My middle-class baby boomer life went off a cliff in 2003 when I was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Recovery brought a ‘second chance’ and the usual question arose…
“What would I do differently?”
Many personal bests followed. I wrote a best seller, deepened a forty-year (happy) marriage into the type of relationship dreams are made of, restored my health to its peak, made more time for fun and friends, expanded my business, made long term investments and created deep, lasting happiness.
Like most Westerners, I tried to be, do and have more in an attempt to quiet the growing but persistent sense that something was missing. I was extremely happy doing work I loved, but I knew I wasn’t fulfilled.
Strangely, I knew some larger lesson needed to be learned, but I didn’t know what it was that I didn’t know. I concluded that I would need to look within to find this piece of knowledge.
The slow dawning that I needed to look inward turned into an urgent yearning as I also realised that I wanted to move away from our beloved farm, our home of 25 years. This was not an easy decision. We had specifically chosen to raise our kids there and Mary had her roots deep in the ground.
So we decided to keep the farm (where our kids are now breeding horses) and moved to the coast to see if life lived in two locations could deliver for us all.
Why such upheaval?
I had wanted to get up at dawn and be monk-like for as long as I could remember. I’d made more than a few valiant efforts at it.
Twenty-five years ago while building our house, we spent 18 months living in a caravan with no water or electricity. I loved getting up with the sun, working ridiculously hard building and then falling into bed exhausted not long after dark. I thought that 18 months would convert me into a person who was more daylight oriented, but it failed to produce lasting change.
As a consequence of knowing that I wanted to change my entire personal routine, Mary and I concluded that it was worth a move. At the same time, I wanted to migrate to Queensland to live closer to my best friends and family and perhaps enjoy the warmer weather. Eventually, the decision made itself for us when the perfect home on a magical waterfront materialised.
And so I achieved my first goal - I now get up with the sun every day. It isn’t that difficult in Queensland. The sun lights up my face like an amusement park when it rises. The joy for me is that I’m awake without an alarm clock.
I have yet to read a story about a highly successful person who got up late.
The reason I rise early is that I have yet to read a story about a highly successful person who got up late. I knew that getting up early was critical to my well-being but at 63, I had not been able to pull it off. Now, I have an environment that supports the process I want to undertake.
What process is that?
To return within. To become introspective enough to find the great teacher and set him free. To spend many hours finding genuine wisdom and bring it forth. To create a rich and rewarding inner life. To face challenges that would extend me beyond my perceived limits but mostly…
To go into the unknown.
That's worth moving 10,000 kilometres for, let alone the 1,000 we did.
So, what exactly do I do now?
For want of a better description, I’ve created what I call a personal success routine. I’ve come to realise nobody gets on top of life without one.
Either the circumstances of life impact on you or you impact on the circumstances.
It revolves around this simple, but little used, concept: either the circumstances of life impact on you or you impact on the circumstances. End of story.
Right now I'm going to outline my routine, not because I'm recommending it but so you can see the reasons behind it. That makes it possible for you to create on your own.
Your success routine is the Holy Grail of self-actualisation.
My Personal Success Routine
These days, I'm up between 5:00 - 5:30 am. I’m immediately off to the gym or onto my stand up paddleboard. I go as hard as I can for about 60-90 minutes. When I get back I dive into the pool, which I keep as cold as I can for cooling off purposes. I find the shock invigorating.
Next, I meditate because it’s likely I’m still sweating so there’s no point in a shower at this juncture. The meditation and time being still allow my body to continue to cool down. Meditation takes place out on the balcony because it’s one of my favourite places.
Step three is what I call my spiritual reading. This is reading that is inspirational, thought-provoking and character moulding. Typically it’s works like the Tao Te Ching, Course In Miracles, and sometimes even the Bible or Koran. They are about living a spiritual life.
During this stage of the morning, I just immerse myself in the deepest material I can find because I know it’s setting up the channel my mind will run along for the rest of the day. The purpose is to awaken my inner self, so to speak.
By this time, I'll have spent more than a couple of hours in silence and solitude. I haven't spoken to another human being except to say goodbye to Mary in the morning when I head out. The silence continues as I head off to the shower at the end of 15 minutes of reading.
All up, that’s close to three hours.
Where would you be in a year if you spent three hours a day, five days a week on yourself? I’m in the best place I’ve ever been if that’s any encouragement.
Where would you be in a year if you spent three hours a day, five days a week on yourself?
We get breakfast ready and then eat together on the balcony overlooking the water. The rules for breakfast are pretty simple. No screens, no business, no distractions and no rushing the event. It marks a turning point in the day, so we take the time to be present with each other and the environment.
After coffee, we have a business strategy meeting. We spend time getting a helicopter view of the business and the things that we want to achieve today. It's focused on today because we've made our plans for the year (and even the month) a long time ago. We're just getting up to date, seeing who's doing what and how we can assist each other. The real idea is to keep ourselves out of the weeds (details).
Practically speaking, we very often grab a big piece of butcher's paper and do something of a brainstorming nature together about the next step in the business. What needs to be produced, created, filmed or written gets mapped out. We do that together as a team because many minds are better.
This first business activity is critical to our success. It keeps us focused on business building and development as the single most important of all entrepreneurial related activities we could undertake. It also reinforces the helicopter view and allows us to modify our plans as we move forward.
We limit this time to half an hour (sometimes less) because we have discovered it’s important to keep it fun. It takes discipline and commitment to keep things moving quickly so that we don’t get bogged down in details.
Finally, I go off to work on the business. I specifically say 'on' the business because there's a massive difference between working 'in' it as an operative and working 'on' it as an owner.
Now is the time to implement our plans as if our lives depended on them. For that reason we delay actions with clients, answering emails, finances, tax, compliance, education or anything we could consider product delivery until after lunch.
That’s two and a half to three hours of doing things that will have a fundamental impact on the business in an enormously positive way.
After lunch (no screens, no business talk, no rush) we get on with delivery. This is when emails are answered, client sessions are run and phone calls are made.
We have until about 4:30 pm because that’s when the office dog starts dropping his ball at our feet, hinting that it’s time to take him to the park and play fetch. It’s important that we go - the break is critical to mental health and continued high levels of productivity. Our return from the park initiates dinner preparations, which we have found work best when shared.
Eighty per cent of my day is spent on revitalising, renewing and refreshing myself and my chosen work. It is its own reward. My clients get the best of me because I’m not distracted, tired or overworked despite my often prodigious output.
So, what is the result of the routine outlined above?
I am fulfilled, satisfied, enriched and at peace. My life is full of love. I’m happy, but that happiness runs extraordinarily deep because I’m connected with my spirit.
Unfortunately, the tool we all need to get to this wonderful place of fulfilment is something most people struggle with - discipline. Discipline supports us - freedom, inner peace and great motivation come from having it. Most people think it’s the opposite.
For me, the discipline to implement the routine I described above has created an awakening where the teacher deep within me has opened up and started instructing me profoundly, quickly and with massive breakthroughs.
Don’t get me wrong here - I don't mean voices in my head. Rather, the long periods of silence followed by creativity have resulted in pieces of insight that turn up as an “ah-ha” moment without preparation or preamble.
Discipline supports us - freedom, inner peace and great motivation come from having it.
What exactly does this mean for you?
I’m suggesting that to succeed, you need to get your version of a personal success routine in place. I know not everyone can manage three hours every morning and that’s fine, you don’t have to. Even if you can only spare thirty minutes a day, it’s still critically important you design and implement your version of this routine.
To succeed, you need to get your version of a personal success routine in place.
I’ve used my routine as an example to illustrate the concept of a personal success routine, so it’s specific in terms of what works for me. Therefore it’s likely yours will be a bit different.
If you have a look, you’ll notice the routine I described above can be broken into two sections - the first, where I seek space and the second, where I seek connection.
Here are the key ingredients you need to include in your version…
PERSONAL SUCCESS ROUTINE
The Key Space Ingredients:
- Get up early
Of those five things, the most important are to get up early, get some space and be introspective. Exercise is a wonderful ingredient to add if you can, but if you’re short on time the others are the place to start. Depending on your personality, you may be able to exercise and be introspective at the same time, as I do.
The Key Connection Ingredients:
- Helicopter View
Here, the critical parts are connecting with loved ones and getting a helicopter or ‘big picture view of the day/week. The brainstorming and creative elements may be different for you depending on the nature of your work. However, if your day includes anything creative, I encourage you to put those activities right at the start!
That’s it in a nutshell.
It may be a simple tool, but it’s startlingly effective when implemented consistently.
I cannot recommend the use of a personal success routine highly enough. It may be a simple tool, but it’s startlingly effective when implemented consistently.
Perhaps it will suffice to say that despite thirty years as both a teacher and student of personal development, it is only the recent switch to the routine described above that has seen me deeply and consistently happy, energised, fulfilled and at peace.
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