By Craig Ballantyne
My day begins between 3:30 and 4 a.m. I slip stealthily from under the covers and drape my feet over the edge of the bed.
Bally the Dog, alert to my slightest of movements, takes this as his cue to get up from his mat. He wanders over from the corner of the bedroom to my side for a early morning pet. I vigorously rub his back so that his tail wags at ludicrous speed. This goes on for about a minute before he turns around, plenty satisfied. Time to return to his homemade bed for another three hours of doggy dreaming.
With this, I make my way to the bathroom to get dressed and cleaned up. I put on my workout clothes for later and head down to the kitchen table. A jug of cold water from the fridge and a few daily supplements (vitamin C, a probiotic, and glucosamine chondroitin) are the only nourishment I need for the next few hours.
First: The Most Important Thing
I grab my writing sweatshirt and put on my headphones. There's no music. Just silence. It helps me get locked in and laser-focused for the next sixty to ninety minutes.
John Carlton, the famous copywriter, recommends that all writers have rituals that signify the start and end of their work time. Wearing my big headphones and blocking all extraneous noise gets me in writing mode. It's as though I'm separated from the world by some soundless barrier. My kitchen table is my fortress. My keyboard is my weapon. An eight hundred word article my prey.
Time flies by. I pause only when my throat gets dry to quench my thirst. It's still pitch black outside the 32nd story windows of my apartment in downtown Toronto. Only the lights from Toronto's CN Tower landmark break the stillness of the night, but they don't break my concentration.
By five thirty or six o'clock I'm satisfied with my first draft. It's time for my daily inspirational quotes to be shared with our rapidly growing Turbulence Training and Early to Rise Facebook readership of over 93,000 and 15,000 members, respectively. These are not automated. I prefer to share what is fresh on my mind each morning. I tweet it. I post it for my Turbulence Training readers. I update it to our Transformation Contest entrants as well.
After this few minutes break I return to my writing. This time, it's email drafts. It could be the weekly Wednesday Early to Rise team email, or the Thursday Turbulence Training team email. Or it could be one of my many Turbulence Training email articles to be sent to my list of over 90,000 fitness fanatics.
These emails come faster and much easier than the eight hundred word articles. I slay the biggest dragon first when my subconscious mind is bubbling over with ideas and my mind is clear and fresh. Then I move to the emails. Having written over three thousand fitness emails in the last twelve years, the Power of Habit has helped me achieve outlier status. There are few people in the world that have written as much on fitness as I have. I can dash off one thousand words for a fitness article almost as quickly as you could recap your dinner from last night.
My next habit is one of my favorite parts of the morning. It is my daily document review and reading time. Thirty minutes are allotted to this important thinking session. First, I read the daily entry from Dr. Gay Hendricks', "A Year of Living Consciously." I might copy down a quote to be shared later on Facebook or in an ETR essay. Next, two pages from "The Art of Living," Sharon Lebell's new translation of the works of Epictetus, are given reflection.
I move to my gratitude and achievement journal next. Split lengthwise down the page, the left hand side is for the people, activities, and the future for which I am grateful. I often record my thanks for the easy life that I live, and for the opportunity I have to coach, connect, create, and share my gifts with the world. I never forget how lucky I am to have been born in this day and age. There could be no better life for me, for my life is what I make it.
My gratitude journaling ends with the long list of people that I have connected with or been helped by in the last twenty-four hours. Many people have unknowingly made this list over and over and over again. I remind myself to send them a personal thank you email, text or card. No one gets enough appreciation these days, and it's easy to deliver.
Now it is time to move over to the achievement side. I list the five biggest accomplishments of the past day, and reflect on ways to achieve the same or better results today. Some days it's hard to find five achievements, but even the small things, such as a good workout, a quick phone call to a friend, or getting an essay out the door belong on the list. I thank Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, for introducing the power of this habit to my day.
On I go to the many documents I've gathered over the years. There are the Kekich Credos, Yanik Silver's Maverick Business Rules, and many others. Each day I review one from the list. Like a horoscope speaks to its readers, I find the points salient to my day's activities. Sometimes one triggers a breakthrough in an essay or business strategy. Such is the power of this habit.
By now my throat is dry and water jug empty. I return to the fridge for another cold one. The dog is getting restless. I've been at this for over three hours and his belly, though always empty - at least according to him - is emptier than ever. We're almost done, there are just two more habits to go, and both of them are new.
The first new habit is reading a chapter of a book each day. With all of the other reading in my day-to-day schedule, I'd found my book reading diminished in the last year. What better way to fix this problem than with making this a daily habit. Each morning, before the dog gets walked, a chapter must be read. These days I'm reading, How Will You Measure Your Life, by Clayton Christensen.
Finally, this brings us to my last habit, one that I had struggled to implement for years. Yet it is the simplest of activities. It is doing nothing, absolutely nothing. That's right, mediation. Several times I had tried to make it a habit, but if you read here, I finally made it stick thanks to coaching from ETR's Publisher, Matt Smith, and accountability from ETR readers. I haven't missed a day in over a year, and yes, I believe it has made a difference.
It's now broaching 7 a.m. The spring morning sun is starting to peek above the gleaming bank and condo towers of downtown Toronto. It's time for Bally the Dog to make his grand entrance to the world. But first, a quick belly rub, and then we'll go out for his morning duties and socialization at the off-leash park. He'll also try and sneak in a swim, no matter how cold the water.
Time for a Break
And I watch, satisfied. I'm satisfied that my heaviest lifting of the day is done, though the city is just waking up. You can almost hear the creaks in its bones as it rolls out of bed. The CN Tower yawns and stretches high above the cityscape at the end of the street.
My satisfaction comes from the Power of Habit, the strength of repetition, the backbone of success.
But the writing, the reading, the meditating, none of those come easy, save for the Facebook update. My monkey mind wants to wander and chatter. It wants to read when I'm writing, and write when I'm reading. It wants to be on Facebook or in email all of the time. It wants to do anything else but the nothing that I want it to do during meditation. No matter what though, the chattering monkey mind, or The Resistance, as Steven Pressfield calls it, can be defeated over time, with your super human Power of Habit.
Habits are something we can all build over time. It starts with simple planning and preparation. You identify bad habits, find solutions, and implement them. You work on creating new habits, supporting them through planning and preparation.
Success is simple once you have the Power of Habit on your side.
The keys to your future are your daily habits. Start implementing new positive behaviors. Make them a habit, and take control of your future, today.
About the Author
Craig Ballantyne is the editor of Early to Rise and has had workouts featured in Men's Health and Women's Health magazines. He knows that women can make significant breakthroughs in productivity and body image with a healthy morning routine. His newest program shares a unique 6-minute routine that can help you lose weight. Click here to learn more.