There hasn’t been an article on how to get up before the sun rises that hasn’t triggered an eye roll from yours truly. I’ve been sleep deprived for the better part of three years now, and the idea of someone electing to forgo sleep in order to spend more time alone made my blood boil.
And then my kids grew up, and I began to understand that you WILL sleep again. And if you want time alone, you have to find the time and then protect it.
Enter The 5 AM Club. You may have heard of it. Maybe through someone brazenly sharing their new wake-up time with the associated hashtag over a plate of homemade breakfast. The club is “not for everyone” and claims to have “…life-changing benefits in all areas of your life—productivity, health, focus, happiness.”
“Legendary leadership and elite performance expert Robin Sharma introduced The 5 AM Club concept over twenty years ago, based on a revolutionary morning routine that has helped his clients maximize their productivity, activate their best health and bulletproof their serenity in this age of overwhelming complexity.
Now, in this life-changing book, handcrafted by the author over a rigorous four-year period, you will discover the early-rising habit that has helped so many accomplish epic results while upgrading their happiness, helpfulness, and feelings of aliveness.”
Color me skeptical.
However, I am facing a problem. I have limited time, limited energy, and a lot of responsibility. Not to mention, a lot of drive to create things that take time, energy, leaps of faith, and relentless focus. There’s not much room to be a skeptic when you weigh the cost of waiting on the sidelines for the perfect solution to fall into your lap.
The 5 AM Club includes a set of activities that are supposedly meant to boost three areas of your internal life: your physical health, your intellectual health, and your emotional health. They suggest starting your day with 20 minutes of rigorous exercise (something that makes you sweat), journaling for 20 minutes, and reading for 20 minutes.
I happen to really believe these three key areas of wellness (physical health, emotional health, mental health) are key in identifying the heart of your internal struggles, finding your “why,” and honing in on your life’s purpose. The idea of putting dedicated time against doing small actions that maintain and improve the foundation of what I know I need to feel good felt like a good enough reason to give it a try. After all, a little sweat, reading, and some quality alone time sounded like heaven. Who was I to judge?!
And so, like a moth drawn to the light, I tried to join the club for a week, despite the fear of being judged by no one but myself for being one of those annoying 5 a.m. people.
Spoiler alert: I turned into one.
But it was not all butterflies and rainbows, and you won’t find me sugar coating the pain and discomfort that came with going from night owl to morning person.
Moving forward despite the possibility of failure requires not only mental grit but also a reliance solely on yourself. On a promise made to no one but you. Pretty quickly, you realize how often you are lying, cheating, or giving up on no one but yourself.
When we know something will be hard, instead of admitting failure as an option, we dismiss the idea of trying over the fear of falling short, the fear of failing at what we already know will be challenging. Moving forward despite the possibility of failure requires not only mental grit but also a reliance solely on yourself. On a promise made to no one but you. Pretty quickly, you realize how often you are lying, cheating, or giving up on no one but yourself.
That’s why people avoid making promises to themselves. They’re hard to keep.
I’m feeling JAZZED! I’m all in. It’s the beginning of the new me. What will I do with all this time? Bake bread? Write my novel? Become an experienced yogi? I wonder what mental breakthroughs my predawn walks will bring about. I cannot wait to bask in the glory of quiet alone time.
I drink water and coffee and putz around the kitchen. I lace up my shoes and get Winnie ready for her walk. We step outside to the sound of cracking thunder. The walk gets postponed.
I feel great, until about 8:45 a.m. I nap on the couch at work but get through the rest of my day with no problem. Bedtime comes at the suggested 8:30 p.m. time. But…WTF. My kids just got to sleep and now I’m done for the day?? When does anyone get the laundry or dishes or cleaning done?? I’m starting to get concerned.
Ouch, that hurt. I got in bed at 8:30 p.m. and stared at the ceiling until 11:00 p.m. What a waste of time! I did manage to get out of bed (after hitting snooze—a big NO-NO in The 5 AM Club). After drinking water and cursing myself for committing to this challenge, I managed a bit of yoga followed by a meditation, during which I promptly fell asleep. My alarm? My son sitting on my chest, asking me why I was making weird noises on the floor.
I do get more crossed off my to-do list today and feel slightly more peaceful. I think it is because I had a chance to be alone with my thoughts before catering to everyone else.
I hate everything. But I get up anyway. I’m crabby and fall asleep on the couch at work not once, but twice. I doubt this process. I wonder if it will ever get less painful.
I went to bed at a reasonable hour! 9:00 p.m.! The first time I’ve gotten more than 6 hours of sleep this week.
I crawl out of bed at 4:55 a.m. and get an hour walk in with Winnie. The journaling time is nice, but I continue to fight sleep when meditating. And…I can’t find my keys.
An hour later…I locate the keys. I shoved them away in a bowl on a random shelf in our living room. Maybe this whole idea was a mistake. Is it taking on too much at one time? I seem to be moving backward in all aspects of my life and I am certainly not sharper and more focused!
It is getting easier. Today I woke up BEFORE my alarm. I felt great. I got into my groove quickly. I had mental clarity through all of my meetings. I did good work with little effort. I felt sharp and in the zone.
Then, 3:00 p.m. hit and I felt like I needed a Big Mac and a nap to find the strength to be a good parent. Honestly, I have little to no recollection of the last half hour before bedtime and was so exhausted I fell asleep rocking Bennett at 7:30 p.m. I crawled into bed without doing my nightly ritual, something I had worked years to maintain.
It’s Saturday and I’m awake at 6:00 a.m. Yes, I broke the cycle and took a little bit more time to sleep considering I didn’t get to bed until 10:30 p.m. I take Winnie for a walk and stop to soak in the pink and blue sunrise. I feel a quiet peace in my heart, knowing I have this time just for me and my thoughts. Having dedicated time to be me, the new me, makes all of my hope for the future feel that much more tangible. Like there might, just might, be a way to make it work.
The day of reckoning. I wake up knowing I made it to my goal and feel a hit of dopamine and a sense of pride. I exercise and bounce out the door to grab coffee for Joe and myself. As my family sleeps soundly into the morning, I journal about how far I felt from that morning just four days ago, when this decision felt like the most unnatural act I could possibly do as a human. I decide to stick with The 5 AM Club for a month, but only on the weekdays.
Today, I’m 42 days into The 5 AM Club, and I’m a proud weekend slacker. The process can be a challenge. I still do something for my body, mind, and spirit every morning, even on the weekends (thank you, naptime). There’s still a lack of mental clarity that comes from waking up so early AND handling social events that tend to creep into our schedule. I have yet to master the art of saying no to a night out with friends or the kids’ request to adventure to a play date. While I might not be hardcore enough to join the real 5 AM Club, the benefits are worth the pain.
Getting up early is a commitment to myself and no one else, proof that I can practice a kind of self-care that is about getting back the power you oftentimes give to others.
It doesn’t feel uncomfortable anymore. I go to bed feeling a sense of accomplishment even if I haven’t had the BEST DAY EVER with #maximumproductivity. Getting up early is a commitment to myself and no one else, proof that I can practice a kind of self-care that is about getting back the power you oftentimes give to others. It’s a great feeling, to end the day knowing you did what you could to be a better version of yourself.
What I discovered through this process, and what I hope you consider, is that hard things—ones that are trying both mentally and physically—can bring about significant change, that is if you have the stomach for it.
BY Kate Arends - September 17, 2019
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.