A Beginner’s Guide to Morning Routines

Every morning I wake up at 6 am. By the time I leave for work, around 9, I’ve meditated, stretched, exercised, consulted the weather, assessed my mood and state of mind, gone over my schedule, picked out a list of tasks for the day, gone through my email, read the news, watered my plants, showered, and groomed.

Depending on the day I may have worked out more, strengthened my voice with some vocal exercises, or written either in a paper journal or on this very blog, as I’m doing now.

This wasn’t always the case. My snooze button could tell you as much. For a long time my morning routine consisted of sleep, sleep, drowsily convince self doesn’t need to attend that 9 am class, sleep some more… shower and dress as fast as possible, head out.

It’s not that I didn’t aspire to do things with my free time. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it in the morning, and once freed from school, or work, I was often too tired to do much of anything. I felt like I was wasting my time.

I want to share 3 ideas that helped me break through.

Humans Require Daily Maintenance

It started with some shoulder pain. I’m a software engineer, I spend a lot of time sitting in front of computers, often with a bad posture. And so, I started experiencing shoulder pain, especially towards the end of the work day.

In looking for solutions I realized that I was going to need to stretch and do some simple exercises every single day, probably for the rest of my life. It dawned on me that there were many things that humans need to repeat every day to stay healthy and sane.

It’s a notion I had previously rejected. Chores were chores, and I wanted to spend as little time doing them as possible. Sure, I had to sleep. And eat. And clean, I guess. But the 14 leftover hours were all about freedom and exploration. I wanted to do new things and reach milestones every day. I was wrong.

I use my body and mind all day long, and so do you. It’s a complex machine. It works best with daily tune-ups. And yes, they are incredibly repetitive. But they’re also, without a doubt, the best use of my time. I am happier and more productive than ever.

Slow Progress Is Sustainable Progress

The bad news is, this isn’t a miracle solution. I don’t have a “morning routine” pill to sell you. Building a routine takes patience and dedication.

The good news is it doesn’t require bursts of painful effort either. Your best bet is to start small. Pick one thing you’d like to do every morning. Something that only takes a few minutes. Maybe you’d like to meditate. Maybe you’d like to drink water and eat a fruit. Whatever it is, figure out how much time it requires, and set your alarm clock to wake you up earlier by that amount of time.

You may not be able to wake up at 6 am, yet, but I bet you can wake up 5 minutes earlier than you normally do without too much effort.

Do that small thing for a few weeks. You might be eager to reach certain goals, but understand that the path to success is one of slow, incremental progress. Don’t pressure yourself. If you try to do too much at once you’ll deplete your willpower and give up.

Once you’ve become comfortable and confident in your ability to do that small task every morning, add another one to your routine. You can see where I’m going with this. Repeat this process until you have the routine you want. Soon you’ll be amazed at the results you get from doing simple, small things consistently.

You Can’t Break a Flexible Routine

My routine is always evolving. I think about what I could add or remove. I experiment. For a while I would pick my tasks for the day as the first thing. By the time I got to the meditation part of my routine my mind was already buzzing with thoughts about what and how I would do these tasks. Now I meditate before anything else.

Think of your routine as being flexible and adaptable. Over time your needs will change. This is true of long term goals and priorities, it is also true from one day to the next. For example, I stretch every morning. I have 2 lists of stretches. One is very thorough, the other one is shorter and eliminates some of the harder stretches. Depending on my energy level I might do one or the other.

Finally, be kind to yourself. Some days you may need to skip parts of your routine. Perhaps you need to recuperate sleep, or you really don’t feel like it. That’s OK. Give yourself a break and adapt your routine to what you’re able to do that day.

Epilogue

Nowadays I couldn’t imagine not having a morning routine. My habits are ingrained and the benefits obvious. Give it a try. You’ll never look back.

From Religion to Donald Trump

In my teen years I was an outspoken atheist. When debating people I would take the position that, not only are gods a silly idea, religion as a whole is bad for humanity.

Even when talking to other atheists I would often get this answer: “What if believing in God is helping these people lead happier lives? Why does it matter if it’s real or not? They’re not hurting you.”

A fair point. And one for which I did not have a good answer. It was offensive to me that we would simply accept that people were deluding themselves, and then indoctrinating their children to do the same. All in the name of happiness? It seemed dystopian, but I lacked the wit to explain why.

A few weeks ago I found the answer I’d been looking for, and I couldn’t be sadder about it.

They’re not hurting anybody, you say? These people who reject all evidence, all science, all reason, in favor of fictitious stories that validate their beliefs? These people that we’ve respectfully allowed to delude themselves gave us Trump.

But so what if people believe a rich cretinous demagogue is going to fix all their problems. They’re happy, and besides, who are they hurting?

How to Get Twitter Followers in 2 Steps

#1 Create and Share Content You Find Interesting

It should be obvious that, before using any kind of special tactics, you need to create and/or share content that you find interesting. You need to create value. Start there.

#2 Cross Your Fingers

And wait. Seriously. Don’t do anything else. Don’t “follow back” just for the sake of it. Definitely don’t ask people to follow you back. Don’t mind your following / followers ratio. Post whenever you feel like it. Use hashtags, or don’t.

I see people with hundreds of thousands of followers, following hundreds of thousands of people. I can only assume as part of a follow back scheme. Why? Like, really? You’re keeping up with a stream of tweets from over 100k people? I can’t imagine you have time for much else.

If everybody did that we’d all have millions of followers, and no one actually reading anything we say.

A handful of people that are genuinely interested in what you have to say and share are worth more than an artificially inflated vanity number. Nobody that matters cares about your number of followers. Don’t waste your time.

Certainty is 99/100

“Agnosticism” is the view that God’s existence is unknown or unknowable. However, too many self-proclaimed agnostics are mislabeling themselves for lack of a clear definition of what knowledge means here. While it can’t be proven that God doesn’t exist, it can be known. Let me explain.

It can’t be proven that God doesn’t exist because God is a malleable concept. For example, at one time some people believed that God had created all life on Earth exactly as we known it today, including humans and all other animal species. Some of those same people have come to recognize the fact of evolution, which disproves their previously-held belief. Now, instead, they believe that God engineered evolution, or some other conveniently not-yet-disproved story.

No matter how much evidence we uncover that the universe functions without the help of a divine force, we’ll never be 100% sure that there isn’t a God. Maybe God started the Big Bang and hasn’t intervened since. Maybe he made it look like he doesn’t exist by planting fake evidence. However supremely unlikely that may be, there’s still a teeny-tiny chance it’s what happened. Likewise, maybe the evidence backing evolution was planted. Perhaps by God, perhaps by the Illuminati?

There’s a non-zero chance that unicorns, invisible to the human eye, are roaming our streets and skies as I write this. And yet, I don’t say I’m agnostic towards invisible unicorns. Same goes with evolution, gravity, and, of course, God.

As it turns out, technically, we can’t know anything with 100% confidence. And that’s OK, because the bar for knowledge and facts is lower than that. Not much lower, mind you. But if you’re 99% sure God doesn’t exist, do me a favor, call yourself an atheist.

Dear Conservatives

I’m a liberal, or, as you say, “libtard.” We don’t talk anymore, short of shouting at each other from a great distance.

I am mad about Trump, and for what your party is doing to our country. But I understand where you’re coming from, I think. And I believe we have more in common than is apparent.

For example, I wish for America and its citizens to prosper. To live happy, peaceful, fulfilling lives. I believe in freedom and democracy. I believe our government should work for the people.

None of this can be taken for granted, and we should recognize that we are united by this pursuit. Now let’s talk about our disagreements.

Yeah, I’m a socialist. I’m in favor of redistributing some wealth to those in need. It’s not that I’m lazy or entitled. In fact, last year I paid about 3 times what the average American pays in taxes. I hope to continue giving more than I receive for as long as possible. But why?

It’s not as obvious as a tax break, but I am getting something out of paying into social programs that benefit other people. These people, they live in the same country as I do, some in the same city even. They touch my life in various ways. Some prepare food that I eat, they write the books that I read, they teach children, or smile at me on the streets. Some are my friends, my family.

When they are healthy, when they get the education they want, when they’re not worried about food or housing, when they don’t live on the streets, then the quality of my life increases in more ways than money could buy.

But do they deserve my help, you ask? The first thing I’ll say is, on some level, it doesn’t matter. I’m doing what’s best for me.

But also, everyone is deserving of the basic necessities of life. Why? Good question. Seriously. This is at the heart of the Liberal vs Conservative debate, yet nobody cares to address it in a non-condescending way. Liberals act like it’s obvious we should help the less fortunate—it’s not. And Conservatives act like the less fortunate are capable but unwilling. Here’s what I would say.

“Will,” the willingness to work and do effortful things, is not a given. It is a fortunate thing to have, like health, inherited wealth, or various other predispositions. Are some people lazy and abusing the system? Sure. But I don’t believe they choose to be lazy. Hear me out on this.

It is unintuitive. We want to give credit to ourselves, and others, for our efforts and strength of character. And that means we should assign blame to those who achieve less. But this is misguided. While we should celebrate our success, it’s equally important to recognize that luck plays a big role in our lives. Bigger than we tend to imagine.

No-one decides where they’re born, or when, or to which parents. Yet those things, like so many others that are out of our control, are responsible for much of our fortune.

The Engagement Responsibility

I grew up in France. I went to school there, where I developed a keen sense of criticism. One of my recurring complaints was this: We had textbooks, yet teachers made us transcribe their own paraphrased version of all the lessons. There I was, spending hours a day copying information I already had.

Over the years I became less and less motivated. At one time an allegedly bright student, my grades started to deteriorate. Eventually I was described as a slacker.

Now, teachers dedicate their lives to education. They’re meant to help us discover and reach our potential. We rely on them to produce well-adjusted, happy adults. We give them about 20 years of our lives… But for all that responsibility the only advice they ever gave me was “work harder.”

See, I thought being a teacher meant being responsible for teaching. They thought it meant dispensing information. Whether us students learned the material was of little concern.

Here’s the thing, “teachers:” If we don’t learn, you haven’t taught.

But I suppose I did learn something, albeit outside of the curriculum. Me, you, students, all people… We do our best work when we’re engaged. If you’re any kind of leader, a manager, a teacher… own that fact! Give your people the right to be engaged. When they’re not, see what you can change.