I’m not a morning person.
I’m a recovering night owl with morning person aspirations.
I’ve been trying to establish a morning ritual for some time now, to help me be more focused, calm and productive. So I took a look at various books on how to conquer the world before breakfast… and stumbled upon a surprisingly common theme.
So an ex-Navy SEAL, a Church minister, and a productivity guru walk into a bar…
First, there was the ex-Navy SEAL turned holistic life coach, Mark Divine. The guy has multiple black belts, is a successful entrepreneur and creator of Sealfit, a hardcore version of Crossfit for people who need a REAL challenge.
On a podcast interview, he was asked for his number one life-hack (don’t pretend you don’t know what that means…) His answer:
“Start every day with a big glass of water and write a list of what you have to be thankful for.”
Next, at a training event, a colleague pulled out a small notebook that had ‘gratitude journal’ written on the outside. When I asked her about its origins, she told me that a Church minister had distributed them at a service and asked that people fill in a page first thing upon waking.
Lastly, I was reading the book ‘Die Empty’ by productivity guru, Todd Henry. He recommended a ritual that includes, again, noting down things that you’re thankful for each day. This got me thinking.
What’s so important about gratitude – particularly for busy, organised people – that it features in the morning routines of a modern day warrior, a spiritual leader and a productivity consultant?
The answer seems to lie in the practice of becoming consciously grateful, to unlock thankfulness, humility and contentedness in work and in life.
My Morning Ritual
Here’s some of what I currently do to start each day (based on Mark Divine’s suggested routine):
- Pour a big glass of water and put it next to me. Ignore the water and instead make a strong black instant coffee (it’s a work in progress!)
- Pull out my journal and write down who or what I’m grateful for that day. (Because it’s still early in the morning, the object of my gratefulness is usually from the day before.)
- Journal what I’m looking forward to doing today. (Again, it’s usually something that’s not entirely dependent on, or caused by me, so I have a reason to be grateful.)
- Note down someone whom I want to thank or serve that day.
- Pray and be grateful for the good things in my life.
It sounds lengthy but it doesn’t take much time. You can scale or vary this ritual however you’d like. And it’s easy to start – you just need a pad and pen and a quiet space to do some thinking.
Why Does Conscious Gratitude Work?
Here are some thoughts from a Franciscan friar (Richard Rohr) about the ‘attitude of gratitude’:
“In my experience, if you are not radically grateful every day, resentment always takes over. For some reason, to ask ‘for your daily bread,’ is to know that it is being given. To not ask is to take your own efforts, needs, and goals – and yourself – far too seriously.”
My experience has been the same.
When I write down and reflect consciously on what I’m grateful for, I discover that I’m not the cause of many of the best things in my life, both big and small. Stuff like the good health of my sons, the great conversation I had at lunch yesterday, or the leisure time I have to write blogs instead of fleeing from the horrors of war.
Conscious gratitude reminds me that life is a gift. And this leaves me content.
In contrast, not being consciously grateful means I drift towards thinking I’m the cause of every good thing in my life and totally in control. This is problematic because it leads me to take myself far too seriously and feel resentful or hard done by when things go wrong.
At the end of the day, most of the best stuff of my life seems to be beyond my complete control or manufacturing – it’s a gift.
It’s not that I avoid responsibility for my decisions – but I also don’t fool myself into thinking that I’m totally in control. And being mindful of this may even keep me humble and calm in the good and bad times of life — like when my dream start up micro-brewery sells for a cool billion… or when my nerves get the better of me in a presentation, and I say that I can TGD like Allen David.
Bottom line is that the ritual of becoming consciously grateful each morning helps me to become steadily content, or at least not resentful. It might not make me the perfect morning person, but it’s not a bad way to start each day.
So, what and whom do you have to be grateful for today?
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Author Bio: Matt Bain is a social worker and school counsellor, who also works for a local church. In his spare time, he likes reading books — and aspires to turn Bush Saint Brewery (his line of home brew beer) into a professional micro-brewery. This is his first guest blog with Spacemakers.