Beat Yourself Up


Today I got a morning routine started that I’d been struggling with for a while. I went about it a little differently, and got different – positive! – results.

On most days, when I want to accomplish something I rely on a combination of two methods. The first is to focus on the benefits of that thing; why I want it done, what it will do for me, etc. The second is to focus on the positive personality traits that I want to associate with that thing and remind myself that I have them. In other words, I’ll say things to myself like “an ambitious and resourceful person would get this done, and you’re an ambitious and resourceful person, so you’ll get this done!”

Those two methods – focusing on what I want to gain and who I want to be – generally work for me, and I find them to be positive mindsets. However, I am emphatically not a morning person. I wake up early, but often those early hours are spent basically auto-piloting through the required morning tasks until mid-morning when my higher creative brain kicks into gear. My new morning routine is designed to help combat this, but the problem is that the two self-motivating factors I usually employ were designed by my normal brain, for use on my normal brain. They were failing spectacularly at motivating my morning brain, which might as well be a different person.

So here’s what I did instead: last night, I did a really thorough and realistic inventory of morning brain’s normal excuses. I listed out all the reasons why I would probably not do the things I wanted to do in the morning. And then I argued. I pitted morning brain against normal brain, but on normal brain’s home turf in the quiet hours of the late evening. I anticipated everything morning brain would think and want, and sort of built a mental bridge across that gap back to normal brain.

It worked. I woke up this morning with all the normal morning brain emotions and excuses. But none of them were original, and normal brain’s strategy was still clear in my mind. Normal brain planned everything out, from the playlist of music that would energize me to the ingredients for the healthy breakfast already laid out. All the prep work was done, so morning brain’s auto-pilot just had to follow the path.

I never once thought about my normal motivating factors. I knew morning brain would be unmoved by long-term benefits (morning brain is a notoriously short-term thinker) and morning brain doesn’t really care what kind of person I am at the core and so aspirational calls to personal betterment fall on deaf ears. But morning brain can be pushed and prodded along paths of least resistance and can be browbeaten into giving up weak excuses, so that’s what I did.

Accepting the world as it is sometimes means accepting ourselves as we are – but not because we want to stay that way. But because we have to acknowledge the true starting conditions. I would love to be able to accurately claim that I’m awesome 24/7. But the reality is that the version of me that exists between the hours of 6 AM and about 10 AM is usually a real piece of shit. That started to change today though, and this is actually the last step in that planned routine – putting it down here to cement it into my brain that it worked and I feel wonderful.

And it’s just a little after nine.

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