While serving a humanitarian and ecclesiastical mission at the age of 20, I learned potentially the most important lesson of my life. How you spend your morning determines your success in life.
How you spend your morning determines who you will become.
How you spend your morning determines whether you become world-class at something, or remain merely average.
How you spend your morning is the difference between making tens of millions of dollars and making less than 100 grand.
How you spend your morning determines how well you:
- spend your time
- choose your friends
- choose your lover
- choose your career
- perform in your work
- influence the world
I didn’t understand how important my morning was at the beginning of my mission. But it quickly became very apparent.
As a missionary, the first several hours of the day are dedicated to getting ready, studying, and planning.
After a few months in “the mission field,” I noticed that most missionaries dragged themselves out of bed, and dragged themselves through their studies.
My experience was different. For the first time in my life, I experienced the power of learning. I felt the nourishment of feeding my mind and soul. To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.:
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
I started waking up earlier than prescribed to read more and more. Rather than reading one hour each morning as recommended, I was reading three or four.
Within six months, it became apparent that my thinking and teaching abilities were accelerating at rocket speed. I began to stand out as a missionary.
The following quote by Jeffrey Holland became crystal clear to me:
“I frequently say to missionaries in the field, ‘You make or break your mission every morning of your life. You tell me how those morning hours go until you are on the street in your mission, whatever time it is; you tell me how those hours go, and I will tell you how your day will go, I will tell you how your month will go, I will tell you how your year will go and how your mission and your life will go.’ ”
You make or break your life between 5 and 7 a.m.
“Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.” — Richard Whately
If you lose an hour in your morning, you’ll spend your whole day looking for it.
If you spend your day looking for the most important time you’ve lost, you’ll be spending your whole life on a lower-level path than you could have had.
If you don’t prioritize and maximize your morning hours, you’ll always be left wondering what your life could have been.
You’ll never know what you could have had.
You’ll never watch yourself accelerate and advance at rates that are possible, but seem impossible.
You’ll always settle for less in your choices, relationships, eating, environment, income, and life.
— — —
Given the fact that most people reading this article operate on a 9-5ish schedule, the hours before 9 a.m. are significant.
Moreover, many people reading this article have kids and other responsibilities that are immediately pressing upon them, usually around 7 a.m.
If you start your day at 7 a.m., you’ve already lost the most important hours of your day. You’ve already lost your chance to radically separate yourself — intellectually, emotionally, spiritually — from the masses.
When you upgrade yourself intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, you’re enabled to see the world from a more elevated plane. You’re empowered to deal with the difficult and challenging emotions required for growth and evolution. You quickly learn how to work with people, solve problems, and create an amazing lifestyle where you’re making great money.
What do you do between 5 and 7 a.m.?
If you could give yourself two hours, every morning, solely dedicated to learning, thinking, planning, meditating, praying, and writing in your journal, your life would change.
These are the best things you could do with your morning time.
How a person spends the hours of 5 to 7 a.m. are a pretty clear indicator of how successful they’ll be. Is this always the case? Of course not. Are there certain circumstances, such as people who work night shifts, when these exact hours don’t apply? Sure.
But for most people, the hours of 5 to 7 a.m. make or break their entire life.
How do you spend the hours of 5 to 7?
Do you spend half of that time sleeping?
Do you sleep the entire duration?
Do you spend that time working out?
— — —
How you start something is very important. Prevention is far better than rehabilitation. Starting right is much easier than correcting course.
Consequently, how you start your day is extremely important. It is indeed possible to correct your course mid-way through the day, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t often happen. Momentum — good or bad — is hard to reverse.
Waking up at 5 a.m. isn’t enough, then, if you wake up at that time and you start yourself down a non-optimal path.
First things should come first.
Some things are good, other things are better, and other things are best.
Given that your morning hours are your most important, you shouldn’t dedicate those golden hours to activities which are merely “good.” As Jim Collins has said, “Good is the enemy of great.” Similarly, Dallin Oaks has said, “We should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best.”
Every person has 24 hours per day.
However, what each person does with those 24 hours determines who they become and what they do.
How you spend your 24 hours is the difference between making tens of millions of dollars and living paycheck to paycheck.
How you spend your 24 hours is the difference between being happy and being miserable.
There are endless choices you could make. Endless activities you could engage in. Endless people you could surround yourself with. Endless goals you could pursue.
John Maxwell has written, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”
Most choices are bad choices.
Most activities are unimportant.
There are a lot of things which are “good.” But those activities should NOT come first thing in the morning.
Research confirms the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, is most active and readily creative immediately following sleep. Your mind is clearest in the morning. Your energy is highest.
A lot of people wake up first thing and head to the gym. This is certainly a good activity — it will wake you up and get you moving.
But fitness is not the most optimal thing you could do in the morning. Research confirms that you workout better with food in your system. Your workouts will be far more productive and powerful if you do them in the late morning or early afternoon, as opposed to first thing in the morning. Lunch-break work out.
If you’ve already accomplished more in your morning than most people do in a month, you’ll be SO PUMPED to workout. You’ll push yourself so much harder. You’ll feel so much more fulfilled. You’ll feel so good it will feel like beating the system — which is actually what you’re doing when you live on your own terms.
Your workout should be a mental break — a way to break up your day. The physical and mental can push each other upward. Once you workout, you give your mind a rest and allow your subconscious to synthesize and organize all the work you’ve done throughout your morning.
Indeed, stepping away after several hours of hard thinking is where you’ll get your best insights. Don’t waste those epic insights by working out first thing in the morning! Instead, workout during the afternoon and get even more insights WHILE YOU’RE working out as a byproduct of the thinking and mental work you’ve done that morning.
Another benefit of working out later in the day is that it does energize you — and thus you can add a couple extra hours of good mental energy that you won’t get if you exercise first thing in the morning.
So what should you do first thing in the morning?
“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you want to quickly set yourself apart in life, you should make it your first priority to read lots of really good books. If you spend 1–2 hours per morning reading, you’d read 50–100 books per year. Do this for 5–10 years, and as they say, you’ll become an “overnight success.”
In our incredible age of information and technology, it’s never been easier to access information. Of course, it’s also never been more distracting.
There are many REALLY REALLY good books. There are also MILLIONS of books that aren’t that great.
The quality of books you read matters. To quote Ryan Holiday, “If you read what everyone else reads, you’ll think like everyone else thinks.”
Some books are classics for a reason.
Some books have shaped culture for a reason.
Some books are continually recommended by people who have achieved wealth and success for a reason.
And when you start really reading, you’ll be guided by the books themselves. The right books will pop-up and stir your heart. You’ll intuitively know — I need to read that book, which will then lead you to the next book and the next.
You’ll begin making important connections that other people haven’t made.
You’ll be able to shape culture yourself.
You’ll be able to make influential change — first in your own life, then in your family, then in your circle of friends, then in your work and community, and eventually, you’ll be able to influence and shape the whole world.
Reading isn’t enough though.
You need to spend plenty of time thinking, meditating, praying if so inclined, and writing in your journal.
Rather than just reading for 1–2 hours straight, it’s good to shift between reading, thinking, and writing down your insights. Listening to audiobooks makes this process even easier.
While either listening or reading, it’s good to allow spaces of time to really think about what you’re learning, and to measure what you’re learning against your current worldview, priorities, and goals.
Hopefully, if you’re open to learning, you’ll allow what you’re reading to alter and enhance your current mental model. You’ll allow your learning to hone and improve your current priorities, goals, choices, and daily behaviors.
Thus, while you’re learning, it’s good to ponder and think about the goals you’re currently pursuing. Writing your goals down in the morning, and emotionally visualizing their completion is powerful. It’s awe-inspiring and humbling to read old journal entries and realize that many of your former goals have since been attained and accomplished.
While listening to or reading powerful information — your mind will be primed to get lots of really good ideas. Especially if you’ve developed skills in meditation, thinking, and prayer.
While listening/reading, you’ll get lots of REALLY GOOD ideas about how you can better accomplish your goals. Ideas will come to your mind about how you can better help the people in your network accomplish their goals.
You’ll want to immediately act on these ideas. The longer you hesitate, the more likely you will be to forget about your key insight. The longer you wait, the less power your idea will have.
When a brilliant idea sparks, start writing. Don’t just put it on the back-burner. Follow the idea and see where it takes you.
It’s usually the idea after the idea that really matters. But most people take their ideas for granted, or they just continue their reading.
When you get a core insight, pause and reflect. Pull out your journal and begin connecting that idea with your most pressing goals and priorities and relationships. Quickly, another connection will be made. A deeper insight will present itself. Eventually, you’ll stumble upon something very practical. Something you’ll need to act on immediately.
That “something” may be a conversation you need to have. It may be an article you need to write that morning. It may be something you can do for someone to dramatically move the needle.
You need THAT insight. The one that leads to immediate action and makes immediate impact on what you’re trying to do.
This is how you make quantum leaps, day-by-day, in your progression. When you’re getting powerful insights that improve how you live, your life changes. That’s why learning every day is so important.
If you read good books every morning, visualize and strategize your goals, and write your insights in your journal, you’ll have an amazing life.
You’ll become a highly creative person.
You’ll be a brilliant decision maker and strategist.
You’ll become financially successful.
You’ll learn from your mistakes, and not continue the same unhealthy patterns.
You’ll elevate yourself while most people continue small lives of regret.
What do you do between the hours of 5–7 a.m.?
Join the 5 a.m. club!
If you haven’t yet joined the 5 a.m. club, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s the equivalent of me telling you how good a certain chocolate cake is. You can only really know if you taste the cake yourself.
You won’t know how motivating, clarifying, and empowering it is until you experience it yourself. Your identity and personality are shaped by your behavior. Change your choices, change your life.
Will waking up early sometimes suck?
But if it doesn’t suck, it’s not worth doing. Robert Greene explains in his book, Mastery, that you can learn to love this internal resistance. In his words, “You find a kind of perverse pleasure in moving past the pain this might bring.”
And if you immediately put yourself in a different environment — the fog and tiredness will go away within 5 minutes.
Drink a huge cup of water and go somewhere you can be alone. Throw your shoes on. Wake yourself up and deal with the few moments of pain in order to unlock a life most people could never imagine.
Ready to upgrade?
I’ve created a cheat sheet for putting yourself into a PEAK-STATE, immediately. You follow this daily, your life will change very quickly.
This article first appeared on Medium.