How To Build A Better Life With Morning Habits

Stringing together small simple morning habits can set you on the right track to reach the destination you desire.  But beware – even after they’re habitually set in place, habits can easily be knocked off track. Here’s what to do.

early morning exercise

Note: This is article 2, part 1 to my FREE four-part series about how to build a strong and youthful body.

WELL, HERE I am again at Philz café this beautiful Saturday morning in Sausalito.  I’ve finally settled in to do some writing after abandoning a wobbly table for my usual perch after some interloper (finally!) left it.

Thankfully, the topic of today’s post was uncommonly clear within ½ hour of awakening.

As I’ve emphasized in How To Change When Change Is Hard and How To Make Tiny Habits Big, the difference between wanting something and getting it is not daydreaming, or writing it in a notebook, but the small steps taken day by day that lead you to the promised land

As the Chinese proverb wisely advises,

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

Although I don’t think of my journey to Philz as exercise, per se, walking nearly every day does contribute to one’s goal of being healthy.

The round trip to Philz is two miles or about 3,970 steps for someone of my height. This is more than a third of the way to the 10,000 steps per day recommended by the American Hearth Association as a marker for improving health and decreasing the risk of heart disease, the number one killer of men and women in America.

(Check how many steps you take per mile given your height right here.)

Notably, then, this morning habit is a good one to cultivate, among others.

Consciously Program Your Day With Morning Habits

Long before I set a foot outside, I typically have accomplished a series of small habits that collectively are designed to achieve some things I want to experience in my life.

And may I be so bold to suggest, so should you.

Rather than stumble out of bed and begin some morning routine that you have not consciously designed to build you the life you want, select a few things to practice each morning that will.

You have the rest of the day looming before you.

How will you engage it?
What will you consciously call forth to experience that day?
What will be your physical, mental and emotional states of being?

Consciously decide how you will experience your day. Set it all up first thing in the morning.

Which brings me to why today’s blog topic was set in my mind soon after arising: this morning, my morning habits got drowned.

Some small stone was thrown into the placid waters of my morning routine, and the concentric circles emanated out, growing into the tidal wave that swamped them.

OK, I’m being melodramatic. The stone was a simple phone call, and the tidal wave was my inability to reset.

What happened was that a buddy of mine from the East coast, Kevin, called before I began my morning routine. It was like someone interrupted a sentence you were about to express, and then once the interruption ended, you either forgot what you were going to say, or no longer felt is was relevant.

About two months ago, I began applying myself to a sequence of five morning habits.  Each one was choreographed.  Each one touched on something I wanted to do every day because I sought the benefits that the consistent practice of these habits would produce.

The morning dance goes like this:

1. Eyes open, close, and I go through a 10-minute visualization and mantra that primarily touches on work and body stuff.

2. Swing the legs off the bed; the feet touch the ground, which automatically sets off another mantra just 11 words long.

3. Shuffle to the kitchen, warm some water, squeeze a lemon in it, face Angel Island framed in the kitchen window with the Sun hovering over it, and toast the day while sipping the lemon-water and muttering a gratitude prayer.

4. To the living room I go where I spend seven minutes performing a mobility routine to awaken me, open my joints, get the blood flowing and set the day up right physically.

5. I then lift a card off a nearby desk and with each slow inhale and exhale I read the seven things written on it that I wish to bring into my life.

Each of these five actions my seem to be unrelated, but I’ve weaved them together through repetition, much like forming a sentence with words that don’t necessarily need to follow one another in a certain sequence, but can be so formed to express a particular thought.

Initially, I had to think about each of these five actions. They didn’t naturally follow, one from the other.  Sometimes, I’d forget one or two. For instance, I’d routinely forget about number five until I placed the card right next to where I was dong number four.  Soon, all five happened in synch, one after the other like a choreographed dance.

I had put my mind to it… rinse, repeat… rinse, repeat… and, alas, my morning habits were set.

But the thing about habits formed by some intellectual construct, and not, say, a physical need (morning bathroom habit) is that they can easily be disrupted.

If my friend Kevin called before I had to visit the bathroom… well, either he’d have to wait or I’d call him back, but there’s no way that Mother Nature would not have her way.

In contrast, the five morning habits are not physically reflexive, but need some thought and, frankly, some will power.  And that means that they’re vulnerable to that proverbial stone thrown into calm waters.

By the time my call with Kevin ended, my mind was no longer tuned to my five morning habits, but was leaping ahead to what I wanted to accomplish today.

For a moment, I thought to strong-arm myself into submission and do the routine anyway, but instead I muttered to myself: “go walk to Philz and write about how easily disrupted are habits.”

So I did.

The Moral Of The Story And A Suggestion

It goes back to the 80/20 Rule, or whatever it’s called.  The idea is to engage the habit you want to do most of the time, and the benefits sought will likely happen.

(Unless your goal is winning an Olympic medal. In that case, apply the 99/1 Rule.)

Tomorrow morning, it’s unlikely that another disruption will happen, and I will do my five morning habits.  The pond will again be calm, and I’ll continue washing myself in the benefits sought through the application of my morning habits, one small step at a time.

I urge you to select just one simple thing to do each and every morning.  Set it up so that you’re reminded to do the new thing by the doing of whatever is already habitual.

For instance, you may now wake up and go into the kitchen to brew a cup of coffee.  Perhaps you’ve been meaning to drink more water.  Well, then, have something next to the coffee maker that will remind you to drink a glass of water, say a water glass. This will spark the action of filling it up and drinking it down.

Next, maybe you wish to reflect on some positive thoughts, such as my morning gratitude mantra.  OK, once the water drinking is routine, add the mantra as you drink sip the water.  Take your time. Be in the moment.

As time unfolds, keep adding simple morning habits that you choreograph to happen, one moving you to the other.

You will experience a better day.  Each day leading to a better year. Each year to a better life.

Just like the Chinese proverb promised.


If you liked this article and want to read the rest of the series, go here!

Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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