Consciously developed habits that you commit to whether you’re in the mood or not give you a framework on which to base the rest of your day — if you can commit to the little things and take that small victory every day, you can commit to the larger things as well.
When we look at successful individuals and what went in to making them successful, more often than not we identify big picture things — they’re intelligent, they have certain skills, they built a valuable network, they worked hard, they were in the right place in the right time, etc.
These are all obviously important, but I’ve always found it far more valuable to look into the little things these people do — the small, seemingly insignificant daily activities that really have nothing directly to do with their projects, but that add up to become the foundations on which their professional achievements rest.
This is why author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss always asks guests on his podcast questions like:
What are your morning routines?
What is one thing you do every day?
What do you do right before going to bed?
We can learn a lot from the answers they and other successful entrepreneurs give.
In my own personal network, for example, Praxis CEO Isaac Morehouse blogs every single day whether he feels like it or not.
Our Education Director, T.K. Coleman, runs for 20 minutes every day.
An entrepreneurial friend of mine takes an ice bath every morning, which I’ll be trying soon.
These, I think, are very productive habits to develop in yourself, and many of the routines Tim Ferriss’ guests share are as well, but I think we can learn even more from the fact that these questions are being asked at all.
The take away, and my personal experiences tell me this as well, is that while certain activities are more valuable than others, consistency and commitment are far more important than any one particular activity, so long as the activities are not harmful.
The habit is the way.
The reason for this is that consciously developed habits that you commit to do whether you’re in the mood or not give you a framework on which to base the rest of your day — if you can commit to the little things and take that small victory every day, you can commit to the larger things as well. Excellence tries to do all things excellently, so to speak.
By accomplishing the small tasks, whatever they are, we are essentially warming ourselves up for success throughout the day. We’re putting ourselves in a mindset conducive to achievement.
We’re cultivating success as a discipline rather than an accident.
I’ve found that it’s best to take care of these routines in the morning for the obvious reason that you’ll have more time each day to experience the benefits of having done so.
It doesn’t have to be much — you don’t need to try to find something to write everyday, though I recommend it, and you don’t need to run for 20 minutes everyday, though I also recommend that.
Try simply waking up at the exact same time each morning. The specific time is less important than the fact that you’re keeping it consistent, but go for something earlier if possible. If you can keep that simple commitment, you can work up to larger things.
You’re probably going to struggle — I did — but here are some words of encouragement from one of my favorite books, Meditations, by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (the same guy from Gladiator, only cooler) that you can say to yourself every time you’re about to hit the snooze button:
At dawn, when you are reluctant to get up, have this thought ready to mind:
‘I am getting up for a man’s work. Do I still then resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for, the purpose for which I was brought into the world? Or was I created to wrap myself in blankets and keep warm?’
‘But this is more pleasant.’
‘Were you then born for pleasure — all for feeling, not for action? Can you not see plants, birds, ants, spiders, bees all doing their own work, each helping in their own way to order the world? And then you do not want to do the work of a human being — you do not hurry to the demands of your own nature.’
‘But one needs rest too.’
‘One does indeed, I agree. But nature has set limits to this too, just as it has to eating and drinking, and yet you go beyond these limits, beyond what you need. Not in your actions, though, not any longer: here you stay below your capability.
The point is that you do not love yourself — otherwise you would love both your own nature and her purpose for you. Other men love their own pursuit and absorb themselves in its performance to the exclusion of bath and food: but you have less regard for your own nature than the smith has for his metal-work, the dancer for his dancing, the money grubber for his money, the exhibitionist for his little moment of fame. Yet these people, when impassioned, give up food and sleep for the promotion of their pursuits: and you think social action less important, less worthy of effort?’
Every morning I try to have this same dialog with myself, and when I win the battle, I start my morning feeling like a Roman general parading the spoils of war through the streets.
** This post was originally written on my personal website.