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February 19 2018

Primal Starter: Drive Your Day—Or Your Day Will Drive You

By Mark Sisson

Inline_Live-Awesome-645x445-03While few if any of us get to choose everything that will happen in our days, the morning, in particular, has the power to determine who/what will be leading the way and how much we give to our own interests—versus simply responding to others’ as the day progresses. As psychologist Roy F. Baumeister suggests in his Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, our willpower is greatest in the morning before we’ve had to fend off the slew of issues and choices that come our way. In other words, if you struggle to keep a given commitment to yourself/your well-being, you’ll likely be more successful making it part of your morning routine as opposed to holding off until later in the day.

From a physiological standpoint, too, the morning hours offer some extra benefits. Working out in a fasted state, research shows, offers better benefits for fat burning and insulin sensitivity. There’s also the advantage of the natural a.m. cortisol surge. That means extra energy to offer the day’s workout or to tackle the most challenging tasks. How many of us postpone our exercise and certain responsibilities as long as we can—only to face them during our least energetic and driven hours of the day. By that point, it takes seemingly ten times the physical and mental wherewithal to make ourselves follow through (e.g. the thousand pound workout bag).

What’s more? You’ll be more invested in making healthier choices throughout the day if you’re already on a roll with an a.m. workout, meditation time and/or other positive behaviors. You’ll already have some skin in the game for living healthily that day. You also won’t be subject to that nagging sense of restlessness that can dog us all day. Our bodies are waiting to move and ready to stage an uprising at having to sit at a desk for eight hours first. Our minds likewise grumble at having to wait to get some personal time to do something they enjoy as opposed to what they must do to collect a paycheck and go along to get along.

Why should we put off everything we want in our day? Why should we come last and not first? With this and other posts’ messages, I know I come off sometimes as promoting a selfish revolution, but the solid fact is, life works better for everyone when our needs are taken care of. We work harder. We play better with others. We eat less crap and can be healthier for it.

Developing a morning routine allows you to assert your own authority over the day. You take charge of your own work-life balance by, in effect, paying yourself first. Too many of us do it the other way around and are left with no time and energy to invest by the time we get to ourselves. As a result, too many people end up feeling at the mercy of their work and family demands. Responsibilities overwhelm, and they end up continually stuck.

When you lead with your own peace and well-being, however, much more is possible. Something essential changes when you begin directing your day rather than responding to it. However we choose to design our morning routine (as long as it truly feeds our needs – and more than just the mundane logistical check-offs), we stake our claim on the day before anything/anyone else can. Our actions—and the pattern of action over time —can effect a powerful shift in our personal sense of self-efficacy and fulfillment.

What would it mean for the rest of life if you devoted a morning routine to your own interests? How would your relationships change if you began your day in ways that brought you joy and health? How would it impact your attitude at work if you started your job with a solid two hours of time invested in yourself? There’s some food for thought this morning.

For more on setting a morning routine, keep reading here.


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9 thoughts on “Primal Starter: Drive Your Day—Or Your Day Will Drive You”

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  1. Maybe I’m misreading this post, but it sounds like it was intended selectively and not meant for the young mothers and various other caretakers out there. Although a good idea in theory, in my own experience there isn’t much opportunity or leftover energy for routinely putting one’s self first when there are children under school age to tend to and little to no help. I don’t think it’s so much the day that drives us but rather our responsibility to those who depend on us.

    1. Hang in there Shary. Sounds like your kids are very young. I have 4 under 9 yrs old. It will get better, you will get your time back, even just a few minutes here and there. I think a lot of moms give up, and then when those moments come, they miss it. Someday soon you will be able to tell them no, or wait, or not now. Just make sure you don’t feel bad saying it! You will be happier, and so will they.

      1. Thanks for the words of wisdom, Deb. Actually my kids are adults now. The comment was based on retrospect.

    2. Hey Shary, I hear you! My kids are now 18 and 20 but for years their needs drove the day. Even then, I tried to get up before everyone else for some much needed quiet time. At that stage of my life (and there were many other stressors than young kids) I valued some alone, meditative time even more than sleep.

  2. These are good suggestions. I start out each day in a positive “can do,” attitude.

  3. I’ve been keeping up with a morning routine that I enjoy for the last 3 months – I get a cup of coffee, set a timer for 15 minutes and read, then do yoga for 10-15 minutes, then meditate for about 10. I try to keep the feeling of ‘I’m on vacation’ in the morning until it’s time to start work so then it feels like I have a mini vacation every morning. Very helpful during times when work is crushingly all-encompassing.

  4. A year ago a started a great morning routine before work – even though I’m not a morning person – and it really set the tone for my whole day. My routine included getting up without hitting the snooze button, a morning workout, and about 20 minutes of a daily reading and journaling. I arrived at work alert and ready to roll, and didn’t have the burden of a looming workout hanging in the air. Bonus: it freed up my evening for whatever I wanted. I’ve let that morning routine slip away over the past 6 months and am working my way back to it. It’s so worth it!

  5. Totally agree with this. A great book to read is “Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. It’s a quick simple read but super inspirational. Starting your day in a positive way, with mindset, exercise, etc makes such a huge difference no matter what the day throws at us later.