This is an excerpt from my book Wake Up: The Morning Routine That Will Change Your Life.
This is an excerpt from my book Wake Up: The Morning Routine That Will Change Your Life.
I’m writing these words at 5:51 a.m., which is earlier than I typically wake up. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I decided to stay up and write my book’s first page. This is what can happen when you wake up early, before everyone else, to focus on your own personal development.
Personal development is kind of a dry term. It doesn’t sound very cool or fun. In my opinion, our entire lives should be focused on personal development. It means creating the life we desire and becoming our truest, most authentic self. Then finding the bravery to show it to the world.
I got into personal development when I tried habit-change as a way out of my depression. I used an app on my phone that made it fun to check off habits like push-ups and journaling. Dozens of habits and thousands of check-ins later, I feel safe, not to mention thrilled, to say I’m no longer depressed and happier than ever. This stuff changed my life, seriously. I am writing this book to show you how I did it.
The main reason I wrote this book is because I had to take what I’ve learned and put it out there. If someone else can benefit, even just a little, that makes me happy.
Some of this stuff is not always easy to talk about with people because not everyone is ready to change their life. I like to think I’m having a conversation with someone else who cares about taking responsibility for their own life as much as I do. It keeps me company. I like that.
This book is about how to wake up early. But it’s more than that. It’s about how to wake up to your true self and know your purpose. But first I will show you how you can build the habit of waking up early. Then I’ll teach you about the habits that changed my life and how you can implement them into your morning routine.
I’ll share what I know about each habit from my own experience and research. I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert on these, and I am certainly not a scholar. I’m just a guy who was tired of feeling stuck and hopeless and decided to do something about it.
This book is a little different. Sure it will teach you how you can beat procrastination and learn some new habits. But it’s also very personal. I include a lot of my own first-hand experience. Some books like to include studies, statistics, or other factoids to convince you of their points. But to me, those books lack personality. I want you to get to know the person behind the words.
You’ll get to know me throughout this book. I hope I can relate some of my struggles and triumphs in a way that inspires you. Because we are all in this together.
I’m not even a “morning person.” I would actually consider myself a “night owl” who developed a waking early habit to add more peace and happiness to my life. Not only did it work, but it opened my eyes to a part of myself that I had been ignoring. This I might call my true self.
There are books out there that will teach you how to master habits, get super fit, or meditate like a monk. I’ve read some of those books and they are amazing. I’m going to give you a splash of what I’ve learned.
Use this book as a guide to build yourself your own killer morning routine. One that brings you peace, joy, clarity, and purpose. I’ll be here rooting you on and if you ever have any questions, you can always email me.
We are sleepwalking through life and we don’t even know it. Days, weeks, and years pass by and we feel like we haven’t been able to catch our breath. We work hard at being a good person, employee, or spouse but end up overworked, distracted, stressed out, and depressed. It’s confusing because we are sold happiness in a coffee mug, beer bottle, new clothes, fast food, and entertainment. We know it’s empty. But how do we wake up to real happiness?
Let me start by telling you my story. When I started tracking my habits in 2012, I was pretty deep into depression. This was just one thing that helped bring hope and inspiration back into my life. I had been battling burnout in my work life and stagnation everywhere else. For seven or eight years, I had been putting much of myself into my career as a graphic designer and business owner.
I loved almost every minute of it, but the last two to three years I started to feel tired and no longer motivated by the fame and fortune that inspired me before. I used to care about being a big deal, but I was tired.
This lack of motivation was mysterious. I’d always been somewhat of an attention seeker, but in a positive way. As a childhood artist growing up, I got a lot of attention for my drawings. I even had a friend in middle school who collected my work and I felt important.
After art school, I was offered a partnership at the design firm Go Media in 2006. They were impressed with how I had made a name for myself as a freelance designer for the music industry at a young age. They liked how I got excited about social media and online marketing. I thought of us like a band of rock stars (except we were designers) and wanted to take the world by storm!
We built up quite a following and even had some incredible years financially. I am really proud of the work that we produced together and the opportunities that arose as a result. I was able to design t-shirts and posters for a living and then even write a book about it called Thread’s Not Dead. We started selling leftover illustrations as stock images and it turned into half of our company business! In the midst of all this, I started a conference for creators called Weapons of Mass Creation (WMC Fest) and that became my big focus the past couple of years.
When I look back on it, I felt like I was living and working my dream. But as the years passed I found myself getting more burned out. I didn’t care about getting famous anymore. We had our moments, but it became a grind trying to recreate the magic over and over. We were endlessly searching for that “next big thing” and I felt like I exhausted all my great ideas and had nothing left in the tank.
The conference I was running turned into a full-time job as an organizer, and I was leaving behind the creative work that I had been doing all my life as an artist. I missed it.
The burnout led to feelings of guilt because I wasn’t supposed to feel this way. From the outside looking in, I was living the dream! I had a ton of creative freedom and autonomy, a good income, and had respect and adoration from my peers. What more could I want?
That guilt led to depression and for a good year, year-and-a-half, I was miserable. I think I was hurting projects more than I helped. I mustered up courage to come to work every day and I always saw the glass half empty. I no longer was my optimistic, positive self. This went on and it wasn’t until January 2013 that I told my business partners I was depressed.
Boy was that scary. I avoided telling them for so long. I felt ashamed for being depressed and holding back the company. I felt guilty for asking for help, too. I didn’t even know what I wanted, I just knew I wasn’t interested.
I laced up my boots and toughed it out like any responsible person would. I co-organized another successful year of WMC Fest and we saw attendance rise and more national eyeballs were taking notice. However, my contribution to the organization was becoming less as my event director and core team started doing the majority of the heavy lifting.
Organizing the event became a huge burden on me year after year and I just wanted out. I felt guilty for wanting to quit something that was gaining momentum and was looked at as an inspiring event that made the world a better place. What kind of person bails on that?
At some point, I started finding relief in articles in Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits. Articles that turned my attention toward a simpler life. A life focused more on the present moment and enjoying the simple things. This seemed extraordinary to me. I got excited about an article I read about having no goals anymore. That tells you where I was!
Reading articles on Zen Habits inspired me in many different ways. One, I loved the calmness and clarity. And two, I loved the idea of building positive habits.
I tried a few, like decluttering or single tasking, but never was able to stick with any. I tried meditating, but I didn’t get any more out of it other than a brief moment of escape before I had to enter the real world again. I tried taking one of Leo’s clutter-free courses but wasn’t able to stick to the habit of getting rid of things daily.
The idea of positive habits stuck, though. Changing enough small things about my day that it could lead to a more profound lifestyle change in the end was enough to get me back on my path.
I started reading more about habits and found people like James Clear and Nathan Barry. I downloaded the Headspace app to learn more about meditation. Around this time is when Lift came out and I felt inspired by the beautiful design and the ability to create a list of daily habits on my phone and check them off each day. It kept track and the community gave me positive encouragement for keeping streaks alive.
I started adding habits to improve my diet, health, and well-being. This was all good, except I could not consistently do it. I would settle back into old habits and routines and I would become apathetic toward keeping the habits up. I knew when I was doing these I was happier and felt productive. But when I wasn’t, I felt sad and depressed.
If I could only find the time.
I felt like if I could carve out time every day to do my habits, I’d have more success. I decided the solution was to start waking up early. I hated the idea at first, but it was pretty much the only way I knew I could do it. In a moment of inspiration I set my alarm for one hour earlier. The very first day I missed my alarm and woke up late! The first week was very rocky and I quickly gave up.
Around this time I read the book the Power of Habit – which taught me about triggers, routines, and rewards. This was something I actually remembered from Zen Habits but never put into practice. If I could make getting up early a habit, I knew I’d fill it with the positive habits that made me happier.
I needed a good reward for getting up early. So I started by watching an addictive TV series every day. I just had to crawl over to the couch and turn on Netflix and I’d consider that a win. I would sip my coffee and the show would hold my attention long enough for me to wake up. After it was over, I had about 30 minutes before I needed to get ready for work, so I did my push-ups, reading, and a few other habits.
That worked out pretty well, but I started to slip as I got bored easily and wasn’t getting much sleep. I wasn’t going to bed any earlier so that made it hard.
Right around then was when I found the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. It was highly rated on Amazon and I decided to pick it up. Boy this was a game changer and just what I needed! In fact, I highly recommend you read it as well!
Hal’s book made me look at my morning routine in a completely different light. It blew the doors wide open. In fact, this was the first time I had ever heard the words “personal development.” Actually, that’s not true. I remember coming across Steve Pavlina’s blog Personal Development for Smart People several years prior, but it didn’t appeal to me at the time. Hal was the first one who made it sink in. He quoted one of his favorite people Jim Rohn, “Your level of success will seldom exceed your level of personal development.”
It was this focus on personal development that excited me. It was a complete lifestyle change. A paradigm shift. For most of my life I felt like I needed to focus on things outside of myself to become successful. I thought I needed to build things in this world that earned me money and respect which would translate into success and happiness. I thought I was only as good as the work I produced. And if nobody cared about it, then nobody cared about me.
I realized I was wrong. It works the other way around. I needed to care about me.
The idea of “achieving happiness” never really entered my life until I started to feel depressed the majority of the time. I wondered what happened to my happiness. Where did it go? I had it most of my life, but suddenly it was missing?
Personal development and happiness became my new mission.
Personal development is about working on becoming the best version of yourself. Everything in your life is an opportunity for growth and learning. It’s about letting go of limiting beliefs that hold you back and embracing ones that bring you truth, love, and empowerment. Steve Pavlina uses the phrase “live consciously” which is essentially a reminder to stop sleepwalking through life. Wake up to the present moment and live it thoroughly.
Put another way, live on purpose. Consciously choose what you do while having full awareness of this choice. You shift your perspective from “reality happens to me” to “I create my reality.” And that is a powerful paradigm shift.
Most people live a state of consciousness that one might consider unconscious. There is a certain level of self-awareness we have at different times in our lives. We spend our days reacting and putting out fires and answering to other people. Every day becomes filled with other people’s priorities and we often find ourselves with hardly any time to ourselves.
This is why people use the biggest excuse of all, “I don’t have enough time” to do things they know are good for them. They prioritize everyone else in their life. This is noble, but it’s misguided. People come and go, but there is one person who you spend your entire life with, and that’s you! How much time do you spend doing things that make you happy? Do you do those things on purpose? Do you know if those things are actually bringing you happiness? Or a temporary escape?
I challenge you to look at your life differently.
Look at it through the lens of the ultimate creator. What kind of life would you design for yourself? What’s the most fulfilling and rewarding life you could experience?
In my opinion, life is to be enjoyed, not endured. If you can shift your perspective to one that you are the creator of your life, rather than simply a victim of circumstances, you start to feel the power. You are responsible for the good and the bad in your life. Once you realize that, your whole world can open up. If you give yourself permission to dream and fantasize about what you can create for yourself in this life, knowing it can actually come true: life gets a whole lot more exciting!
Let’s get this started, shall we?
We’re going to carve out time to work, play, and be with ourselves every day. We do that by waking up early before everyone else. That time is our precious me time. There’s a reason Hal Elrod called it the Miracle Morning. It’s not about getting up early to check email or get more done in the day. You will find it to be quite the contrary!
Doing less is oftentimes more fulfilling when done consciously. You can look at waking early as a productivity habit, but try to think of it as the most sacred time of your day. The one that only you understand and truly know. The time where you get to be honest, authentic, and truly heard. That’s because you are allowing yourself time to be with and care for yourself like nobody ever has.
We all wake up in the morning after a night’s sleep, right? So by definition, the act of waking up implies that we had previously been asleep. While this book is most definitely about waking up early, it’s also about waking up another way. Waking up to your true self. Your true purpose.
Waking up to your true self implies a different level of awakening. A profound realization. Some might call it enlightenment, but that’s another topic. Like I said before, many people look like they are awake in this world, running around, driving from place to place, typing on their keyboards and smartphones, or chatting with friends and family.
But the truth is they are in fact asleep. They are dreaming. They are just unaware of the dream.
Author Don Miguel Ruiz talks about humanity’s collective dream of the planet. We live in a reactive world of multi-tasking and distraction. The idea of there being a different way of living, a simpler one that brings more joy and authenticity seems too far out.
The idea that a life of enjoyment and fulfillment instead of suffering and stress seems like the dream we all wish we were dreaming instead.
The encouraging thing is more and more people are waking up. There are Facebook groups and Reddit communities, for example. Just do a quick Google search on humanity’s shift to higher consciousness. We are also waking up to our spiritual essences without the need for religion or dogma. Even our supernormal and extrasensory abilities like intuition and “the clairs” are coming online! These are needed in a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on left-brain logic, technology, and artificial intelligence. And don’t get me started on Starseed activations!
It’s really an exciting time to be alive!
The good news is that it’s 100% attainable by everyone right now. To say that it’s far off is like saying that it’s a destination or somewhere to get to. But in reality, it’s merely a mindset switch. A lightbulb going off. An “aha” moment.
Take four minutes and listen to Alan Watts’s The Dream of Life on YouTube and see what I mean.
Have you ever visualized the life of your dreams? Have you ever actually given it more than a passing thought? Like I said, for most of us, the life of our dreams doesn’t seem attainable. We’re conditioned to believe we have to be a certain way, to have a certain job. We are conditioned to work hard and sacrifice and wait for itto pay off in the future.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wait for the future. I want to live the life of my dreams right now. I want the same for you.
There are many books out there about pursuing your passion, quitting your job, starting your own business, etc. The idea of pursuing your dreams is definitely not uncommon. But in a world where so many people are encouraged to pursue their dreams, why are so many of us scared, worried, and depressed?
I will be the first to tell you that the whole idea is extremely difficult. Because for most of my life, I thought I was doing just that! I knew from an early age I wanted to be an artist of some type. So I lined up my college education and career choices around it. And I definitely had success and even had a taste of fame here and there. I had some exciting years, but after awhile I found myself unhappy and eventually depressed.
I’m not going to give you a clinical version of depression. It’s not a disorder or disease or something you catch. It’s not something you cure with drugs. To me, depression is a stifled soul. And to cure it, we must look at what our soul needs. Generally it’s some form of creative expression that is yearning to come out. And for whatever reason, we don’t let it. Are we too afraid of being who we really are?
The soul speaks to us through intuition and emotions such as inspiration and joy. We all know what those feel like. But if you are consistently unable to act on your inspirations, then the body begins to shut down. Our minds develop defense mechanisms to keep us safe and we feel that if we acted on our inspirations, we might disrupt the security of the life we have created for ourselves.
As children we loved to express ourselves creatively. It comes naturally. But as we grow up, we are domesticated. We are taught what it means to be an adult and how to get a job and fit into the culture around us. We dial down our expressiveness bit-by-bit. Sometimes we take a job that we don’t really want but it pays well. Many aspiring artists, dancers, or writers become engineers, doctors, and lawyers because of well-meaning encouragement from their families and teachers. Not to say those fields are bad, but we are raised to fit into a certain role in life.
Fitting into that role is often rewarded very well. Getting good grades in school, behaving properly, pleasing the right people to get ahead… Those are all rewarded with praise, money, and advancement. We feel good about those things and we feel like we’re making progress. As the years go by, we start to grow tired. It starts to feel like a rat race. If we are lucky, our childhood passions might have become hobbies or pastimes, but many of us are too busy working and pleasing other people that we have no time for ourselves.
To battle the fatigue and burnout, we consume caffeine and prescription drugs to make us feel alert and focused. Instead of being told how to cultivate our own energy levels, we are sold energy in a can or coffee mug. And instead of being educated on how to relieve stress naturally, many rely on alcohol and television to relax or escape from their problems. An ever-increasing sense of discontent and unease grows within us. We feel stuck. We’ve come this far, we don’t want quit. We don’t want to lose what we have. It seems our culture has developed a genius system of keeping us perpetually tired and discontent so it can sell us products that temporarily relieve the symptoms, but don’t cure the problem.
We are conditioned into this lifestyle from an early age. The idea of “you can be anyone you want to be” is something we are all taught. But you can only pick from a few choices! What about being who you really are?
I believe I was lucky. My parents and peers picked up on my creative abilities when I was young and encouraged me all the way. My Dad never liked his jobs and didn’t like authority much either. My Mom was about as supportive as you can imagine, and helped me believe that I could actually achieve what I set my mind to. They didn’t try to tell me to be anyone other than who I wanted. They didn’t want “the man” getting me down. I gravitated toward alternative culture, punk rock, and DIY folk music and had an affinity for their raw, independent lifestyle, minus the drugs and alcohol.
Despite being encouraged to be myself, I still adapted to try to fit in and make a living. At the time I wasn’t even aware of it. There’s a blend of knowing what I want to do and knowing what my options are. And then trying to fit them together. It always seemed like there was a gatekeeper or some other authority figure in the way of letting me “in.” I would come across resistance like this all the time. Out of desperation, fear, or necessity I would do things that I thought I should do. Like spend tens of thousands of dollars on a college education. If I knew then what I know now, I might have reconsidered.
When I admitted I was depressed in 2013, it was something I never thought I’d say. I had always believed I was living a great life that had purpose and clarity, but it started to get foggy after awhile. I said “yes” to many things I probably should have said “no” to. I let people into my life that dug at my self esteem and distracted my attention away from my passions. I was trying to please so many people and felt like I was spread way too thin. This created a fractured soul. There were many times I wanted to just throw it all away.
I had to look my depression squarely in the eye. I had to look at my habits and tendencies. I had to consciously make time to focus on my own well being. So that’s why I started getting up early in the first place. To create time for me. It wasn’t selfish, it was necessary. I envisioned a morning that was peaceful and calm without distractions. I pictured myself doing yoga, meditating, and sipping tea as I watched the sun rise. That seemed so much more real and authentic than trying to figure out why our social media posts don’t have as many “likes” as they used to. Sigh.
“Wake Up completely altered how I see my habits and routines. It helped me to realize that my actions matter and that most of all the power is in my hands to create happiness for myself. Such a fun and easy read — will forever be one of my favorites!” – Jake Bryant, Music Producer
“After I read his book front to back I felt like I had woken up! It really did change my life! I’ve tried a handful of Jeff’s suggestions in the book for ways turn off my brain before going to bed and ways that I can prepare for the morning that motivate me to get up and get going! – Ian Baldwin, Creative
”Wake Up gives you permission and power to take control over your own life. I turned the last page fully refreshed and inspired, ready to go out and do.” – Heather Sakai, Product Manager & Event Organizer
“The story echoed a lot of what I had been going through with procrastination and my inabilities to keep a habit longer than 30 days. It’s an inspiring view and motivated me to start a new habit: treating myself right.” – Bryan Garvin, Web Developer
“After reading this book, you won’t have any more excuses as to why you’re not creating the life you desire.” – Hal Elrod, #1 Bestselling author of The Miracle Morning
“A fantastic guided tour inside a game-changing experiment you might want to make your own! A great idea for anyone intent on busting out of the grind and reclaiming their sense self.” – Elz, Blogger
“If you want to live with a deeper sense of purpose, presence, and peace, Wake Up will teach you the daily habits and mindset to make it happen.” – Jay Delaney, Writer & Filmmaker
“Honest and refreshing with no hype. It really resonated with me (pg. 86). I felt as if he was talking straight to my true authentic self, slowly awakening it with every page.” – Todd Saperstein, Designer & Educator