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Show your Life some Love: Part 1

February is the month dedicated to love.

We spend the majority of our efforts focused on the people we love, as it should be.  But there is another place that often could use a little love:  our own lives.

I’m not talking about spa days or good wine. (Although I’m in full support of both.) I’m talking about more actively and intentionally showing love to different areas of your LIFE.

Showing love is defined as: a feeling that expresses itself through action.

So showing love to our LIVES involves effective and intentional actions. Actions that will hopefully have a more permenant impact than the mani/pedi or the bottle of red.

This month we will talk about three different areas of our lives that can always use a little love: our mornings, our finances & our eating habits.

Let’s get started!

First, let’s start with a question.

Do you leap out of bed in the morning ready to take on the day?

(If you leap out of bed at 9am-that counts.)

I had to give that some thought. Do I wake up looking forward to the day?

I mean, I like my life, but I don’t know if I look forward to starting each day.

I read somewhere that how you start the day is how the day goes. So if that is the case, those first few minutes of the day can be really powerful.

This is played out any morning that you accidentally wake up late…things usually don’t get better from there, right? So there must be some truth there.

Most of us have something resembling a routine for the first few moments of the day: functional but uninspiring.  Hit snooze, put our head under the pillow, get up, head to the restroom, let the dog out, start the coffee.  (This could be me; I can neither confirm nor deny.)

Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life.

-Mark Twain

In his book about creating a morning routine (The Miracle Morning), Hal Elrod makes a statement that really got my attention the first time I read it. He says that hitting the snooze button programs our mind, from the first moment of the day, to resist our life.

Now, I confess that I have a love/hate relationship with my snooze button. Maybe you do, too.  But if you think about it, when we hit snooze, we really are resisting the start to another day.

Now I don’t hate my life or anything, but it is a little sad to consider how many days I begin with resistance. That doesn’t really imply a life that I am loving to get up to every morning.

[If right about now you are thinking, Seriously? That is really making a big deal out of nothing.    Okay–I hear you. Sometimes we don’t sleep well or stay up too late, etc. But often the smallest shift in our mindset can change things in ways we didn’t anticipate! Can’t hurt to try something different, right? Stay with me.]

Marcus Aurelius said: When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.

That is how I want to wake up. How about you?

Which is why, when I first read The Miracle Morning a few years ago, I started on a journey toward creating a morning routine that I could look forward to getting up to.

Because if the handful of things you do first thing in the morning are things that hold meaning for you or are things you love to do, then getting up becomes less of a burden and more of a joy.

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.

-Marcus Aurelius

Creating a morning routine was not a linear process for me. I stopped and started. I tried meditation and morning pages. The morning pages stuck; the meditation didn’t. (Although I reserve the right to revisit it later.) Sometimes I do affirmations; sometimes I don’t. I moved the time I got up forward and backward.

I shifted locations from my bedroom to the kitchen to the sunroom and back again. I have rearranged the order in which I did things.

My point is this: my morning routine did not arrive fully formed. It is constantly evolving.  And it rarely looks exactly the same every day. Sometimes I spend several hours slowly working through each thing on my list (hello, weekend). Sometimes two things are all I have time for.

If you are a person who prizes structure you probably have an eye tic about now.

Let me reassure you: there is plenty of information out there if you want to create a very structured morning routine for yourself. The Miracle Morning is a great starting place. (For everyone, really.)

But if I had attempted to set the parameters in stone from the beginning, then I would have set myself up to fail. I believe forcing a routine to fit into a predetermined box doesn’t take into account that our needs change day to day. As does the day itself. And it presupposes that I already know what is going to work without some trial and error.

So I have given myself a lot of grace to figure this out…because I want it to stick. BUT I do keep track of my progress to keep myself accountable. I just do it in a way that allows for flexibility and imperfection, and well, life….

Each ‘X’ is a vote for the kind of person I want to be.

And that is the kind of person who invests in herself every single day. And every single day I work my morning routine, regardless of the number of minutes I spend or the number of tasks I complete, I am voting for that woman.

The trick is to cast more votes FOR her than AGAINST.

(Thank you, James Clear, for this very poignant analogy.)

So how can YOU go about intentionally showing some love to your morning routine? Here are a few ideas:

Showing Love to your Morning

1. Think about what activities would prepare you for a successful day. What is important to YOU?

Don’t list things you think should be important…choose things that matter to you right now. Remember, this is not set in stone! And if you choose things that aren’t really important to you, you won’t stick with it. So this list is important-take a few minutes to think it over.

My activities include walking my dog, getting a cup of coffee, reading a devotional, writing morning pages, listing 3 things I am grateful for, daily planning and reading.  And occasionally affirmations.

We are what we repeatedly do.

Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.

-Aristotle

2. Plan when to execute your morning routine.

You know your schedule and your people. If you work a regular schedule then getting up a little earlier may work perfectly. If your schedule is more irregular then you may have to be a little more creative.

I don’t have a set schedule, so I try to focus on the activities themselves and get them done a certain number of times each week. This allows me to be more flexible about when I get up and how much time I spend on my routine depending on what else I have going on that day.

3. Set yourself up for success.

The morning always starts the night before, so make sure you go to bed at a reasonable hour. Set out the things you will need first thing: workout clothes, notebook, ingredients for your smoothie.

Consider the obstacles you may encounter and think about how you will overcome them. If you already have an alternate plan in mind when you wake up to go for a run and it’s raining, you will be 100x more likely to actually follow through. Play devil’s advocate with yourself in advance.

4. Decide how you are going to hold yourself accountable.

I like the proverbial gold star. Or ‘X’. Hence the notecard – which also has the added benefit of reminding me of my priorities every week when I write it out.

There are also more formal types of habit trackers.

An accountability partner is also great. Or an app. You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so decide in advance how you are going to keep track of your progress.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

-Peter Drucker

5. Start Small.

Even SMALLER. Make it almost laughably easy. Because success breeds success.

So make sure your first steps are so easy that your success is ensured.

You may feel like doing 1 pushup or meditating for 2 mintues is hardly even worth the effort.  You’d be wrong.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear says: Habits are the compounding interest of self-improvement…The point is to master the habit of showing up. I love that!

Once you are in the habit of showing up, then you can begin to challenge yourself a little more.  Point yourself in the direction you want to head and start taking baby steps.

Remember, one pushup is better than no pushups. Reading 5 minutes is better than no reading. This is a journey towards the sort of person you want to become. Every time you show up, you are casting that vote.

All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision.

James Clear

6. Give Yourself Permission to Do Things Imperfectly.

Every single day is a new chance to take steps towards the person you want to be. But accept that you aren’t going to get it right 100% of the time. No one is that perfect and even if you were, life would find a way to thwart your efforts.

So don’t even aim to perform perfectly.

You may have noticed that none of my tasks on the notecard actually have 7 boxes. Because I know that I can’t live up to that, I’m not going to set myself up to fail.  If I walk the dog 7 days this week I have exceeded my goal! Yay! And if I only walk her 4 days, then I have hit over 50% of my goal. If I was a baseball player that would be an amazing stat.

We focus too much on the goals and not enough on the process. Give yourself the grace and the space to be human. Set yourself up for success and then celebrate what you DO accomplish.

Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.

-Julia Cameron

Your morning routine should be a tool that helps you start your day with more joy. It can be the gateway towards becoming more of the person you want to be.

Show your mornings some love by investing the time to build a routine that serves you well.

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