Have you ever thrown stones in a lake? For some reason it seems to be one of the greatest joys of boyhood. One of the many things I love doing with my boys is going hiking at local parks. Inevitably, when we come to the edge of a lake, pond, or river, they begin passionately looking for stashes of stones in the ground that they can throw into the water. A competition ensues to see who is able to throw a stone the furthest or who can skip a rock the most times. But have you ever watched what happens after the stone lands in the water? Of course you know that it creates ripples in the water that gradually expand out from the point at which the stone first entered the surface of the water. But have you ever stopped to take a moment to watch it? The ripples, even from a small stone, carry on and effect the water surprisingly far away from the point of entrance of the stone. There is much we can learn about that concept when we apply it to our life. Our lives are made up of a collection of small decisions which create ripple effects upon the lake of our entire life. One of these small daily decisions that has huge impacts on whether we are making progress toward our life goals or moving backwards away from our goals is how we handle our bedtime routine.
Of course, I am assuming you are already on a path of living on purpose or living with what I have called inspired resolve. This means you have written down your life purpose and have written some lofty life goals for yourself which are directly connected to your life purpose. If you have not done that yet, then it won’t really matter to you one way or another whether you have a productive bedtime routine or not. And your bedtime routine will also depend on if you are single, married, living with a roommate, have children or not, etc. But make no mistake, we can trace the ripples that are created by our bedtime routines.
I have done a lot of reading about what makes successful people stand out from those who have no direction or are unsuccessful. There are many things that make them stand out, one of the most important being how they spend their early mornings. Successful people see their mornings as invaluable parts of their day. Intentionally living the early morning part of your day is critical to living your life with inspired resolve and growing towards accomplishing your life goals.
Imagine going through your life always sleeping in until the last possible minute before you have to get up to get somewhere on time. For some of you, you don’t have to imagine. You start your day out stressed, hurried, eating an unhealthy breakfast if you eat one at all. You are speeding to get to work or school, trying to see how many traffic laws you can come close to breaking without getting pulled over. You are wearing a wrinkled shirt because you had no time to iron. You are playing catch up with every aspect of your day from the moment you awake. Sounds unpleasant right?
Now imagine you wake up early, let’s say 5:00 am for the purpose of this conversation. You have a rigidly structured morning routine which includes a time of prayer and inspirational reading, stretching, exercise, reviewing your plans and goals for the day, and giving yourself plenty of time to begin your work. As you sit in the quietness of the early morning before other members of the home have awaken, you hear the birds begin to chirp while you read and drink your coffee. You get ready with plenty of time to spare. You leave for work with plenty of time to be a few minutes early. You are calm, already feel productive for the day, and feel physically and emotionally refreshed and confident as you set out to live your day with inspired resolve.
Which type of day would you like to live? I assume you said the second one, the one where you awoke early and were productive.
Let me ask you another question: What is your normal bedtime routine? Do you have a set bedtime for yourself or do you go to bed when you are just too tired to stay awake any longer. Do you watch tv or movies in bed? Do you stay awake late into the night? Remember you most likely already acknowledged the fact that you would like to live a life of inspired resolve, awaking early every morning with purpose and intention.
The way we spend our mornings creates ripples throughout our entire day, and then those days turn into weeks, months, years, and a lifetime. The way you wake up each morning is directly related to whether you are living your life accomplishing your goals and, ultimately, your purpose in life.
If you, like me, see the value of starting each day early and living on purpose, you need to realize that it requires you to have an equally intentional and purposeful bedtime routine the night before. Something that my wife and I got into the bad habit of doing is going to bed every night with a digital device and watching our favorite shows on Netflix until we couldn’t stay awake any longer. This became very harmful to our relationship and to our overall life. We both found it very difficult to get up in the morning even though we both wanted to live our early mornings with inspired resolve. We have decided to commit to no longer ending our day this way.
My new routine is to sit down some time in the late afternoon or early evening (before I am too tired) and review what I accomplished that day and what I want to accomplish the next day. I then write out my agenda for the next day with all the tasks I want to finish carefully planned out. I have a very strict bedtime of 10pm so that I can be sure to wake up at 4:15am, my desired wake up time. Some days I am not faithful at this routine, but I am growing. I review my goals every night as a reminder about why I want to do this so that when the temptation comes to break this routine, I am able to remember what inspires me.
Just like my boys and I throwing stones in a lake and creating ripples that effect the water far away from where the stone fell in, we are constantly making ripples in our life with our daily choices. It is entirely up to you how you want your life to go. You just have to realize that the ripples you are living in today are a direct result of the stones you threw days, weeks, months, and years ago. And if you don’t like how your life is going today, then maybe you should begin to start throwing different kinds of stones in new places in your life. The ripples always come, but you get to dictate where and how.