The Morning Routine and Growth Mindset

As someone who wakes up at 4am on weekdays, 5am on weekends, and follows a flexible yet planned morning routine, I can attest to its power. It gets me focused on the day ahead, enables me to feel productive when the day ends, and keeps me centered throughout the week.

Although I've been a "morning person" my entire life, I've been doing some variation of my current routine for the past six years. It began at the start of Junto when we adopted an emotional intelligence skill in our program that has evolved over the years. The skill is designed to improve our self-awareness and self-management by doing several things early in one's day:

  • think about what we're grateful for upon waking up

  • engage in movement or exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes, and

  • complete the hardest thing we have planned for the day first.

Over the years, many JuntoAlumni have used this skill practice to cultivate their own morning routine, and some have become legends in our community for their dedication. One alumnus is going on five years straight of the movement/exercise step. Another is going on two years of the same. Yet another developed a journaling habit that is going for two years, and has spread to her entire team and many friends and family. And many have said they continue accomplishing their hardest task first.

What I've learned from my experience and these first-hand stories and observations - as well as countless self-improvement gurus, podcast hosts, and self-proclaimed morning people - is that morning routines are typical of those who have a growth mindset. They internalize the adage, "seize the day," in a way that many of don't or can't.

The elements of their routine are all designed to help them become a better person: physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. They're not simply "getting to work" or getting a "head start" on the day. Their routine boosts their dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and/or endorphin levels. Whatever their routine consists of seeps into their subconscious to affect their mindset, outlook, and attitude. And all of that helps lead to more productive days, more fulfilling experiences, and better interactions with the world.

Once they start building a routine, they begin seeing the benefits. That turns into a daily routine and ultimately a virtuous habit that becomes an essential part of that person's life and lifestyle, much like our favorite meal of the day, how we greet family members upon returning home, etc.

Personally, I don't know how long it takes for someone to cultivate this type of routine or habit. I haven't yet concluded if it's one month, 90 days, 10,000 hours, or something in between. It doesn't matter. In my experience, true growth-oriented people don't get hung up on the data or any minimum requirements. They just do things, and keep working to make them a better person.

Finally, it's important to note that I don't believe you must have a morning routine (or even be a morning person) to be growth-oriented. However, I do believe that everyone who has a morning routine has a growth mindset.

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A Personal Note:

When people hear that I wake up at 4am during the week, there's often a look of horror, followed by the question, "What do you do?".

My morning routine typically lasts until 7:30am. It's not highly structured with dedicated times for specific items. Instead, it's a period during which I allow myself to do various things, a few of which are consistent. I've found that this flexibility and variability are important to me: I like variety, get bored with black-and-white routine, and enjoy experimenting and iterating.

So, in no particular order, here is the list from which I choose every morning, sometimes in advance and other times on the fly (* marks those that I do almost every day):

  • Make tea*: I prefer the green stuff

  • Listen*: instrumental music or nature sounds to engage my senses

  • Meditate*: anywhere from 10-30 minutes, depending on how I'm feeling that morning

  • Eat breakfast*: usually 20-30 minutes; I make a big breakfast, ensure it's healthy, and eat while standing at our breakfast bar

  • Plan*: what I want to accomplish that day, and perhaps that week (I also update the week during the week)

  • Move or exercise*: stretch, do yoga, or complete a full workout (in good weather, bicycle to work)

  • Make coffee*: and drink it when I start getting down to work

  • Write: my best mornings are when I devote 30-60 minutes to journaling or blogging

  • Read: something that is growth-oriented, personally or professionally, and typically non-fiction

  • Be: just sit for 10-30 minutes, with no specific purpose, and reflect or think 

The second question is almost always, "What time do you go to bed?" My answer: 8:30-9pm.