Refining the Morning Routine

Sunday was a failure. My alarm was set for 4:45. I rolled out of bed at 6:30 (this lack of discipline alone is cause for much grievance). I went downstairs and began a later-than-planned morning routine. I meditated for 10 minutes. Then I did some reading. My plan was to read one chapter. Instead I read about 4-5 to finish the book I was reading. My wife, Bethany, woke up at 7:30 followed soon by my son, Alec. Once they were up, I put a stop to my morning routine. No workout. No writing. No creating a plan for the week to come. I could have kept going and finished up. But when they are up on my day off, my concentration goes to them.

Why was this morning a failure? Because the quiet time when the house is asleep is my time to really work on my own personal development. And once I dropped the ball on this morning, I never made the time to pick it back up. The busy-ness of the day took over, and there was no working out, no planning, and certainly no writing. By the time Monday morning came around, I was still trying to create a plan for the week.

Some would think: It is a Sunday morning, why be so hard on yourself? The truth is that I look at a Sunday morning as one of the most important days of the week. It is a day off from my normal work shift. It is a morning for planning and catching up from the previous week. And why am I so hard on myself? Because nobody else is going to accomplish my goals for me.

As Monday progressed, I had an opportunity to speak with my work partner Kia about my viewpoint on Sunday. I probably should start paying Kia as she has become to some degree my personal advisor. Our conversation turned to my morning routine in general and what specifically I am trying to accomplish. I laid out my normal Monday morning for her:

  • Wake up at 3:45
  • Meditate from 4-4:10
  • Read to 4:30
  • Quick workout to 4:50
  • Write until I run out of time before getting ready for work.

She asked me what was the most important thing I wanted to accomplish? I told her to write. Her response: Why are you not writing more? And it wasn’t just writing she was asking about. Am I writing toward a specific goal or am I just writing whatever comes to mind?

You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve. –Marcus Aurelius

I looked back on my routine and had to have second thoughts. Do I need to get up earlier? Do I really need to read in the morning? I read throughout the day. How is an additional 20 minutes (sometimes longer) really helping me to get the writing done? When it comes down to it, am I spreading myself out on so many small things that I am not spending enough time on the really big thing that matters the most?

Only having a short amount of time in the morning, there is no room for wasted time. Every activity has to be qualified. If the activity is not getting me closer to my goals, then it has to be dropped from the morning routine. This refining process makes me stronger and more productive. It turns me from a sad wishy-washy dreamer into a disciplined producer inching ever closer to the destination I seek. The more I produce in those quiet morning times, the happier I become. Happy knowing that I got it done and happy knowing the rest of my time can be spent on other pursuits.

What does your daily routine look like? Are you spending it on the small insignificant things or on the big things that matter? If you are looking to up your current level of productivity, refining your routine is a must. This simple act leads to a more disciplined life, one that is truly happier.

A disciplined mind leads to happiness and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering. –Dalai Lama

The War Within

There is a war raging within all of us every day. It is a war that began in our earliest years and will continue on until all our final breath. It is a war against our base desires. Those desires that would keep us from accomplishing  our individual missions.

Some will win this war, because they choose the stay vigilant. They are always at the ready and can fight at any given moment.

There are others, who in moments of inspiration, fight with all their might. They will try to win the war in the shortest amount of time possible. In time, they will realize they have spent all their energy. Yet, the war still rages. They will give up in exhaustion and lose all the ground they gained. They will lay there until inspiration strikes again, and then they will pick up their arms to repeat this never-ending cycle.

Then there is the rest. Those who never even know that a war is taking place. They lay dormant, giving in to every indulgence. From the surface, they seem to have no hope. No aim. No purpose. No drive to live a fulfilling life.

If you are not among the vigilant, you are going to lose the war. It sounds ominous, but it is true. The only way to win is to don your armor. Take up your shield every day and prepare yourself for the onslaught to come.

You are at war with yourself. It is a war you can win if you fight every day. You can win with discipline.

Start by identifying the enemy. Is it procrastination? Gluttony? Lust? Greed? Identify the enemy. Create ways to overcome it. Make a plan. Win the daily battles. Win the war.

The man who overcomes his desires is braver than he who overcomes his enemies. -Aristotle

Walk the Path

From his prison cell, the Puritan preacher John Bunyan wrote Pilgrims’s Progress, one of the greatest selling books of all time. It is a book I have not read in over 30 years, but it may be one of the most memorable books in my mind. It may be time, I reread it.

In the book, the main character, Christian, sets outs on a journey from his home in the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. How does he get there? By staying on the path. If Christian does not stay the course, but veers to the left or the right, he will be ensnared by the temptations of this world.

In the past few years, I have spent a good deal of time considering my own path. Where is it that I want to go? Once I figured it out, I had to answer the next question. How can I get there if I do not stay on the path?

The path is straight and narrow. You have to maintain constant vigilance to stay on it. On either side are the temptations, the distractions, the snares and the pitfalls. Procrastination, laziness, and all the other vices are waiting for you. They are calling out to you to stop only for a moment. And then another. And then one more time until you no longer remember what it is you are supposed to be doing. How do we continue the journey when we suddenly find ourselves longing to stop?

Discipline. Self-Control. Temperance. We continue our slow and steady pace. We know that the sugar-high of immediate gratification will eventually turn to the bitterness of regret. We continue the march, because the “what might have been” alternative is so dreadful that we dare not taste its fruit.

We all have our paths to take. Once discovered, you have to walk it. It is the only way to partake of the reward at the end of the journey. There are no shortcuts, and straying from it only leads to evil.

Do not turn to the right or left; remove your foot from evil. –Proverbs 4:27

Bragging on the Unknown

How many times did a brilliant idea cross my mind? It started as a small seed and in the course of a few minutes burst into a cloud of grandeur taking over all my thoughts. Soon I get a glimpse of the future and just how far I made it.

Every now and then, the idea continues for a few days. As it stews in my mind, I decide to make a plan and see where this will go. My excitement continues to grow until no longer can I keep it to myself. I mention it to my friends and family. With a look of skepticism, they patiently listen to me ramble on about the beautiful future in which I will exist.

The days go by, and the luster begins to fade. Reality sets in and the beautiful future never comes. Soon the idea that would change everything joins all the other fantasies that caught my attention for a few fleeting moments.

We make our plans. Our excitement grows. We bubble with enthusiasm and before we know it, we are sharing our dreams with anyone that listens. But can we follow through? We know there will be hardships along the way. Certainly we will meet resistance. Will we be able to overcome these obstacles and see our plans to the end?

How much better would it be to keep our egos in check and those plans to ourselves? We cannot forecast the future. We cannot know for certain what is going to happen tomorrow, if we even get a tomorrow.

Of course we should plan for the future. Like the farmer that plants the seed without a guarantee of the harvest, so should we do the work now for the possibility of a better tomorrow. We should collaborate with others in order that we may see our plans to fruition. But let us not brag of our glorious future as if it is already here. Rather let us do the work and be grateful for each day we have the opportunity to do it. The work we do will always resonate louder than any words we might say.

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what any day may bring forth. –Proverbs 27:1

Heed the Red Flags

A few days ago, I encountered an issue at work that really upset me. For a few moments, I allowed myself to fixate on the problem until I became angry. It was at that moment a warning siren went off in my mind. What will happen if I take this anger too far?

For some, it doesn’t take much to set them off. The smallest infraction can flip the switch that causes their blood to boil. It is easy for me to spot it in others, but often I don’t even notice my own switch. And like the incident at work, it is my ego that allows that anger to rise. If I was less self-absorbed and had the ability to see the bigger picture, I would realize that this misdemeanor against me was not some sort of malicious scheme.

If in that moment of anger, if I could not get control of my emotions, I was at risk professionally. Saying the wrong thing could result in disciplinary measures, even termination. And though in my mind I would tell myself it would never go that far, the lack of self-control I was demonstrating would suggest it to be possible.

But I also had another thing to consider: my reputation. Do I want to be known as that guy who is emotionally unstable? Do I want to be the one who talks and writes about living a virtuous life but is unable to actually live it? Of course not. What kind of example would I be demonstrating to my peers? More importantly, what kind of example would I be demonstrating to my family, my son?

The red flags were a good reminder to slow down. They were saying to proceed with caution, because there were dangerous turns up ahead. I am thankful that the red flags popped up, and that I heeded their message. I took a moment to relax. I took a moment to breathe and see the issue from a different perspective. The anger ceased to rise, and I avoided any potential consequences.

If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will avoid one hundred days of sorrow. –Chinese Proverb

The ability to be patient is the ultimate in self-control. If we take the focus off of ourselves, we can realize that mistakes occur often without malice. By maintaining poise in the situation, we can address the problem at hand, correct it, and move forward.

King of You







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Even too much Exercise

There are some things that are beneficial in moderation. But if you notice you can’t escape, if you have become addicted, then you have lost your control. No longer are you free but have become a slave to your passions. You have become a slave to your flesh.

We all have a strength within our minds to control our bodies. We can restrain our need for immediate gratification knowing that there is something over the horizon that is much grander. We can be the kings of ourselves, if we put our minds to it.