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This post is part of a series detailing my experience with Damn Early Days (more on that here) and what I’ve learnt attempting to wake up really damn early every day.

When I first started Damn Early Days, I made the mistake of not knowing what I was going to do with my extra time each morning. I would wake up, have breakfast, and then start to wonder what it was I was doing up so early. I didn’t have a plan, an intention for how I was going to spend my time. So, instead of working on something productive, I often found myself cruising YouTube or getting lost in an endless Facebook feed. 

As the days went on, I was finding it increasingly difficult to get out of bed when my alarms went off—not all that surprising; I mean, who gets excited to wake up at 5:00 am to scroll through Facebook? But at the time, I remember thinking that it was a simple lack of self-discipline. I figured that if I just willed myself out of bed enough times it would get easier. It never did.

And while discipline may have played a small role, there was actually a much easier way to force myself out of bed at the crack of dawn than using sheer willpower alone.

Without a purpose, without something to work toward or to look forward to each morning, I’d always be fighting an uphill battle. Once I sat down, thought about what it was that I wanted to accomplish with my extra time, and charted a course forward, it instantly became easier to get out of bed. I had a goal, something to get excited about, and I was motivated to get up and start creating. Not only that, but I felt more fulfilled, and went to bed happier at the end of the day knowing that I had made time to focus on things that are important to me.

This small change in mindset was transformative, and once I took the time to map out where I wanted to be at the end of those first 21 damn early days and how I was going to get there, little could stop me from getting out of bed before the sun was up.

The link between intention and happiness

The same approach can be applied at a much larger scale to our lives. If you find yourself moving through life on autopilot, aimlessly repeating the same routine week after week, ask yourself, “Have I taken the time to seriously think about where and who I want to be?”

A lack of purpose can also directly influence out happiness. While it’s human nature to gripe about what’s wrong in our lives, how our jobs stress us out or how our friends/coworkers/partner constantly let us down, we seldom take the time to think about what we actually want out of life, and where we might find happiness. It’s easy to cast blame for our discontent on others or on events that are seemingly outside of our control. And while it’s true that we can’t control everything that we experience in life, each of us is in control of how we react to those experiences.

I believe that happiness lies in having a sense of control over our lives and of being responsible for where we are in life and where we’re going, but it’s next to impossible to feel in control if you lack intention.

Of course, taking responsibility for your own happiness can be a daunting proposition. It involves a lot of risk. No one becomes their ideal self or achieves their dreams by staying in their comfort zone. And many people take years just to figure out what their dreams or aspirations even are. But that’s okay. Take chances anyway, try new things, experiment until you find an intention that makes you jump out of bed each morning. Because the negative thoughts that accompany a state of paralysis, of an existence without intention, far outweigh any discomfort you might experience from getting outside of your comfort zone.

So, next time you find yourself autopiloting through life, or complaining about your current situation, take a couple hours and figure out where you’d rather be, then figure out what action you can take to get you closer to that state of being. Maybe it’s a new job, a new group of friends, or maybe you’re just seeking more “me” time.

Perhaps you’ll even end up taking part in your own Damn Early Days; if you do, just make sure you know why you’re doing it.

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