Marcus Aurelius was the emperor of Rome from 161 to 180 AD and during his rule Aurelius found the time to construct a series of autobiographical writings now known as the “meditations”.
The meditations is regarded as one of the greatest works of philosophy which is why I’ll be using some of its wisdom as a motivation to talk about the 10 things you should do to wake up early.
1 – Find Your Ideal “IKIGAI”
Marcus Aurelius says,
“everything is created for some duty, if so, then for what task were you yourself created?”
“IKIGAI” is a Japanese wellness theory that can make your mornings beautiful. It’s defined as one’s reason for which you wake up in the morning which can be interpreted as your “purpose in life”.
Marcus Aurelius believed that we each have a “purpose”; something that we were created for. It’s our duty to carry out that purpose because it’s ‘purpose’ that gets you out of bed each morning.
Your IKIGAI could be anything… a long-lost hobby; a new skill you wish to develop; or anything that gives you a solid reason to be excited about it. The best way to find your IKIGAI is by asking yourself this one simple question,
“if I had more time what are the things I could do?”
You may come up with multiple answers so select the one that excites you the most.
Is it a task you need to complete before you start off your day? When you wake up early, the whole world is quiet and you’ll have ample time for yourself to pursue the activity you’re most excited about.
This eventually helps you to have healthy social connections to challenge yourself in a good way to relieve stress; to be fit; to be creative; and to ward off depression.
You need to give yourself a solid reason to wake up, something to do every morning if it excites you the most!
2 – Prepare Yourself For Mornings
In the words of Marcus Aurelius,
“all our efforts must be directed towards an end where we will act in vain. If it’s not the right end we will utterly fail.”
Becoming a morning person requires more work than just setting your alarm for 5:00 a.m. and hoping for the best.
People who’ve decided to make the most of their mornings not only have a routine for when they wake-up, but before they go to bed as well.
While you may not have control over your consciousness while you’re asleep, you’ll definitely have control over your evening activities that’ll make you get up out of your bed the following morning.
You can start by minimizing your television and phone time before bed. By keeping everything ready for the morning, for example if you wish to go to the gym, then put out your gym outfit before you go to bed. By putting out your clothing the night before you save energy the next day.
If you exercise in the mornings it’ll be tough to skip out on a workout when you see your gym clothes and shoes at the foot of your bed ready to use when you wake up! This is a two-minute exercise that will save you energy in the morning.
You can even use your evening time to settle any unresolved issues. Having unresolved issues will not only have your mind racing before you go to sleep, but you’ll also wake up stressed out.
It’s better to spend whatever time is needed to resolve any issues you can before you go to bed. This will help your focus as you get into your morning routine by making small sacrifices.
If you do this simple task, you can be on your way to becoming a morning person and squeezing the most out of your day to be more productive.
3 – Avoid Distractions
After you wake up, Marcus Aurelius says,
“concentrate every minute like a Roman like a man on doing what’s in front of you and on freeing yourself from all other distractions.”
Some mornings you may wake up and you feel like you’re being pulled in lots of different directions. You usually get distracted by all sorts of things such as: miscellaneous emails, a new episode of your favorite TV show, your cell phone ringing, text messages, the dirty dishes in the sink, the unpaid gas and electric bills, and the list goes on…
No matter how early you wake up you will be distracted. There may be days when you may be convinced that the world is conspiring to keep you from getting anything of substance done.
Much of the time the things that distract us are the things that need to get done, but they aren’t necessarily what we should be focusing on right at that second.
If you’re waking up early then you’re waking up for a reason which is to make the most of this extra time! To do the things that you love before you get pulled in by the demands of your daily life.
4 – Wake Up Consistently
According to Marcus Aurelius,
“you must build-up your life action by action and be content if each one achieves its goal as far as possible and no one can keep you from this!”
If you’re serious about waking up early everyday then you have to do it consistently in order to make it part of your routine; you need to develop your self-discipline.
Self-discipline is nothing more but the habit of consistency ;finding the motivation to do something like a a game; and a game until you do it on autopilot and start seeing the results.
The book “The Miracle Morning” tells us that we need to be consistent for the first 30 days.
To develop this new routine we need to divide the 30-day time-frame into three 10-day phases where each of these phases presents a different set of emotional challenges and mental roadblocks to sticking with the new habit.
The first 10 days of implementing any new habit or ridding yourself of any old habit can feel almost unbearable. If your new habit is waking up early then the first 10 days of your experience the internal dialogue might be something like this:
- oh God it’s morning already?!
- I don’t want to get up…
- I’m so tired!
- I need more sleep
- where’s the coffee? … and then you hit the snooze button
The problem for most people is that they don’t realize that this seemingly unbearable first 10 days is only temporary.
Once you get through the first 10-days (your most difficult 10 days) you begin the second 10-day phase which is considerably easier.
While days 11 to 20 are not unbearable, they’re still uncomfortable and will require discipline and commitment on your part, but by this time you’ll be getting used to waking up early. You’ll also develop some confidence and positive associations to the benefits of your habit… so stay committed!
Phase 3 is also where the actual transformation occurs. You go from having an identity that says, “I am NOT a morning person” to “I am a morning person!”
Instead of dreading your alarm clock in the morning, now when the alarm goes off you’re excited to wake up and get going because you’ve done it for over 20 days in a row and you’re starting to see and feel the benefits.
5 – Go Easy On Yourself
As we learn from the words of Marcus Aurelius,
“stick with the situation at hand”
and ask yourself, “why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it? You’ll be embarrassed to answer!
The truth is our brain prioritizes “instant gratification”. It values short term rewards over long-term benefits which is why 95% of people failed time again to start exercise routines in the first 10 days.
The problem for most people is that they don’t realize that this seemingly unbearable first 10 days is only temporary, but instead they think that it’s the way the new habit feels and it’ll always feel, telling themselves if the new habit is this painful then forget it! It’s not worth it!
Which is why when we fail to wake up early on one day, we often say to ourselves that, “I’ll start waking up early from next Monday” or from next month and that’s how we start the process of procrastinating.
We need to understand that our ability to keep going is what molds us into a disciplined and strong person. A bad day doesn’t have to become a bad week, and a bad week doesn’t have to become a bad year.
We need to realize that each new day comes with a new life and with another opportunity to be better. Don’t forgive yourself for waking up late today and start waking up early from tomorrow.
6 – Practice Voluntary Hardship
Marcus Aurelius says,
“we should discipline ourselves in small things and from their progress to things of greater value.”
If you have a headache practice not cursing. Don’t curse every time you have an earache! I’m not saying that you can’t complain, only don’t complain with your whole being.
Voluntary hardship means constantly testing ourselves, and by making life routinely uncomfortable, in some way we’re hardening ourselves for the day we may need to live it for real.
To wake up early you can practice voluntary hardships like putting your alarm clock far from your bedside because if it’s right next to your bed you’ll shut it off or hit snooze.
You can never hit snooze if it’s far from your bed you’ll have to get up and out of your bed to shut it off and by then you’re already up so now all you have to do is just stay up, get out of the bedroom!
As soon as you shut off the alarm don’t allow yourself to rationalize going back to bed. If you allow your brain to talk you out of getting up early you’ll never do it! Don’t make getting back into bed an option. Just force yourself to go out of the room jump into a cold shower if you have a hard time getting going in the morning.
If you jump in a cold shower you’ll see how quickly it wakes you up! The cold water increases the circulation in your body which leads to a higher demand for oxygen and you’ll automatically start breathing deeper as this fights off fatigue.
7 – Find An Accountability Partner
To quote Marcus Aurelius,
“it will even do to socialize with men of good character in order to model your life on theirs. Whether you choose someone living or someone from the past.”
When you realize that your purpose is to wake up early, then having a good accountability partner is very important.
As we go after our goals there’s one skill that will stand out high above all the others – the skill of holding yourself accountable!
An accountability partner is a person who coaches another person to help them keep a commitment. Your accountability partner could be your friends; your family; or a colleague who’s already achieved the goal you’re working towards.
In this case, your accountability partner will help you stay consistent with your morning commitments and your progress.
For partnerships, select someone who is as committed as you are, has similar values, and is available when you’re available, plus is genuinely interested in helping you succeed with your morning routine.
An accountability relationship always feels good because knowing that you’ll check in with someone who is emotionally and energetically invested in your success keeps you on track even when things get hard.
8 – Remind Yourself of Death
Marcus Aurelius informs us,
” since it is possible that you might depart from life this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly.”
The Stoics made it routine to keep the prospect of death in mind, and you too can practice this every morning.
There is a phrase within the stoic philosophy called “memento mori” which means remember that you will die!
The one perennial truth, rich or not – successful or not, religious, philosophical – it doesn’t matter. You’ll die!
The point of this reminder isn’t to be morbid or promote fear, but to inspire motivate and clarify. This morning routine will help you to keep your perspective on things that really matter with your internal principles, your house ,your money your fame is temporary and it can be taken away from you at any time.
The one thing that can never be taken away from you is your “character”.
It’s only our character that defines us and carries us through life. A man can rise or fall just due to the virtues or faults of his character and it’s often this that leaves a legacy.
The idea of reminding yourself of your death will ground you. Just like Steve Jobs, every morning look in the mirror and ask yourself,
“if today were the last day of my life would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”
…and if you get too many days without saying yes to this question then you know you have to change something very fast!
9 – Practice Negative Visualization
Every morning we’re advised by Marcus Aurelius,
“when you wake up in the morning tell yourself the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly they are like this because they can’t tell good from evil.”
Rather than imagining an ideal society, the Stoics see the world as it is.
Negative visualization is all about keeping your expectations up-front and being far more honest with yourself by asking:
- what could go wrong?
- how could you handle such scenarios?
- can you overcome or plan for them?
When you prepare for the worst you are in a better place to deal with a disaster If and when it does arise.
For example, you go to work and your boss is treating you badly, but since you’ve already visualized this scenario in the morning, you’re always prepared for your boss to be difficult and uncooperative. As a result you’ll be super pleased when he unexpectedly treats you well, but even if he never does, you’ll be prepared and always able to keep your cool.
Visualizing negative occurrences make you fear them less, leaves you less anxious when they happen, and mentally prepares us to deal with the crises should they come along.
You’ll also find yourself feeling elated on the occasions where they don’t occur.
10 – Appreciate Your Life
Marcus Aurelius he says to the gods,
“I am indebted for having good grandfather’s, good parents, a good sister, good teachers, a good associate, good kinsmen, and friends… nearly everything good.”
Marcus Aurelius is very honest and humble about how he learned to develop his values and ethics and displays much gratitude to those who helped him to become himself. We too can replicate this by keeping a journal.
Keeping a “gratitude journal” is a simple process. Gratitude isn’t only for the big things in life. The habit of being grateful starts with appreciating every good thing in life and recognizing that there’s nothing too small for you to be thankful for.
Every day you should pick three to five things that you’re thankful for and write them down in a notebook or journal. So let’s say you had a rough day at work. Focus on coming home to your family or your pet or simply that you’re just grateful for being alive.
Appreciating your life just before going to bed will not only give you a peaceful night’s sleep but will also give you good reason to wake up with confidence and ready for the new challenges of the day!
The simple task of getting out of bed requires discipline that you must practice to develop a routine habit. Everything in life can be achieved if you follow these simple exercises.
I hope this article has helped you understand How To Wake Up Early In The Morning.
You may also want to check out one of my earlier posts 3 High Performance Tips From Jeff Bezos.
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Photo credits: bruce mars; Charlz Gutiérrez De Piñeres; Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash