A friend recently remarked, “I bet when you get overwhelmed you just muscle your way through the situation.” There’s a bit of truth to that. One of my top five Clifton StrengthsFinder themes is Activator: “You make a decision, you take action, you look at the result, and you learn.”
While taking action is a ‘go to’ technique to work through a situation, there’s something important that precedes the action: becoming grounded, regulated, and in the flow. My ability to successfully GSD is directly correlated to being in the flow. And getting in the flow starts with my morning practice.
My 15 minute morning practice
Quick question: what’s the first thing you do when you wake up? If you answer “I reach for my phone so I can hit the ground running” you’re not alone. That used to be my answer too, until someone reminded me the ground will always be there! I also realized inviting seven billion people into my world first thing in the morning had a 100% success rate of pointing me in the wrong direction for the day ahead.
I love learning what others do for their morning practice, and in those conversations I’ve been asked to share mine—which I’ve outlined below. It’s a 15 minute practice that begins by settling into a quiet spot in our home with two glasses of water and a cup of coffee.
Five minutes of reading to inspire the day. Over coffee I read two pages from a recovery publication that includes one of my favorite self-care statements: “As we go through the day we pause when agitated or doubtful and ask for the right thought or action.” Then I read from three daily meditation books, highlighting a line in each to inspire the day. For example, as I was writing this blog I highlighted the following from Touchstones Daily Meditations for Men: “Our only solution is to love and be loved.” Statements like that cut through the clutter and help me refocus on what’s truly important.
Five minutes of prayer and meditation to quiet the mind. One of the most frightening words in the English language is meditation immediately followed by prayer because we judge ourselves that we don’t know how to do either one correctly. (I thought that, too, for a very long time.) Close your eyes, say ‘thank you’, and reflect on something, for example the line you highlighted in a favorite book or the view outside the window. Just like that you’ve prayed—and meditated. You’ll find that simple ‘thank you’ will grow into something meaningful and deeply personal. My prayer now ends with a request for help nourishing my mind, my body, and my soul.
Five minutes of writing to connect. I wrap up my morning practice with five minutes of writing—typically on what I read—and I exchange a short email with 3-5 bullets of gratitude with several people in my ‘pit crew.’ A recent Wall Street Journal article on the importance of gratitude notes, “Expressing appreciation for the little things lead to bigger things, such as building stronger ties and sustaining relationships.”
If you’re thinking, “There’s no way I can carve out 15 minutes every morning” don’t worry! My 15 minute morning practice started out as a 2 minute morning practice. Find one or two items I noted above, and consistently start each day with those. When you’re first developing a practice, consistency is more critical than length.
As I was finishing this blog I realized my morning practice has become so essential to getting ‘in the flow’ that I rarely skip it. If I oversleep—or have a super early appointment, for example a 6 a.m. flight—I’ll weave in pieces of my practice throughout my morning.
I’ll close with three benefits I’ve experienced from making my morning practice a priority:
1) It helps me connect.
2) It provides nourishing moments of stillness.
3) It’s the one moment during the day when I’m guaranteed to be kind to myself.