I am a voracious reader who is a ‘lil obsessive about personal development. The Buddhist in me believes my purpose in life is to grow and evolve thus I am constantly in search of ways to improve as a human. It's gross, I know.
A few months ago, I read Hal Elrod’s book, The 5am Challenge--an inspiring story about the author’s cancer journey. Hal passionately explains that his life was saved, in part, by a deeply intentional morning routine. By starting each day focused on his mental and physical health, Hal forged an iron strong mindset which became not only a crucial component to his healing but also led him to become wildly successful in his relationships and his career. The book ends with a challenge to readers—a dare almost. Set your alarm clock horrifyingly early and see how it changes your life.
Huh. That might be worth a try.
In full disclosure, I’ve always been an early riser. In college, I chose jobs which began at the crack of dawn and set me free by the time most others were on their lunch break. I was a barista. I took the early morning shift at the gym. With tales of massive cash tips, my sister tried to entice me to become a server at the restaurant where she worked, but the thought of staying up until 2am made me nauseous. Not worth the money!
When I was a teacher, I would arrive at school at 6:30am so that I could leave by 3:30 and take on the remainder of my day. Getting up early gave me freedom. However, waking early for work felt easier than waking early by choice.
Regardless, I promised myself I would stick with The 5am Challenge for ninety days.
Starting the following morning, when my alarm chimed (because I don’t believe in beginning my day with a heart attack prompted by an aggressive beeping noise), I would roll out of bed and put on my workout clothes. Next, coffee. Because I’m not a total monster. Coffee first, life second! I would enjoy the precious caffeine without the distraction of social media. I simply sat alone with my thoughts. Then, I would move my body for at least thirty minutes. Following exercise, I would meditate, chant, read, journal, or listen to a podcast to complete my morning routine. All of this occurred in calm, peaceful silence before my family woke, bringing love and chaos to the day.
The first few days felt exciting and new. I kept waiting for the novelty to wear off. But do you know what? It didn’t.
I became addicted to starting my day by nourishing my body and my spirit. No matter what else happened over the next 24 hours, I started with self-care and the best of intentions. I might go on to have writer’s block, be late to soccer practice, or scorch the supper, but at least I freaking meditated that morning!
Ninety days turned into six months. Six months turned into a year and the 5am Challenge is still going strong.
I fully acknowledge that I lost many of you at “5am”. However, if you are still reading, it’s likely because you have some curiosity about dedicating time to your health, even if the suggestion of an early morning makes you itchy and slightly queasy. Don’t let the “5am” trip you or stop you completely. Give yourself permission to create your own rules.
Maybe you simply wake up one hour earlier than normal. Perhaps you work from home and can take a midday “recess” break. Stay up one hour later and finish your day with reflection. I have a friend who ends each day by eating candy in the bathtub, surrounded by candles. When my children were young, I gifted myself with one hour in between the time I left work and the time I picked them up from childcare. Find a way to make yourself a priority!
However it may look—5am, 2pm, or 10pm-I challenge you to make intentional self-care part of your daily routine. Try it consistently for ninety days and discover the difference it makes. You never know, the habit might just stick!
Or, text me and tell me how much you despise it. I'll be awake.