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Want to Take Control of Your Morning? Build Your Routine Around These 3 Pillars

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morning routine

Do you ever feel like you can’t get ahead during the day?  Are you tired or sluggish and can’t seem to get energized? Are you constantly putting out fires and feel overwhelmed with the situations that confront you? Until I began and stuck to a morning routine, I used to battle these feelings for most of my days.

When I reflect on the small changes I’ve made that produced the greatest results, a morning routine is #1 on the list.  It allows me to center myself before the day begins. I am able to respond instead of react to circumstances.  It gives me a sense of accomplishment before the day begins and energizes me to remain productive throughout the day.  

I built my morning routine around the 3 pillars of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.  

1. Spiritual

I begin my day with breathwork and meditation. While I am doing this practice I ponder on a few questions.  How deep is my breath going?  What thoughts keeping popping into my head?  How do I feel compared to other days?  Am I stressed or do I feel relaxed?  Am I having trouble focusing on my breath?

Pondering on the answers to these questions allows me to center my mind and get in touch with my body.  It helps me focus throughout the day and not let stress take over.  I know I can always come back to the breath if I need to settle down.

“How am I going to live today in order to create the tomorrow I’m committed to?” – Tony Robbins

2. Mental

When I finish my breathwork and meditation, I move into a journaling practice.  I will write about my meditation and breath experience plus anything that pops into my head. I use this exercise as a brain dump to release my subconscious and anything that is on my mind.  

There is something about writing down all of the thoughts that come into your mind that is freeing. I will also use my journaling to write three things I am grateful for each day.  It does not have to be something big either.  Sometimes it is as small as the smell of my puppy’s breath.  

My goal is to think of different things every day.  This helps train the brain to look on the bright side and seek out positive experience during the day.  Lastly, I will include goals I would like to accomplish during the day and a few affirmations.

After I finish writing, I will read a passage from a book.  The reading allows me to introduce and apply beneficial information from great minds throughout history to my life.  The first information I consume on the day needs to be beneficial.  It needs to be educational and allow me to grow.  

I do not want my brain to take a look at the latest hysteria on the news or mindless social media.   From the breathwork, meditation, journaling, and reading, my mind and spirit are ready for the day.  Now I need to get the body moving.

3. Physical

My morning movement practice is not intense and is focused on opening up the joints and tight muscles with stretching and flowing movements.  I use a program called 5-Minute Flow by Max Shanks.  It consists of flowing movements similar to vinyasa flow yoga but with less structure.  It primes the pump, allowing the joints and muscles to wake up after being asleep all night.  It takes me five to ten minutes and I am ready to attack the day once this is complete.  

“If today were the last day of my life, what would I want to do? What am I about to do today?” – Steve Jobs

To Sum it Up

My morning routine takes me less than an hour and is the most beneficial time of the day for me.  It allows me to focus, brings creativity to my work, and builds on the three pillars of a whole person (mental, physical, and spiritual).  Since starting this practice over a year ago, my anxiety dropped and I have an ability to go with the flow as problems arise during the day.  

It is the structure I need to give me freedom for the rest of the day.  Starting the day knowing I have moved my body, learned something new, and delved into my inner thoughts is my first win of the day.  

If you are looking to start a morning routine, I advise trying one of these activities and see how you respond.  If you are having trouble getting movement during the day, start stretching.  If you are stressed, try breathwork and meditation.  If the thoughts in your head are getting in the way, try journaling.  The key is to start small and build.  Win the morning and you will win the day!

What does your morning routine look like? Comment Below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Taylor Somerville worked in the investment business for the past 15 years in Memphis, TN. He recently decided it was time to move on to the next chapter in his life and is currently on sabbatical. Taylor lives an active lifestyle and recently completed the World's Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour race around Lake Las Vegas. He enjoys focusing and learning all he can on mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. He reflects on these in his weekly newsletter, The Long Game.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Andrew

    Jan 3, 2018 at 1:38 am

    I start with morning prayer, 20 pushups . Bath

  2. Ido Barnoam

    Dec 28, 2017 at 7:11 am

    Thanks.

    I was actually looking for a short physical activity to incorporate to my morning routine of meditation and reading, and the 5-Minute Flow sounds like the exact fit.

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Life

7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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Life

The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person. (more…)

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