I’m going to say something controversial. I’m going to tell you right now it’s okay not to have a morning routine.
Shocking, right? You’ve probably been reading Hal Elrod and the dozens of other experts who tell you the only road to success is to have a specific morning routine. You may, right now, be dragging yourself out of bed at 5:00 a.m., or even earlier, to spend twenty minutes meditating, twenty minutes reading, writing, running. You may be working hard to get yourself into a rhythm that you feel sure will be the magic pill to get you to success, to fit, to better, to AHEAD.
Here’s a controversial idea. Give yourself a break.
This article isn’t for those of you who love your morning routine. If you’re killing it daily AND if it makes you happy AND if you couldn’t imagine your day without it, by all means keep doing it. I believe in doing what works for you as an individual.
This article is for those of us who have tried every suggestion for a morning routine and just can’t seem to stop beating ourselves up about the fact that nothing sticks. I have a suggestion. Stop looking for something that sticks. Really, give yourself a break.
There have been times in the past when I had a morning routine out of necessity. When my kids were little and I was a single mom, I worked as a contract paralegal and set my alarm every morning for 4 a.m., knowing that I had to get at least two billable hours in before my daughter Johanna got up wanting to sit in my lap for the sweetest ten minutes of the day. Ten minutes that sometimes turned into thirty. I needed that two hours of early billable time so that I could keep little Johanna in Polly Pockets and her older brother, Zachary, in Legos. And the lights turned on. The fridge full.
When I was in treatment for Stage 4 Colon Cancer, I was determined to get up at the same time every day and write 1,000 words about what was going on in my life. I had this idea that if I could somehow maintain a schedule of rising at 7 ,I could somehow be the victor in my particular battle. (I started with a 5 a.m. timeframe, which went out the window after the second round of chemo when I began to be so bone tired that I couldn’t possibly wake while it was still dark outside.) I succeeded in being the victor. But those writing hours were frequently miserable and the one thing you don’t want when you’re having chemo is more misery. My writing reflected it. Yes, I got a lot of angst and anger and frustration and fear on paper, but now I know that I needed the rest more than I needed those early words. They would have ended up on paper anyway. I should have slept in. I should have taken care of myself instead of feeling somehow inadequate because I wasn’t living my life FULLY.
As writers, we tend to do that. We tend to think that if we’re not writing about it, our life isn’t really happening.
When I restarted my real estate career in a new market, I went to every mastermind and training, watched every webinar, and like you, read Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning. I believed that if I could just whip my morning routine into shape, success would find me. While I was borrowing money from my now grown up son Zachary to pay my way to conferences where I could learn yet another tip for a morning routine, I was getting up at 5, making lists of people to call and properties to review. I was writing my five handwritten notes for the day. I was trying to meditate, fidgeting, trying to tap down my monkey mind. I was memorizing sales scripts. I was writing affirmations.
What I was most successful at during that time was driving myself crazy. Rather then calming my mind with a morning routine, I was beating myself up.
I’ll be sixty this December. I’ve learned a lot in all that time, the most important thing being that berating myself never serves either my personal life or my professional success. I’ve learned that amazingly, I know what’s best for me more than anyone else does. I’ve learned that just because I can’t seem to conquer the morning routine and pin it down like a butterfly to a page doesn’t mean I’m a loser. In fact, it means that I’m a human. A rather likable human with some success and a lot of happiness, which equals success as well, right?
This answer came to me in the midst of the Stage 4 Colon Cancer portion of my life. Since you don’t want to have to get that diagnosis to gain the wisdom, I’m going to right here, right now, give you the answer and the permission to do what I did at the time.
Stop thinking that the guy who wrote the book on morning routines has all the answers. Listen, I think Hal Elrod is a genius. He’s done wonderful things for a lot of people. I have friends who swear by his methods. And I suggest you read The Miracle Morning, just like I did.
But then Stop. Think about the times when you’ve been happiest in your life. Think about the times you’ve been the most productive. Know what you want from yourself. And if waking at a specific early hour and doing the exact same thing every single day doesn’t work for you, especially when you’ve given it the 66 days that Gary Keller tells me is necessary to create a habit, Stop.
We are so quick to accept someone else’s direction when it comes to taking care of our own lives. There has to be a better answer out there, or so we think. There has to be a better US. There has to be a panacea that if we just find and adopt it, will get us to our higher self.
I believe that people have come before you and fashioned success, and like Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglar, studying the path others took to success is a worthwhile focus. But your gift to the world is your individual ability to craft a success that doesn’t look like anyone else’s.
By the way, I became a success in that new real estate market. In five years, I went from borrowing money to pay the rent to making seven times the annual salary I made in those years I was a contract paralegal. My name and face became so well known in Santa Fe that I’d run into people on the street who would say, “Bunny, I know we’ve met before. I see you everywhere.” I created and ran a team that contributed to that success.
But it wasn’t because I got up every day and followed the same routine. It was because I recognized, finally, that doing what I love every day was going to be the thing that created success for me. I finally acknowledged that I loved networking, working for charities, writing blogs, and online marketing. The things I loved turned out to be the things that showed potential clients how much I cared about them and their needs.
And when I transitioned into full time coaching and writing, I didn’t create a morning routine that was designed by someone else to ensure my success. Instead I got up when I woke up, which is still quite early some days, and always before 7 a.m. You see, I’m really a morning person. I just don’t believe in beating myself up over the exact method I have to use in that first hour.
I now lie in bed and say my favorite prayer, which is also Anne Lamott’s favorite prayer. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
I start the coffee, or if I’m lucky, my husband had already gotten up before me and started the coffee. I open the shades and look at the Sangre de Cristos and perhaps drink my coffee with my guy. Or maybe I go for a walk. Or maybe I come back here to my office and write 1,000 words because my head is full of words.
But I have stopped beating myself up. After all these years, I finally realized that my morning routine is to get up, be grateful, do a few things that feed my soul, and to give myself a break while I face the day with care and gratitude. Forcing myself into my chair and opening my computer doesn’t make the prose better when I start to put it down. In fact, forcing myself to do anything doesn’t feel like success.
The rest of your day and mine is filled with routine and schedules. Right now, you might be at home with your kids who have online teacher meetings and Zoom playdates. If you’re like me, you have Zoom meetings at specific times all day long, or at least once a day. Your calendar has plenty on it. Let the first hour or two be a time to find your way. Let that first chunk of time be about kindness to yourself.
Here is one good tip I can give you if this free flow feels just a bit too loose. Each evening, write three things that will move the needle forward for you and your business and your family the next day. If you use a planner, put those three things there. Put them on a sticky note on your laptop. They’ll be waiting for you when you get up. Whenever that is.
If having a morning routine hasn’t worked for you in the past, try this one: Start your day with care and gratitude. Inspiration and success don’t disappear just because you don’t tap into them in the first moments of your day. They’re there all day long. But if your brain is filled with admonitions to do better, be better, try harder, you’re going to crowd out the life and self-affirming thoughts that are dying to be heard.
Give yourself a break. Every day is a miracle. You are a miracle. Treating yourself like one is the best morning routine I can suggest.