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Priming. Controlled breathing. Waking up at 5 a.m. Waking up at 3 a.m.. Green smoothies. Coconut oil in your coffee. Journaling. Gratitude.
What do all these things have in common? They're all common recommendations for a morning routine. Depending on whom you ask, any or all of these steps could be the key to making you happier, healthier and more productive at work and home.
People try new morning routines for a variety of reasons. Maybe you're struggling to figure out your passions and feel like you're just floating through life. Or you do have a clear picture of your dreams, but you just don't have the physical energy, motivation or confidence to chase them.
Either way, something needs to change.
So you experiment. You try some or all of the above practices to improve your mornings. You drag yourself out of bed in the darkness to throw carrots and bananas into a blender, or write down three things you are grateful for. The hope is that if you can start your morning the right way — with focus, determination and energy — it will have a trickle-down effect on your feelings that lasts the entire day.
But, there's a problem with that reasoning.
Why a new morning routine may not be enough
The issue with adding something new to your morning isn't the specific tactics you are choosing. Any of the above could have a positive impact on your life. The problem is these things are just that: tactics. A tactic is a method of achieving a goal. Athletes lift weights as a tactic to build muscle. Runners do sprints as a tactic to improve their endurance.
So here's my question: What is the goal or dream that your morning tactics are setting you up to achieve? My guess is that if you are looking for a morning routine or habit to become more productive, you're probably also struggling to answer this question.
Most people find that when they have a clear, specific goal that is deeply connected to their being, productivity and energy come naturally. How do you think guys like Jack Dorsey and Gary Vaynerchuk consistently put in 14- to 16-hour work days? I'll give you a hint: it's not because they've discovered the perfect smoothie recipe!
Sure, these successful people have certain rituals and habits they've adopted over the years. They might even tweak them from time to time. But, that's all surface-level stuff. The foundation for sustaining productivity, energy and happiness from morning til night is actually very simple: purpose.
A strong purpose is the tie that binds your inner experience to your external environment. Knowing your purpose and understanding how to stay in alignment with that purpose are the two most important concepts in your life. No exaggeration.
Your purpose is what lets you hop out of bed early, excited to start your day. Your purpose is what will carry you through times of doubt and loneliness. With a strong enough purpose, you'll overcome that ugly self-sabotage that your nervous system throws at you: fear. A purpose bigger than yourself lets you face that fear and push through it.
Now, I know what some of you may be thinking: "But, I just don't really know what my purpose is! I have three different things that could be my purpose!" And you know what? That's totally fine! People take years, sometimes decades to discover their purpose. I said it was simple — not easy.
If you want to find your purpose so that you can live a life full of energy, passion and service to others, the first step is to discover your blocks. In other words, you have to determine the recurring patterns and situations that are keeping you stuck.
And it's not enough to just recognize these situations. You've got to understand the reasoning behind them. If you're consistently procrastinating on starting your own business, you might be afraid of putting yourself out there as an entrepreneur. If you're trying to eat healthy but keep relapsing back to starchy, sugary snacks, you're probably turning to food as a source of comfort during stressful situations.
Once you discover these blocks — and their underlying causes — you can turn fear on its head and use your body's nervous system as a catapult to propel you toward your goals. And once you do that, you can choose almost any morning routine or ritual that supports your purpose.
The decision on how to start your day will be a simple, straightforward one, and you won't have to choke down coffee with oil — unless you want to!