“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
– Mark Twain
Unless traveling, I follow my morning ritual religiously to make better decisions throughout my day. Without the help of an alarm clock, I wake up anytime between 6 to 7 AM.
After brushing my teeth and washing my face, I take a cold shower before walking to the community pool for a ten to fifteen-minute swimming session.
The cold shower is my way of moving from the unconscious to conscious.
Even though I’ve been taking cold showers for a long time, my body still doesn’t like it, especially in the morning. Attempting to fight the cold, my hands naturally want to turn the shower handle to increase the water temperature.
But I consciously decide not to do it by choosing discomfort.
After about five to ten seconds, my body acclimates to the temperature and starts the release of ecstatic and joyful feelings.
Starting my day with overcoming discomfort such as taking a cold shower, I view any challenges later in the day as relatively easy. A cold shower is a form of eustress (positive stress) that’s healthy for the body and the mind to improve my immunity to distress (negative stress).
Afterward, I walk around the neighborhood and enjoy its beautiful scenery before walking back home.
Because exercising in the morning is scientifically proven to provide higher quality sleep, I choose to exercise in the morning. In addition, sunlight exposure in the morning resets the circadian rhythm that fully wakes me up.
Feeling physically energized, I sit down for a one-hour vipassana meditation practice to train my mind to be calm and equanimous despite feeling both pleasant and unpleasant sensations in the body. Just like every muscle in the body, my mind requires frequent training to grow and stay strong.
After completing my morning ritual, I’m in a highly positive mental and physical state ready to take on the day.
Conserving Your Decision-Making Power
Having a powerful morning ritual can the difference between a productive and a sterile day.
By having a morning ritual, it saves your decision-making abilities for more important decisions in the later part of your day. Similar to willpower, your decision-making skills diminishes the more decisions you make.
Hence, if you can automate the activities which you do in the morning to empower you, then you can save your decision-making skills for later when you need it the most – such as choosing “no” to eat that sugary dessert because it hinders your health progress.
35,000 is your average number of conscious decisions that you make per day according to Roberts Wesleyan College. About 200 is made just for food according to research from Cornell University.
Given the amount of limitless of options, you’re constantly forced to decide. It could be as simple as deciding what to wear in the morning.
Why do you think Mark Zuckerberg wears the same type of gray t-shirt every day? It’s because he wants to save his decision-making power for big decisions that can better help serve the Facebook community.
All these small decisions that you make throughout the day add up.
The fewer decisions you’ll have to make, the more decision-making power you’ll have which results in making better decisions that can improve your life. By knowing exactly what your morning activities will be, you can conserve your superpower for the more important decisions in your day.
That’s not to say you have to follow the same routine every morning because you always have the choice and flexibility to change it up.
They’re activities that will empower you to be more productive, joyful, and free.
Put them on Your Calendar
Before the end of each day, I write down tasks on my calendar that I want to get done the next day.
By putting them on the calendar, I know exactly what I must do for tomorrow. To get the most from my day, I aim to tackle the most difficult and important task first after my morning routine.
The term “eating the frog” means to do the hardest task first thing in the morning.
By completing the most difficult task first, you’re setting up your day for great success because you’ve already conquered your toughest battle. You also build momentum for yourself to take on more tasks that are on your calendar.
Despite not completing other tasks, you’ll feel great about your day and yourself.
To accommodate some flexibility in my schedule, I block out a few hours of “free time” to do whatever I want. It may include the following:
Reading a book
Listening to a podcast
Watching an educational video
On days if I’m in an intense “flow state,” then I continue to plow through my current task regardless of what my schedule says.
The flow state is the “feeling of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment that is long cherished and becomes the landmark in memory for what life should be like” according to the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a positive psychologist.
This is when you feel time goes by effortlessly because you’re having fun focused on your current task. You’re truly present to the current moment and aren’t distracted by anything else. To experience flow state, you must be engaged in a task that’s slightly challenging.
However, the task can’t be too difficult because you can have anxiety. It also can’t be too easy because you’ll feel bored.
Create an Empowering Morning Ritual
To create an empowering morning routine, start off with extremely effortless activities that will put you in a positive mood. It could be listening to your favorite song -this can be the song for your alarm clock.
Other options might be listening to your favorite podcast or motivational speech. Or you can sit down and have some alone time for you to visualize how you want your day to unfold.
Reading your favorite book, eating your favorite breakfast, or having your favorite beverage can be the beginning of a productive and enjoyable day.
Starting with small steps, you can slowly build up to bigger tasks such as exercise for your body and mind. You’ll eventually get to a point where it will feel “weird” when you don’t do these activities in the morning.
Your current morning ritual was also built over time and it will require a conscious effort to make new changes. But just like anything, the more you practice, the better you’ll become.
Your morning routine can work for you or against you. Everything you do is either making your life better or worse.
All habits were built over a long period of time.
Some are easier to break than others, but you have complete control over them. It starts with your “why” you want to make the change.
Why do you want to make a change?
What’s your goal?
What benefits will you receive from making the change?
If it’s important to you, you will make the time for it. Reward yourself with small wins to encourage yourself to keep going.
It takes time to form new and healthy habits but the benefits are definitely worth it. The most important factor to new habit forming is patience.
But what will make the new habits easier to adapt is their enjoyability.
That’s because if you enjoy doing them, you’ll be more likely to stick with the new activities.
Your morning ritual can be the catalyst you need to have an amazing day. Let it empower you.
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Hoomans, Dr. Joel. “Leading Edge Journal.” 35,000 Decisions: The Great Choices of Strategic Leaders. N.p.
Wansink, B., and J. Sobal. “Mindless Eating: The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook.” Environment and Behavior 39.1 (2007).