21 Days of Early Rising

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I’m not sure that’s true, but the number 21 has a nice ring to it. I was driving home to Gilroy as I thought of all the great habits I wanted to start; I thought about what my life would become if I practiced yoga everyday, if I could make time to read what expanded my mind, if I could perform empathy and kindness with purpose. What would that look like? How could others benefit from this matter of course? Dusk was looming in the rearview; I kept my eyes focused on the road, my stare held captive by loosely held ambitions. I think big. I have a tendency to think beyond the basis of reason, and somehow I’m always pulled back down to a place of rationality. How boring. Though this time I was determined to work with intention. If 21 days formed a habit, and I had a handful of habits I wanted to pursue, how could I put those aspirations into action?

I called on the help of friends. I asked each of them to join me for a 21 Day Challenge of their choice. Whether it was 21 days of cooking, no social media, gratefulness, or family…. I gave them a few ideas but ultimately let each person decide what they really wanted to pursue. The feedback was infectious. I was excited to work with women who were serious about making healthy changes for the pursuit of a more wholesome lifestyle. We began on the same day, pursuing different challenges, and ended the 21 days together. A fun project, and truly a joy to oversee.

Here’s how my challenge went:

The idea of 21 Days of Early Rising began with reading an overwhelming sum of blog posts telling me that people who woke up early were more successful than people who didn’t. It seemed to make enough sense... And I did always enjoy the feeling of accomplishing more when I was awake early enough to get more done. In fact, I thrived in the mornings. Waking up with the sun felt peaceful, reflective, and seemed to produce a pace of production I was hard pressed to find elsewhere.

The idea to wake up early for 21 days stemmed from an article I read that listed the times successful people actually wake up. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook wake up at 3:45AM, while Dwayne Johnson is in the gym by 4AM, and Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter and Square, wakes at 5am. The article provided more examples that seemed to further this idea that waking up early meant you had the opportunity to be more successful. Or rather, those who were already successful woke up earlier than those who were not.

I wanted in.  

So, my challenge was simple - I would wake up with the sun every day for 3 weeks.

On the first day I was excited enough I didn’t feel the sting of early morning fatigue. The second and third day were much the same. I began to like the idea of early rising as a custom I could practice for the rest of my life. Though often it seems life produces obstacles we know are unavoidable. At the time I began this challenge, I was also experiencing a world of newness: a new job, a new home, new roommates, and surely exploring my newfound routine. It was overwhelming. The kind of job I have requires working late into the evenings and even on the weekends. With the current schedule my business partner and I have - working early in the mornings is not an option. And ultimately my early rising was compromised by the late evenings that were necessary for the growth of our business. After the first week of diligently fulfilling the intention I had set for myself, I knew something had to give. I needed to work late, and I didn’t want the fact I had to wake up early deter me from finishing what had to be done in the evening. I could not sustain a lifestyle that allowed for only 3-4 hours of sleep. It wasn’t healthy.

I felt discouraged I couldn’t fulfill my pledge to wake up early. It made me feel as though I was choosing to be less productive. I felt like I had let myself down, and somehow the women I had urged to join me would also be disappointed in my lack of completing it’s full course. Though I realized something valuable through my decision to end the challenge:

the time you wake doesn’t matter, as long the moments you are awake are purposeful and determined.

We take on certain challenges in our life, but sometimes we find that our desired outcome may not necessarily be the only meter to measure success. That’s the point of a challenge! We innovate: we realize there are multiple means by which to grow. This doesn’t mean failure, and it doesn’t mean you never take on another challenge, because there is always something important to be learned if we're self aware enough to excavate meaning from the obstacles we face. We all have the same hours in a day… how will we choose to make use of them?

How can each of our waking hours be seen as constructive and valuable?

Here are my tips for you:

  1. Be awake in each moment. Actively remind yourself to be aware of your actions and surroundings.

  2. Visualize triumph as the result of your own capabilities. How are you making use of your time? What are you doing today in order to make tomorrow more beautiful?

  3. Be practical. Your circumstances and your expectations will need to work together. But don’t deceive yourself, either. Sometimes we make excuses for our choices rather than rise to the occasion of our challenge.

  4. Accountability is key. Double check your perceptions with a trusted advisor or friend.

  5. Keep growing. Seek new challenges that lead to new habits.  

I am elated to debut this piece as the first post in the 21 Day series. There will be more stories. More challenges. More testimonies. You will read interesting anecdotes from women pursuing their own sources of discovery.

Interested in starting your own? Let’s chat.

Author: Anna Vatuone | Founder | anna@thesoulcollect.com