“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing. There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by.” ~ Annie Dillard
If I had to choose one practice that was the catalyst for my transformation then it’s rising early at 5:30 a.m. every day for the past five years.
This single commitment has changed me from a grumpy, frustrated person who was always in a rush to get things done without much joy to a much calmer person who has found more meaning and purpose in his life.
It was rising early that propelled me to add many other productive habits to my morning. It was rising early that kept me constant and consistent with the rituals that I needed to re-wire my brain. And it was rising early that gave me the thrust I needed to go further toward the path of my authenticity.
There is something special, almost magical when we wake up a few minutes before the sun comes out. It’s like we watch its birth and look at it in grateful awe. We feel its might, and it somehow reminds us of life’s beauty and the infinite possibilities we have to connect to its power.
These are the big areas in my life that rising early has helped tremendously:
1. Inner peace
I learned that to have peace throughout the day, I needed to start with solitude and connection to my soul. I needed to ignore the noise that constantly surrounds me and listen to the songs and lullabies that my soul whispers in my ears.
There is no better time to do so than just before the sun comes out. The birds start chirping away, and the trees outside stand tall and ready for their day. And there is always a hint of freshness in the atmosphere. It’s like life is ready to dazzle me, and that gives me a feeling of inner peace and freedom that stays with me for the whole day.
As I become more consistent with my morning rituals, and without many distractions, I found myself in that state of “flow.” I connect with my soul and find that my creative juices are flowing, and my muse is always close by to help me create.
During this time, there are no questions to be answered, no emails to respond to, and no decisions to be made. I can easily focus on one thing, and it’s usually my writing.
Examples of great people who rose early and allowed this energy in the morning to help them create are Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway and Richard Branson.
3. Feeling energized
What we do in the morning will set us up for the rest of our day. And when we remain consistent with getting up early and follow our daily rituals, then we find ourselves with so much energy within us that we can achieve much more during the day.
I very often find that by afternoon, I’ve done most of the big tasks I was meant to do and as such the rest of the day becomes a breeze. And that’s in stark contrast to the other days where I achieve much less when I don’t wake up early and my mornings don’t go to plan.
Even though rising early isn’t as challenging as climbing Mount Everest, it gives me a sense of achievement. It’s like I’ve won my first battle with my inner voice that is often beseeching me to stay in bed and sleep. I’ve mastered my mind first thing in the morning.
This satisfying feeling of self-discipline remains with me, triggering a “can do” attitude throughout the day, which then feeds my other activities with so much energy that I feel I can’t but succeed.
5. Better sleep
Rising early and consistently at the same time every day has helped me establish a better sleep routine. I’ve had to go to bed earlier at the same time every night, and this makes my quality of sleep much better as my body is more in tune with earth’s circadian rhythms.
6. Time to exercise
I use to exercise in the evening after work but it was often sporadic and inconsistent, and so exercise became dependent on other factors. I would often have to cancel as something would always come up and it was more difficult to maintain my discipline after a hard day’s work
However, when I started rising early, I had time to exercise in the morning and found it to be one of my most rewarding actions. Exercising at the start of the day energized me, and as the endorphins kicked in, I found myself with a better attitude and smiling more often, throughout the day.
7. Time to meditate
As with my exercise, I could only cultivate this practice when I started meditating consistently in the early hours of the day when the whole world seemed conducive to solitude. I found my mind much more restful than in the evening.
Even though I still struggle with my meditation practice, especially at the beginning, I find that the final five minutes make up for it. I can’t say enough about the benefits that meditation has brought into my life.
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” ~ Brené Brown
I’m not saying that the only way to be peaceful and productive is to rise early, but it worked well for me (and many of my famous heroes), and this is coming from someone who used to claim he was not a morning person.
There are many days that I can’t get up early as an enforced late night or bad night’s sleep will hinder my discipline. However, I find that if I stick to this regimen of rising early and practicing my rituals about 80 percent of the time, I’m fine.
I have found that to cultivate the authenticity within me, my morning rituals become the vehicle that drive me toward the nirvana of my true self.
Author: Mo Issa
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Sonja Guina/Unsplash