I rise at 4:28am.
With bleary eyes I turn off my alarm. In a house with two kids under seven and a light sleeping wife, a silent haptic alarm is the only way I can wake this early without waking the house up. I lay in bed still slightly comatose, blinking my eyes rapidly in a bid to wake myself from the depths of sleep. This period is always touch and go. One false move and I drift off back to the warm and cosy land of slumber. I deliberately don’t snooze my alarm because in the past the safety net has stung me more than supported me.
I reach out and grab on to anything that will help to hoist me out of bed. I groan and hobble like an old man. A cacophony of cracks rings out from my knees and ankles. I fumble my way around in the dark, moving to familiar places where I know I have placed my gear.
It is dark outside. The moon and streetlights light the path.
I tiptoe to the door, turning the handle as slowly as possible. The creaks remind me that I really need to WD40 these damn doors.
I step outside.
The air is brisk and there is a serenity that just has to be experienced.
This first five minutes is not graceful and sometimes it just plain hurts.
But then a funny thing happens.
Once my foot hits the ground, the conveyor belt of momentum gets me moving. The hardest part is that first step. The feeling I have when I get up is the same every morning. It is far from an Instagram moment when I wake up but it is when I’ve finished. The beautiful feeling in my lungs post run, the clarity of my head post-meditation or the joy of writing with the moon still high in the sky. That is the feeling that gets me out of bed every morning. The joy of starting my day with movement, breathing, fresh air and creativity is my motivation.
The challenge is always the first five minutes.
With so many things in our life that we put off or avoid, getting moving is the hardest part. It is the part that requires the most energy. This ‘activation energy’ is larger when the action is more challenging. Take, for example, getting up after a terrible nights sleep or getting to the gym after a really stressful day. We know that these actions would make us feel better but the energy required to get the reaction started is really high. This is where our best intentions become unstuck.
The battle always begins in our head.
The feeling of ‘now’ rings louder than the projected feeling of ‘later’. This is a battle against our evolution. Hundreds of thousands of years of instant gratification, a necessity to survive in times of food scarcity and trying conditions versus a very new desire to delay gratification for a goal in the distant future. Knowing this allows us to harness our innate biological desires to our advantage.
How do we make it easy?
How do we make it harder to not do the activity?
Once we are up and moving, we just keep on moving.
Take, for example, working out at the gym. The hardest part is getting there. Once you are there, you get into your workout and get it done. Sure, some days the performance may not be the greatest but A performance is better than NO performance.
To make it easy, you select a gym that you have drive past to get home. Or have a friend as a training partner and book in times that you need to meet them. You might schedule a personal training appointment and so the exchange of cash might be enough of an incentive to get there. But you just have to get there. The challenge is not the workout.
The battle is getting to the workout.