Morning Mindsets: 21 Days to Starting Your Day Strong
Written By: Matt Mignona
Many of us resolve to spend our mornings in contemplation and preparation for the coming challenges of the day, week, or even year. However, a general goal to get up early and make the best of your day is unlikely to overcome the seduction of the pillow and comforter. Rather, you need a step-by-step process that helps your sleepy mind to move into its activities with alacrity and purpose. Here is our 21-day plan for making your mornings great while getting to know yourself better.
Many of these steps have been advocated by other personal development writers (Hal Elrod's The Miracle Morning advocates that you do almost all of these things in the same morning!), but they are still great ideas for making a great morning. After 21 days of attempting new morning routines, you'll have a solid idea of what actually makes your mornings amazing.
Day 1 - Start By Listening
Many of us haven't figured out how to transition ourselves awake in a positive way. One of the most gentle ways to do this is to download short, inspirational podcasts or to commit to listening to small pieces of a larger audio show. Consider downloading onto your phone free audio from The Tim Ferriss Show or Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Other great options may include speakers from your chosen career field or faith practice. Regardless, let the words soak into you and force yourself to sit up - you get less out of it if you fall asleep! After 15-20 minutes, take some time to begin journaling: What are you grateful for this morning? What are your life goals? What is your intention for this day?
Day 2 - Add Movement to Your Morning
You know yourself: would running, walking, doing some push-ups, or getting into the gym work well to start your day? Plan to do 15-20 minutes of exercise before your journaling about gratitude, life goals, and intentions.
Day 3 - Follow the Yoga Way
If you haven't before, or even if you have, put on a yoga video or practice from a yoga app like Downward Dog; give yourself 15-20 minutes of stretching and moving and holding poses. You'd be surprised where your mind goes even as your body is reaching its limits. Journal after you untangle yourself from those poses.
Day 4 - Try Meditation On Your Goals
Yoga can be a good lead-in to trying meditation for a little bit. For beginners, this can just mean being in a silent space for a few minutes at a time, letting thoughts enter and leave your mind. Put your phone or computer in another room, and commit to a few minutes this way. If this kind of silence unsettles you immediately, consider a guided meditation like the ones on the app Headspace.
Your journal can stay with you; a good way to let a thought leave can be to write it down.
Day 5 - Speak Your Inner Goals
Verbal affirmations are a core component of goal setting. While you'll notice that your gratitude, life goals, and intentions change each day a little bit, you may notice some that stay the same. By Day 5, pull out some goals and truths from what you've written, and verbally affirm them. No matter how it feels, start the day by speaking your true aims into the world; you'll be surprised by how powerful you feel afterward.
Day 6 - Read to Learn
Pick out a book or two that will further knowledge you care about - it could be for work, but it could be for a deep passion you've never gotten to pursue: cactus gardening, or oceanography, perhaps? Whatever it is, take 15-20 minutes where you immerse yourself in the written word. Remember to journal when you're done!
Day 7 - Re-Read Your Journal
For this day, just spend some time looking at the 6 entries (or more!) you've made in your journal this week. Reflect on how the week went, what mattered and was helpful, and what felt off or just "not you" in the first week. You can't give up on the tough stuff, but this knowledge will help you rearrange for week 2.
Day 8-13 - Try it Again, in a New Order
Here's where you get to do some of the work to make this structure your own. What helped on what kind of days? For instance, if your affirmations fell on a day of fairly solitary activities, they might not be as effective as if you schedule them in for a day full of meetings and presentations. Here's a sample schedule, but tailor it to your needs:
Day 8: Yoga, since I had a soccer game yesterday and could use the stretching.
Day 9: Speak my inner goals since I'm pitching a new idea in a meeting today.
Day 10: Listen to a pep-up podcast; I have a late night the night before and might be dragging a little.
Day 11: Get a run in before work to clear my head for a long period of problem-solving tasks.
Day 12: Read a bit about personal development that could help me mentor my employees.
Day 13: Quiet meditation to let the week sink in.
Basically, take all the techniques you tried before, and make them attuned to your daily needs. After every activity, don't forget to take some time to journal: What are you grateful for? What are your life goals? What is your intention for this day?
Day 14 - Reread Your Journal Entries and Mark the "Best Result Days"
Rather than adding a whole new activity to this day, this is like a longer version of Day 7. Really notice how your intentions, goals, and gratitudes are affected by the activity that you use to wake up and begin the day. Note what matters to you. This is the first time (the first!) that you should consider giving up on an activity; you've tried it twice now, and you've got some good information. The next week will be for focusing on the activities that fit you best.
Days 15-21 - Personalize Your Final Week
This week is your chance to turn your morning mindset experiments into a set of habits. Using your knowledge from Day 14, implement a week of personalized tasks and goals that produce the best results for you. This might mean an exercise regimen every morning, or days where you alternate between listening, reading, and speaking your goals. Chronicle whether they work well for you this second time, or whether they have a mix of results.
The best part of the 21-day challenge is that it results in you finding not just a morning mindset, but your ideal morning mindset. As you implement your morning mindset practices long-term, substitute out some of your ideas periodically to inject excitement and novelty into your practices. Make sure you are keeping track of how these morning practices impact the rest of your days; the Happier Mind Journal makes a perfect place to chronicle your gratitude, life goals, and intentions since it is particularly tailored to these structures for daily habit building.