I’m sure we’ve all had mornings when we hit the snooze button on our iPhones a million times instead of getting up and out of our warm, cozy beds to face the day.
Maybe you’re just tired and you’d rather grab an extra 10 minutes of sleep instead of getting up to make a nutritious breakfast for yourself, opting for something less nutritious on the go instead. Or maybe the warmth and comfort of your bed is much more appealing to you than going for a chilly morning run. Or maybe you’d rather go back to dreamland than face the hard tasks you need to accomplish that day.
I’ve had those mornings, but thankfully they’ve been few and far between. I make my breakfast and lunch the night before to ensure I’m always fueled, and promise myself to exercise after work if I really don’t feel like getting up an hour earlier that morning.
I always manage to keep that promise. I think I’ve only missed 3-5 workouts this year due to illness.
So what’s the secret to getting up and getting sh*t done each and every morning, no matter how unpleasant it might be?
What gets me out of bed successfully each and every day, without fail, is this: my uninhibited human nature.
I wasn’t sure exactly why I could get up early each day to exercise or write until I came across this article by the brilliant Maria Popova at Brainpickings.org. According to the great Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius in his “indispensable proto-blog” Meditations, the reason we fail to get up to face the day sometimes is “a negation of our nature and a failure of self-love”.
“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’”
Sure, staying under the blankets feels nicer than getting up and facing the day. But is that really your purpose?
“So you were born to feel ‘nice’? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?”
I’ve always wondered what it was that drove some people to wake up in the early morning hours to write, workout, meditate or do other work, while others hit snooze 10 times before dragging themselves out of bed and to work without breakfast. Of course, some people who suffer from psychological disorders such as anxiety or depression may struggle to get up in the morning, which is why I say uninhibited human nature. If you are restricted by a psychological disorders or disease, then the desire to stay in bed is a symptom of a bigger challenge you must seek treatment for to overcome. But if you are not burdened by a disorder or disease, you are simply denying your human nature.
Popova explains: “Our nature, [Aurelius] insists, is to live a life of service — to help others and contribute to the world. Any resistance to this inherent purpose is therefore a negation of our nature and a failure of self-love.”
When you fail to get up and do what needs to be done, it means, according to Aurelius, that “you don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you.”
I never really thought about the desire to get up and get sh*t done as a characteristic of loving yourself, but it does make sense. I definitely feel better about myself when I’m helping others, and the only way I can have the capacity to do that is to take care of my body (exercise and nutritious food) and my mind (reading, creative work and meditation) first.
So what can you do if you’re not burdened by disease or disorder and are still struggling to get up in the morning?
“When you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, remember that your defining characteristic— what defines a human being — is to work with others,” Aurelius writes. “Even animals know how to sleep. And it’s the characteristic activity that’s the more natural one — more innate and more satisfying.”
Try to remember this next time you go to hit snooze, or better yet, add the wise words of Marcus Aurelius to your reminder alarm on your iPhone so it’s the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning.
See if it makes a difference to your morning routine.
Do you bounce out of bed most morning or are you a snooze-button hitter?
What do you do first thing in the morning?
What’s your first thought when you wake up?