If you’re familiar with some of my other work, you know that “one day, one lifetime” is part of the foundational philosophy of my teacher, Kaicho Nakamura. Today is your first day. Today may be your only day. So, above all, make it your best day. And do this every day. There is no reason to obsess about things that could go wrong or about people who may hurt you. In this one day you have, there’s no time to dwell in victimhood; this one day is it. You only have today.
Your conscious, awakened life is simply a series of moments strung together. Your contracted mind separates those moments into past, present, and future. It’s your job to be connected to the present. This is the moment that matters. In doing so, you will be in a state of flow and deep awareness. All the power you possess will be available to flow through you. And this is how you approach your One Day, the only day you really have right now.
If you ascribe to this philosophy, waking up in the morning is like birth. You open your eyes, your mind regains conscious awareness, and you are born into this beautiful world again. By the same token, the last thought you have and the final breath you take before falling into a deep sleep is the metaphorical death of your day. This is your opportunity to clear the slate should you be blessed to live another day. Be thoughtful and precise with how you start and end your One Day for, when strung together, these days create your Uncommon Life.
In the morning, take responsibility for your first thoughts, first words, and then first actions. Use your mantra—every day. Before you know it, this will become involuntary.
At the end of the day, take responsibility in reverse order—for your last actions, words, and thoughts before you drift off to sleep. Be deliberate with your thoughts. They’re critically important. They can determine how well you sleep and affect your mood on rising.
In this way, every day is a mini encapsulation of a lifetime bracketed by your first thoughts, words, and actions and last thoughts, words, and actions. Let’s explore first thoughts, words, and actions and how you can create a powerful new beginning each day.
Have you heard of William Edwards Deming? Born in 1900, he was an American statistician who first became famous for his reconstruction efforts in Japan’s economy post-WWII, shooting many of their companies, such as Toyota and Sony, to number one status in the global economy with his 14-point theory on Total Quality Management. It would be decades before companies like Ford would surrender to a growth mindset and retain his services.
One of his main themes was the importance of getting the beginning of any venture right: “By focusing on the first 15 percent of anything, the remaining 85 percent will effortlessly follow.” It stands to reason that if you place quality focus on your first thoughts, first words, and first actions, the rest of the day will take care of itself…all the way through to your last actions, words, and thoughts. But you must be consistent.
Your morning mantra is critical to the rest of your day.
My first thoughts are: I like myself. I love myself. I am whole, worthy, and competent. Then, I add: Wake up and be awesome! I’ve got another chance to do this well, learn more, and improve. I got this! Easy day, Hooyah!
What all this says to my spirit and my ego is that I’m in charge of this day. I could stop there, but those are all “I” statements. So, I go to my higher self with gratitude. I think about my Creator and offer my service and actions up to that power. With my Christian upbringing, one of the ways that I do this is to recite the “Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.”
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that one receives,
It is in self-denying that one finds,
It is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
It is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.”
That takes my first thoughts from me, Mark Divine, and connects them to my higher self and higher power. I become aware of my body with consciousness. I move from my body to my mind and then to my spirit. I lead with my first thought back to Source, back to God. In this way, I feel reborn.
I follow my morning ritual, connecting my thoughts to my ethos, vision for the future, mission, and daily targets. I link everything so I’m very clear on where I’m going with my life by the time I get out of bed. Then I’m ready to get busy, kicking ass and taking names.
When you wake up, the first words inside your mind are naturally to yourself. But, before long, you will start speaking, maybe to your dog, spouse, kids, or coworkers. This practice helps you be more mindful so that your first words to others are positive, helpful, and connecting. My first words to my wife Sandy are usually: “Wake up, and be awesome, babe!” As an add-on, we express words of gratitude to each other. It’s a beautiful practice for couples.
Only you can be responsible for the quality of your first thoughts and words and how they land. So make sure they’re powerful, positive, productive, and coming from a place of love—the other 85 percent of your day depends on it!
Georgetown Professor and NYT bestselling author Cal Newport coined the term deep work in his book by the same name. I love that term, as it describes what I’d like to see happen after your morning ritual.
After your mantra and words of gratitude, after you check in with your ethos, mission, and priority targets, Newport says that your first action should be to accomplish the most challenging or most important thing with all your effort. That’s doing the deep work first. We’re talking about thirty to ninety minutes of uninterrupted, concentrated effort on a mission-oriented task—before you check your email, hop on a phone call, or start a meeting.
You might say, “Yeah, but my first conference call is at 7:00 a.m.” Well then, find five to fifteen minutes beforehand to do some deep work, and schedule the more extended periods of deep work for just after that when you can. Morning is the best time for this.
If you need to get kids up and ready for the day, Admiral McRaven always said: “Do something powerful in the morning. Make your bed.” Do the most important things first before you get sucked into someone else’s agenda or the distractions of the day. Box breathe. Do twenty burpees. Meditate. Pray. Do something meaningful and powerful for yourself. The great news is others around you will benefit.
Look at your life as one big practice…for life. If this sounds impossible because moments with your kids or significant other take you off track from your morning ritual, draw them into it. In my second book, Kokoro Yoga, I tell the story that when I would practice yoga, Devon, my then five-year-old son, would come to lie on my back. Pretty soon, Devon became a regular, enjoying the up-dog, down-dog carnival ride on Dad daily. It became a different practice and required an extra level of concentration on my part, but the playful, loving connection was worth it. Have an Uncommon and Amazing day by starting it off intentionally and inspired.