Exercise is a Teacher

It teaches you …

… 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.

Your Most Valuable Resource

What is it?

Money? Status? Data?

No.

It’s time.

Your time is limited. You will die.

The thought of your mortality is scary. One day you will be gone.

However, being self-aware of your mortality can make your life more meaningful.

When your time on earth is limited it matters what you do. It matters what you do this year, next month and today.

What will you do with your most valuable resource today?

Dick Winters on Fitness

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.

Benefits of Morning Routines

Morning routines have become very popular lately – and for good reason!

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.

Meanwhile…

Stay on the Meaningful Path.

Building a Morning Routine

All of us strive for more consistency in our lives.

We want to work out, read or meditate every day. We start with grandiose plans and good intentions, but soon our efforts decrease and we cut corners and make exceptions. Our consistency decreases. After a few weeks of struggle to keep up with our plans, we accept inconsistency as our normal behavior. We bury our ambitions and return to our old habits.

The Hidden Power of Consistency

“The acts of life we repeat every day need to be automatized. They must be turned into stable and reliable habits, so they lose their complexity and gain predictability and simplicity.”

Jordan Peterson, “12 Rules For Life”

One way of breaking out of this cycle is to establish habits that are easily maintained and executed – even if time is short or life gets in the way. Instead of trying to build multiple individual habits at once, bundling multiple habits together in a routine makes them easier to execute. If we make these routine part of our morning, we have the highest chance of staying consistent with our habits, as we can execute our routine before whatever happens during the day can interrupt our plans. Thus, a morning routine can be key to become consistent.

Yet, we might have days where we don’t get enough sleep and sometimes we’ll be exhausted even after a full night of sleep. In short, life will get in the way and times get tough. To execute our routines even in those times, we need to select the habits carefully and make sure they don’t take too much energy and time, so we can execute them even when we are exhausted or short on time. We need to have habits with a  baseline that is achievable even in rough times.

This approach brings multiple benefits: We can always do more than our baseline if we have the time and energy for it. If times get tough, we can still stay on the path. The beauty of setting  our morning routine up like this is that we can always do more. If we have time and energy we can go far beyond whatever our minimum morning routine is. But, during tough times we can stay on the path.

As my previous morning routine wasn’t set up this way, I became inconsistent when times got rough. Now, that I have setup a new morning routine, I want to invite you to build your own morning routine along side me! If you are interested in my morning routine you can read more about it here.

The Experiment

“Developing a routine of predictable, daily disciplines prepares you to be victorious on the battlefield of life.”

Darren Hardy, “The Compound Effect”

The rules for this months experiment are as follows:

  1. Pick any number of habits that you want to implement as your morning routine.
  2. Make them so small, that your whole morning routine takes ten minutes or less.
  3. Track your progress in a journal, a calendar or on a piece of paper.
  4. Keep yourself accountable by posting a progress picture every day on social media by using the hashtag #meaningfulpath

I’ll use the same hashtag to share my progress, so we can keep each other accountable and maybe you can kick my ass!

I’ll see you there!

Meanwhile, stay on the #meaningfulpath

Humble Habits

Most of us aspire to lead a productive life.

We dream that we’d get up one day, do a workout, take a cold shower, eat a healthy breakfast and work on our goals. Then we’d go to sleep, get up and do it all again.

In reality we hit snooze and roll over in bed.

We often have streaks of consistency, followed by days and weeks of inactivity.

Most of us struggle with the same question:

“How can I become consistent for a long period of time?”

When Life Gets in the Way

For a long time I answered that question the same way: Discipline!

I imagined that if I were more disciplined and forced myself to do everything I wanted to do, I’d be consistent.

Yet, I didn’t take into account what life could throw at me.

Over the last four months many difficult things happened: serious family problems surfaced, the father of a close friend died, my thesis neared its deadline and a bunch of other stuff pilled up on top of that. A lot had to be done with little time and with decreasing energy – I became exhausted.

When exhausted, it’s not easy and might not be healthy to force oneself to do more – especially not for a long time. At the same time it’s much harder to rebuild your routines and habits from scratch after weeks of not doing them.

After reflecting on the past months I’ve asked myself how I could stay consistent even in difficult times.

Start Small

I realized that when I established certain habits or  a morning routine, I often tried to do too much. My ego was sabotaging my efforts. I wasn’t humble enough to set up small goals that I could accomplish in difficult times.

I asked myself if I could establish an incredibly basic baseline. Could I establish a routine that was easy to accomplish, no matter what life threw at me?

That’s what I do now.

My daily morning routine looks like this:

  • Meditate for 1 minute.
  • Do 10 push-ups.
  • Reflect on the previous day by writing one line about it in my journal.
  • Write for this project for 5 minutes.

Doing everything on this list takes me less than 10 minutes every day. The beauty of this system is that I can do more if I have the energy and time to do so. As I’m writing this, I’m in the 5-minute writing-segment of my routine and have already written for over 45 minutes.

Of course I had huge internal resistance just thinking about setting such incredibly small goals. “You want to meditate for only one minute? Really? You used to meditate 30 minutes every day and now you can’t sit still for 15 minutes?!” But I realized that it was just my Ego talking. I stayed humble and accepted that my plan was a great baseline for a new morning routine and that consistency is far more important than efficiency.

Where to go from Here

This week I will try out the morning routine above and will reflect on it at the end of August. On September 1, I will settle on a morning routine and turn it into habits.

I invite you to do the same!

I’ll publish another post later this week, where I’ll set up criteria for the next month’s experiment: Building a morning routine for tough times.

I’ll let you know when that post goes live and I’ll also track my progress on Instagram and Twitter.

If you tried to establish routines or habits and failed in the past, consider getting on board and ask yourself which habits you want to include in your morning routine right now.

I’ll be back with more details on the September-experiment soon!

Meanwhile…

Stay on the Meaningful Path!