"This is a fundamental irony of most people’s lives. They don’t quite know what they want to do with their lives. Yet they are very active. " — Ryan Holiday
Back in 2009, Bronnie Ware, a nurse who cared for dying patients, shared the collective personal wisdom imparted by them to her in an online article called "Regrets of the Dying."
Because of the profound impact that her patients' insights had on her life, Ware felt called to share their wisdom publicly. The article went on to be read by more than 3 million people around the globe in the first year.
According to Ware's article, the 5 Most Common Regrets of the Dying are:
1 I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2 I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3 I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4 I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5 I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Why Do So Many Die With The Same Top Regret?
Most people carry around regrets throughout life.
We live with regret over the things we still have the power to control or change because we tell ourselves we could have what we desire if only we had more of some resource-- time, focus, dedication, conviction, energy, money, health or maybe even courage.
Regrets like these usually come in the form of-- the way we are living life, an unrealized dream we aren't working towards, an area of self-improvement that we're neglecting, an estranged relationship that we want to heal, or a personal bucket list item we'll get to "someday." The list goes on.
Days and years roll by and these unfulfilled areas of our lives relentlessly tug at us. We often consider the possibilities if we were successful at realizing whatever it is we desire.
But rather than take calculated action, we make excuses and keep ourselves distracted by the "busyness" of day-to-day life, tucking our desires and dreams away for "someday" when we have more of the resource we are lacking.
But if we're not careful, we may run out of time before we make any progress.
According to Ware's article, "When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made."
How can we get better at making sure we make the right choices and take the right actions along the path of life so that when we are out of time, we aren't filled with regret?
"What if could all arrive on our deathbed free of regrets?" — Bronnie Ware
How Establishing A Morning Routine Could Be The Answer
When I first began writing this post, I didn't set out to write about the regrets of the dying and how to arrive at death without regret.
But the more I experience the awesome benefits of having an early morning routine, the more I realize that intentionally navigating daily life sets us up to reach death without regret.
But first, we need to know what it is we want and where we are headed so we can chart our course daily.
We need time to regularly think and reflect. To plan our next move. To correct our course and pivot, if necessary. And time to chip away at whatever it is we want to achieve.
In the day-to-day hustle of life, it's hard to capture even a few minutes to think deeply.
Upon waking, we are immediately drawn into the swift current of a new day. We have commitments. We rush. Grab a bite to eat. And by the end of the day, we're tired. Worn thin. Spent. We go sleep and get up and do it all over again.
Most people's actions are not guided by their dreams, desires or higher purpose.
And being busy isn't living with purpose.
Of course, we have to do what we have to do to take care of our responsibilities, but that doesn't mean we can't feel more control over our lives and where we're headed. We just need to be more strategic.
If we structure our day to capture a sacred time to think, plan, and reflect, we can build into our day the actions necessary to move in the direction of our dreams and desires.
Regularly carving out time immediately upon waking, before starting your day is an optimal time to take control of your life. Here's why ...
10 Invaluable Benefits Of Having An Early Morning Routine
1. You start your day out in front of it. There is something so nice about being the first one up, grabbing a cup of coffee and having time to work on your goals or plan your day. Think of this time like a front bumper on your day to buffer you before you're swept away by the day's swift current. If you know what you have to do during this time and look forward to it, it's easier to get up because you have a purpose or intention in mind.
2. It's your sacred time to sit, think, plan & reflect. If you ever think to yourself, that you need more 'me' time, the early morning is the perfect time to capture that. Once the day kicks in, it's really hard to think deeply about questions like Where do I want to take my life? What are my goals? Am I on track? What needs to be tweaked? Where am I falling short? What is working? Without a time to strategically think about where you are taking your life, your life purpose will inevitably be shaped by someone else. (Thus, the #1 regret of the dying.) Not honoring your dreams is tragic during life and when ultimately faced with death.
3. It's a time to be more conscious and confident in the choices you are making in your life. Maybe you've been asked to take on a responsibility that requires a big commitment of your time. This is a time to think about that before you jump in. Is it in alignment with getting you closer to your goal or where you want to head? Whatever the scenario, when you have time to think before acting in life, you will feel more in control of your life and have confidence in the choices you make.
4. Immediately upon waking is the perfect time to get into a state of flow and make progress on your deep work. If your goals require you to focus and think deeply, this is the optimal time to do such work. Our minds are refreshed and primed for creativity. No one else needs you at this time so you can be completely consumed by your work. I am always amazed by how time flies when I write during this time. I can think more clearly, therefore, I can get so much done. It's a great time to make progress.
5. Your willpower is strongest. As we go about our day, our willpower gets worn down by making decisions, interacting with other people, and processing information. But immediately upon waking, we can take advantage of that time when our mental strength is at its highest. At the end of the day, if my mind is spent, I don't even attempt to write. Instead, I do "shallow" type tasks that don't require much thinking or concentration, go to bed early and look forward to waking early to get back to more mentally intensive work. If you're someone who has wanted to write a book, early morning could be a productive window of time for you.
6. It's a great time to begin to establish morning rituals like meditation and journaling. Personally, I like to begin my morning routine by journaling for a few minutes about what I want to accomplish that day. There's something powerful about letting words flow through our hands. Writing about what we want to accomplish kicks into gear the process of making those things happen. Rituals like journaling or meditation also let us practice mental creativity and clarity and the benefits stay with us as we begin and go about our day. Most importantly, the small changes that come about from practicing these rituals add up to big results over time.
7. The psychological advantage. When we engage in habits or activities that most people aren't willing to do, we get a psychological boost by feeling a sense of pride and confidence in our willingness to take those actions. Knowing that most of the world is still sleeping while you are getting organized about how you go about your days (and years), is a nice motivational perk.
8. It's a great time to learn or do whatever it is you feel like you can't find the time to do. If you just need more time to work on yourself or learn something new, it's a lot easier to do so when you're rested vs. when you're tired at the end of the day. Get to bed and rise early to do your learning.
9. The rest of your day goes more smoothly. When you get out in front of your day to work on your dreams, goals or plan your day or upcoming week, the time that follows unfolds more easily. You already know what you have to do that day, and you will be stronger to resist temptations that distract you or aren't in alignment with what you set out to do.
10. Most importantly, you'll see benefits across many areas of your life. Your days go more smoothly. You'll feel better that you're making progress with your goals. You'll feel a sense of control over your life because you're making decisions about how you spend your time more thoughtfully. You'll have time to plan, think and reflect. Hopefully, all of these benefits will add up into your achieving the things in life that are most important to you.
A Few Practical Tips For Establishing An Early Morning Routine
1. Get ample sleep. We all require different amounts of sleep. For me, seven hours is optimal. Consider the amount of sleep you need and get to bed on time.
2. Set your alarm. In fact, set it twice. The first time set it 15 minutes before you want to get up to turn on the coffee and then a second time when you want to get going.
3. Know what your plan is. To motivate you to get out of bed, the night before decide what your goal is for the next morning.
4. Have your go-to beverage ready to go. If you're like me and into coffee, set that up the night before so you don't have to fumble with it in the morning.
5. Enjoy! Trust me, soon you'll be getting out of bed to greet your day like a kid on Christmas morning. Enjoy the peacefulness and peace of mind that goes along with getting out in front of your day.
An early morning routine is an invaluable habit to establish to help you successfully navigate life in the short and long terms. All of us are here for a finite amount of time, and it's our responsibility to chart our own course and not let others' ideas for us or the "busyness" of our lives shape our destiny. Honor your dreams and goals by strategically pursuing them.
Call To Action
Well, I hope after reading my post that you are at least intrigued about establishing a morning routine for yourself. To make it easier for you to take action on what you just read AND to set you up for success, I put together a printable checklist with all of the reminders of what to do the night before and benefits of establishing an early morning routine.