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The first hour of your day matters. A lot.

This is true for everyone regardless of their chronotype (the way you are hard-wired to sleep). Some people love to wake up early and drink coffee while they watch the sunrise (that is me). Others get their best sleep in those early morning hours. Regardless of what time of day represents morning to you, what you do when you wake up is critical for having a successful day.

A successful day is not something that mysteriously happens. It is the result of the choices you make. Smart choices lead to successful outcomes. In his book, The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM), author and success coach Hal Elrod states,

“Every day we wake up and face the same universal challenge to overcome mediocrity and to live to our full potential.”

The author claims that we reach our full potential by being intentional about how we use our time…especially in the morning. The book makes bold promises to help a person accomplish more, lower stress, and live a healthier and happier life. It is a message that resonates with people who feel overwhelmed and unproductive.

How It Works

The concept is simple. Block one hour every morning that is devoted to personal development. Based on this premise, Elrod created the Miracle Morning routine – a series of six practices combined into a daily morning routine. Each one of the habits associated with the Miracle Morning are productive on their own. However, combined together and practiced every morning, they have the power to transform your life.

The Miracle Morning routine was created to help you realize your full potential. When your daily practice is aligned with your deepest beliefs and highest priorities, it results in a powerful transformation. As the name suggests, it feels like a miracle.

Why It Works

The Miracle Morning is built upon three imperatives. These are foundational beliefs that power the program. The six practices of the miracle morning answer the question “How does it work?” The three imperatives answer the question, “Why does it work?” These are the beliefs that motivate the actions.

  1. Believe in yourself. You are worthy and capable of creating an extraordinary and successful life.
  2. Focus on personal development.  You must dedicate time each day to becoming the person you need to be to live the life you want.
  3. Success starts in the morning. Successful mornings lead to successful days…which leads to a successful life.

The Miracle Morning Routine

A routine is something that you repeat regularly. If you brush your teeth every night before you go to bed, that is a routine. If you drink a cup of coffee every morning, that is a routine. Sometimes a routine is series of actions that you follow called a ritual. These routines / rituals are embedded in our lives every day. Sometimes they happen without us even realizing it. Ask yourself, “What are some actions I take every day?” Your answer will reveal your existing routines. The Miracle Morning captures the power of the routine and focuses it towards your desired future. Optimize your routine for a successful morning, and you will win the day.

Professional athletes understand this.

Case Study: Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps is the most decorated athlete in the history of the Olympic games with 28 medals. He also holds the record for the most Olympic Gold Medals with 23. His list of accomplishments is extensive, including numerous world records. One of his critical success factors was his routine. In the book, Beneath the Surface: My Story, Phelps explains:

I followed my routine meticulously: I ate a light oatmeal breakfast, stretched for half an hour exactly two hours before the race, did 35 minutes of drills and light swimming, relaxed up to half an hour before the event, put on the racing suit, took a light swim ten minutes before and then got on the blocks to race.

The routine is not distinct from the competition. It is part of it. Winning the race did not start when he stepped onto the blocks. It started with his pre-competition ritual.

Our routines are part of our personal development. The Miracle Morning leverages the power of routine through a concept known as habit stacking. There is a lot of science to support it, but the idea is that you combine behaviors that you would like to repeat (habits). One habit can trigger the other, and each one reinforces the other. It can have dramatic positive effects over time. If you would like to go deeper into the theme of habit stacking, we highly recommend, Atomic Habits, by author James Clear.

The Six Practices of the Miracle Morning

Let’s take a closer look at the Miracle Morning routine. Elrod uses the acronym Life S.A.V.E.R.S. to explain the six habits.

  1. Silence
  2. Affirmations
  3. Visualization
  4. Exercise
  5. Reading
  6. Scribing (Journaling)

1. Silence

The idea of sitting in silence might not seem productive at first. However, consider how the convenience of technology has changed this generation. Many people begin each day looking at their phones. Email and social media can consume your morning without respect for your goals or priorities. In fact, too much input might actually cause you to start your day stressed and work against your productivity.

In contrast, a few minutes of sitting in silence can help quiet your mind and reduce your stress. For those who practice meditation, there are some great resources available. Two very popular applications are Headspace and Calm. I have tried both, and they are both excellent choices. For beginners I recommend the Breathing App or Unwind.

Pro Tip: Download a meditation app

  • Download a meditation app on your phone
  • Record your mood each morning to see how it changes over time
  • Recognize if you feel more positive and calm

2. Affirmations

According to an article published by Positive Psychology, affirmations are positive phrases or statements used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts. The science that supports positive affirmations is based on widely accepted and well-established psychological theory.

A negative thought is usually based on a limiting belief. For example, if you believe, “I can never accomplish that big goal,” then your belief is what is affecting your thoughts and behavior. A positive affirmation is something that is based on facts and truth. It is a way to confront the limiting belief and replace it. When a limiting belief is exposed, then it can be changed. In time your positive affirmation will enable you to overcome the limitations.

A great example of how this works is the highly successful cartoonist, Scott Adams. Scott is the creator of the Dilbert comic strip. In his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, he states,

“I bought some art supplies, practiced drawing every morning before work, and wrote my affirmation fifteen times a day: ‘I, Scott Adams, will be a famous cartoonist.’”

Scott used the power of affirmations to move his life in the direction of his desired future.

Pro Tip: Maintain a list of positive affirmations

  • Keep a list of positive affirmations for different areas of your life
  • Continue adding to this list as you gain inspiration

3. Visualization

Visualization is using your imagination to create a mental picture for something you want to be true in your life. You can imagine yourself finishing all of tasks for one day, getting a promotion on your job, or accomplishing one your big goals in life. Visualization is a technique that allows you to motivate yourself and build confidence to live your best life.

Olympic Gold Medal Winning swimmer, Missy Franklin says, “When I get there, I’ve already pictured what’s going to happen a million times so I don’t actually have to think about it.” Grammy Award Winning Musician, Jay-Z said something similar, “I couldn’t even think about wanting to be something else. I wouldn’t let myself visualize another life.”

In your mind, you imagine who you need to be and what you need to do to be successful.

Pro Tip: Create a vision board.

  • Use something like a bulletin board to display inspiring words and images
  • If you prefer digital, there are many apps that are ideal for vision boards.
  • Read this article on Motivation Pages

4. Exercise

Research conducted by Harvard Medical School shows that regular exercise improves thinking skills. It actually changes the brain. Exercise done in the morning can also increase your energy level throughout the day. The benefits are too numerous to mention, but it is something that should be a part of everyone’s Miracle Morning routine.

Don’t be afraid. You don’t have to run a half-marathon before breakfast to get the benefit. Taking a walk, stretching, yoga, or simple body weight exercises can do the trick. You get the heart pumping and the blood flowing before you begin your day.

Pro Tip: Prepare the night before

  • Decide in advance what you will do to exercise
  • Lay out your exercise clothes before you go to bed

5. Reading

An article published by Healthline about the benefits of reading says that “reading books benefits both your physical and mental health, and those benefits can last a lifetime.” It literally strengthens your brain. Elrod recommends a rhythm of 10 pages per day. If you do the math it works out to approximately 18 two hundred page books per year. If you choose self-help books, you will make a huge investment in your personal growth.

Pro Tip: Remove the friction from reading

  • Choose the format that works best for you: physical books, digital e-reader (like Kindle), or audio books.
  • Choose books that interest you. Read for both pleasure and knowledge.

6. Scribing (journaling)

Scribing simply means writing. It can be done with pen and paper or in some digital format on your phone or computer. Regardless of the medium that you choose, there are numerous benefits from writing down your thoughts. There is an enormous amount of clarity that comes from expressing your thoughts in words. It is a process of self-discovery and personal growth. A journal is a place to dream, to create, to plan, to record, and to remember. It is becomes invaluable in any kind of review process. Even if you remember some fact, the journal entry can help you recall details (even emotions) that would otherwise have been lost.

Pro Tip: Create prompts for your writing

  • If you use paper, place in a visible location with a pen (ready to write)
  • If you use an app, set a writing reminder on your phone.
  • Consider using a template that includes writing prompts that can help you overcome early morning writer’s block

Sample Miracle Morning routine – 1 hour

Here is an example of a basic Miracle Morning routine.

  1. Silence (5 minutes)
  2. Affirmations (5 minutes)
  3. Visualization (5 minutes)
  4. Scribing (5 minutes)
  5. Reading ( 20 minutes)
  6. Exercise (20 minutes)

The Miracle Morning is designed to be 100% customizable. The right version for you is the version that fits your lifestyle and helps you accomplish your goals. You can reorder the sequence, increase or decrease the duration, add or delete. The goal is to find the routine and rhythm that works for you in this season of your life.

Next Steps

  • From the six practices of the Miracle Morning, choose one as a place to start building a habit.
  • Plan to wake up a few minutes early tomorrow, and start your first Miracle Morning.

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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