Every day, you wake up with a frontal cortex fully charged with willpower (provided you are getting plenty of good, quality sleep!). How you apply that willpower over the course of the day can largely be affected by that first 30 minutes of your morning.
Here’s one way someone might start her day: You wake up, and while still in bed, reach for your smartphone and start scrolling through email. Then do a quick social media scan, check the Instagram and Facebook posts, and then maybe you check out a news site or two. Finally you get out of bed, go make coffee, flip on the TV, and eat a high-sugar breakfast while you watch a morning talk show.
While you do all this, you also warily try to make decisions about what you need to get done during the day. This energy spent on weighing decisions directly drains your willpower reserves. Also, you scold yourself for not having exercised the day before, further exhausting your willpower reserves. You then shower, dress, and hit the morning traffic.
I have a better option for you. Below is an outline I developed while serving in Iraq, in 2004. Despite the environmental stress that comes with being in a combat zone, I was able to start my day energized, focused, and feeling great, with a full reservoir of willpower to spend on the decisions and actions I needed to survive and accomplish my mission as a Navy SEAL leader during wartime. Here are the six steps to developing and following this power ritual:
1. Find a calm space.
Each morning, wake up and go to a place where you can be alone and settle into a space of sacred silence. This space is ideally separate from your bedroom but can be any place where you have privacy.
2. Hydrate to fuel your body.
Start your day by drinking a glass of fresh, filtered water.
3. Take just a few minutes to reflect.
Think about your personal ethos and establish positivity through gratitude. Use your journal for this and reflect on questions like these:
- What and for whom am I grateful for?
- What am I excited about and looking forward to doing today?
- What is my purpose and do my plans for today connect me to it?
- Who can I reach out to and serve, or thank, today?
4. Focus on your breathing for at least five minutes.
I recommend my technique of box breathing. This is a discipline I teach at my SEALFIT Academy. It is a practice of deep diaphragmatic breathing, meant to be done in a quiet and controlled setting. To put it simply, you inhale for a count of five, hold for a count of five, exhale for five, and then hold your breath again for a count of five.
5. Mindfully move your body.
I recommend doing a few sun salutations, moving with the breath, or taking a brisk walk on which you remain internally focused.
6. Close the session by “dirt diving” your day.
Review your plan for the day, make any final adjustments, and then visualize yourself going through all the major, important actions planned for the day and dominating each. This prepares your mind for winning.
Now that your internal prep is complete, you are ready to move out. For some of you this will be to have a healthy, paleo-style breakfast, to head to the gym for a workout, or to get the kids off to school. In all cases you are prepared for battle with this morning ritual.
This simple ritual is designed to fit into as little as 20 minutes. If you have more time, great, you could expand the yoga practice to an hour or more. But even if you spend just five or ten minutes and do it consistently each and every day, the results will be life-changing. Sound appealing? There’s no reason you can’t start now.
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