Morning Rituals - On the Flow of Willpower and Self-Discipline


Exercise has been my morning ritual for more than 1 year. At six thirty on weekday, a bit later in weekend, five minutes warm-up, thirty five minutes workout, five minutes cool-down. I like to reach my desk precisely at nine and work until mid-day, with a ten minutes break in between. Lunch should finish by one thirty, and work would continue until six, with another short break in between. Morning is for writing; afternoon is for learning, either university or writing subject; evening is for my love ones and books. For me it has been always interesting to see how other people react to my discipline. Routine is so not cool that some people made fun of me, in a nice way or in a mean way. Often the same person would ended up feeling bad for me, advised me to "have a life", to which I responded I'm having my life just fine, in fact I'm much more alive than most others. Some regard me as born discipline freak, possessing super human quality like a turned disciplined mutant after being stung by a hard working monstrous bee, to whom I'd like to admit that even though I wish I'd found that bee, I am not. People often see the calmness on the stage and overlook the pain behind the scene. And because discipline people hardly complain or boast for they have made the deed a part of their flow; things look effortless. But I can guarantee, most of them are not, at least not my things. The fact is that, every morning I wake up with sleepiness, a slight dizziness, dreading the workout. My lower back is week; I’m prone to shin splint; I have low blood pressure. I started exercise two years ago only because I couldn't sit longer than 2 hours without lower back pain. The fact is that, every morning I wake up with the thought of snoozing off the alarm. But I knew if I just tried to open my eyes and sit up, the flow would start. I would stand up, I would wash my face, grab the workout paper, put on gym outfit. I would get out of the door, drive to the gym, say hi to the girl at the reception, put my bag in the locker, and walk to the free weight area. I would start. At some point, I would curse the ridiculous workout; I couldn’t do 20 repetitions of push-ups in a row. My upper body is weak. So I did 8, out of breath, paused; I did 7, my trembling arms, paused; after the last 5 my face turned red or green like two kinds of pepper. No matter how hard it gets, I'd never finished the workout feeling regret. I always glow in a sense happiness, not the passive happiness of a couch potato, but the happiness from knowing that my value, once again, won over my impulse. 14126653768_0ea5e2269f_z Psychologists define will power as the ability to regulate our own impulses for the sake of development. Self-discipline is the exertion of will power; you see it in decisions to say no to immediate satisfaction for - something I call – meaningful sense of happiness. Human being is full of unconscious impulses, disguised as "being myself", which in fact is "being stagnant". If we are willing to do what it takes, we could be bigger, better than our current self, while staying true to our center. In the international best seller and essential manual for personal transformation that I would recommend to any friend “The Power of Habit”, Pulitzer Prize winning writer Charles Duhigg pointed out that “Dozen of studies show that will power is the single most important keystone habit for individual success”, more than intellect. And that no matter how much a person want to do a great job, they will fail because they lack self-discipline. Imagine self-discipline to be a means of transportation from point A to point B. Without a means of transportation, how clear our vision of the destination is, or how badly we want it, how passionate we are about it, doesn’t really matter. The good news is: will power is like muscles, it could get strengthened the more we exert it. This is what motivates me to wake up in the morning, beyond my body; I wanted to strengthen my will power. For me one of the most interesting things about will power mentioned by Charles Duhigg was that will power will spill over to other aspects of our day. Stephen R. Covey also agreed in his classic “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, on the first dimension of renewal – physical: “The greatest benefit you will experience from exercising will be the development of Habit 1 muscle of proactivity. As you act based on the value of physical well-being instead of reacting to all the forces that keep you from exercising, your paradigm of yourself, your self-esteem, your self-confidence, and your integrity will be profoundly affected.” This passage can not be truer. 4130157287_2dda4326bc_z The morning exercise spills over into other parts of my day, like domino effect. I know when I come back home after the workout, I will have breakfast, make tea, and walk to my writing desk. I will sit there staring at the blank page, and no matter how similarly blank my brain is, or how all of a sudden, I desperately want to browse the internet, or clean the room, or feed the cat, or floss my teeth, I would glue my bottom to the chair like having an imaginary gun pointing at my head, I would look for encouraging look of writers I admire, in their photos pined on the board. I would remind myself that nobody would put a “qualified writer” stamp on the back of my neck and allow me to be a writer. That, like any other creative acts, in art, life or business, the only way to find my voice is to use it. That wanting something is not enough; one must perspire to earn it. Then I would scribble down the first sentence, most of the time x them all out, scribble down another first sentence. And at some point, the channel would open. Word by word, words would flow.

Are you similar to many others who think they don't have enough time to exercise ? 

Stephen R. Covey replied in the 7 Habits book that "what a distorted paradigm! We don't have time not to"

Any life long good habit springs from the smallest act, exercise included. I started out with 20 minutes exercise, 3 days per week.

What would your small act be?


- - - Photo Credit: jacsonquerubin