How to Wake up Before you Have to by Benjamin Marlin - HTML preview

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Introduction

Everyone can wake up when they have to. When the alternative is getting fired or being late to our own wedding, waking up early is something we can and most likely will do.

Utter catastrophe averted, for one more day.

We cut it pretty close, though. Even if we HAVE to get out of bed at 7 am, we’re not missing a minute of sleep before that.

Sure, we might have a vague idea that waking up early would be good for us. Our parents talked to us about it. Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Benjamin Franklin knew what was up.

“When I say early rising made me wealthy, I mean it gave me MY OWN MONEY.” 3

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In fact, if you’re reading this book, waking up early probably makes sense to you. Chances are that it will continue to make sense to you, all through today, and into the night and wee hours of the morning.

Then your alarm goes off. Suddenly, Ben Franklin is less of an authority. What did he say again? “Early to.....something.....makes a man.....I forget. Man, it feels good in here.” Eh, the man was never even President.

In a moment, waking up early goes from a great idea to something vague and distant and having very little to do with your current physical reality.

Stealthily, your brain takes over. It coos: “Don’t you feel good in bed right now? Why would you ever want to stop feeling like this?”

The PowerPoint

Next, your tired brain gives you a very brief PowerPoint presentation, with just two slides, which I will describe here:

Slide 1: You, lying in bed, sleeping and smiling, with a rainbow overhead and cute little critters quietly dancing around your room. This slide is titled “Staying In Bed”.

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Statistics show that you can’t say no to a cute little beaver.

Slide 2: You slogging your way through a dark, cold morning, dragging, falling over, and utterly miserable. This slide is titled “Waking Up”.

“I choose THIS option!”

It is damned hard to resist this sales pitch. The message is, “You have a choice, and the answer is pretty obvious. Stay the heck in bed.”

In the moment, it is obvious. Most of us choose Slide 1, with the happiness and rainbows and critters, and we go back to sleep for another hour or two. Only after we wake up does our brain get around to Slide 3.

Wait, there’s a Slide 3? What’s on it?

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“She wasn’t supposed to know about Slide 3.”

Here’s what’s on Slide 3: you happily getting out of bed before you have to. You exercising when there’s barely anyone else at the gym. You catching up on your emails. You taking a peaceful walk around your neighborhood.

In Slide 3, the rainbows and cute critters are there too, and this time, you’re actually awake to appreciate them.

What’s missing from Slide 3? You rushing and fumbling your way through your morning routine because you slept past your alarm again. That rushed hour of joyless insanity between waking up and arriving at work. You having to jam all your pleasures and responsibilities in at night because there’s no time in the morning.

Slide 3 sounds awesome. It shows you waking up early, getting a lot done, and enjoying the whole thing. Why doesn’t your brain show it to you?

Tired Brain vs. Noble Brain

Here’s where I theorize that your brain is locked in an epic struggle between what's best for you and what feels good in the moment. For our purposes, I will call one side your "tired brain" and the other side your "noble brain". The scary part is that in this struggle, your tired brain has more guns, more supplies, and a comfy position on top of a hill.

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Your tired brain, laughing at you.

You know your tired brain. It's closely related to your hungry brain, your sex-crazed brain, and your money-spending brain. It is not concerned with what is best for you. It knows nothing of missed appointments or dreams deferred. It has no use for the future. Your tired brain is only concerned with what feels good, right now. And at 6 am, what feels good right now is going back to sleep.

Now, along comes your noble brain, steadfast and pure-hearted. It wants you to wake up, accomplish your goals, and be happy in the long term. Unfortunately, your noble brain is only armed with a tiny slingshot and good intentions. Who’s usually going to win this one?

Similar odds.

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It probably won't shock you to hear that I am on the side of your noble brain. Your tired brain isn't all bad; it wants you to be safe and comfortable, which is fine in the right context. But I believe that only by listening to your noble brain - by doing what might not be safe and comfortable, but what is best for you in the long run -

will you end up happy and fulfilled. This book is about empowering your noble brain so it can win the epic struggle and get you out of bed early in the morning.

My Experience

A few times a year, I decide to wake up at 6 a.m. By waking up at 6 a.m., I can go to the gym when it’s less crowded; I can read; I can write; I can relax a bit before heading to work.

Right up until 5:59 a.m. of my first morning, my plan makes perfect sense. It makes so much sense that I’m sure it can’t fail. I become convinced that it’s the only way I’m going to live my life in the future. I’m psyched about it. I tell my friends. In fact, they’ve probably come to expect it every few months.

Then my alarm actually goes off at 6 am. Immediately, my tired brain overpowers my noble brain. It says,

“You don’t HAVE to wake up now. Sure, it’s a fine idea. You’re probably some kind of hero just for considering it. Today just isn’t the day, sport. Try it again tomorrow. It’ll definitely work. For now, just close your eyes...” Halfway through that speech, I’m already unconscious.

“That was some mighty good motivatin’.”

Sometimes my alarm goes off and I actually stumble out of bed. I look around at the quiet, sleeping world around me and wonder why I’m not part of it. Without a plan for my morning, I can’t think of a single good reason to be awake.

Then my tired brain starts to chime in: “There’s nothing going on right now. You tried, which is great, but you discovered that there’s no point. If you go back to sleep right now, you can still get in 45 good minutes before you have to wake up. 44. 43. Don’t waste this opportunity to get a little more sleep. You know you want it.

42. 41. Sleep. Sleeeeeeep.” So I do. I give in and go back to sleep, absolutely sure that I’ll stay up for real tomorrow.

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Sometimes, I even make it through the first day of waking up early, and maybe a few days after that. But it never lasts. I feel massively tired by the afternoon and close to dead by the evening. I forget that this is just a hump I have to get over, rather than a permanent condition. I try to remember why I’m waking up early, but my motivation isn’t strong enough, and I haven’t done nearly enough to disempower my tired brain as it attempts to bring me back to my old, easy, comfortable habits. Invariably, I give up.

Why Is It So Tough?

Why is it such a challenge to wake up earlier than you have to? I’ve woken up early before. I used to wake up at 5 a.m. every day to go to work. My alarm went off, I got up, and I started my day. I didn’t like it, but I did it.

Why?

I did it because I had to. I had to pay my bills. I didn’t want to get fired. Waking up late would have gotten me fired, so I didn’t do it. That’s sufficient motivation. For most of us, this motivation is built-in, and it prevents us from ignoring our alarm and completely ruining our lives.

“I should never have hit the snooze button.”

On the other hand, rising before you have to can be quite a challenge. The motivation isn’t built-in. You have to build the motivation, and you have to make it stronger than the motivation to continue sleeping. You have to counter-intuitively leave your bed when you are still tired because deep down, you know it’s better for you.

You have to get over the hump of being more tired than usual for a few days, or even a few weeks. All of this is worth it, but none of it comes naturally.

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My Quest

Recently, I started another early-rising crusade. It was probably my 8th or 9th try in the past few years, and before this, I was batting .000. I didn’t even tell my friends about this one because I was ashamed of failing again.

However, I approached this round differently. Rather than relying on sheer willpower, I looked for tricks, methods, and insights that would make the process easier for me. My search focused on two questions, which form the basis of this book:

1) How can I quiet my “tired brain” so it doesn’t prevent me from waking up when I want to?

and

2) How can I change my thinking so waking up early comes easily, naturally, and even happily?

When I asked those questions, I got a ton of answers. Some of them were drawn directly from the insights of others. Some of them were adapted from similar insights, even if the original authors hadn’t considered applying their insights to early rising. And some of them, I came up with myself, because nothing else was working.

Amazingly, some of my methods worked. They didn’t work perfectly, and there was no instant magic involved.

But they worked well enough that I feel confident about my ability to consistently wake up early in the future.

Now, for the first time, waking up at 6 a.m. doesn’t feel like an abomination or something unnaturally awful I am doing to myself. It just feels normal. I wake up at 6 a.m. It’s what I do. I don’t fight it. I don’t even feel the need to fight it. I just get up and start my day an hour earlier than I used to.

This Book

There is an abundance of material out there on waking up early. Much of it focuses on common-sense steps like getting enough sleep and avoiding the snooze button. All of this is good advice and should be ignored at your own peril. At the same time, none of it completely pushed me over the wall or made me a happy early riser. The common-sense steps struck me as an essential building block but nowhere near the entire story.

I have attempted to take this book in a different direction. Much of it is about identifying the mindset of a struggling early riser and changing it to that of someone who can consistently and easily wake up when he or she wants to. I am not a psychologist, but I do attempt to lay out, step-by-step, what happened in my brain as I changed my habit, in the hopes that you will recognize some of the same thought processes in yourself.

I do discuss more earthly techniques, such as alarm clocks and coffee, but often critically, and they are not the focal point of the book. For what it’s worth, though, you absolutely should avoid the snooze button like the plague.

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Keep in mind that if my methods don’t work for you, or even if they do, there are plenty more that I haven’t tried or haven’t written about here. Waking up early isn’t rocket science. Anyone can do it with the right tools or with enough willpower. There are likely dozens of techniques that will work for some people, and possibly for you. I’ve limited this book to ideas I have used or seriously considered, as well as ideas I haven’t seen covered in detail anywhere else.

Why Wake Up Early?

I now want to tackle what might be the biggest question of all: Why wake up earlier than you have to? If you’re reading this book, then you’ve certainly thought about it before. Chances are that you want to wake up early.

A strong motivation is one of your most powerful tools, so it’s important to be as clear as you can about why you are waking up early. When you’re tired and wavering regarding whether to get out of bed, even one bit of motivation can be powerful to have on your side.

Despite Benjamin Franklin's aphorism, waking up early is not a golden ticket to health, wealth, or wisdom.

Being awake an extra hour (or just a different hour) does not bring anything on its own. You won't wake up to creative inspiration, or happiness, or six-pack abs.

“Damn you, Franklin!”

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Rather, early rising is an opportunity to reach for those things on your own terms. It's extra time - or at least time that isn't as cluttered or stressed - to do the things you want to do.

For me, it's time to go to the gym when there are no other obligations standing in my way and no giant dinner weighing me down on the treadmill. It's a chance to catch up on reading and writing, and to do household chores when I'm not exhausted from work. It's extra time so that I don't have to rush through my morning routine.

“Finally, time to shower AND brush my teeth on the same day.” Sometimes early rising is simply an opportunity to sit and contemplate - a quiet hour to spend with myself and the birds chirping in the feeder outside. Even a bit of peace is helpful in ways I rarely notice at the time.

Lastly, waking up early is a win for your better angels. For years, early rising was my great white whale - the thing I wanted so badly and just wasn't able to. It ate away at me that there was one accomplishment that would add so much to my life, and yet it seemed perpetually out of reach.

It's massively frustrating when there is something that makes so much logical sense, something you want with every part of your brain, and you consistently push it away because of the simple, dull truth that going back to sleep feels better, day after day. Nobody wants their laziness making their big decisions for them.

Now that I have been able to successfully wake up early on a consistent basis, it feels good just to know I've done it. My noble brain got a victory, and that means a victory for my lofty goals and higher aspirations across the board.

What will you gain from waking up early? Don't be restricted by my vision of early rising. Cultivate your own 12

motivations for taking on this new habit. One day you might find yourself tired and wondering why exactly you paid attention to your alarm; in that moment, you’ll be well-served by knowing why you’re doing this in the first place.

DISCLAIMER (first of many)

This book is not a scientific approach towards waking up early. I am not a scientist. I have not tested any of these methods in a lab or on anybody else.

Rather, I am a person who had trouble waking up early and finally found some methods and tricks for making it possible and even easy. I merely want to share these non-scientific tricks with you.

This is also not a book about proper sleep techniques. It’s a book about waking up and getting out of bed.

Getting proper sleep is hugely important, both for your well-being and your ability to comfortably wake up in the morning. If you are having trouble sleeping, by all means find a good book on the subject and learn to get better sleep. It will improve every facet of your life.

With that in mind, here is a list of methods and tips that have helped me wake up early. Some are more effective than others, and I try to be honest about their pros and cons and my own personal experiences with each one. I hope they will help you.

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Specific Methods

Alarms

The following are nuts-and-bolts methods for getting yourself out of bed earlier than you need to. The first few are widely-used methods that I’m not crazy about, as should come through in my treatment of them. The best methods come after that.

Each method description is divided into 3 parts: the name of the method, a primer for how to use it, and then a list of any possible downsides to it.

The Method

An Alarm Next To Your Bed

How To Do It

This is the basic method for waking up early. Set an alarm next to your bed, and when it goes off, get up and start your day. In theory, you can even luxuriate in bed for a few minutes after the alarm goes off, and then get up at your pace. It’s simple, it’s cheap (just use your cell phone; or, there are plenty of alarm clocks under $10), and it should be flawless.

Any Downsides?

If the alarm-by-your-bed method was flawless, then I wouldn’t be writing this book. Unfortunately, the easy availability of the snooze button and the possibility of just turning off the alarm (before or after it goes off) make this a hazardous method.

Even if you only intend to luxuriate in bed for a few minutes, that often becomes an extra hour or two before you realize what happened. When you haven’t gotten out of bed yet, there’s no such thing as “just resting your eyes”.

There’s only “going back to sleep”, whether or not you intended to.

This method also requires a ton of willpower, and the earlier you want to wake up, the more willpower it requires.

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Think of it like a pie chart with two slices representing what you will need to wake up early: 1) Your alarm clock, and 2) Sheer willpower.

If you set your alarm for, say, 8 am, then you don’t need as much willpower: 8 a.m. Wakeup

Willpower

Alarm

45%

Clock

55%

If you set your alarm for 6 am, then the willpower slice gets much bigger: Alarm

6 a.m. Wakeup Clock

20%

Willpower

80%

And, if you set your alarm for 5 am, then the willpower slice is almost the whole friggin’ pie: 15

Alarm

5 a.m. Wakeup

Clock

2%

Willpower

98%

Don’t get me wrong. An alarm is near-essential in the waking-up-early process. However, it can rarely stand alone, and one of the purposes of this book is to provide complementary tools and methods that work with your alarm in order to get you out of bed.

The Method

An Alarm Across The Room

How To Do It

This seems like an easy trick, and it can work. Keep an alarm clock across the room, so that in order to turn it off, you have to get out of bed. Once you’re out of bed, you’re much less likely to fall back asleep. Use the momentum to begin your day and gradually wake up your brain.

Any Downsides?

There is no compromising with The Alarm Across The Room. It’s loud, it’s insistent, and it yanks you out of bed without the slightest chance to contemplate your situation. That means it’s effective, but it can also be scary and stressful.

If you’re anything like me, you may come to fear The Alarm Across The Room like it’s a character from a horror film. When it goes off, it’s jarring, and it provides no buffer time between waking up and getting out of bed.

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“And I’ll wake you up with ‘Juke Box Hero’ by Foreigner.” This can lead to The Alarm Across The Room becoming a hated object. Often, I’ll wake up during the night, get a glimpse of The Alarm Across the Room, and shudder before I fall back asleep because I know what it’s eventually going to do to me.

Eventually I stopped using it because it caused too much sleep-stress. Remember, waking up early shouldn’t be too stressful.

Note: There are a lot of variations on this one. I once read about a Japanese bed that tips over and slides you out at a certain time. Other alarm clocks pour water on you. In the impulse-buy section of a department store, I even saw a flying alarm clock (!). When the alarm goes off, it shoots a little whirly-flyer around the room, and you have to get up, catch it, and put it back before the alarm stops ringing. All of these tricks are probably effective, but potentially jarring and stressful.

There is, however, a workaround...

The Method

Good Alarm, Bad Alarm

How To Do It

So far, we’ve discussed using an alarm clock near your bed and an alarm clock across the room. Both can be effective, but they also have major drawbacks. Namely: the near-bed alarm is easy to shut off and ignore, and the across-the-room alarm yanks you out of bed on its own hurried, disorienting terms.

However, when used in tandem, they complement each other in a way that should get you out of bed on time and on your terms.

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To make this work, set the near-bed alarm for your target wakeup time (say, 6:00 am). Then set the across-the-room alarm for 5 minutes later (6:05 am). When your first alarm goes off, you have the option of staying in bed for a few minutes, stretching out, and enjoying yourself.....knowing that if you don’t get out of bed within five minutes, your across-the-room alarm will make it a jarring necessity.

Thus, you wake up to your first alarm, get out of bed at your own pace (but within 5 minutes), and calmly turn off your second alarm before it makes a peep. From there, you walk away from your bed and begin your day.

Any Downsides?

None that I can think of. I don’t use this anymore, because I used some deeper methods (described later) to help me become less reliant on my alarm to get me out of bed. However, as a starter method, and possibly beyond that, I find Good Alarm, Bad Alarm tough to beat.

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Offbeat Alarms

The Method

Wake-Up Lights

How To Do It

For most people, it is easier to wake up in the light than in the dark. Sometimes this is even possible for early risers: thanks to daylight savings time, it’s often sunny at 6 a.m. However, if you’re in the wrong half of the year, or if you wake up before 6 a.m., you’re out of natural luck.

One solution to this is a wake-up light. Wake-up lights are alarm clocks that progressively shine more and more soft light in your face as your wake-up hour approaches.

The intent is to simulate a natural sunrise, even in a dark room at 4 a.m. Instead of experiencing a sudden wake-up in a dark room, your eyes and brain are tricked into thinking that you’re waking up at a sane hour, or that you live near the North Pole.

Partiers in Iceland stumble out after 2 a.m. Last Call.

I have never personally tried a wake-up light, so I can’t vouch for them. However, they are quite popular, and I imagine that any extra light at a dark hour can only be helpful.

Any Downsides?

Wake-up lights are still a niche product and thus relatively expensive. Many sell for a hundred dollars or more.

Shop carefully.

In addition, if you are lucky enough to sleep next to somebody else, he or she might not want “full morning” to come at 5 a.m. If you’re quick about turning off your alarm, it will only last for a second or two; but a wake-up 19

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light might be shining in your partner’s eyes for an annoyingly long time.

Here is page full of links to wake-up lights:

http://beth811.hubpages.com/hub/10-Best-Light-Alarm-Clocks

The Method

Math Alarms

How to do it

There are several iPhone (and presumably Android) apps that purport to wake up your brain by forcing you to do math problems before you can turn off the alarm. The theory is that once you have solved 46x78, your mind will be alert enough that you will be able to begin your day.

While I have not personally tried a math alarm, they do seem useful. It never hurts to wake up your brain in the morning, and solving a complex math problem is probably an effective way to do it.

Any downsides?

A few:

1) Waking up your brain is only half the battle, and sometimes even less than that. While it can’t hurt to clear the fog out of your mind, the need to sleep is an intensely physical desire. It’s possible to have an alert mind and a body that still really wants to go back to sleep. Often, your body will win out.

2) Math alarms are still an evolving technology. Most of the alarms I’ve seen are lacking in some major way: the math problems are easy enough that they might only keep a second-grader awake; the apps have to stay open all night in order to go off in the morning; and worst of all, they allow you to bypass the math problems entirely, either with a snooze button or the ability to simply close out the app.

“I know the answer! The Home button.”

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Put all this together, and as much potential as math alarms have, they provide precious little accountability and too many easy avenues for staying in bed.

That said, here are a few math alarm apps that might be worth searching for in the iTunes store:

• Math Alarm

• swAlarm

• FreakyAlarm

• Vapssky Smart Alarm

• Brain Alarm

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Mental Methods

The following methods go a bit deeper than using an alarm clock (although it always helps to use an alarm clock or two). To me, these methods are the crux of the book, which I consider to be a psychological approach to happily waking up early. The *starred methods in particular are the ones that I considered absolutely essential to my success in finally sticking with the early-rising habit.

DISCLAIMER

A few of these methods make use of NLP, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a science pioneered in the 1970s by Dr. Richard Bandler and Dr. John Grinder. NLP remains controversial, with its devotees hyping it as an effective way to alter the way you perceive the world, and plenty of knowledgeable people calling it a junk science.

I’m a fan of NLP, but this book is not an attempt to sell you on it. Rather, I am listing these methods because they worked for me, and I want to share them with you

I am in absolutely no way, shape, or form attempting to take credit for the NLP-related techniques described in this book. They have been around for decades and have been described in countless books and audiotapes, some of which are listed at the end of this book.

All I have done is adapt them to the specific problem of how to happily wake up earlier than you normally do.

The adaptations are mine, but I don’t want to represent myself in any way as having invented these decades-old techniques.

The Method

*Ask Your Subconscious For Help

How To Do It

For years, I could predict exactly how I would feel when I'd try to wake up early. I'd feel tired, grumpy, and stagnant, with no physical or mental desire to get out of bed. It was like clockwork. And you can imagine how successful I was. That’s not an easy feeling to fight.

This seems like a problem without a solution. After all, how can you affect how you're going to feel when you wake up? You feel how you feel. Somebody made the decision, and it wasn't you.

It turns out that that isn't entirely true. To an extent, you can determine how you're going to feel when you wake up in the morning. The trick is to ask your subconscious to make you feel a certain way at a certain time.

Hopefully I haven't lost you here. This isn't The Secret, where you ask for a Corvette, and one magically pulls into your driveway. Your subconscious isn't a genie bringing you anything you want.

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“You jerk, I asked for a convertible!”

When you think about it, though, when you're asking to feel a certain way, you're not asking for all that much.

You always feel some way when you wake up. You're merely asking your subconscious to make you feel this way instead of that way. Unless you're asking for something weird, your subconscious will usually say, "Sure, what the hell. It's all the same to me."

I used to ask my subconscious to help my sleep feel longer than it really was. Say I got home at 1 am, and I had to be awake by 6 am. Five hours isn't a lot of sleep, and it leaves me without the long buffer zone of sleep I like to have between my nights and my mornings.

So I'd say to my subconscious, "Just this once, please make this five hours of sleep feel like it's eight hours."

Sure enough, my five hours of sleep would feel like it lasted a heck of a long time. When I'd wake up at 6 am, I felt like I'd gotten a full night's sleep. This wasn’t anything I could scientifically measure, but I was plenty happy with the results.

Yes, I'd get tired later - I only got 5 hours of sleep - but in the moment, I never felt like I'd missed out on a full, satisfying night's sleep. It felt like it lasted and lasted and lasted. That was important enough to me.

I don’t see this as too far-fetched. Nobody understands sleep-time. Sometimes 6 hours of sleep feels like a lot, and sometimes it's it feels like not nearly enough. Something is causing both of those feelings.

It turns out that if you ask that your subconscious to tilt the odds in your favor now and then, it's usually fine with it. It doesn’t care much. Sure, it might make you promise to even things out in the future with some extra sleep, and you should do that. After all, the trick is less effective if you’ve been sleeping 4 hours per night for the last week; it’s much more effective if you normally have good sleep habits but find yourself up a sleep creek on a given night. That aside, though, your subconscious usually has no objections to helping you out.

It’s pretty amiable as long as you ask nicely.

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“Alter your innermost thoughts in order to profoundly change your perception of sleep? No problem, brah!”

How, then, to apply this to waking up early in the morning? Here’s what I decided to tell my brain before I went to bed: “I bring into my life waking up at 6 am in a good, happy mood, with the energy and desire to get out of bed and begin my day.”

Perhaps you’re skeptical. I was, too. But the next morning, my alarm woke me up at 6 am......and I was fine with it. In fact, I’d sort of known it was coming, and I hadn’t dreaded it.

It was almost like my subconscious had prepared me to wake up at 6 am, so that it wouldn’t come as an awful shock. By the time 6 am rolled around, I was ready. I wasn’t too tired. I didn’t feel like there were lead weights attached to me. I wasn’t grumpy. I couldn’t explain it. But I climbed out of bed and began my day.

The next night, I was still skeptical (although a bit less so), but I tried it again. “I bring into my life waking up at 6 am in a good, happy mood, with the energy and desire to get out of bed and begin my day.” The next morning, I again got out of bed without a fight. Yes, I could have stayed in bed and gone back to sleep.

Nothing physically yanked me out of bed. But getting up made just as much sense as going back to sleep, if not more. So I got up.

Since then, every night and morning has gone pretty much the same way. My subconscious comes through for me. (I always remember to thank my subconscious in the morning, in case it is petty and/or vengeful, like me.)

This is not a guarantee that your subconscious will come through for you. Everyone’s brain works differently.

However, appealing to my subconscious removed a lot of the resistance I normally encountered in the morning. It was a hugely helpful tool in my quest to wake up early - one of the few that I’d consider essential to my getting over the initial early-rising hump.

Any Downsides?

It may feel tedious to remind your brain of your intentions every night, especially in the tired time right before 24

you fall asleep. Your subconscious is very cool about taking suggestions, but the time in which the suggestions are most powerful - just before sleep - is also the time when you usually don’t feel like thinking anything. Do you best to push through that and remind your subconscious of how you would like to feel in the morning.

The Method

Absolutely Decide To Wake Up Early

How To Do It

It always feels good to have an “out”. An “out” is a safety door, an ejector seat - some way out of a commitment you have made. It’s a way of saying, “I’m absolutely going to do this......unless I decide not to.” An “out” can be useful for decisions you’re not sure about, and it is good for lowering your stress level.

However, it can also be detrimental when you are embarking on a project that is important to you.

I have failed at early rising many times, in part because I never completely decided I was going to do it. I just took it day-by-day and stayed with it as long as it felt good. As soon as it stopped feeling good, I had no commitment to fall back on, so I stopped.

Thus, if you are serious about waking up early, then absolutely decide to do it. Sometimes it’s as simple and cheesy as saying, unequivocally, “I am going to wake up at 5 a.m. every day from now on.” As simple as that statement is, it’s also daunting. In the past, I’ve avoided it and danced around it endlessly rather than just saying it.

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Much easier than committing, and set to Tchaikovsky.

If you’re serious, though, then say it now: “I am going to wake up at [time] every day from now on.” There. You’ve said it. You’ve made your decision. No exception. No “out”.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make it easier on yourself (which this book will hopefully help you do), or that you can’t take days off. It simply means that you are committed to the long-term goal of waking up early. When it gets hard for you, or when it doesn’t make sense on a given day, you can fall back on the fact that you’ve made a decision and you’re going to stick with it.

Any Downsides?

It’s scary to commit to anything. You might feel trapped by your new commitment. If you decide that early rising isn’t for you, you might also feel like you can’t break your commitment or go back on your decision.

In my opinion, these downsides aren’t enough to avoid making a good, strong decision. However, they are worth keeping in mind.

The Method

*Make It Boring

How To Do It

Waking up early can be scary when you make it a huge deal, or if it's Big Goal you are trying to accomplish.

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You certainly don't want to psych yourself out before you even start.

One very helpful technique is to make waking up early boring. Make it dull. Make it just a thing you do.

The same way you brush your teeth every morning without thinking, and the same way you shower (hopefully), you wake up early and start your day. Personally, I don't dread brushing my teeth in the morning or see it as anything other than something I just do. It's something I barely notice. I wanted to see if I could make waking up early feel the same way.

To test this out, I experimented with an NLP concept called submodalities. The theory behind submodalities is that everything in your brain has a certain look, sound, feel, and location (among other characteristics). If you're excited about something, you picture it in a certain part of your brain; if you're scared of something, you picture it in a different part; and so on.

Similarly, a thought that makes you happy comes across in a certain voice, while a thought that makes you mad comes across in a different voice. Most of this, we don't notice unless we specifically try to; but once we notice the sound and feel and location of our thoughts, we can manipulate them to our advantage.

I approached submodalities with a healthy amount of skepticism. They have been pitched as a cure-all, but my experience has been mixed. However, working with my own submodalities helped me tremendously when I was trying to wake up early.

My goal was to turn waking up early into something boring, something routine that I just did without thinking about it much. I listed a few other actions that fit in that category, like brushing my teeth and showering. I just do those things. There's no question. They're not strange or out of the ordinary. So how do I see/hear/feel them in my mind?

I made it literal. I thought to myself, "I'm going to brush my teeth now." Then, "Time to shower." While thinking those boring, routine thoughts, I paid attention to how they sounded and where they popped up in my head.

It turned out, unsurprisingly, that I thought them in a boring voice - think Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

"Bueller......Bueller.....” Similarly: “Time to brush my teeth... Gonna shower now..."

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Strikes fear into the heart of nobody – and that’s good.

I also noticed that the thoughts popped up in the right side of my brain. I made a note of where they seemed to be happening.

Note that your experience will vary. Nobody's thoughts will sound the same, or be in the same place. The important thing is that you identify what your boring, routine thoughts look and sound like, and where in your mind they float. The goal here is to give the thought "I'm going to wake up at 5 a.m. tomorrow" (or whatever time you choose) the same look, sound, and location as your boring, routine, do-it-every-day-no-big-deal thoughts.

For me, I took the thought "I'm waking up at 6 a.m. tomorrow" and made it sound like the boring Ben Stein voice was saying it. Then, while mentally repeating it in that voice, I moved it to the same "location" in my mind as my other boring, routine thoughts.

Once the sound and location were set, I repeated the phrase over and over until it felt and sounded natural in its new incarnation as "just another boring thing I do, whatever."

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“Wash the dishes, Cinderelly. Scrub the floors, Cinderelly. Wake up early, Cinderelly.” Repetition is incredibly important here. When you really drive these changes into your brain, submodalities become less of an overhyped cure-all and more of a legitimately helpful technique for change. Don't just do it once. Repeat the process multiple times.

My experience after doing this was that waking up at 6 a.m. was a lot less scary. It wasn't a huge life experiment, or something jarring and awful looming on the horizon each night. It was just something I did. I eat dinner, I read, I go to sleep, I wake up at 6 a.m., I brush my teeth, I shower. No big deal.

I still drill this in every few days, because I want it to be a lifelong view and not something that only lasts for a little bit. However, remember that getting over the early-rising hump is a temporary goal, not a lifetime one, and even if this only works temporarily, it may get you to the point where early rising comes easily.

Changing my submodalities was one of the biggest (and easiest) mental shifts I was able to make in turning early rising into an easy habit instead of some impossible dream. I hope it will work for you as well.

Any Downsides?

None. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and there are other options. Remember that like everything else in this book, changing your submodalities is not a miracle technique, but one tool among many.

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