My alarm goes off at 4:36 a.m. most weekdays, I physically jump out of bed to make sure I don’t snooze, and I question all of my life choices that brought me here.
It’s a nice ritual.
After waving goodbye to my sleepy dog snuggled in her crate, who gives me a little wag in return, I awkwardly cart my bike out the door with the grace of a bull in a china shop. I then hop onto my bike at 4:55 and pedal 7 miles to arrive at Corepower just before my 5:30 a.m. desk time.
By the end of mile one, I remember how much I love mornings. Some days, I have a visceral reaction to how uncomfortable bike seats are. But most days, I spend 7 miles admiring the various angles of the sunrise. After wondering if I’m missing my calling as a sunrise photographer, I’m there. I’m energized with a clear mind, and that shell-shocked 4:36 a.m. Sarah is nowhere to be found.
Recently, I was listening to the Ted Radio Hour episode A Better You and was introduced to Matt Cutts, who committed to taking on a new habit for 30 days, every month. As he got into the swing of things, this commitment became less daunting. Rather than altering his life drastically every month, he made small changes. Some stuck, some didn’t.
But that wasn’t what he would focus on. He wouldn’t think about the level of commitment a new habit would be, he just thinks about what would be a good shift to make, and tries it out. One day at a time.
Mornings come naturally to me. But that doesn’t mean the first five minutes of being awake aren’t as hellish for me as they are for the rest of the population. I’m not immune to that, I just see past it.
People often claim they “just can’t do mornings,” and while there’s truth to when we feel our best, I have a feeling these night owls take those first five hellish minutes as a foreshadowing for the day.
They don’t wake up with a smile on their face, stretching their arms overhead with the joy of every person in any coffee or face wash commercial. But here’s the secret- as a lifelong morning person and early riser- neither do I.
But I bounce back, and I think it’s because I don’t have a story that goes along with getting up early. I don’t start the morning telling myself how tired I am, how much coffee I should consume or how to get it in IV form.
To me, mornings represent possibility. It’s a blank slate for my long to-do list, which I can optimistically look at and plan to demolish. Night time is when I feel the tendency to stress about all the boxes that were left unchecked. For some, it’s the opposite. Mornings are daunting and night is the time to revel in your accomplishments.
But it doesn’t take long scrolling through your LinkedIn newsfeed to find out that being on the sunny side has it’s advantages.
Rather than being another person to list the 19 things you now need to do every morning (even though you hate mornings and everything of that list), I’d like to share that how you’re looking at motivation is likely all wrong.
While I’ve always been an early riser, my routine of morning workouts began because I was motivated to not shower at the Fraternity house I was living in that summer. Every morning, I’d wake up and go to a 6 a.m, yoga class, so I could use the Corepower showers instead of the ones I was sharing with five sorority sisters and 25 guys.
Somehow that inspiring tale isn’t made into a motivational poster.
I used to live less than a mile away from my yoga studio. I would always say one of these mornings, I’ll bike there, rather than drive the short distance, to teach my 6 a.m. class.
That never happened.
That’s because I’m not motivated by biking. I don’t have dreams to be the best biker, in fact, I enjoy being pretty mediocre. I don’t enjoy biking in spite of being the fastest one on the trail, I enjoy it because I don’t have to be.
I am motivated to bike because I don’t like sitting in traffic while Minneapolis reconstructs every street and highway at the same time. I probably wouldn’t have taken this on if it wasn’t a healthy habit, but what motivates me more than getting back that #thighgap is not paying $9 to park downtown on the daily.
That’s really it. It’s not inspiring, but it’s true.
Along the way, of course, I’ve found countless benefits. I really can’t get over that sunrise. My legs are looking and feeling more like they did when I was an avid runner. I feel more awake on the days I bike, despite the 30 minutes of sleep I sacrifice, than when I drive. I don’t have to worry about keeping my sleepy eyes open while being on the highway. I get to spend more time outside, and less money on gas.
Biking has become a moving meditation for me, and is the rare quiet space I have throughout the day. It’s revived a creativity and thoughtfulness in me, hence why you’re ready this blog post.
Rather than focusing on the 180 degree changes you need to make, tap into what exactly you are unhappy with, and what healthy change you could make to fix just that. The life changing transformation you’ve heard so much about will unfold naturally, once you create the space for it.