I was in London yesterday. Far away from the events of Parliament square but close enough to see the change in people. I got the sense of admiration for our police officers and medical professionals, I got the sense of admiration for our politicians showing some rare grace under pressure, and I got the sense that London is united and defiant.
So all of that was enough to get me thinking about my own values, mainly because when I look at them every morning it feels like they are really important, and then an event like yesterday brings it home to me that many many other people share those values and we’re all trying to do better every day.
But values are the kind of thing that don’t come easily. It’s hard to work out what they are, and it’s hard to stay mindful of them – it’s easy to get swept along by chatter, and by busyness and by the pressure to fit in.
For me, the very first thing that I do in the morning – OK, after putting the coffee on – is to just remind my brain of what I am all about. It’s half meditation, half pep talk, and half basic instructions to get my brain to start the day.
I started this habit because I realised that when I’d had a really good day, getting stuff done, thinking about what was important and generally enjoying life, I’d go to bed with a really crisp and clear idea of my place in the world, my purpose and what life was all about. But then the following morning, I’d wake up and all I could remember was where the coffee was, and sometimes I even needed help with that. I needed a way for my sorted thoughtful brain to communicate with the very different fog-filled coffee-deprived brain that it became eight hours later, so that’s when I started working on a morning mantra.
It has changed a lot, but and I review it every few months, I’ve done it as a written list, a keynote document (think picture book rather than corporate presentation) and even a video but one thing that I have found common to all of those is that it always tends to contain the following six things. Sometimes these are so short they’re covered in a comment of phrase, sometimes a whole page, but they’re always there one way or another. I share them in the hope that you might find some value in starting your day this way.
- Statement of Values. This is a reminder of who I am. Through the day I am assaulted by the world – tempted this way and that – so reminding myself of my values first thing helps me to avoid getting to the end of the day and thinking “why did I do THAT?!”
- Statement of Purpose. This sounds like a corporate mission statement, but it’s not. For me being my best self, being healthy, wealthy and wise have a very specific look and feel, and I guess they might for you too. Stating this purpose at the start of each day reminds me of where I’m heading.
- Statement of Why. The purpose is great, but when things get tough it is tempting to settle for a limited win or even defeat and hope to fight another day. For me, the question of “why?” gets me back on track when things get tough and I am tempted to slack off (for a good example see the link at the bottom)
- Some inspiration. I’m not a poet or a great writer, but I value those who are, and they can really help me to start the day. For me nothing beats Kipling’s “If”, and I have a lovely audio reading of this by Michael Caine which never fails to help me feel stronger in the morning.
- Statement of Objectives. Enough of this value feel-good stuff. I need specifics, so reminding myself of where I need to get to this quarter is great for getting some perspective. I find that a quarterly objective is great for this – far enough away to get some serious progress, but close enough that you can’t leave it until later, so reminding myself of these deadlines and milestones to hit always motivates.
- Clear instructions. Finally, I need to break it down. My brain is still woozy no matter how good this pep talk is, and I need some clear instructions on what I have to do next to get going. For me, I always get going with some exercise first thing when I can because that seems to get the blood flowing to my brain, and then get into my daily routine which delivers what I need when I follow it correctly. This reminder gets me started.
For me the format doesn’t matter, audio and video are great, but the simplicity of just reading something means that I can always make that work, so I have a written version in the back of my daily journal which is always reliable.
I don’t know how I’d respond to someone running at me with a knife. I’d like to think that the protection of others and the need to eliminate danger would be enough for me to act appropriately. Like most people I hope that I will never be put in that position and am ever grateful for those who run towards danger on our behalf. I think I can learn a lot from your their values.
So how do you start your day? Do you have a morning mantra or something that really gets you kick-started? Please do share below!
What’s your why? Youtube Video