Get up on the right side

The most important decision you will make today – well…you already made it.

In reality, it was made before you went to bed last night. And in some ways, you made the decision last week, last month, and you’ve been making it for years.

How am I going to start my day?

Did you hit snooze? Did you go to bed early enough to get sufficient rest? What did you think about first thing this morning? How did you prepare for what you’ll face today?

Many have never thought intentionally about the best way to begin the day. It just happens – every morning. Sometimes it goes well – sometimes, not so much.

If you don’t slay your dragons before breakfast, they’ll usually get the best of you. Your chances are better if you are prepared and have a plan for the first few moments of the day.

To prepare for each day, I ask 4 questions every morning:

1. What am I most grateful for today?

The answer is different every morning. Every morning I spend a few moments thinking of at least one thing or one person that I can be grateful for – and I intentionally pray about that one thing with a spirit of gratitude.

I often include challenging circumstances and relationships in these moments of thankfulness. It’s funny how this works – you don’t worry as much about someone or something when you’re grateful for them.

2. What can I can read or listen to?

I read something nearly every morning. A day or two each week I listen to books or music that are positive and relevant to what I am experiencing at that point in my life and work.

Most mornings I read several chapters from ancient Scripture – which helps me focus on timeless wisdom and universal principles that will positively impact my life and work.

I like music – my undergraduate degree is in music education – so I listen to music some mornings.

Listen to or read something positive and engaging to get the intellectual juices flowing.

3. Am I going to serve or be served?

I am a task-oriented, results-driven person. So it’s easy for me to gravitate toward being directive rather than toward servant leadership.

While we may understand the importance of  servant leadership, it’s is something very different to actually practice it. In recent months, this discipline has become a top priority for me.

I don’t have it all figured out. And I don’t nail it every day. In fact, I probably fail more often than not. But I am making progress – because I am determined to grow purposefully in this area.

4. What would a great leader do?

A speaker at the 2012 Chick-fil-A Leadercast recommended this discipline – when faced with any challenge, ask yourself, What would a great leader do?

I now ask this question early each morning – and a number of times throughout the day.

Great leaders make great decisions – lots of them. When you make decisions the way great leaders make decisions, you are a great leader.

So, are you in a funk? Can’t get out? Try this tonight –

  1. Determine that you are going to get 7-8 hours of sleep.
  2. Note 2 or 3 questions or disciplines that you will start your day with tomorrow.
  3. Then try it.

Question: How do you spend the first few moments of your day? How does the rest of your day go? Engage in the conversation by leaving a comment.

Please note: We reserve the right to remove comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Paul Fredericks

    Michael, to your last point – Great Leaders make Great Decisions – What matrix do you use to make great decisions on a daily basis. I’m not addressing career changes or a move or… I’m addressing the day – to – day decisions that need to be made (sometimes in a flash) that seem small at the time but have large consequences. Does that make sense?

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  • Philip Amiola

    I appreciate the simplicity with which you communicate life-changing truths. I’ve built the first three points into my life to a relatively good degree. The fourth point is however a much-needed revelation. Now, I’ve learnt to consciously ask myself, “What would a great leader do?” whenever I’m faced with a challenge.

    The most difficult part of the post for me, is getting 7-8 hours of sleep. Is it really OK to sleep away one-third of the day?

    • Appreciate your thoughts and your questions. With respect to sleep – each person is different. To function effectively, I need 7 hours of sleep each night. Some may need less; many need more.

      Andy Stanley has written a great book that addresses questions like this – Choosing to Cheat. If you “cheat” your sleep, it will affect every other area of life.

      If I want to live effectively, I don’t cheat my sleep. I plan to be asleep at 10 each night and get up at 5.

  • Mike Wheatley

    I’m a first time reader of this blog. I am in need of reading this today! I tend to have a pessimistic outlook on life, and I’m a believer. Believers have every reason to be positive in this fallen world. I’m in a funk. Thanks for this blog.

    • I’m a recovering skeptic. And I’m in a funk too. Take one step today toward getting back on track. Thanks for connecting.

  • I try to spend the first few moments thanking God for a new day and committing that day to Him, then I hit the ground running!

    Pretty sure you wrote about me on #3!

    • Actually I wrote about me. 😉 Glad I’m not alone out here though! Thanks my friend.

      • Definitely not alone 🙂

  • Depends on the day. But there’s two ways that I start my day –

    1. Hop out of bed, toss on my running shoes, and out the door I go. No thought put into it other than to get out and go. That makes my day go great.

    2. Hop out of bed, head downstairs, grab my bible, and give it a read.

    These are the two habits I have for my mornings. Both of them help clear my head and get the day off to a great start.

  • Lorna Faith

    I love your 4 questions…I’m bookmarking this page to remind myself everyday:) Thanks, Michael!

  • Another great blog. I so enjoy reading these. I am uplifted, encouraged, and very much energized by your tips/advice/pep talks/questions. Thanks for writing this!

    • Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, Katie. I appreciate your kind words. Please let me know how I can serve you.

  • D

    I enjoyed your mentioning of being “in a funk.” Getting that 7hrs minimum is a tremendous help to me. I am more focused, can accomplish more, and am less irritable to my family, my coworkers, as well as others I interact with throughout the day.

    With all of the negativity in the world I cannot recommend more highly people working through the questions you’ve presented here. A change of focus from yourself to others can do remarkable things in any relationship – home, church, work – any environment.

    The other day I listened to the first 5 minutes of a morning news program on my drive in to work, and it was the most miserable experience of my day. It reinforced the idea of getting started a different way. I start my day off listening to a positive presentation and reading positive blogs that can give me a boost emotionally as well as provide additional tools to be more effective in the world.

    • Funny that you mentioned the news making you miserable. Several years ago I was in a habit of listening to talk radio while driving. One day I got so sick of the rhetoric, I turned the radio off – I’ve never gone back. There is so much positive information available today – there is little reason to spend even a moment listening to anything else. Thanks for sharing.

  • Love the post, Michael. I will be using these four questions this week and will try to make them habit!

    • Thanks Chris. Let me know how it goes and if you have other ideas. Enjoy your day!