This morning I was up at 4 a.m. Now before you start thinking “Wow, what a hard-working, committed person”, let me make one thing abundantly clear. It’s not because I wanted to be. I woke up at 4 a.m. to go to the bathroom and when I lay down to go back to sleep my brain had other ideas. I know you’ve been there. It clicked on and started thinking about the latest problems I’ve been working on, things I’ve been contemplating. This morning that thing was change…and why it’s so hard even though we want the things it brings about.
For instance, it’s not like I haven’t thought about getting up early as a way to get a kick-start on my writing. In fact, sleeping in during the week is something I’ve been thinking about changing. All the successful people get up early. It’s just that I hadn’t yet worked it into my habits.
And my plan has never been 4 a.m. I was thinking a more civilized 6 a.m. for starters, to give myself even 60 minutes of uninterrupted creative time before Ewan gets up or Lilly needs her morning walk. I’ll put both their needs before my own when that time comes, but these first minutes or hours would be mine. So this morning while I lay in bed thinking, I decided that if I hadn’t fallen asleep by six I would get up. And then I fell back to sleep. True story. But not before I had, in the dusky half-darkness of our room, semi-illegibly scribbled down some thoughts.
When I woke at 6:30 (okay, so I have some work to do on this early concept) I went downstairs, made myself a coffee and a piece of toast and got to writing. Here’s what I was thinking about at 4am ( I sure hope it still makes sense.)
When it comes to change, many of us are afraid of commitment. We want what’s on the other side but we don’t want to commit the time it will take to get there. We don’t want to commit the energy we could be using for other perhaps simpler, easier, more fun tasks. We don’t want to commit to the wrong thing. What if I end up wasting my time?
But change requires commitment so somehow, if you want what’s on the other side something has to change. In my life that change is around writing book number two, and for me the ideas are plentiful, but getting them out on paper is hard. Writing is not an easy thing so I need to focus on it first thing when I’m fresh. And I haven’t been doing that. Coincidentally the book is about the habits of high-performance, and ironically one of those habits looks at your morning routine – what you do first thing to set yourself up for a successful, productive day. So, on we go.
I’ll admit that my inability to commit to an a.m. writing routine was less about the writing and more because I was afraid I’d be too tired later in the day. That and I love my bed. Sure I could decide to sleep in, write later in the day and not worry about those silly fears but it hasn’t been happening. Not only am I not writing, but the book ideas are waking me up at ridiculous hours and guess what, I’m tired anyway!
The thing about change is that is requires you to do something different than before. I want to start writing book number two, I’m not making it happen later in the day, so my different is to get up earlier and make it the first thing I tackle – even for just 30 minutes – every day. I can have a nap later if I need one.
What’s something that you long to change, and what do you need to do different?
Maybe you want to exercise more but can’t find the time or energy? Maybe that Visa balance is causing you stress and you need to pay it down and spend less? Maybe your different is to get out of the office in time to have dinner and some quality time with your family, or get back to the writing or art that you love? Or eat healthier and drink less? Whatever yours is, make a decision. Pick just one thing for starters and then follow this rule:
Do something different. Change the time of day you exercise, or try a new activity. Change how you pay yourself, or go for a walk outside at lunch instead of cruising the mall. Change how you structure your work day, or start saying no to less important things. Get up earlier to write, or sign up for an art class to reacquaint yourself to your craft. Have more veggies with dinner and one less glass of wine. Or go wine free for a few days each week. You see what I mean. Change won’t happen until you do something different.
Do it long enough to notice a difference. Have you ever noticed how impatient adults can be? You’ll regularly tell your kids to be patient, that change takes time, that good things come to those who wait. but when it comes to the changes you want for yourself you’ll give up if it doesn’t happen right away. Maybe it’s not your fault. We live in an instant gratification society that has weakened our will power and work ethic (tell me I’m wrong). Why work hard when I can work at finding a quick fix?
Don’t kid yourself. You know you know this. If you want sustainable change you need to be patient, and consistency is the key to lasting change. Do something different today, and then get up and do it again tomorrow, and the next day and the next. Every effort you make will move you toward the change you desire…even the small steps. So keep it at it long enough to notice a difference.
By the time you notice the changes there will be a momentum in place, and a body of success that will help you keep doing it. Success feeds further effort so make that first effort. I’m 100% certain that my newfound morning writing routine will help me write the first draft of book number two by the end of the summer. This first effort went much better than I anticipated and I’m pretty pumped about that.
I’ve nearly completed this blog post, I’m excited about what I’ve accomplished so far today…and it’s only 8 am.
So, what is the change you’re committing to and what will you do different to get there? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your commitment, or post a comment on this blog (it’s great for accountability when you share your goals)…and then make that first difference today. Commitment is good.
Next time: I have a second motivation for rising early, and that’s to practice what I preach. So much of my research shares stories of very successful people who are very purposeful about how they start their day. I call it First Thing Focus and I’ll be writing more about that in my next blog post. Until then, stay committed to doing your different.