What are Morning Rituals?

Within self-improvement communities, the concept of the “morning ritual” has spread like wildfire.

Everyone wants to know how the world’s most successful, most productive individuals start their days.

The idea of a morning ritual is:

  • A set of activities that serves as a launchpad into your day, empowering you to be your very best
  • The exact same set of activities (routine) every day that minimizes the decisions necessary to get through the start of your day. This reserves decision-making power for the things that actually require your active thought.

It’s a great concept in theory, and in practice.

But anything absolute, i.e., “these things must happen in this order, every day!” comes with the pitfalls associated with inflexibility.

Absolutism at its finest: Streaks

Take the idea of “streaks” for example.

If you’ve been trying to get fit, for example, you might have a 30-day streak going. You’ve been exercising 30 days in a row!

That creates its own dynamic of gamification and incentive to keep the streak going, which a powerful positive.

But the downside to that happens when you miss a day. There’s a crater now, for when you reset your streak count to 0. And then you end up feeling badly, say, if you only ever recover to a string of 10-day streaks.

I’ve failed, couldn’t get back to my best streak. If only I hadn’t skipped those couple days…

Let’s say in the course of 60 days, your performance was something like this:

Days 1-30: Exercised (30 day streak) Day 31: Skipped Day 32-41: Exercised (10 day streak) Day 42: Skipped Day 43-52: Exercised (10 day streak) Day 53: Skipped Day 54-60: Exercised (7 day streak)

A “streak-oriented” mindset might say:

I can’t even maintain a streak, and my best days are past. Time to give up!

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little.

My point is that the streaks focus on the downside a bit too heavily, without looking at the overall achievement.

So instead of giving yourself credit for exercising 57 out of the past 60 days (95%), you’re berating yourself for the 3 days you missed (5%)!

That doesn’t make any sense. Even if you’re a perfectionist, be pragmatic, and ask: what mindset will allow me to achieve more over the long run?

Perfection is unsustainable.

Rituals Are Not For Everyone, All Of The Time

The same idea goes for rituals.

There’s a certain precision that’s expected.

But life is not always predictable. And routine comes more naturally to some than others. Incidentally, the ones who struggle most with routine are the ones who also need it most.

So for those people, a similar phenomenon will happen with rituals as with streaks.

Except, “I can’t maintain my streak” becomes:

I missed my ritual this morning. My day is a lost cause.

If your plan was to wake up at 6 AM but somehow you woke up at 9 AM…yes, you could argue that you “lost” the day.

Maybe you lost your head start on the day.

But you’ve still got the next 13 hours to work with. Will you throw that away because you screwed up the first 3? Now that seems like a waste to me.

Strive for consistency, build resiliency

As with most things in life, the 80/20 rule applies again.

Aim for as much as you possibly can. But the 20% of the times that don’t go quite so smoothly: be resilient. Adapt. Accept the loss and make the most of what’s left.

I get into these spirals after a “loss” and there is nothing that wipes away the lethargy of a loss like a nice, solid achievement. Pick just one thing, one small thing, make it happen.

Yes. It is possible to accomplish a lot more in a lot less time. You know it. You’ve had those “on” days where you did more in 6 hours than you did all week. In just 6 hours.

So guess what? If you didn’t quite make your morning ritual today…you probably still have at least 6 hours to go before bedtime. Make them count!