Sometimes one small thing can make or break the whole day.
This three-step approach from my client, James Thurston, will put the odds in your favor.
James leads programs to support digital inclusion and human rights for disadvantaged populations worldwide. He travels a lot, talking to important people about doing important things for others who can't advocate for themselves. It should be no surprise that he keeps the rest of his life in perspective too.
He starts every morning by:
- Stating an intention for the day
- Giving gratitude for one thing
- Taking a life-affirming action
I hope that as you read this, you start to imagine how easily they can be integrated into your morning routine. You can do them while brewing (or buying) your coffee, or from your desk before you turn on your computer.
What this looks like:
- Intention for the day: James keeps his realistic and achievable; if it's the only thing you knock off your to-do list, you'll be good. Examples: Apply for two jobs. Update your LinkedIn profile. I do this more thematically (see below). Either works well.
- Gratitude for one thing: It helps to be specific, so each is unique. "This day is special because my dog greeted me at the foot of my bed this morning."
- Life-affirming action: James advises that these are, "...very small things that make me smile just thinking of them. Doing something that says 'yes' to life." For instance: Explore the new wine shop on the way home from work.
A big yes for his commitment to experiencing joy every day.
The next day, I wrote James' three steps in my journal and stared at them for five minutes. A wave of pressure came over me to get this assignment "right." There were so many things I planned to do that day, how could these encompass everything?
Luckily I'm adept at talking myself down from that familiar ledge. The point of this exercise is to be fully in the present and enjoy life. Whatever it is. I was getting it right just by pondering the answers.
Then I wrote:
- Today's Intention: Open my eyes and ears to what's already here.
- Gratitude: I'm thankful for snow-covered hay bales. They make me very happy.
- Life-affirming action: Dig out an old Barenaked Ladies CD and play it from beginning to end.
After that, the rest of the day was different.
The intention returned to me as I arrived at lunch with friends -- I talked less than I normally would, and listened a lot more. The CD was even better than I remembered, and as I went to bed that night, I thought about what had happened that might be my next gratitude.
This was easier to do on weekends, when I took James' suggestion and made them part of my Morning Pages.
If you don't know what they are, here is a description by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way: "Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. [They] provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow."
On weekdays Morning Pages don't always happen, so instead I left the radio off while driving. I thought about my day from the view through the windshield, which gave me more perspective than I would have while sitting in front of a to-do list.
It's one week in, and my drives have become opportunities to reflect, setting and reminding myself of intentions, and to feel inspired.
Now it's your turn.
If you already have a daily practice in the morning, I'd love to hear about it. If you're looking for one, this could be it.
Give it a whirl for one week, and let me know what happens!