For the last few years, I’ve had a tradition of publishing a personal annual review. The last two years, 2015 and 2016 were published on my other personal site. I’ve enjoyed doing these year-end reviews because I found it to be a helpful way to see my own progress, while looking back on where I was at the end of each year. [Read more…]
Anthony’s Note: This is a guest post by Courtney Carver, from Be More With Less. I had a great video chat with her about her message, and her new book, Soulful Simpicity, which just came out at the end of December. Feel free to watch the video below and then enjoy her post on morning routines.
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If your mornings have turned to mush and your snooze button, coffee, and everyone else comes first, it’s time to reclaim your mornings. Don’t you feel better when you start your day with intention and direction instead of chaos and distraction?
Without a consistent morning routine you might …
- be easily distracted throughout the day
- feel sluggish when you wake up
- be less present
- feel like creative flow is just out of reach
- have trouble making decisions
Whether you are starting a new morning routine or getting back on track with a new one, you don’t have to overhaul your morning or your life to get started. Instead start small.
7 small steps to get your morning routine off the ground
1. Stop saying you aren’t a morning person. It’s a great excuse but it doesn’t matter. Start your morning routine whenever your morning starts, even if it’s in the afternoon.
2. Gratitude stretch. Before you get out of bed, think of three things you are grateful for. Say them out loud or to yourself as you stretch your arms overhead and your toes to the end of the bed.
3. Ignore email. Take a mini digital sabbatical for your first hour awake. Without the distraction of Facebook updates or email from your boss, you can start your day on your own terms.
4. Go outside. Start your day with fresh air, and sunshine on your face.
5. Go inside. Sit quietly and reflect, meditate, or pray your way. After a few minutes, ask this question, “How am I?” Then listen to your heart’s answer. That may lead to more questions and answers, but taking the time to ask yourself is really helpful, or at least it has been for me.
6. Create a morning not to-do list. You may have more clarity on how you want to spend your morning after clearly identifying what you don’t want to do. Make a list of the things that don’t add value to your mornings.
7. Show up. Even if you don’t do anything during your morning routine, show up for it every morning for a week. Dedicate five minutes to getting on your yoga mat, sitting at your kitchen table, on the floor next to your bed, or wherever you’d like to be. Just show up.
A consistent morning routine can …
- fuel your creativity
- strengthen your muscles
- quiet your mind
- soothe your soul
- help you focus
- alleviate decision fatigue
- make you more loving and lovable
The best thing about a morning routine is that you can start anytime and you can always come back to it. If you are ready for more energy, clarity and love, trade your snooze button for a morning routine.
Courtney Carver changed her life by simplifying it after a devastating diagnosis in 2006. She’s the founder of bemorewithless.com and minimalist fashion challenge Project 333. Learn more from her new book Soulful Simplicity published December 26 by Penguin Random House. Carver shows us the power of simplicity to improve our health, build more meaningful relationships, and relieve stress in our professional and personal lives.
Most people overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a lifetime.
In the spring of 2013, a massive storm swept through Minneapolis that left thousands of trees ripped from the ground.
Roads across the city were blocked by decades-old giants that stood dozens of feet tall. I had never seen anything like it in the midwest.
That was one week before the sale closed on our first house.
A week later, on the day of the closing, we picked up the keys to our new home and excitedly drove over to check everything out. At that point, many of the fallen trees in our neighborhood had been chopped into neat piles on the lawn extension in front of the houses.
Having a two car garage at our new house (and only one car to put in it) had my head swirling around the possibilities of a wood shop in the other half of the garage. I love working with my hands and the idea of working with wood again felt exciting.
So about a block away from our house we pulled the car over and picked up this giant section of tree trunk. I figured it would be fun to make something out of it as it’s not exactly easy to get chunks of wood that big on a regular basis. Funny enough, you can see the closing documents on the front passenger seat in this photo.
It was half a miracle that I was even able to get it up into the car and another half miracle that I didn’t break my back in the process.
After placing the trunk on blocks in the corner of the garage, we went about our business and I took to the internet to do some research.
That trunk was part of a pretty big, living tree just a few days earlier so the wood was completely green. In order to start working with it, I’d need to wait for the wood to dry out completely and I wasn’t sure how long that was supposed to take.
After a bit more research, I found out that it would take nearly four years for the trunk to reach the point where I could actually start to do anything with it. I left it in the corner of the garage, slightly annoyed, with that amount of time seeming impossibly far away and wondering why I should even bother keeping it.
Well, that was four years ago. Today there’s a gigantic, dry, ready to carve piece of wood in my garage.
Three years ago, in November of 2014 I wrote my first blog post here on Break the Twitch.
Both of that post’s readers seemed to enjoy it, I think.
Today, thousands of people read articles on this site every week.
In January of 2017 I started writing a 17,000 word book.
It took me almost a year to do, despite many authors writing 60,000 word books in that time, my book is done.
Have you ever thought back to something you started doing, but burned out and decided to stop?
A hobby you picked up but your expectations were too high or you beat yourself up over not seeing much progress right away?
Do you ever wonder where you might be if only you had kept going?
I’ve wondered that enough times in my life that finally I decided I didn’t want to wonder anymore. And you can make the same decision for yourself as well.
All you have to do is slow down, and keep going.
1 / Be kind to yourself, breathe
Even if you’ve let something go for a few years, let yourself be okay with that. You’re here now and there’s really nothing that shaming yourself will help you accomplish from here.
Whether it’s the process of decluttering your home, writing a blog, getting in shape, or saving for a trip, it’s okay that you stopped and it’s perfectly fine to continue onward, even if things seem worse off than when you started.
2 / Define success differently
Success isn’t an amount of money you make, the number of likes a photo gets, or anything but how you feel about the things you do.
It’s perfectly natural to take breaks, have long pauses in life, as things tend to work in cycles. Perhaps success looks like pulling out the paint brushes after six months of them being hidden in a drawer, that’s for you to define.
3 / Let time help do the work for you
If something seems like it’s going to take a long time, don’t let that discourage you from taking action. If I had not bothered holding onto that giant tree trunk four years ago, I would not have a dried piece of wood in my garage today.
If there’s something you’d rather be doing, that’s fine, but don’t let the fact that something might take a long time discourage you from doing it to begin with. The time will pass whether we like it or not and the time will come before we know it—it’s worth getting started now and seeing what happens.
Most of the time, we think in terms of days, months, and years.
No matter where you are in life, if you’re reading this, you more than likely have many years to let small frequent actions reward you with incredible results. There are very few circumstances where you should not start or pick something back up, just because of the time it may take.
A few years from now, what will you look back on and be glad that you kept doing?
PRE-S: This is the introduction chapter of my new ebook, Break the Twitch: A practical guide to minimalism, intentional living & doing more of what matters, which is now available for purchase. Learn more here.
People don’t buy products—they buy better versions of themselves.
Are you taking the False First Step?
I still remember getting the package.
It was a nondescript brown box, just like one that might show up on any other day. After I slid my fingers through the opening in the side, the packing tape popped apart, and the box opened to reveal my new sport watch and heart rate monitor band. My heart rate sped up a bit just from the excitement of the new purchase.
As a part of my recent fitness aspirations, I had decided to start running. To be honest, I hated running—always had—but those extra 20 pounds definitely needed to come off. And this time, I was serious. I knew that I just needed the right gear to get me started, and then it would be off to the races.
That’s why I was particularly excited about this delivery. The watch and monitor were all I needed to be accountable to myself and finally reach my health goals. I felt like I was already a runner now that I had the gear.
From 2010 until late 2013, I spent $12,000 on Amazon.com, buying more than 350 items. That’s about one item every four days for four years straight. It started after Amazon Prime was introduced and suddenly Earth’s Largest Selection was just one click away. A single click of the “Buy” button was all it took to get something magically delivered to my front porch in just 48 hours.
You would think $12,000 would buy some really high-quality, expensive stuff and experiences, right? I could’ve spent three or four months traveling the world, bought an old RV and toured the U.S. National Parks, or even provided funding to build part of a new home for orphans. In this case, the exact opposite was true.
With the exception of my MacBook Air for $950, and the $2,500 I spent for a camera, lenses, and accessories, most of my purchases were under $50.
That heart rate monitor? $50
A book on photography to go with my fancy new camera? $28
A calligraphy pen? $19
It was all just one click and two days away.
For four years, I impulsively chased the books, gadgets, and products that I thought would help me reach my goals. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was trying to become a better version of myself without really putting in the work to get there. I thought I was taking action when all I was really doing was taking out my credit card.
At some point along the line, I had been subconsciously convinced that a purchase was a valid action step. If I want to be a runner, buying a heart rate monitor is a step in the correct direction, right? Buying that monitor felt good. It was exciting, because I truly believed that I had taken a step toward a better, healthier me.
Then, two days later, the excitement would return as I opened the box to find my brand-new self staring up at me. Owning a heart rate monitor would definitely help me be a superb runner. Another rush of dopamine and a feeling of accomplishment would come over me as I examined my purchase, tried it on, and flipped through the manual. The new me was going to be so fit.
What’s Actually Happening When We Buy
This is what I call the False First Step: believing we’ve made a meaningful step toward a goal, when all we’ve actually done is spent money.
Over the next few days, I went on a couple runs with my new gear. I recorded my distance, kept my heart at a healthy 160 beats per minute, and tracked my pace per mile. I would deliberately check my heart rate at red lights so that the passing cars would notice me being a real, serious runner. After all, only serious athletes had this kind of equipment.
A few days later, I was sore. It was raining. I didn’t want to get my new gear wet (even though it was waterproof), so I took a day off. I took another day off. Then, I never wore that heart rate monitor again.
You might think that was bad enough but after that, I did something even worse. If only I had a new pair of running shoes, maybe running would be more fun and I’d get out there again and hit the pavement. So I ordered a pair of shoes—on sale! These shoes would definitely be the thing that got me out there running again. I decided to take a couple more days off running while I waited for them to arrive, which sounded logical because I was basically risking injury by running in my old pair now. Forty-eight hours later, when my new shoes arrived, however, I didn’t really feel like running then, either.
I’m still not a runner, years after those purchases. But while browsing Amazon shortly after, I found another book on photography that I got really excited about.
You can see where this is going.
The False First Step And The Twitch
The False First Step is just one of the many ways we can respond to something I’ve come to call the “Twitch.” At the core of it, a Twitch is a learned habit caused by a repeated cycle of a Trigger, Twitch, and Relief.
The trigger is the discomfort we feel when we desire something, feel guilty, lonely, insecure, or anxious, or a myriad of other reasons.
The Twitch is the unproductive, impulsive response to that discomfort—it is a False First Step, like hitting the one-click purchase button, checking social media to see how many likes your latest photo has, getting a notification, scrolling through the news feed, or eating a sugary snack. The relief is temporary resolve from the discomfort, usually accompanied by a good feeling from the reward center of the brain.
What all twitches have in common is that they are high-reward, low-effort actions—the Twitch feels really comfortable in the moment and takes almost no actual work to do. Over time, our brains develop an automatic response as we learn that we can get a quick dopamine release that takes us out of discomfort, if only temporarily.
Eventually, the Twitch becomes more of a physical response than a chosen action. I’d be willing to bet that if you have Facebook on your phone, you could open it without even opening your eyes. You know exactly what you need to do with the “Buy Now with 1-Click” button while checking out the new shoes you want.
Think about the last time you bought something that felt good to purchase. You might have used it a few times, then left it behind to collect dust or sit on a shelf. It might have been a new yoga mat with top-of-the-line moisture-wicking technology, a new grill for the backyard, or even a new book on an exciting topic you recently found out about.
We tend to buy these things because of the experiences we expect to have around them and who we expect ourselves to be with them, but the things themselves rarely cause those experiences to happen on their own. The purchase is actually driven by the discomfort we feel that we hope spending money will solve. It may be the discomfort of disconnection that drives us to want to spend more time with our family in the backyard. This pain or discomfort is resolved quickly by purchasing a new grill, thinking it will create that experience. For a while, the discomfort goes away until it bubbles up again for the same (or another) reason.
It may be the discomfort of being unhealthy, wanting to make a change in our lives, so we go online and buy something that makes us feel better. Really, we would actually feel better having just stepped outside and gone for a nice walk, or eaten a big bowl of mixed greens. But, those things take time and effort and they’re simply not as easy as hitting the purchase button or pulling out a smartphone for a quick fix—and that’s where the problem begins. Not all Twitches become False First Steps; the Twitch is simply one of the ways we respond to it.
Even if you think you’re completely clear of this phenomenon, it is likely that you’ve experienced it in everyday life. Each day you make hundreds of small decisions about what and what not to do and you’d be surprised to find the small actions that might feel good but don’t actually help you move forward.
What Was Your False First Step?
- Buying yoga pants instead of doing yoga
- Buying a laptop instead of writing that book you’ve been talking about
- Buying new running shoes instead of walking around the block
- Buying a new camera when you don’t use the one you already have
Perhaps you haven’t spent as much time and money as I have, or maybe you’ve spent more, but I bet you’re nodding your head right about now. And if you’ve ever been curious about how it happened, why, and whether it is possible to do better, keep reading. In this book, we’re going to look at the different ways the False First Step shows up in our lives, what we can do when it does, and how to “Break The Twitch” so we can consistently live in a way reflects our core values. It might feel like an uphill battle at first, but the payoff is greater than the effort required.
Anthony’s Note: This is a guest post by Angela, from Setting My Intention, where she focuses on intentional change and developing healthy habits in the midst of daily life. Follow along with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Everyone loves a good story—especially when it involves a massive transformation.
I’m a sucker for those movie sequences where the main character transforms in front of our eyes and changes from down and out to downright prosperous. [Read more…]