala.
If you are not interested in listening to long podcasts check out the show notes.
- I have the healthiest, most nutritious breakfast that I can possibly lay my hands on.
While much of the world is chowing down on doughnuts and coffee I am feeding my body a highly nutritious smoothie made with fresh kale or spinach, a touch of olive oil, whey protein, and fruit.
For good measure I include a couple of ounces of lean protein, a cup of decaffeinated coffee and a tall glass of ice water.
Once I have taken care of my daily planning and all of my physical and emotional needs I am ready to go out and rock my day!!
Many people say my morning routine takes too long and is too extreme, but my counter point to that is that my health, happiness and success is far too valuable to be left to chance.
I did my years of jumping out of bed, hurrying through my breakfast and then rushing through my day, but I have no desire to live that way any longer.
Although the constant adrenaline drip of panic living is addictive that way of living isn’t conductive to health, wealth, happiness or success by any other measure.
If you are looking to make change in your life my advice is to start small. Maybe a two-minute meditation or a little bit of stretching. Over time you might just wind up with a morning routine like mine.
As always thanks for reading Success on the Far side of Fifty and please let me know if there is anything I can ever do for you.