I was once obsessed with morning routines. I read all the books written by the business bros on how to hack your time and be your most productive self.
But you know what? They just didn’t work for me.
Pushing myself to workout, meditate, glug a green smoothie, journal, fart and hack a hundred habits before dawn was exhausting. Unsustainable. Frankly, unrealistic.
If you’re not a single white dude with a Prius and 4 million YouTube followers who pay for you to skateboard around with an almond latte all day while doing an hour of “design work”, how can you shape your day your way?
I realised I needed a gentler, more fluid morning routine. So I started watching what the women in wellness were up to. And what I discovered was startling: the way they started their day was similar to the bros.
Up at dawn, meditate, yoga or run, smoothie, journal, set intentions, pumpkin spice latte, work.
It was inspiring. So I gave it a go – because I’ve always dreamed of being that person who can consistently stick to a schedule. I imagined myself waking up fresh-faced and rolling onto my yoga mat. I would give gratitude for simply being alive, while my long limbs contorted gracefully and a gentle breeze billowed the sheer white curtains in my chic loft (I don’t have a loft. Or sheer curtains). Blissed out, I would then open my journal to a crisp blank page and write perfect, publishable prose. Then snap a cute pic for the Gram and go on with my day.
I thought – hoped, longed – that if I did the right things, my mind would do the same. The anxious thoughts of impending doom would be replaced with motivational mantras and an unwavering love of life. The running commentary (conditioning on loop) urging me to work harder, faster, longer would give way to inner peace and soul-led accomplishment.
And yet, it did not.
I realised that the very concept of a morning routine was wrapped up in this deep need to perform, to produce, to perfect. To be seen as a valid and valued person. To prove that my mental struggles didn’t define me – that I could overcome them and be “normal” too. That I could embody the entrepreneurial archetype: one who is free, fulfilled, ever-inspired and inspiring.
So over the past few weeks, I’ve played.
I’m no longer looking to others for the rules and routines to follow. But rather, I let my mind-body lead.
Curled up with a coffee in bed, I open something challenging. Right now, that’s Sister Outsider, a collection of Audre Lorde’s essays and speeches.
Then, I open my laptop and try The Atlantic’s daily crossword.
As the kettle boils for another pot of coffee, I might stretch and do a short routine to reduce the hardening hump at the top of my spine.
I sometimes stare at the dancing kurrajong tree overhanging the balcony. Or respond to a WhatsApp message, sent overnight by an overseas friend.
I took social apps off my phone, which is quieting that urge to document my most private moments and thoughts.
Because this is what my soul craves now: slowing down, warming up, noticing, and remembering there’s a multiverse outside my perception.
This is what my mind wants: confirmation that it can still think, learn, question.
So I guess you could say it’s a shift from a strict routine to an intuitive meandering through the morning. A forgiveness. An opening. An expanding.
An acceptance that the way things are done doesn’t define what’s right for me. Or for you.
And a remembering that at the yawn of the dawn, you get to decide how to guide your body-mind.