Lemon water? No phone? A healthy breakfast? Good lord, no. I’m the world’s happiest failure when it comes to the morning habits of ‘successful’ people.
In 7 Things Wildly Successful People Do Before 7:30 a.m. published on Forbes, writer Travis Bradberry plots out the early morning habits of the wildly successful. No offense to Bradberry, who admits to his preference for setting his daily goals after his mindfulness practice before daybreak – but I just can’t take it anymore. So much advice by so many writers on the habits adopted by the successful (or the happy, or the likeable, or insert-coveted-adjective-du-jour here).
The truth is, I do everything wrong in the morning; and yet, I consider myself wildly successful! Granted, I measure success in terms of love and happiness and a life fully lived, but still. I feel like there is a general disingenuousness about these kinds of articles; a successful person might drink lemon water in the morning, but drinking lemon water in the morning does not make a person successful.
According to Bradberry, these are the things that the wildly successful do before 7:30 a.m., followed by my thoughts on said things.
1. "They drink lemon water."
Why would I want lemon water first thing in the morning when I can have a beautiful cup of hot coffee with honey and half-and-half? I revel in the ritual of grinding the beans, putting them in the stove-top moka pot and smelling those first whiffs of brewing coffee while listening to the birds sing outside. And I know that honey and cream may be indulgent, but I eat healthily all day – mostly plant-based, minimal added sugar – and nothing puts me in a better mood first thing in the morning than that first sip of sweet, creamy delicious coffee.
I tried lemon water, I wanted to be wildly successful! I never liked it, I never looked forward to it. In fact, I dreaded the morning … all I wanted was my coffee. Starting the day off with unfulfilled longing is a stupid way to spend a precious morning.
2. "They exercise."
Okay, I do exercise in the morning, but it’s only because I’m a runner and my high season for running is in the summer and I don’t like running when it’s hot. So chalk it up to comfort. People don’t have to exercise before 7:30 a.m. to be successful, you can exercise whenever you want. The most important thing about exercise is exercise.
3. "They disconnect."
You know what I love to do in the morning before I get up to not drink lemon water? I lie in bed and pick up my phone and skim over social media and my email. I can see the wonderful photos that have magically flown into my phone from my photographer friends around the world while I was sleeping and I can see if there was any Earth-shattering news I should know about. I can make sure I don’t have any early a.m. plans I have forgotten and I can make sure there were no catastrophes overnight at work.
Connecting, rather than staying disconnected, promises some peace of mind while I indulge in my caloric coffee.
4. "They eat a healthy breakfast."
I never liked eating breakfast, and I doubt I ever will. I’m not hungry for a few hours after waking up and forcing it makes me feel gross and groggy. Most of the early studies saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day were sponsored by cereal companies, and there is no conclusive contemporary evidence saying that breakfast should be mandatory.
If eating breakfast makes you feel good, then do it! And try to make it as healthy as possible. But breakfast is not a one-size-fits-all affair and if you don't eat breakfast, that can be fine too. Wildly successful people should be smart enough to listen to their bodies, not unconfirmed science and cultural myth. (I rant and justify a bit more here: Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?)
5. "They practice mindfulness."
While I’m happy that wildly successful people manage some mindfulness before 7:30 a.m., I would never make that my goal. I love practicing mindfulness all day long – when I spend time with my daughters, when I run, when I cook, when I eat, when I walk down the street. Why would anyone want to fence it off into a small part of the day?
6. "They set goals for the day."
Bradberry notes that Benjamin Franklin would wake up at 4:00 a.m. to meticulously piece together a schedule, writing, “There’s a clear message to take from Franklin’s habit: prudent goal setting pays dividends.” While I’m sure this is an effective strategy for some, it makes me feel claustrophobic. I strive to do my best everyday – be my happiest, kindest, most mindful, most creative and most productive. Some days I’m a dynamo, some days I’m a slug. Some days I have had enough sleep and have no surprise interruptions, others days I’m tired and unexpected things come up. Some days I far exceed any list of goals I could have planned, other days I would fail that list miserably.
Approaching each day with “going to do the best I can today” takes into consideration real life and allows me to go with the flow rather than conform to a meticulously pieced-together schedule. And by the end of the week I have always accomplished everything I needed to.
7. "They say no."
What do they say no to before 7:30 in the morning? Quite frankly, the morning is when I want to say yes. I want my mornings to be full of openness and possibility, not a succession of closing (metaphorical) doors. The morning is home time with pretty light pouring in the windows and the sweet hum of kids getting ready for school; it is the time that sets the tone for the whole day – peppering it with “no”s, to be honest, sounds like the worst thing in the world. Unless it’s saying no to breakfast being foisted upon me, that is.
In the end I know I’m opening myself up here to the people who love their lemon water, etc. And seriously, more power to them! My point is that people need to be given more permission and encouragement to do what works for them and what makes them feel good (within reason, of course, and keeping health and moderation in mind). In my experience, the most successful people are the ones who are comfortable in their own skin and have the courage to find a way to live a life that makes them happy. If aspirational lists give someone needed structure, than great, but if not, just as great! And I know there are people in situations fraught with difficulty, but especially for people who live with challenges, wild success is not going to come from lemon water before 7:30 a.m.
Feel free to leave a comment, I'll make sure to read them from my phone in bed in the morning.