The Battle of Wills

courtesy Jamie Henderson via Flickr CCThere’s a conflict that rages every morning the moment I first drift into waking consciousness.

It first manifests by my social media (aka the Gravy Hose) craving, when I wonder What have I missed in the last seven hours?

My hand reaches almost automatically towards the bedside table – where my phone isn’t. No, my phone is charging out at my standing desk, about as far from where I am as you can get in our apartment.

Fine. I don’t get to check social media, and I know what I should be doing: my morning protocols. Which consist of the following:

  1. A short 15-minute yoga routine;
  2. 15 minutes of meditation.
  3. One page of journaling (with coffee)
  4. A light breakfast while watching something inspirational (usually a TED talk).

Sure, that’s what I’m supposed to do. But it’s not what I want to do. What I want to do is skip right to the coffee. Every morning I have an argument with myself as I stumble into the living room.

C’mon, you were absurdly productive yesterday. Why not give yourself a break?

(as I turn on the light, I see the yoga mat in the corner. Automatically my hand reaches for it.)

Yoga? Again? You don’t need yoga. You’ve been working out a lot – you should give yourself rest.

I unfurl the yoga mat on the living room floor. The voice in my head changes tactics.

Like this little 15-minute routine you stole from Tara Stiles is actually doing you any good. What, you expect to look like Rodney Yee or something? You’re probably not even doing it right, since you don’t even have an instructor. Why are you bothering?

By then I’m doing the cat/cow stretches, and usually my brain stops for a little while. Then I reach for my phone – where it’s two clicks to the meditation app, vs. three levels to the social media app. It’s early, and my finger manages to stumble over the Mind App, with a neat little ratcheting sound as the electronic timer winds to 15 minutes. That’s when the voice in my head really hits stride:

Oh, look at you, all meditating! Fine, might as well use this time to think about your day –

Come back to the breath.

Did you see what Bruce wrote online yesterday? Can you believe that? Here, let’s compose a new entry in response, since you’re not doing anything useful.

Back to the breath.

You realize you’re 46 years old with almost zero net worth? Why are you wasting your life? Other men are successful. Plus they’re more attractive. They do more than yoga. You are wasting your.


Don’t you think it’s been a long time? You probably didn’t set the phone right. You’re gonna be late, because you’re too dumb to check your phone. Come on, just look. It won’t hurt.

I breathe. I wait, and finally hear the three soft chimes that tell me the meditation is done. I get to my feet and for a while the battle is over; I have finally reached the Sanctuary of Coffee, my reward for being able to write in my journal – and better yet, what I write in my journal is the voice in my head. It suddenly has an outlet, to write about hopes, anxieties, happiness and sadness and anything.

And did I mention I get coffee then, as well? Mmm. Coffee.

Then I grab the fruit, or make a little Memphis toast, and grab a glass of water along with it as I settle in to my iPad, where again the TED app is easier to get to than Twitter or Facebook. I find a short talk and let my brain get primed. Sometimes the talks are silly first-world elitists, sure, but I find it pretty easy to just find incredible people, as well, and even if the ideas are pie-in-the-sky, well, I find that the sky tends to look a little better with pie in it.

With that, the protocols are done. I look at my schedule, and the voice in my head smugly announces Yes, those protocols make your day better, without fail. You really need to do them every day, no matter what. A really good personal-development writer would certainly do it. Hope you have the willpower to do it tomorrow; you have a tendency to be lazy, you know, and want to just slack off.

My brain is not helpful in the mornings. So I’ve chosen the ground in which the conflict occurs, and it makes my path to victory that much easier. Not assured, mind you – but easier. Much more likely to happen, and that makes the rest of the day that much better.

What’s your morning look like? Does your environment support it? If not, you might want to look at a little optimizing.

And if you have a voice in your head, too, I’d love to hear how you quiet it down. Mine’s telling me, simultaneously, that I should write two more posts and that there’s a whole season of Daredevil on Netflix, and I’ve been working all weekend, and surely you deserve a break, Gray.




1 thought on “The Battle of Wills”

  1. oh, heavens.
    I think our voices are related… except mine doesn’t limit itself to just mornings.

    I still haven’t hit upon the perfect management tool for my brain but so far, I find that breaking the day into chunks of time – with goals per chunk, has worked the best for me. If I finish the goals ahead of time, the brain has permission to play for the rest of that period. If I don’t, oh well… on to the next chunk. But for each period, I’m starting with a clean slate. If the voice gets to take charge several times a day, that’s fine – as long as I’ve met the goals.

    It’s still probably not the most productive way to handle things but it works better than anything else I’ve tried so far.

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