… that technique matters. … that consistency is more important than efficiency. … that you can change yourself. … that you are stronger than you think. … that things don’t have to be complicated. … that physical exercise increases mental well-being. … how to develop good habits. … that prioritization and planning are important. … how quickly you can make progress at the beginning of anew activity. … how to understand yourself better.
“Because I was in such good shape, my fatigue level never reached the point of physical exhaustion that contributes to mental exhaustion and, ultimately, to combat fatigue.”
Dick Winters, “Beyond Band of Brothers”
In his memoirs “Beyond Band of Brothers“ Dick Winters, Commander of the Band of Brothers – an elite parachute unit in World War II – explains:
Physical exhaustion leads to mental exhaustion, which leads to a loss of self-discipline. The loss of self-discipline leads to fatigue and an unwillingness to do the job. Not doing the job leads to a loss of pride and self-respect. Without pride comes an unwillingness to keep going.
Time and time again he mentions that good physical fitness was a deciding factor that prevented mental exhaustion and breakdowns of his troops.
Thus, physical fitness is not only important for preventing a multitude of illnesses, living longer and sleeping better – it’s also a major factor in how well you can handle stress and keep going.
In a meaningful life there’s arguably little that is more important than that.
With this month’s experiment about building a morning routine for yourself, here’s a short summary of why a morning routine could help you to live a more meaningful life.
The Benefits of a Routine
Let’s define “routine” first:
“A routine is something you do every day without fail, so that eventually, like brushing your teeth or putting on your seat-belt, you do it without conscious thought.”
Darren Hardy, “The Compound Effect”
A routine has many benefits.
It reduces stress by making our actions effective and by breaking complex goals down into achievable daily tasks. It enables us to take advantage of the Compound Effect in a positive direction, which means that consistently executed very small daily habits create a radical difference over time.
If set up wisely, a routine guarantees that you get done what needs to be done. Especially if you stick with your routine for weeks and months. You’ll build habits around your important tasks and make progress on them every day. This allows you to build momentum. Once your momentum has been built for a while, you’ll experience a deeper sense of self-respect, achievement and pride based on actually daily accomplishments and progress, instead of the common myth of self-esteem through positive thinking or false pretenses.
Now, let’s look at why it is so popular to combine the power of routines with your morning.
Advantages of a Morning Routine
“Structuring the early hours of each day is the simplest way to extraordinary results.”
Gary Keller, “THe ONE Thing”
The most powerful reason to establish a morning routine is that it guarantees that our most important things get done.
While many distractions, emergencies and problems rise during the day, they can’t prevent you from making progress on your most important tasks, if you already completed them. If you get up early you can take advantage of the fact that most people are still asleep. We can enjoy the quiet and serenity of the morning while we do our most important things.
Additionally, we can take advantage of our high willpower and energy levels. We can take a cold shower while our coffee is brewing, sit down and tackle our most important projects with more energy than we would have at the end of the day.
Lastly, having a morning routine makes it much more likely that we can make progress on our goals even if life gets in the way. If we do our routine in the morning, we always have the option of getting up earlier and guaranteeing that our most important things get done.
Doing our routine in the morning allows us to take advantage of our higher energy-levels, conveniently prevents daily problems from disrupting our plans and guarantees that we make progress on our most important tasks every single day.
The Magic of Morning Routines
A morning routine has become a staple of my life, since I’ve first implemented one. Over time I have adjusted it to the demands of today, but having a routine has hugely benefited my life.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you should copy my morning routine. Try new habits, eliminate what’s not working and keep adjusting your morning routine until you find one that works for you.
If you don’t have a morning routine yet, you can join this month’s experiment of building one from scratch or simply pick one little thing you want to implement in your life tomorrow morning.
If you decide to start your morning with a meaningful routine or already have one, share your routine using #meaningfulpath on social media.
Way too many people (and I have been guilty of this as well) focus on efficiency, much before they are executing consistently. We worry about efficiency a lot more than about consistency.
There are a lot more important parts to becoming consistent than I could possibly write about in one or more blog posts. So, in this blog post, I focus on four important fundamentals:
Diet, Exercise, Sleep and Meaning.
Let’s get into it!
What is a clean diet exactly?
For me, it is one that gives me consistent daily energy, no crashes. It keeps me healthy or improves my health, it’s beneficial for me in the long run and enables me to stay alert, focused and consistent without the need for external substances.
Unfortunately, in today’s culture it is very easy, cheap and popular to consume stuff that results in the opposite: sugar is in almost anything – and in larger quantities, it’s truly bad for you. For me personally, a lot of different carbohydrates have very negative effects on my mind and body. Also, fast food is tremendously popular and easier to get than cooking. Finally, quasi-depending on caffeine, getting drunk and (even though it’s declining) smoking, are all wildly accepted and too often encouraged, consumed, and depended on.
Too few people know, that especially sugary foods and drinks as well as some carbohydrates often cause a feeling of tiredness, “brain fog”, decrease concentration and lead to the feeling of “crashes” and low levels of energy during the day. If you notice inability to focus or tiredness despite proper sleep (in length and quality), your diet could be a cause.
Instead of consuming junk food, sugary foods and drinks – and worsening all of that with alcohol consumption or putting a band-aid on it with daily caffeine-intake – it’s a lot more important and advantageous to fix these problems at the core.
This means cutting sugar out of your diet (you’ll be fine after a few weeks of withdrawal symptoms), cooking your own fresh food, instead of grabbing fast food when it is inconvenient to cook yourself and to – at least temporary – stop relying on band aids like caffeine to keep your system going. It could also mean to replace some carbohydrates in your diet with more vegetables and get your calories and energy mainly from fat and protein, instead of carbohydrates. Oh yeah, and maybe stop making it worse by drinking alcohol (which worsens sleep quality and has too many harmful influences on your body to count).
So, to sum it all up: If you’re having any of the problems mentioned above what could help is to quit sugar, fast food, alcohol and smoking (and maybe caffeine, too) and replace carbs with vegetables, cook fresh and healthy food and get the majority of your calories from fat and protein.
Disclaimer: This has worked extraordinarily well for me and I’ve dug deeper into some of these topics to further my understanding. Yet, I’m definitely not an expert on any of these, even though a lot could be called “common knowledge”. Before you implement this advice in your life, however, it could be very beneficial to read more about these different topics yourself or speak to an expert.
For many people, exercise is something they finally start doing, when they see no alternative to it. Either they have some health problem that needs exercise for it to be improved and enable them to “return to their normal life”, or they are sick and tired of how out of shape they are, or that they can’t even perform menial tasks throughout the day, like walking up two sets of stairs, or carrying a box of water home.
This image of exercise is really, too bad, as it is incredibly beneficial to everything you do, but don’t take my word for it:
“If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.”
First, contrary to a widely spread believes, exercise doesn’t seem to be linked as strongly to weight loss as many people believe – if you want to lose weight, you are unbelievably better off by adjusting your diet. What exercise does do though can be summed up like this: Exercise leads to a lot more efficient learning, helps you to deal with stress better, can reduce anxiety to the point of lifting people out of depression and can strengthen ones focus to the point that some ADHD patients elect to throw out their prescriptions. Exercising can give you more willpower and focus to do the little things that don’t usually feel rewarding and boosts motivation.
For a look at why this is happening (as well as many sources for these claims) have a look at this video (also, this is a brilliant YouTube-Channel to follow for sure):
So, with all of these benefits being clear, the question isn’t “why would you exercise?” but “why would you NOT exercise?”
If you don’t exercise, you, now, consciously say “nah, I don’t need all these benefits in my life” and I challenge you to think again. Whatever it is you are striving for, you benefit from exercise. Start small and slowly, but stay consistent and then increase the intensity of your exercises as you go.
For all of you, who already exercise: think about making it a daily habit, but most importantly: keep getting after it.
Enough & Quality Sleep
Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious.
Are you interested?
Of course, the ad is not describing some miracle new tincture or a cure-all wonder drug, but rather the proven benefits of a full night of sleep.”
Matthew Walker, “Why We Sleep”
I’ve recently read “Why we sleep” by Matthew Walker and if there’s one book about sleep that everyone should read, this is it.
“A balanced diet and exercise are of vital importance, yes. But we now see sleep as the preeminent force in this health trinity.”
Matthew Walker, “Why we Sleep”
Sadly, too many people do not get the recommended amount or quality of sleep to attain these benefits. But, worse, not only do they miss out on these benefits, but experience all kind of detriments to their day-to-day life.
These detriments are a less effective immune system, making you more prone to illness. An increased risk for cancer and dementia, as well as increased troubles to stay emotionally calm and stable, or perform at peak physical performance; just to name a few.
I took over 50 pages of notes from Walker’s book and will write more blog posts about the benefits of enough quality sleep, as well as the detriments of not enough (in quality or quantity of) sleep. But for now let’s focus on a few ways to improve sleep, having established how vitally important it is for us.
First and foremost: If you want to only make one single adjustment to improve your sleep, it should be waking up at the same time every single day – yes, that includes weekends.
Furthermore, here’s a list of things that help you fall asleep: Relaxation before bed, limited if any time on devices that emit blue light (e.g. smartphones, tablets, laptops etc.), a hot bath, daily exposure to sunlight for at least 30 minutes and a pitch black and cool (18,5° C / 65,3° F) bedroom.
And here’s a list of things to avoid, that make it harder to fall asleep: Exercising late in the day, consuming caffeine or nicotine (as well as certain teas or chocolates) 8 hours before you want to sleep, drinking alcohol, eating large meals and drinking beverages late at night, taking medicine that might delay or disrupt your sleep and naping or sleeping after 3 pm.
The Pursuit of Something Meaningful
This is more a teaser for a future blog post, because this topic is way to complex to explain as part of this post.
Many people go through life thinking that they “have” to do things. They “have” to work, the “have” to get up early, they “have” to study and they “have” to earn more money. This attitude often goes hand in hand with the pursuit of shallow pleasures and expediency – often called living for the weekends and vacations.
While a minority of people in the west definitely have to live that way, at least for a time, many of us don’t.
It’s too complex of a topic to discuss here fully, but in short a solution can be to orient your life towards the pursuit of something meaningful. If you pursue something meaningful it will ignite your daily actions with meaning and make them worthwhile, or even exciting. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be happy – which isn’t what meaningful means – all the time, but what you do on a daily basis will contribute to something more important further down the line.
The simplest and most basic way to go about creating meaning in your life, is to set yourself realistic goals that are good for you. Good for you isn’t what makes you happy, or what you like – candy makes a kid happy, but you don’t let it eat candy all day. Thus, you can ask yourself what would be good for you, create a goal or vision around that and make it part of your daily life. Even though this form of meaning pales in comparison to a life-long pursuit of meaning it’s a start. Imagine what would make your life better now, today, tomorrow, in a month, in a year and in 10 years. Then do that. Start small and stay consistent.
Again, this is a way too complex topic for this blog post, but it is incredibly important and a topic I will return to in the future.
Well, that’s it for now!
These are four fundamentals that, once consistently implemented, can give you as many benefits, as almost nothing else can, especially in the long run. So, before you try to squeeze out an extra 2% more focus, or half an hour of time here or there, focus your efforts and attention on creating meaningful, healthy and beneficial cornerstones for your life first.
Focus on the fundamentals.
Thank you so much for reading! As always, I’m open to constructive feedback: so, if you have any feedback please let me know (most efficiently through social media).
If you want to implement anything that I’ve suggested, I’m excited to hear or read from you! Let me know how it goes!