One of the things I want to work hard on this year is making my blog as practical and as useful as possible. As I’ve written about many times in the past, I believe that one of the curses plaguing many people today is celebrityism – which is the unthinking practice of putting higher value or worth on famous people, famous things, and famous ideas. Just because someone or something is famous or going viral or adhered to by many doesn’t mean it’s good, nor right, nor true, nor valuable.
Sometimes that’s all it is: famous. And, while I believe a lot of intelligence can be gleaned from crowds, that does not mean that the crowd itself is intelligent. Many times, the crowd, or to put it another way, the mob, is unintelligent and suffering from herd mentality, going whatever way the herd goes, for better or worse.
Instead, I encourage having your own convictions, the courage to stand by them (even if alone), the humility to constantly learn, and the discipline to act out your convictions. Following the way of the herd gives you the comfort of having many people doing the same thing, making us feel like we’re in the right, but it removes originality, creativity, and personal identity. Having personal convictions mean that you don’t rely on the opinions of crowds for the foundation of your values system – but on an inner foundation built on wisdom and truth gathered through prayer and reflection. That’s the way to be someone who truly stands out.
To help those of you who want to cultivate yourselves instead of following whoever is in front, I’ll be sharing my simple practices and thoughts from my own effort to do the same.
I’d like to start from the very beginning: How I Start My Day.
How I Start My Day
The start of something is critical. First impressions, while they can change, do last a long time. Marketers know that they only have a few seconds to engage with customers or they leave. Many professions, from chefs to artists to engineers, know the importance of priming and preparation before actually starting. This is the first thing we need to do every single day: prepare the day for success.
My day starts early, around 5-530am, sometimes earlier. Like most people, I would rather stay in bed longer, and despite waking up early for years, I still feel this way! (Though less now than before.) But life is made up of time after all, seconds and minutes that are constantly ticking away, and by waking up early I am able to enjoy more time.
Here’s what I do right after I wake up. It’s a simple routine to prime my spirit, body, and mind for the day:
1. Prepare spiritually through daily devotions and morning quiet time.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. – Matthew 6:33
When I wake up, I move to my study to read the Bible and pray. I know myself well enough to know that my heart, if left unchecked, falls for all the wrong things. I’m prone to pride, prone to lust, prone to greed, prone to anger, and impatience, worry, and to many other evil things. Starting the day with a reminder of God’s worth reminds me to be humble, that my purpose is to glorify Him. Remembering His love for me, encourages me to dream big. Basking in His grace empowers me to work harder to do the good works He has prepared in advance that bring Him glory.
2. Prepare physically through exercise
When you exercise, you increase blood flow across the tissues in your body. Blood flow improves because exercise stimulates the blood vessels to create a powerful, flow-regulating molecule called nitric oxide. As the flow improves, the body makes new blood vessels, which penetrate deeper and deeper into the tissues of the body. This allows more access to the bloodstream’s goods and services, which include food distribution and waste disposal. The more you exercise, the more tissues you can feed and the more toxic waste you can remove. This happens all over the body. That’s why exercise improves the performance of most human functions. – John Medina, Brain Rules
That excerpt explains it all. When we exercise, and it doesn’t have to be long, we trigger processes that improve health. Because I have a full schedule, I limit my daily exercise to 30 minutes to 1 hour a day. On weekends, I’ll try to stay active more but nothing extreme like I used to. My daily workout consists of the following: Kettle Bell Swings, Push-Ups, and Pull-Ups, sometimes, crunches, all done at home right after devotions.
3. Prepare mentally by reviewing the day’s priorities, schedule, and desired outcomes.
“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
– Benjamin Franklin
After working out, I have a quick shower and get ready for work. On the way to work, I review the priorities of the day, meaning I stay mindful of what has to happen today. This helps me stay focused on the important things even as my day hits the inevitable distractions. To do this, I have to list down my priorities the night before. This helps because it gives me time to internalize and “sleep on things”.
After that, I review my schedule, making adjustments where needed and taking mental notes as I do. For example, if I find that I have a meeting somewhere far, I make a note to leave early to avoid being late. It’s a simple practice and I really wish more people applied more foresight to avoid the Filipino sickness of being late.
Finally, as I go through my priorities and schedule, I think about each activity’s desired outcome and remind myself of the “why” behind each activity. There are many activities in my day that I actually don’t enjoy, many challenges I would rather put-off, but keeping purpose front and center helps me muster the will not to procrastinate. It also helps to keep a picture of my desired outcome in mind to motivate me to be excellent. Sometimes it’s more immediate, like seeing my girlfriend, Yasmin. Sometimes it take more imagination, and I picture the vacation or the renovations I’m planning. Whatever it is, I remind myself that the hard work is adding up to something amazing.
Hope that my simple practices inspire you to develop your own and stick to them!