- Do you have hobbies and projects you’d like to work on, but it seems like there’s not enough time in the day to accomplish them? Or maybe you have a big dream you’d like to see realized, such as writing and publishing a book, starting a business, mastering a foreign language, building a website from scratch, going on the wildest spring break vacation ever, etc. Or maybe you’re just feel like you’re living through your life, going through the motions every day instead of moving towards something significant.
If any of the above describes you, take a look at this video by Terri Savelle Foy, one of my favorite ministers and life coaches. (No, seriously, watch it. I’ll wait.)
Terri’s philosophy is that great success comes not overnight, but from the small habits and details of our routines that we repeat every day. So my advice for this week is: Show Up Everyday! By that I mean, don’t just wake up to your life, wake up for your life. You can make sure that you’re always waking up for your life and preparing yourself for the thoughts and plans God has for you (Jer. 29:11) by keeping the Rule of 5: having 5 daily disciplines that you stick to, no matter what.
Check out my three tips for showing up everyday:
#1: Show Up Early
This article might easily be called “A Case for Getting Up Early” (in fact, I was this close to naming it that). The truth is, the time when we have the most control over our day is when we wake up in the morning. In the video, Terri also includes the time right before bed as well as the morning…but as a college student, I know that sometimes life just gets so crazy that by the end of the day, we don’t want to do anything but fall into our beds after getting back to our dorms. Also, as the day goes on, more and more people get out of classes, and by dinner time, everyone has pretty much switched over to social mode. Lately, I’ve discovered that I really don’t want to do anything after dinner, at least not my most mentally taxing homework. I’ve decided it’s not worth it to fight against this tendency. So I’ve found that the best time to get things done is in the morning – early in the morning, long before classes start. And by early, I’m talking 6:00, 7:00.
The earlier you get up, the more time you have for yourself – time not dictated by classes, meetings, unexpected events, distracting friends, etc. I promise there’s nothing like the feeling of having the whole campus to yourself, an almost magical peace and quiet settled over everything like a warm blanket. This quiet is a great time to listen to what God has to say to you.
Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking, especially my Yalie classmates who are reading this. “But I always to stay up late to do homework, and I can’t stay up late and get up early!” To this I say: No one I know who consistently stays up to 1 to 2 o’clock in the morning “doing homework” 1. is actually doing homework 100% or even 90% of that time 2. is well-rested and well-adjusted. These are the people who most look like zombies during midterms and finals seasons. Also, if you stay up this late, you have to sleep in. But sleeping in to the point where you just barely make it to class actually exhausts you more, because you’re constantly rushing and stressed out. Often when I make these points to other people, I hear, “But I can’t study in the morning – I have to study at night. It’s how my body works.” I understand that our bodies at this age are wired to stay up late, but you can’t tell me that your brain is functioning at its highest potential at 2:00 AM. Be honest with yourself: Are you really operating in excellence in the middle of the night? Is that paper really your best, A-plus work?
If you really must be awake at this hour, be like my friend Omar who goes to bed super early, then gets up in the wee hours to do homework and takes naps in the afternoon. (Disclaimer: I don’t actually endorse this method, as it requires a really weird sleep pattern, but it is an option and he’s managed pretty well with it so far.)
In short, make life easier for yourself by getting up early and beating the “crowds” – all that stuff like classes, meetings, and study breaks with free food that crowd up your day, leaving no room for your daily disciplines.
- #2: Make it Easy to Show Up
In the video, Terri quotes Joyce Meyer (another one of my favorite ministers) as saying “Don’t let your feelings vote.” This is easier said than done, especially when that alarm starts ringing seemingly only minutes after you closed your eyes. Here are some tips to entice you out of bed and make it easy to start running (1 Cor. 9:24).
- Set out everything you need the night before: exercise clothes, music books and metronome, devotional and Bible, etc. That way you don’t have the “It’s too much effort to find all that stuff” excuse.
- Make it pretty. Invest in a visually pleasing Bible and/or devotional (shereadstruth.com or hereadstruth.com make some pretty stunning devotionals). Decorate your memory verse cards or notebook covers with washi tape (Scotch sells some cute designs). Spring for the stylish workout gear (if you’re on a budget, Target brands work just as well and look just as good as Adidas or Nike). Make a bumping playlist for your workout. (I usually listen to an inspirational message during my workouts.) Get some nice highlighters to mark up your sheet music. In short, take the extra step to make your disciplines a treat, not a chore.
- Get a friend to take this journey with you. You could start with helping each other complete a 21-day challenge, like Terri did. Even better if the friend lives with you, and you can wake each other up. 😉
- Instead of hitting the snooze button, turn on your nightstand light to wake you up. Often I find that it seems impossible to get up right when the alarm sounds, but once I’m actually alert I’m fine.
- If necessary, get one of those alarm clocks that runs away from you. (I’m thinking about getting one of these, actually).
- #3: Give Yourself Grace when You Don’t Show Up
Clearly, nobody’s perfect, and life is complicated. Sometimes, real emergencies happen that throw your whole routine out of whack for a while. More often, sometimes we just have especially taxing weeks and just want to hit snooze all morning long. I’ll be honest. Even though one of my disciplines is simply to get up no later than 6:00 every weekday, sometimes it happens…and sometimes it’s more like 6:30. Or 7:00. Or 8:00…I’ll stop there. The point is, God didn’t make us to be robots, which is what’s great about being human. He also doesn’t expect us to do everything “right” (which can mean different things from person to person), or follow perfectly every goal we set for ourselves.
So for the days that you miss it, keep these things in mind:
- God still loves you.
- God doesn’t love you any less than He did yesterday when you met all your goals.
- Missing a discipline or two doesn’t make you a failure.
- Missing it doesn’t make you any less of a person.
- If you’ve missed a lot of days, it’s never too late to get back on track. (No, really – never. )
These statements may seem obvious as you read this now, but you’d be surprised at the lies you can find yourself believing if you’re not girding yourself up with the truth.
One last thing I should mention: my own daily disciplines.
- 1. Get up no later than 6:00 (I hope to make this enough of a habit that it doesn’t have to be something I make myself do.)
- 2. Spend time with God
- 3. Exercise for at least 20 minutes
- 4. Plan out my schedule for the day (which I usually do the night before)
- 5. Still figuring out #5…It might be to practice the piano, or it might be to work on a manuscript for a book I’ve been thinking about.
This may seem simplistic, or on too small of a scale to produce the big kinds of changes you want to see in your life, but think of it this way: If I write for 20 minutes each day, that’s 7,300 minutes or about 122 hours of writing a year! If I wrote 2 pages in a twenty-minute session, that’s 365 x 2 = 730 pages, or 182,500 words! (One page by industry standards = 250 words). Even if I wrote 1 page a day, that’s still 90,000 words. For comparison, a book is considered a novel at around 50,000 words. I could easily finish my manuscript before the end of this year. But I would never get there by just trying to find time to write “here and there” (which really means almost never), or by sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike with such a force that I write a novel in a day. The keys are intentionality and consistency – a little bit a day, every day.
Finally, I’d like to assure you that if you’ve never done anything like this, it’s never too late to start. As Terri says in her book You’re Valuable to God, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”