While few if any of us get to choose everything that will happen in our days, the morning, in particular, has the power to determine who/what will be leading the way and how much we give to our own interests—versus simply responding to others’ as the day progresses. As psychologist Roy F. Baumeister suggests in his Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, our willpower is greatest in the morning before we’ve had to fend off the slew of issues and choices that come our way. In other words, if you struggle to keep a given commitment to yourself/your well-being, you’ll likely be more successful making it part of your morning routine as opposed to holding off until later in the day.

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From a physiological standpoint, too, the morning hours offer some extra benefits. Working out in a fasted state, research shows, offers better benefits for fat burning and insulin sensitivity. There’s also the advantage of the natural a.m. cortisol surge. That means extra energy to offer the day’s workout or to tackle the most challenging tasks. How many of us postpone our exercise and certain responsibilities as long as we can—only to face them during our least energetic and driven hours of the day. By that point, it takes seemingly ten times the physical and mental wherewithal to make ourselves follow through (e.g. the thousand pound workout bag).

What’s more? You’ll be more invested in making healthier choices throughout the day if you’re already on a roll with an a.m. workout, meditation time and/or other positive behaviors. You’ll already have some skin in the game for living healthily that day. You also won’t be subject to that nagging sense of restlessness that can dog us all day. Our bodies are waiting to move and ready to stage an uprising at having to sit at a desk for eight hours first. Our minds likewise grumble at having to wait to get some personal time to do something they enjoy as opposed to what they must do to collect a paycheck and go along to get along.

Why should we put off everything we want in our day? Why should we come last and not first? With this and other posts’ messages, I know I come off sometimes as promoting a selfish revolution, but the solid fact is, life works better for everyone when our needs are taken care of. We work harder. We play better with others. We eat less crap and can be healthier for it.

Developing a morning routine allows you to assert your own authority over the day. You take charge of your own work-life balance by, in effect, paying yourself first. Too many of us do it the other way around and are left with no time and energy to invest by the time we get to ourselves. As a result, too many people end up feeling at the mercy of their work and family demands. Responsibilities overwhelm, and they end up continually stuck.

When you lead with your own peace and well-being, however, much more is possible. Something essential changes when you begin directing your day rather than responding to it. However we choose to design our morning routine (as long as it truly feeds our needs – and more than just the mundane logistical check-offs), we stake our claim on the day before anything/anyone else can. Our actions—and the pattern of action over time —can effect a powerful shift in our personal sense of self-efficacy and fulfillment.

What would it mean for the rest of life if you devoted a morning routine to your own interests? How would your relationships change if you began your day in ways that brought you joy and health? How would it impact your attitude at work if you started your job with a solid two hours of time invested in yourself? There’s some food for thought this morning.

For more on setting a morning routine, keep reading here.

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