How to Set Yourself up for the Day

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP. BEEP-BEEP-BEEP. WAKE UP!  Your alarm is beeping. It’s morning – again! The alarm beeps again, ten minutes later, and you realize that you’d hit the snooze button. Damn! So you crawl out of bed, shout for the kids to wake up, and jump into the shower. While you’re in the shower you’re thinking of everything you need to get done today. By the time you’re washed, you’re already stressed.

A quick makeover in front of the mirror, and then you’re into the kitchen. The news tells you that three hundred jobs have been lost locally, a train has careered off a siding, and a terrorist has been shot dead as he tried to set off his suicide vest. The weather forecast is for more rain for the next five days, and there’s gridlock on the motorway you use to get to work. It’s 8.15 am and already you’re frazzled! The world has programmed your mood, because you didn’t take the time to set it for yourself. Sound familiar? 

Some of you have alarms that are deliberately obnoxious, while others stick with a "relatively unpleasant" sound - like the noise a large truck makes when its reversing! Ouch! What a way to start your day! That's your first mistake, being rudely jolted awake by a discordant or harsh sound. It sets your mind off on its usual negative rant, whatever that is for you. Mine used to be  "Oh, for God's sake, already? It feels like I have just fallen asleep. Do I really have to get up?" Just to be clear, that didn't come out of my mouth every morning, but it was my inner commentary! My default morning used to start with me getting up as late as possible -  and then all hell would break loose. Not a great way to start a new day. If I have to set an alarm these days, I use a gentle ringtone or piece of music that fades in over a period of time. It helps. 

Sometimes I ask my clients "Do you shower in the morning?"  Most of them squint their eyes and look at me strangely, to work out if I'm serious or joking! I hold my best poker face until they blurt out "Of course, at least, well, almost every morning." I then put on my "really serious" face, and I innocently ask "Why? Why do you shower every morning?" The answer is invariably some variation of  …. "to clean off yesterdays dirt ...to feel fresher."  "Ok" I say, "so you have a physical shower almost every morning, to clean your physical body. Great. Do you have a psychological clean-up, scrubbing off yesterdays negativity?” I know, it’s a strange question, but it’s useful. We’re more likely to remember it when it’s a strange question. It took me a while to realize  that I was carrying all of yesterdays psychological dirt and emotional baggage into every new day. I never made the time to STOP and set myself up for the day. I just rushed headlong into it, unconsciously carrying all my yesterdays with me.

So it makes complete sense to me to take an extra five minutes each morning, to take charge of how I want to be for that day. If you don't do it, the world will set your mood for you. We are bombarded daily with negativity, sensationalism, drama, traffic jams, deadlines and so on - and these will all hook you back in to your "normal mode" - unless you have programmed your day by setting your intention and sticking to it. Yes, it will take a little time. A new habit takes about twenty one days to integrate into your life so that it becomes your norm, and this little habit only takes five minutes. You can spare five minutes even if you have to get up earlier. Try it for twenty-one days and see what happens. If you’re like most people, you'll love it for two reasons. One, because it only takes five minutes, and two, because it works! Finally, you’re taking charge of how you want to experience life.  

You can commit to doing anything for a day. All the twelve step programs are based on this simple philosophy. They have a JUST FOR TODAY card, which is often read out at twelve-step meetings. I’ve changed the emphasis of this to focusing on how I want to be for a day. I’ve been setting my Daily Intention for many years now and while I miss a few ( because I’m a human, not a robot), it’s my most regular practice. Todays Intention was “Just for today, I am receptive”. Setting a Daily Intention is a very powerful practice, and my clients tell me that it’s very effective for them. We know that it really works. Set an Intention. One day at a time. Simple. Effective. Intelligent.

The best way to integrate this into your life is to get a routine that works for you each morning. If you’ve convinced yourself that you haven’t got the time then it's even more important for you. Make the time! Have your physical shower and then take five minutes to have a psychological shower too. It’s not that difficult. It becomes a habit, just like your physical shower. It sets you up for the day and gives you back the reins of your life.

I’m guessing that you want to be master of your own destiny rather than a puppet of the world. It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? So, tomorrow you get up five minutes earlier.  You stretch and breathe a few deep breaths as you settle into your shower, imagining that the water is cleansing you of any leftover baggage from yesterday. You allow yourself to let go of any stories in your mind that don’t serve you any longer. After you step out and dry yourself, you follow that with your Intention Setting practice. Five minutes is all you need. Light a candle. Close the door. Tell the kids its your "special time." Tell the dog to get lost! Just make it YOUR time, and build this positive habit that will transform your life. 

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