Do You Have a Morning Routine Yet?

There’s a lot of talk about morning routines these day. And with good reason.

I developed my own “morning routine” instinctively long before I ever heard the term. I like order and structure (my own), and a morning routine sets a tranquil tone for the day.  My routine has evolved over the years, and it varies a bit, depending on the day or time of year, but there are several elements that are always there.

In case you are not familiar with the idea, a morning routine is a set of habits that we perform in the morning before moving into the responsibilities—work, school, family, etc.—of the day. Some authors and influencers recommend getting up extra early and/or at the same time every day in order to ensure that your morning routine happens. Ultimately, we all have to find our own best way to reap the benefits of a morning routine.

So, what are those benefits?

  • A morning routine is grounding. Engaging in positive, familiar practices helps orient us to the new day. It imposes the order of knowing what to expect and controlling our first actions over the chaos of indecision and lack of direction. Once our morning routine is established, we don’t have to make choices or decide if we are going to take certain actions or not. It is our routine, so we do it, saving precious mental energy. The peaceful feeling that brings centers us and allows us to take on the day from a more powerful internal position.
  • A morning routine contributes to the cultivation of an internal locus of control. Our locus of control is a continuum from external to internal. One end of the spectrum is not necessarily better than the other, but an internal locus of control may mean that we are more likely to take constructive action in our lives, simply because we believe that it will matter. The farther we toward the external end of the locus-of-control continuum, the less we believe that our actions influence outcomes in life. Instead, we assign control and, sometimes, blame to outside forces, whether that is God, government, the system or fate. Clearly, reality falls somewhere between the two extremes. We can’t control everything, but we can control some things. Acknowledging that positions us to help ourselves more effectively in life. By taking deliberate, meaningful actions every morning, we reinforce that what we choose to do makes a difference in the results we achieve, making it more likely that we will eat nourishing food, move our bodies and act in ways that improve our chances for health, happiness and success.
  • A morning routine allows us to begin with intention. One of the most potent techniques we can use in our lives is the pause. Pausing before we act—whether on the day or in the moment—can help us live in better alignment with our values and our highest aspirations. A morning routine is a form of pause, allowing us to start the day with, as Stephen Covey would say, “with the end in mind.”
  • A morning routine creates opportunities for success from the very start. Although life makes no guarantees, we are more likely to accomplish the things we want to accomplish in a given day if we start it on the right foot. We can set a pattern for success by starting the day with habits and actions that align with our values and goals. That feels good! Our early success helps fuel our sense of self-efficacy so we can build on that success throughout the day.

What counts as a morning routine? There are no “rules” about what constitutes a morning routine. It is what you need it to be to start your day in a positive way. That looks different for everyone, but a solid morning routine will generally encompass these elements:

  • It creates a sense of peace. Starting the day with activities that promote inner peace increase the likelihood of living the day in equanimity—remaining calm and grounded even if the world feels frantic around us.
  • It connects mind, body and spirit. Ideally, a morning routine addresses and integrates all three realms, honoring our nature as complex beings. A great example of this is physical activity that affords the opportunity to go inward. For me, this is best accomplished in a solo (or at least quiet) form of exercise, like yoga, cycling, walking or running—something with time and space to think and to listen for inspiration.
  • It generates self-satisfaction. Put simply, we feel good about ourselves when we do it. It feels like success, no matter how big or how small. There is truly freedom in discipline. When we have the discipline of a morning routine, we experience the freedom of doing those things that we truly want to do—the things that are aligned with our highest selves—rather than starting the day from a place of disappointment in ourselves for failing to live up to our aspirations, instead hitting the snooze button repeatedly and finally rolling out of bed to grab a donut or other non-nourishing excuse for breakfast.
  • It promotes mental and physical well-being. It may go without saying, but beneficial morning routines should include healthful behaviors, rather than activities that undermine our wellness.

How do you establish a morning routine? The best way to establish a morning routine is to think about what you want it to accomplish for yourself and to consider how much time you intend to give it. Some people have their morning routines broken down into strict segments—say, 20 minutes for each activity—or they have specific times for doing certain things. That is certainly one way to do it, but not the only way. You may just have a time to rise and an order of activities within an allotted time frame.

If your mornings are currently unstructured, I recommend starting small and building the pieces of your routine gradually, so that it is manageable and feels like a natural progression. There is nothing to be gained by taking on too much and becoming overwhelmed, so that you decide to scrap the whole idea.

Plan ahead. Think about what needs to be in place for your morning routine to be successful and take the necessary steps before you go to bed. This might include making your breakfast, so it is easy to eat nourishing foods in the morning. It could include setting out your exercise clothes, so you don’t have to spend time or energy thinking about what to wear and gathering them in the morning. It may include determining an order for your activities. The most important thing is not to leave your morning routine to chance. Elevate it to a place of honor and hold it sacred by making the preparations to ensure that it happens.

I will share the basic components of my morning routine, not as a prescription, because what works for me won’t necessarily work for you, but as inspiration and example to get you thinking about what you would like to include in your own.

As I mentioned above, my morning routine has evolved and changed as I have moved in and out of various seasons of life, and I expect it to continue to do so. While some elements will likely remain constant, others may give way to something new.

For many years, I got up at 5 a.m. every single day of the week. In some ways that routine was healthier because it also meant that all my evenings (including weekends) ended earlier. Those are good sleep habits. But, the needs of my family have changed. We are going through a challenging season right now. Having a teenager in the household has introduced different stressors than we have previously experienced. It also means that our evenings look different—admittedly, not always with the evening habits I would choose if I were on my own. Kenny and I often need distraction these days. He’s a ruminator—out loud. That stresses me out. To stop his speculation and catastrophizing around Logan’s activities, watching a movie at night often works best. This means I don’t always set my alarm for 5 a.m. on weekend mornings. I may allow myself to awaken naturally. This is never late, but, if I am lucky (Insomnia is another side effect of parenting a teenager, I am finding.), it is somewhat after 5 a.m.

On weekday mornings, I still arise at 5 a.m., and my mornings follow this basic pattern:

  • Turn off my alarm.
  • Find a quote in the volumes of self-collected quote books that are my bedtime companions. Using my booklight, I randomly select a quote to give me something positive to contemplate right off the bat. If the first one I choose doesn’t speak to me in that particular moment, I open to a different one, until something resonates.
  • Think of three things to which I am looking forward in the day. Although I am tempted on some mornings, I don’t allow myself to get away with saying, “Not much.” It may be a warm shower, my yoga practice, a bike ride, time alone or the book I am reading—sometimes seemingly mundane things—but I identify three positive things awaiting me before I get out of bed.
  • Make my bed. Easy. Quick. Done. Order and structure.
  • On weekday mornings when I am not riding my bike after work, I get up and change into my waiting exercise clothing.
  • Choose another quote to ponder while I am exercising.
  • Do a breathing exercise to put myself in the right mindset to move my body.
  • Set my intention for my workout.
  • Move my body with yoga, strength training, indoor cycle trainer, a walk or foundation training.
  • Meditate.
  • Make Traditional Medicinals Echinacea Plus tea.
  • Eat the breakfast I made the previous night. This is usually a smoothie filled with foods that nourish my body—some of which I include every day. (See a future post for more about that.) I generally drink/eat my smoothie, my water and my tea while I am getting Logan’s lunch (which I packed the previous night) and water bottle ready and washing and putting away dishes in the kitchen (usually left from Logan’s late-night feeding frenzies). If I am alone in the kitchen, I listen to an inspiring and/or educational podcast. This has the dual benefit of feeding my mind and spirit while I feed my body and preventing my mind from going places I don’t want it to go.
  • Occasionally, I will have time to do some creative work, like writing or posting to my business Facebook page, while I am supervising Logan’s morning activities (which are far less structured and orderly than mine 😊).
  • Once I get Logan off to school, I take my shower and move into the next phase of my day.

Weekends look a bit different, although every day includes some form of exercise, meditation, quotes, intention setting and a nourishing breakfast.

In the warm months of cycling season, I meditate, eat and prep to ride on weekend mornings. Then, I get out on my bike! This is the ultimate culmination of my morning routine—especially a long ride, when I can really think and open to inspiration. (Join my free course to learn more about making the mind-movement interaction work for you.)

The bottom line is this—Consider adding a morning routine to your life if you don’t have one. It is a way to make good things happen for yourself before you face whatever the day will throw at you. We can’t control how our days unfold, but when we take initiative to start the day in an intentional way, we position ourselves for success and positivity, and we are better equipped to handle disruptions and stressors with a greater level of equanimity. There are no guarantees, and I haven’t perfected it. But, I shudder to think how I would be handling my current level of parenting (and other) stress if I didn’t have a reliable, secure practice in place to reground, realign and start fresh each day.

Talking about fresh starts, if you haven’t registered for my FREE Spring into Action Move for Your Mind 30-Day Kickstart Class, be sure to save your spot. It starts this coming Saturday, March 20, in my private JustWind Coaching Community Facebook group. When you join, you will have the opportunity to gain access to the free companion workbook. Read more about the class in last week’s post.

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“All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation of all things. You have to make sure that the blueprint, the first creation, is really what you want, that you’ve thought everything through. Then you put it into bricks and mortar. Each day you go to the construction shed and pull out the blueprint to get marching orders for the day. You begin with the end in mind.”

–Stephen R. Covey


What to Do When Willpower Exhaustion Threatens to Derail Your Good Intentions

Do you often start the day with plans to eat healthfully, exercise and avoid getting trapped in the mental vacuum of screens big or small, only to find all your good intentions have fallen to the wayside by late afternoon? Why is that?

Do you find it easier to stick with the habits and behaviors you want to keep on some days than on others? Why?

One reason may be willpower exhaustion, also called decision fatigue or ego depletion. No matter what we call it, most of us experience it from time to time.

Personally, I most often experience it in the mid-afternoon during a very full workday, where I have had to do a lot of thinking, on other people’s schedules, rather than one of my own choosing. I am especially prone to it when I am feeling overwhelmed by how much I have to do and how many hours I am likely to be doing it.

Our brains are fueled by glucose. When we are at rest physically, our brains are responsible for consuming 60 percent of the glucose used by our entire bodies.

So, thinking hard, without adequate opportunities for rest, burns through a lot of glucose, leaving us feeling physically and mentally worn out.

This makes it harder to make good decisions and harder to stick to our goals and intentions.

We can’t always avoid this situation completely, so how can we minimize its effect on us?

Here are some things that can help:

  1. Expect it. If you know you have a full calendar of intense mental activity for the upcoming day, be prepared. Have healthful, nourishing snacks readily available. This way, you are less likely to grab a candy bar or chips. Fruit with nut butter; hummus and veggies or homemade trail mix, made with mixed raw nuts and/or seeds, dried fruit and a sprinkling of vegan dark chocolate chips (like Enjoy Life brand) are just a few of the options. Make sure it is something you like and make it easy, but also make it nourishing. When willpower exhaustion hits me, I often feel “desperate” for food. Knowing in advance what I pan to eat and having it easily accessible makes it more likely that I fuel my body and brain in a productive way.
  2. Oxygenate your brain and body. Breathing exercises are beneficial for helping to calm our nervous system and fill our bloodstream with fresh, oxygenated blood. There are many good options that can be done quickly most anywhere. Simply take a moment—eyes open or closed—and try this: First, breathe out forcefully through your mouth. Next, inhale through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale with a whoosh through your mouth for a count of 8. Complete this cycle four times. This helps you relax by stimulating your parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) nervous system, and it refreshes your brain with oxygen-rich blood.
  3. Get up and move for a few minutes. When we are in the midst of busyness and mentally-draining activities, it can be hard to allow ourselves to take a break. One helpful practice that I have used for a long time is a brief bathroom-break walk. When I get up for a bathroom break, I take a quick walk on a predetermined loop. Since I have been working from home, it is a loop around the interior perimeter of my home, both upstairs and downstairs. It takes less than two minutes, but it gives me a short mental and physical break. As I walk, I do a mental run-through of the 3 Good Things practice, identifying three things that have gone well so far in the day. Then I think of three things to which I am looking forward for the rest of the day.

These three strategies don’t eliminate willpower exhaustion—at least not for me—but they help. When I am buried in busyness, it can be hard to discipline myself to take the breaks to grab a healthful snack, breathe or walk, especially if other people are around, but it feels good to take care of myself with these simple practices. When I use them, I am more likely to keep eating in a way that honors and nourishes my body, and the physical effects of stress feel less intense.

Do you experience willpower exhaustion? What does it look like for you? What helps to alleviate its effects?

In addition to the techniques I mention above, being clear about what we want to achieve and why can also help us stay on track with our intentions, even when willpower exhaustion strikes. Click the button below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive a link to download my Blossom 2021 Self-Coaching Workbook, with powerful questions to help you live the way you want to live and make the difference you are meant to make. Working through the questions can help you identify what’s really important for you and steel your resolve against the insidious repercussions of willpower exhaustion.

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It’s Okay to Change Your Mind . . . And Sometimes Doing So Is the Only Way to Stay in Integrity

It wasn’t too long ago that, if I had agreed to do something or be part of something, even if new information, insight or circumstances appeared causing a change of heart, I would have felt obligated to persist. I might have resented it, and there might be other negative consequences, but I would feel like I had to do what I said I was going to do. After all, that is my definition of integrity.

Recently, I was approached online, out of the blue, about an opportunity. This one felt different than a lot of the other ones I have received in the past several months. I was intrigued, so I agreed to learn more about it. The opportunity seemed to be a good fit, but it is my crazy time with my advising work, and Logan was getting ready to run at the State Cross Country Meet, so I deferred my decision until I could give it better attention. After a phone meeting following State, I meditated on the opportunity, asked questions and went through a thorough discernment process, including Marie Forleo’s decision-making strategy. I felt really sure that I was making a good choice to accept the opportunity. So, I had a phone meeting to finalize it and firm up the details. Once I went through the steps to formalize my connection while I was on the phone, a lot more material, multiple Facebook groups and additional information were opened to me. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed.

As soon as I got off the phone, I thought, “I made a mistake.’

Throughout the next day, I was too busy with work to give it much thought, but I took a peek at some information and group activity, and that confirmed my sinking feeling that it was not going to be the right fit. Still, I felt stuck. I said I would do it! I didn’t want to back down on my word.

Besides feeling stuck, I felt betrayed. Not by the people involved in the opportunity. The offer was very low key, and there was no deception. I just didn’t understand the full picture until more information—designed to be helpful—was revealed to me after I had agreed to the affiliation. During that conversation, I was overwhelmed—a tendency of my introverted need to process and let things sink in. So, it wasn’t that I felt deceived, but I felt betrayed by my intuition and my thoughtful discernment. I had felt like my decision was guided and clear. Could I not trust my intuition? I had felt so certain. It had felt so right. It was unsettling. How could I ever trust myself to make good decisions?

I didn’t really have time to process my thoughts after I got off the phone. I needed to wash dishes and prepare for the next workday by making my breakfast and packing Logan’s lunch. Kenny and Logan got home from Flying Angels practice shortly after I finished the call, so I put away my worry until I could process it.

As I was doing laundry after work the next day, I thought, “In order to be successful at this, I am going to have to take much more time than I realized from my writing, my coaching and my family.” That didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel like living in integrity. These things were priorities. I decided to sleep on it and make a decision after meditating the next morning.

My morning meditation sealed my decision. I needed to rescind my participation.

Being clear about my priorities and deciding to honor them helped me to feel calm and confident. I did some research to find out what rights I had, and then I sent a gracious and clear message stating my decision. I took the next steps and, after some technical difficulties, had put my separation in motion. Immediately, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I felt free and hopeful. I got on my bike and smiled, despite the 31-mph wind.

As I rode, several things became clear to me. I am sharing them here because I know I am not the only one who struggles with backing out of something we have agreed to do, even if it no longer feels right. Changing our minds can stressful and is often fraught with anxiety and doubt and guilt and shame. I see and hear this in my students, and I know it from personal experience. These are the insights I gleaned from this experience:

  • It is okay to change our minds. In fact, if we have agreed to something that we later realize does not align with our priorities, goals, values, passions or strengths, changing our minds may be the only way to stay in integrity. If we are really going to follow through on something that is truly important to us, and we realize something else is going to get in the way, we need to release the thing that is keeping us from what really matters. A quote I have long loved from Johann Wolfgang van Goethe urges us to uphold our priorities: “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
  • It is better to back out of an ill-fitting situation than to stay in it and resent it. No one wins when resentment comes into play. In this post from 2019, I talk about the importance of setting boundaries. Boundaries help to make sure that we are serving our most important goals and not letting other things encroach on those priorities. And, as Brene´ Brown reminds us, “The trick to staying out of resentment is maintaining better boundaries—blaming others less and holding myself more accountable for asking for what I need and want.” We have both the right and the responsibility to change our mind and to take action when we realize that something is not right for us. To do anything other than that is to shirk our responsibility for our own lives. It is no one else’s job to keep us true to our priorities or to keep us out of resentment. That responsibility is ours alone.
  • Sometimes changing our mind is actually the point. As part of my meditation every morning, I state my openness to creative possibilities for abundance and to opportunities from unexpected sources. As I rode my bike, reveling in the freedom I felt after extricating myself from the anxiety-provoking commitment, I understood that the gift of the whole experience was actually the lessons I learned by recognizing my need to change my mind. I thought the “creative possibility for abundance and opportunity from an unexpected source” was the partnership itself, but what became clear on my bike was that the whole point of the experience was taking responsibility for holding true to my priorities. I felt amazing after I graciously, yet unapologetically rescinded my agreement.In doing so, I realized that I had stood up for myself and for what I know to be right and true for me. This was practice I needed. The betrayal I felt was really misunderstanding. I thought my discernment led me to accept this opportunity because it was right for me. Instead, I was led to it because I needed the experience of assertively owning my priorities and taking steps to honor them. I feel proud of myself for the way I handled it. I have no ill feelings toward the people on the other side of the offer. I hope they have none toward me. But it is not my responsibility to worry about that. I was respectful and gracious and removed myself with integrity. That’s all I can or need to control.
  • Changing our minds can fuel our commitment to our priorities and our sense of self-reliance. This is what it is doing for me. I stepped out of my comfort zone and honored my priorities, and that feels good. Taking the “risk” to do that (looking bad, feeling bad, seeming wishy-washy, etc.) was a declaration about what really matters to me. And I did it myself. I got myself into the bind, and I took quick action, once I had the information to realize that the fit was not there, to step out of the situation. I haven’t always stood up for myself like that. It feels good to have done it now, and it helps me to realize how much I want to finish and publish my book and to create a viable writing/coaching/speaking platform that will allow me the freedom and flexibility I desire, while sharing an important message with people who need it.

Ironically, right before deciding that I should accept this opportunity, I had reached clarity around how the JustWind mindset will run consistently through all my work. When we recognize that we have the POWER and FREEDOM to choose our perspective, we liberate ourselves from victimhood, optimize our lives and make the difference we are meant to make.  I realized that my coaching practice is really about this, too, and I have a clearer sense of how all the pieces tie together. I thought this new opportunity was part of that. Until I realized it wasn’t. And it would ultimately distract me from the things that are really important to me. After going through this upheaval, my commitment to my consistent message and my own methods feels strong. So, I am grateful for the experience and believe that I will be better, stronger and more committed because of it. I hope my lessons can help you to find the courage to step away from what doesn’t serve you and your highest priorities . . . even if you said you would do it.

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Releasing Judgment—2020 and Beyond

When things don’t go as we think they should (like all of 2020), it is easy to fall into a pattern of judging and criticizing ourselves and feeling bad about lack of progress where we think we should have progress.

This year, as parenting a teenager has collided with a pandemic, it has become clear to me that my priorities need to shift in this season of life.

For all of us, 2020 is happening on top of the rest of life. If you’re not parenting a teenager, you have something else that would pose a challenge even under less fraught circumstances than a pandemic. Odds are, COVID-19 has exacerbated your situation in some way, too. We’re all still learning as we go, but one of the most important things I have learned so far is that recognizing the need to shift the focus of my emotional and physical energy, as well as my time, stems from honoring the guidance, wisdom, direction and protection of the Universe. I can view myself with gratitude for choosing to honor and act on this guidance, rather than battering myself with judgment for not being able to do it all.

For those of us who are driven and determined to accomplish what we set out to accomplish, releasing ourselves temporarily from self-imposed time frames can be difficult and frustrating. It can feel like slacking.

An alternative perspective is to recognize the restraint that it takes to channel our energy where it is most needed. This view also requires patience with ourselves and with the timeline of nature. It requires trust that we will get back to a place in life where we can focus again more vigorously on the projects that stir our spirits.

It has become clear that my son needs me most right now. Being a teenager is hard in any era. I believe that being a teenager in the age of COVID-19 presents unique and unprecedented challenges. The waters are uncharted for all of us. My most important responsibility right now is helping Logan navigate them. Everything else has to be put on the backburner for this moment. It was a struggle to acknowledge and internalize that and to decide to be okay with it. I’m writing my book, working to complete a vegan nutrition certification and had been striving to build my business, while working full time. All those things matter to me, and I will continue to make progress. Circumstances right now just mean that my already painfully slow progress will be even slower for a while. I must release judgment on myself for that and instead feel grateful that I recognized the need, rather than pushing ahead with blinders, which can be tempting when I am in pursuit of a goal.

Right now, my efforts and energy need to be with Logan—parenting him the way he needs to be parented in order to nurture our relationship, keep him safe and healthy and help him build character.

I have settled into this realization and owned it. I have made the conscious decision to release judgment of myself and make peace with focusing my limited-capacity energy on Logan right now. The signs are here—this is parenting crunch time. Logan is 16. Nothing is more important than giving him the energy and attention he needs right now because there is not much time left before he is a young adult. While parenting won’t end then, it will change, and I don’t want to have missed my chance to be the mom he needed during this stage of his development, in the middle of a pandemic.

Before I know it, I will be in a different season of life, and it will be time again to focus my energy on my personal and professional development projects. I don’t consider myself stalled now, just slowed and, in some cases, temporarily redirected.

I’m still writing—just more slowly. I’m still reading and learning and growing—just with less urgency. I’m still open to business opportunities and development—just in a way that leaves me the time I need to give Logan what he needs.

In this year of uncertainty and distress, all of us are bound to be hit with unforeseen demands that rise to the top of our priorities. The challenge is to recognize these needs and honor them, releasing judgment of ourselves and acknowledging that, not only can we not do it all, but we do not need to do it all. We only need to do what is most important in the moment.

We can see this pandemic and the needs that arise around and during it as an interruption of life, or we can choose to see it for what it really is—life itself. It’s not a version of life we would have chosen, but here it is. So, let’s rise to the challenge, recognize what priorities need to be adjusted and make those adjustments courageously, patiently and without judgment.

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Taking Action on Insights

In my most recent blog post, I highlighted some of my favorite questions. These questions–like “What do I put after the words ‘I am’?” and “What if?”—can lead to powerful insights that can give us direction on the next steps to take in life.

But insight is meaningless if we don’t so something with it.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

–William Hutchison Murray

There was a time in my life when I chronically overthought and overplanned actions I intended to take. I would spend days, weeks, months or longer researching and making sure everything was in place before acting. Fortunately, I realized quite a while back that this was ineffective. I’m still a planner, but I no longer allow myself to get so bogged down by details that I don’t act on insight.

Taking action will look different in different lives and in different seasons of life. It is important to recognize this and give ourselves grace for this.

Sometimes what gets in the way of taking action is that a project or task or goal seems too daunting. It feels too big and intimidating to even get started.

In my current life, which is very full, I have learned to appreciate incremental progress. Most of my big goals cannot be achieved as quickly as I would like, in order for me to fulfill my responsibilities and to take care of myself the way I want. The reality is that there is only so much time in the day, so I have learned to be patient and to be content with often moving slowly, but moving, nonetheless.

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” –John Wooden

When I achieve an insight through pondering valuable questions, if it feels important to incorporate into my life, I add it to my priorities list by including only the next step, although I often have another document where the whole process is delineated. I can give several examples for projects I currently have underway.

  • I am writing a book. I have outlined the whole book in a Word document, but I only write the next step (Yesterday it was finishing Chapter 22.) on my Priorities spreadsheet.
  • I am working on a Vegan Nutrition certification. Only the next module is listed on my Priorities spreadsheet.
  • I am redefining and rebranding my coaching business. I have a Word document with all the steps spelled out. My Priorities spreadsheet shows the next step.

Beside each small step, I list the date that I will next work on that project, and then I prioritize all items listed for that date. If it is a day that I work my full-time job and have something planned (like a bike ride, grocery shopping or, in the days before COVID-19, a cross country meet) for the evening, there may only be one item on my Priorities list for that day. This list includes items like paying bills and putting together the family calendar for the week, but I try to make sure my inspired projects are given a high enough priority that they will get done.

The key is making the step small enough that it is doable. That way, I make progress and have the satisfaction of accomplishing an item on my list.

To recap, when we receive insights through pondering deep questions or ideas, we can use this process to ensure that we take action on those insights:

  1. Make note of it as soon as possible. If I am inspired by an answer I find on a bike ride, even if I can’t immediately flesh out the full concept, I will make a detailed enough note that I can fully develop it as soon as I get a chance.
  2. Identify the steps—or at least the first or next small step you could take—to implementing the insight in your life. Do this on paper, in your journal, in your notebook or on a device.
  3. Find a method for creating your Priorities list. (I use an Excel spreadsheet.)
  4. For your inspired project, take the first step from your detailed list and enter it on your Priorities list. I recommend dating the items you put on it and then prioritizing all items for the present date. For example, I have five items listed for today’s date. They are numbered in terms of priority. Editing this blog post is number three on today’s list. I have already completed the first two.
  5. Then, make it important. This may mean scheduling it for a specific time (in the case of something like working out) or knowing at what point in the day (after work, after my bike ride, first thing in the morning, etc.) you will take this action step.
  6. Act. Do what you say you are going to do.
  7. As soon as you complete the step, enter the next step for that project onto your Priorities list and date it.
  8. Be patient. This is not a fast strategy, but it is a way of not letting what you cannot do interfere with what you can do, as John Wooden admonished.
  9. Keep going and celebrate the progress you are making.

Lifelong learning and continual growth are so important to me. When I think about optimal living, those things are definitely part of the equation. In order to capitalize on my insights (which I believe are gifts!), this basic action strategy allows me to make consistent progress and keep growing.

How do you operationalize the insights you receive through introspection and deep self-questioning? Tell us in the comments.

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