What you’ll read in this Article:
- Our universal paradoxical need for Novel-Sameness
- Modern-day obstacles to staying focussed and effective
- How are successful people so productive?
- The value of a Morning Ritual
- Grabbing some ideas from Steve’s Morning Ritual
Read Time: 10-12mins
Our Universal Need For Novel-Sameness
As much as people don’t like the mundane lifeless idea of every day being the same Groundhog Day, it’s surprising just how important familiarity and certainty is to the human psyche.
There’s a concept that describes this need for both newness and familiarity – it’s called MAYA. “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable”.
People gravitate to products, people and activities that are bold and new, but are instantly comprehensible. Familiarity and predictability gives us certainty, safety and reduces the pressure off needing to grasp totally new concepts and ideas all the time.
Tony Robbins talks about it in his Six Human Needs, where people need Certainty AND Uncertainty to be satisfied and fulfilled. We want the certainty that the floor will hold our weight, that our phones will work as expected, and that a horror film follows a tried-and-true format.
But, we also like to be surprised – improvements to products we use, twists in movies, suprise gifts, and not being able to predict every aspect of what your day or dinner date is going to look like.
Put another way:
“We want as much certainty of the any given day – to feel happy, productive, successful, satisfied – but with enough unpredictable newness that makes today sufficiently different from yesterday”
Some people love certainty, have lots of internal accountability and feel happy following a rigid predetermined plan for the day. Others prefer the fluidity and freedom of taking each day as it comes, and ‘going with the flow’.
And whilst they sound like very different people, the needs are the same – to end each day feeling satisfied in how they showed up and that some progress was made.
Everyone & Everything Wants Our Attention!
OK, so we all want to have a ‘good day’ – where we achieve and experience what we wish to experience, on our own terms. The problem is, in todays world, we can easily march to someone elses beat, and our best intentions can and often get hijacked by external influences.
- You employers work schedule or client activity dictate a big chunk of your working week
- Our email, instant messages and text messages present us with a steady stream of someone else’s problem, needs or agenda
- Facebook, Instagram and other Social platforms can easily hijack our train of thought or good intentions, as we get drawn into discussion, ideas, troubles, sales pitches or the general curiosity of someone elses life
- If you’ve got kids and other dependants, you need to accommodate and support their schedule and needs
- News channels, papers and apps offer up problems, newness or ideas that vie for our increasingly limited remaining attention
- Our Smartphones offer unlimited and irresistible familiarly and newness – with the apps, the notifications, search, entertainment and so much more
And of course, there are many more sources of interruption, hijacking or general pulls on our schedule and attention that can sometimes make it feel impossible to get YOUR important stuff done.
Humans generally have very curious minds, and have inbuilt rewards systems to encourage exploration, discovery and doing things that achieve familiar states that have been deemed ‘necessary’ or previously successful.
The Dopamine reward system, for example, is what can drive many of the modern day addictions to food, drugs, gambling, social media, gaming and porn.
When it’s laid out this way, it can sometimes be surprising that people get anything done that they actually WANT. The things what makes a difference to them and are important to their idea of progress and satisfaction. As opposed to fulfilling someone elses need or offering a fleeting moment of instant gratification.
However, there are many people who are hugely productive. They get the stuff that is important to them done, consistently. They seem to have unlimited resolve, discipline, belief and work ethic. They seem happy and are owning life – not letting life own them.
How do they do it? Do they have a secret formula? Are they just super militant, and their level of resolve is simply not available for the rest of us mere humans? In getting lots of stuff done, are they actually happy, or does the pressure weigh them down?
Success Leaves Clues – Own The Morning & Have A Plan
The reality is, some people just have the perfect blend of talent, attitude, work ethic, smarts, risk appetite, leadership, foresight and skills to achieve greatness at scale. Think of the superstars of sport, business, academia.
Think of Kobe Bryant, Tony Robbins, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Ray Dalio, Richard Branson, Tom Brady, Jeff Bezos, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and Gary V etc.
These leaders achieve breathtaking feats of performance, innovation and productivity. They are not normal. They are gifted. But, without tremendous effort, work and belief, their gifts would have gone unnoticed.
All these great achievers have an abundance of self-belief and certainty of the future. They have unshakable mindsets. And, they combine this mindset with approaches that help them get lots of important stuff done. Activities that they know will move the needle.
They are not operating on someone else’s agenda, and they are not allowing themselves to get distracted or hijacked in any meaningful way. They are, for the most part, impenetrable when it comes to unwanted distractions or things that do not serve their mission.
How do they deflect distraction? How do their get meaningful work done, day in day out? How do they achieve such consistency, familiarity and predictability in their lives, when it comes to performance and outcomes?
You guessed it – to achieve predictable consistent results, albeit those results are novel and ever improving, high-achievers need to OWN their day. It needs to start right, on a consistent basis, and the things that matter MUST get scheduled.
Boiling it down further, what we are talking about is having a Morning Ritual & A Plan For The Day.
Let’s start at the beginning, and cover the morning ritual within this article.
The Value Of A Morning Ritual
It’s rarely the case that high-achievers and those who are positively transforming the world don’t have a consistent morning ritual. These guys and gals are not leaving the morning to chance.
From a rested sleep, the clock resets to zero from the moment we wake up. The slate has been wiped clean. It’s a new day, where yesterday has no physical hold on what you do today.
As your brain boots up ready to start afresh, what you decide to do in the first 30-60mins of the day can have a profound effect on the rest of the day.
An alarming number of people spend their very first waking moments checking out what stories, agendas or issues from others have entered our world whilst asleep. We’re talking within the first 0-2mins of waking up, people are drawn to check out those red badges, scroll through facebook, email, instagram and news apps. I know – that has been me for a long time!
This is not a good start. For one, it’s risky. There is a good chance you could go down a rabbit hole of curiosity. Secondly, there’s a good chance that what you read will not be geared towards making you feel great and inspired to amazing things. Far from it.
And thirdly, you are showered with new information and potential decisions, before you’ve had a moment to focus on you and your impact on the day.
What would be a better approach?
For me, anything that nourishes the mind, body and spirit, and centres around a predictable outcome of feeling great, calm and ready to own the day, on your terms, is the way to go. Then, and only then, should we allow other people’s problems and agendas to flow into our lives.
Whether you’re someone who needs to ‘warm-up’ slowly or you are a morning person, getting that first 30-60 mins of your day programmed to maximise your chances of feeling awesome has to be your goal. Whilst perfection does not exist, you have much more control over the quality of your day, your emotions and the feeling of ‘flow’ than you may have lead yourself to believe.
Ultimately, you need to do what works for you and your life circumstances. That said, there is ALWAYS time to do what is a must. Let’s make feeling great and being in control a MUST.
Steve’s Morning Ritual
Being an ongoing student of self-optimisation of both my life and others, I consume tons of books, podcasts and articles every month. I totally buy into the idea that I know so little, and there any many many people who know far more than me. Why not take on board the lessons from those who had to learn the hard way?
In learning about the successful habits of many highly-productive and impactful people in the world, as well as the science behind habits, I’ve come up with a morning format that works for me.
I can honestly and confidently say, that my mood, productivity and outlook on the day (and life) is significantly and consistently better on the days I follow all/most of the below and I don’t break my no Social Media rule.
It’s like night and day! I can consistently get the buzz of excitement, confidence, contentment and a sense of being ‘in flow’ when I do the majority of the below before I get busy.
But, I’m human. I knowingly break my rules from time to time. I pay the price when I do, in terms of not reaching the same height of enthusiasm and energy, and that can lead to more negative thoughts of regret. The effect can be pretty noticeable, and it’s that contrast that gives me my WHY to adhere to my ritual – rain or shine.
Whether it be holidays, weekends, wintry dark mornings or really busy days – I’ve learnt that I need to maintain the key elements of my morning ritual, because knowingly choosing to have a less happy/productive/enjoyable day is just plain wasteful and self-penalising.
NOTE: This is NOT a perfect Morning Ritual. It’s not one size fits all. There are many alternative or additional habits of successful people that I have not adopted because of time, interest, or because it feels like ‘too much work’. I’ll likely refine it as I realise what adds most value, what offers too little return and when I hear of habits that sound complimentary.
First, My Distraction Limiting Rule
Using Screen Time on the Apple iPhone, all Social Media, News, Entertainment and Surfing apps are silenced and blocked between 22:00-08:00. I do break this rule from time to time (frustratingly) as it is an addiction, but Screen Time makes it so much harder to go against this rule, that I know is good for me.
This makes a huge difference to my morning mood.
- A pragmatic rough-plan of Actions for the next day – Not too ambitious, but aligned with what’s important and pressing. What needs to be done and will move the needle?
- Blue Blocking Glasses & Reading – reading helps me drift off and stops me replaying thoughts from the day. The glasses help settle into night time be eliminating daylight-resembling light from screens and tech.
- Good Sleep – 6 hours minimum, with the sweet spot being 7-8 hours. Pillow spray, perhaps some topical magnesium spray and a few deep belly breaths. Sleep has a profound impact on the quality of tomorrow. Invest in getting this right.
My Morning Ritual
This is how I’ve structured my mornings. Timing shifts around a little, but for the most part this is a good representation:
#1 – Cold Lemon & Rock Salt Water – This is the very first duty of day. Rehydrate, replenish electrolytes, awaken the digestive tract and general liven me up. Half a lemon, 10-15 turns of a Rock Salt grinder and 400ml of water.
#2 – Non-Fiction Reading – To replace my smartphone habits/addiction, I reach for a book (usually digital) and get going on learning. Seems a lot harder than it actually is – within a minute or so my brain is fired up and ready to engage. I’ll ready for about 30-40mins, but 10mins would be fine too.
#3 – Valkee Human Charger Light Earbuds – These neat earphones emit a bright white light into my ears, which is equivalent to your eyes being exposed to daylight. In the dark mornings, this is a great extra hack that gets my mental and emotional cogs turning. No need to sit in front of a SAD box.
#4 – 3-5min Outdoor Rebound (weather permitting) – Whenever possible, I like to get a few minutes of fresh air, especially as we tend to spend most of our time indoors in the colder months. I’ll rebound (jump) on our outdoor trampoline, which NASA claim to be the best exercise you can do, as the g-force changes and motion illicit diaphragmatic stretching, excites your lymph system and acts as mini push ups for every cell in your body.
#5 – Food – Steve’s Awesome Morning Fuel – Everyday, I will have a hot morning shake that serves many needs for me. I get caffeine, healthy fats for cognitive sharpness and stead energy, protein to re-establish protein synthesis from being fasted whilst asleep and some creatine for overall performance. It’s hot, chocolatey, stimulating and ticks all the boxes for me. In the morning, your body is like a sponge, and will absorb all the nutrients you can throw at it.
#6 – Wellness Supplements – As your body is most receptive to nutrition absorption in the morning, I’ll take pretty much all of my wellness related supplements in the morning. You can read about what I take in the article below.
#7 – 10min Guided Meditation – I’m not religious about this, but I try and make time for 10mins of meditation using an app called Headspace. I struggle to switch off my thoughts, and can allow my thoughts to run away with me with not kept in check. I can also struggle with having my head always in the future. Meditation helps keep me in the present, and will help bring a little more calm to the start of the day.
#8 – Cold Contrast Shower with Wim Hof Breathing – By far, the one ritual that is both the most consistent and has the highest impact on my mood, energy and alertness, is my cold shower routine. You can read about the Contrast Shower approach, as well as the value Wim Hof technique if you’re intrigued in the articles below. In total, I’m in the shower 10-12 mins, and when I come out, I am lit up like a Christmas tree.
Energised, cognitively sharp, usually buzzing with some good business ideas and feeling physically strong. I LOOOOVE my Contrast Showers with Wim Hof breathing, and do it every single day.
Even in the coldest days of the year, I’m showering under 15 and 48 degree showers, because the outcome is amazing. I NEVER look forward to it, but always am grateful I did it. Plus, it’s a small dose of stoicism first thing in the morning, that sets me apart from most other people. It takes courage, strength of character and commitment to plunge yourself into a freezing cold shower, and as a result you feel proud and certain of yourself immediately after.
#9 – Strength Workout – 4-5 days a week, I get into the gym for 60-90mins to complete some heavy strength training. You can check out my workouts within the #HyperWorkouts area of AdapNation. I like to train first thing in the morning, as it’s an integral part of amping up my mood for the rest of the day, plus my adherence and time management is more consistent if I get in the gym before life gets busy.
That said, I would perform better if I worked out mid-afternoon, but that for me is not possible.
With the above Morning Ritual, I give sufficiently to my mental, physical and emotional wellbeing first thing. My cup is full, meaning I can overflow and give to everyone and everything else so much more effectively and selflessly for the rest of the day.
It means that I start my day on the very best possible footing, as most of my needs are met, other than connection and achievement. So, if (and when) the day throws me a curveball and plans/intent is challenged, I’ve got both the resolve and comfort to flex and accommodate left field demands or surprises.
FULL CONFESSION: I’ve organised my life to work from home with minimal travel commitments, and I like to start work between 09:30-10:00. I’ll work as long as needed to make meaningful progress that day, which means some days of long evening shifts to get things out. This approach works for me. It allows me to fill my cup up sufficiently in the morning, and then operate on my business for as long as needed.
What Morning Ritual Would Work For You?
Some people like to take the dog out for a walk, say some affirmations, get grateful, box-breathe, get into an infrared Sauna, do some intense HIIT training and many other habits.
For me, the current Morning Ritual works with my personality, available resources at home, and seems to offer the best return for the time invested. I’m sure it will adjust in time.
That said, everyone is different. The key is deciding to take control of your day, owning the outcomes you want to achieve, and designing your morning habits and rituals to support the mental state necessary to consistently have awesome days.
Has this stirred some emotion within to reorganise and prioritise your morning activities?
Do you have a Morning Ritual that works really well for you? If so, I’d be really interested to hear your approach! I’m always looking to learn from anyone who has figured out how to be their best.
What Happens After The Morning Ritual?
Well, I kick ass for the rest of the day, of course! 😉
In all seriousness, the Morning Ritual is only as effective as your plan and goals for the day. If there is no objective and plan, you’ve got yourself all fired up, but with nothing to aim for.
So planning your day needs some thought too. For me, I know I work best when I go into auto-pilot on the repetitive stuff, I automate where possible, and I block time upfront for the really important stuff. I’m keen to delay the inevitable daily decision-fatigue for as long as possible by taking these decisions away upfront.
But, I am torn between wanting to code up my whole day to the minute upfront, versus leaving some flexibility to go where my energy takes me.
Hence the reason I spent some time to develop my Perfect Day and Perfect Week. A aspirational template that guides my planning, execution, and level of satisfaction on any given day during my work week, whilst offering a reasonable amount of flexibility.
In the next article, I’ll share with you more about my approach, it’s intent and it’s effectiveness.
Now, go own the day already! 😉
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