Over the past several weeks in flying trapeze practice, I’ve been working to fix my takeoff. This has required me to break some engrained physical habits. I recently had a breakthrough that reminded me of how I first shifted my morning routine five years ago.
The Takeoff is Your Morning
Think about the trapeze swing as a metaphor for your day. The takeoff is how you start your morning. If you get a good jump off the board and a good body position, you’re able to take control. If you don’t, then you’re dragged along by whatever force is pulling on you.
My Morning Struggles: Snoozing to Stuck
Five years ago, I was frustrated with my mornings. I constantly felt behind my day, and often felt stuck in my ability to make progress on what mattered most. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to change it.
Two different habits were in my way. First, I was a chronic “snoozer.” I even factored in snooze time when I set my alarm. Second, I woke up with my phone in my hand and checked email or social media before I could even open my eyes. This put me into instant reaction mode. The result was that I often got dragged by my day the way I can get dragged by the trapeze bar when I have an ineffective takeoff.
The Challenge With Breaking Habits
Breaking engrained habits — especially physical habits — is hard because muscle memory runs deep.
Consider the expression “It’s just like riding a bike.” The idea is that if you knew how to ride a bike once, you can get back on a bike even after a lapse of years and still be able to ride it. How does your body know what to do? Muscle memory.
This muscle memory is the challenge we confront when trying to break habits.
A Breakthrough in My Trapeze Takeoff
After a summer of experimentation, I recently made some breakthroughs in fixing my takeoff. What finally worked was making a radical change to my physiology. Specifically, I completely altered how I hold my body in my takeoff stance.
Each time I get up on the board, I bring conscious focus to how I’m holding my body, remembering to adjust to the new stance. If I don’t think about it, I revert to my old habit. When I focus on the changes, I get a much better takeoff.
It feels like a full circle moment, and reminds me of how I changed a crucial aspect of my daily “takeoff.”
How I Changed My Wake-Up Habits
Today — the last Monday in August — marks 5 years since I broke the habits of hitting snooze and checking my email and social media upon waking up. In fact, I don’t check my phone until after I’ve at least completed my morning workout and meditation, and usually I wait much longer than that.
I broke those habits in the same way that I’m fixing my takeoff: through a radical change in my physiology.
In the case of my wake-up routine, I first changed my physical environment by putting my alarm clock and my phone outside my bedroom. This forced a change in my physiology by requiring me to get up out of the bed and walk outside my bedroom to turn off the alarm.
Once out of bed, I turn on the lights so that my eyes can adjust to the light. I immediately brush my teeth — the mint in toothpaste also helps create alertness — and while I’m doing that I begin to move my body. I also splash my face with cold water. I try to involve as much of my body as possible in the first moments after waking up; this helps me get an effective takeoff to my day.
The Bottom Line
Both trapeze and my mornings have taught me the same lesson: an effective “takeoff” is crucial if you want to avoid being dragged by external forces. What’s typically in the way is a physical habit and the strong muscle memory that comes with it. In fact, you may not even be conscious of the various habits that are keeping you stuck in the same morning routine. To break those habits you must make a radical change to your physiology.
Do you struggle with your morning routine? If you’re committed to breaking sabotaging habits and controlling your day so it doesn’t control you, join the movement at The Ritual Revolution.