Waking up for my life (not to my life)

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and I was sure I was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad…wife, mom, friend, general human being and occupier of space on planet Earth.

At least I wasn’t prone to drama.

As I sat in my minivan, in the garage, in July, in Texas…the sweat and the tears mingled together, and I mentally calculated the cost of all the therapy everyone in my life would need after interacting with me that day.

I’d been grumpy, rude, and impatient.

I felt exhausted, unfocused, and overwhelmed.

And if I was honest, it wasn’t just that day. It was one of many and I was on a very slippery slope.

I needed something to change, but I didn’t know what it was.

As I sat there and prayed for some sort of direction, I almost instantly understood what my next step needed to be.

While I’d been a “morning person” in different seasons of my life, this season was not one of them.

I had three small children and my customary alarm clock was the sound of someone asking for a breakfast. Or cartoons. Or both.

I consistently woke up playing defense, feeling out of sync and trying to play catch up the rest of the day.

And it never worked.

I realized that I needed to start waking up FOR my life, not TO my life.

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Even if it was just waking up 5 minutes earlier, I wanted to start my day with purpose. To remember why I do what I do, and fill my tank so I could serve and love others out of the overflow in me.

So I did the unthinkable. I set my alarm.

I spent some quiet time reading my Bible, planning my day and going for a run. Some days I skipped the run and did one jumping jack. Yes, one jumping jack.

Progress – not perfection, people.

I rewarded myself by lighting a pretty candle, having a carafe of hot coffee ready, and playing my morning music playlist.

I started getting excited about getting up early. Who does that? Me, apparently.

Then I started getting excited about going to bed early. I didn’t want to be exhausted in the morning. I started getting more rest, more exercise, and more vision for my life.

My streak of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days slowed to a trickle. Then it stopped altogether.

I still have less than stellar days sometimes, but they are few and far between.

This small, intentional act of waking up early (sometimes five minutes, sometimes 60 minutes) has been the catalyst for incredible things in my life, from blogging and ebooks to traveling around the world and meeting my family for the first time.

Some of the biggest moments of my life can be directly traced back to this simple intentional habit.

Will the same happen for you? I have no idea.

But what I do know is that our lives are made up of years. Our years are made up of days. Our days are made up of hours and our hours are made up of choices.

Choosing to wake up FOR my life, instead of TO my life, has made all the difference.

Have a good day,
again and again.

If you feel in your bones the need to simplify so you can live the life you're meant to live...

↓ This is for you.

56 Comments

  1. Kelly

    Thank you for this gentle, yet needed reminder. I was just thinking recently that my life is controlled by the “urgent” and not the important and I don’t want it to be this way. The choices I make determine whether I will be controlled by the urgent or the important.

  2. Beth

    My husband and I have been working on this this week! I am not a morning person but nothing puts me in a worse mood than waking up a little late (because I’ve hit the snooze too many times) to my toddler son demanding loudly to get out of his bed and my cat equally howling to be let out of his crate. I think to us “not morning people” people it’s not just the getting up early that’s a problem but also not having time to just “be” and wake up a little before the demands of life are upon us. So we decided to try to wake up at 6:30 instead of 7:00(ish). My son is not gotten out of bed until at least 7:00 even if he is awake. We’ve been up (or at least upright in bed reading) by 6:40 most of this week and it’s definitely helped. It would be nice to add exercise someday but for now just the extra 20-30 minutes to be still and find my mooring has been a big help in starting my day with a good attitude that spills into everything else I do.

    • Ashley Brooks

      I completely agree about needing time to “just be” in the morning instead of hitting the ground running. I do consider myself a morning person, but having that time to slowly wake up and maybe read a chapter of a book before my baby wakes up makes all the difference. My problem is that I’m so dang tired in the morning, I can never force myself to get up with my alarm. (Sometimes I don’t even hear it!) Fingers crossed that I feel more rested and able to get back to a morning routine once baby is sleeping through the night.

      • Beth

        I hear you with exhaustion from night wakings! My son sleeps through the night now unless he’s sick (or just cries a little and falls back to sleep.) Having been through one baby I’d like to try some things differently when it’s time for number two now that I know how I respond to all the exhaustion. But I don’t know – right now it’s hopeful wishing. We’ll see how it works out when we are blessed with another baby. Is this baby one or multiple for you?

  3. Maryalene

    I started getting up at 5am so I could have an hour to myself before the kids get up for school. Life. Changing.

  4. Rachel

    Had time to read (and write a comment) today because I set my alarm 30 minutes early. I also had a similar crying in the car moment last week after a particularly hectic start to the day. Thanks for articulating what I was feeling. It was a nice reminder that the small intentional acts that become good habits are important.

  5. Heather

    I started doing the hellomornings challenge a couple years ago (shoutout to my #hmglories!). It has been such a great support group and really encouraged me to make the most of the morning hours. It hasn’t always been easy, there have been babies and older kids that like to get up early as well, but when I can have that time first thing in the morning to just sit in the quiet, it helps make the rest of my day a little more peaceful than when I jump out of bed like the house is on fire 🙂

  6. kariane

    I think this is great. I love that quiet time in the morning before everyone else stirs. Right now my toddler is waking at 5am, so I’m not getting up before him (My early morning rising has its limits). But I know this is only a phase, and soon I’ll have my early mornings to myself again. Like you, I love them and feel refreshed by that time alone in the stillness.

  7. Jlynn

    Although I am single and live alone I have a very demanding job as an executive assistant. My days are spent anticipating needs, taking care of the known to-dos and attending to the multitude of “little fires” that come up throughout the day.

    I have found that I need me time every day. I go to bed earlier at night because I sleep poorly, so I don’t usually get up earlier but I do have a morning routine. I also have at least 30 minutes in the evening to unplug and shut off and just wind my day down by reading, writing, praying, or sometimes just sitting and rocking. I also use my morning and afternoon breaks at work as me time and try to slip out for a walk around the block.

    When I do not take the time to accomplish the above then I find myself frazzled, anxiety-ridden, and grouchy.

    You need to fill yourself up once in awhile before you can continue giving to others.

    • Fwcamy

      Thanks for sharing. As a fellow single, I can relate!

  8. Dee

    I am not a “morning person” but I love this! I love the gentleness and nonjudgementalness of it! I love the lack of perfection! And the goal of progress! Love love love it! I can’t promise I will get up earlier, but I will try to wake up for my day and make it special!

  9. Joyce

    I think I was in this same boat when my children were little. I worked 3-1130pm so didn’t get to sleep until 1 or 130 but the children woke up at 5 or 6. My way to achieve your peace was not trying to achieve perfection in anything (housework, yard work etc) on those days. PJs all day or playing at McDonalds for hours and breakfast for dinner. Peace and balance can be obtained anyway we choose. But we have to recognize it and choose it. Bravo for you….and me…and us!!! 🙂

  10. Andrea

    This was the perfect thing for me to read today. I needed this. Thank you

  11. Victoria @SimplifiedLife.net

    I’m not a morning person either but I realize that I need to change that and in turn, change my outlook on life – margin for myself is so needed. Thanks for the reminder Kat. Timely as always.

    ~Victoria

  12. Georgia

    I absolutely love this and needed to see this today. Even before reading this, I’ve lately been considering setting my alarm. After losing a baby, I fell into a rut of sleeping in. It began, not necessarily for the wrong reasons. Some days, it was just because I really needed the sleep {which actually started during the pregnancy}. Then, when gripped by grief, there were days I could barely get out of bed at all. And when I felt that way, I was gentle with myself and let myself be in that place… it was just what I needed to do. But it became habit. And now, sleep is probably the most out of control aspect in my life. The simple phrase to put it that way… wake up for life, and not to life… that just changes my entire outlook and inspires me to try this as well. Thank you.

    • Terre

      Bless your heart Georgia. May you have all that you need for this day and everyday for comfort and peace.

  13. Learning Mama

    I used to be a morning person too! I’m afraid getting up earlier would be of no use for me in this season though. I’m currently getting up 2-3 times at night with the baby, and my 4 year old wakes up the instant someone gets up in the morning. Every minute of sleep is a priority these days!
    Getting up early and having the house to myself for a short while does sound fabulous thought!

  14. Joanna

    I’ve always wanted to do that- get up eaqrlier. To start my busy day earlier. Now, If to wake up early, I want to spend 5 minutes to do something for myself. Thank you!

  15. Eat Write Love

    Really needed this! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Dottie

    Thank you for your words and telling your story. I really needed to read it. I am always “starting over”. I will try.

  17. LoriR

    Thank you for this post! I have friends who have claimed this makes all the difference for them and need to change something. I feel out of control and try to play “catch up” most days! I am a night owl, though, and always have been. I wonder if this would really work for me. ??? This inspired me to try it and see. 🙂 Thanks again.

  18. Kd

    I have been doing this as well for the last three weeks and I am seeing a huge difference in my view on the world and my view on my own world!

  19. Angela @ Setting My Intention

    I’ve been implementing this for many months now inspired by your encouragement Kat – 5 minutes is doable to me. It is a life changer!

  20. Kim

    YES! I have a morning ritual that includes rising before my family, exercising, meditating,writing in my journal and drinking tea. It is my time, with no interruptions, and it totally centers and grounds me for the day ahead.

  21. hannah

    I related so deeply to the “before” you described in this post! So deeply. And your solution makes total sense for a morning person. Even though everything you said really resonated with me, I just want to point out for those who aren’t morning people, the Bible offers another solution. I’ve been experimenting with it for a few years now and it’s made all the difference! Check it out here:
    http://hannahkallio.org/this-is-for-you/

  22. Chelsea

    I started setting an alarm several months ago. My goal is very simple. To get up early enough to drink one cup of coffee by myself. I find that if I don’t get one cup before I have to be a parent, I have a hard time. It has made a huge difference in my morning attitude for sure.

    • Sarah Westphal

      This. Is. Genius.

      A good way to start the early morning journey. Begin with coffee and work in more time–ie waking up earlier–from there.

  23. Alyssa

    Totally agree, a few months ago I started going outside as close to first thing in the morning as well as going for walks in the morning and it has also made a huge impact on my days,

  24. vicky

    My problem is that if I set an alarm, someone else always wakes up with it or 5 mins before it goes off!
    I do agree though it is great idea

  25. Katelyn

    I have been seriously contemplating this recently. But in order to get up earlier and be truly rested, I’m going to have to go to bed earlier. That’s the hardest part for me. Many times it’s hard to let go of the late night quiet and actually go to bed. Plus, my husband works a variable shift and sometimes the only time we get together uninterrupted by our 4 year old is late at night.

  26. ann

    I’m in my first week of going to bed early so I can get up early. I think it was Tsh who said something about starting the day, not letting the day start you…
    Unfortunately one of my children has a knack for hearing me, no matter how quiet I try to be, and even with a white noise maker in her room… Hoping this too will pass so I can get a few more minutes of early morning me time…

  27. Regina

    This is so, so true! I started doing this a while back and felt the same way. I have gotten out of the habit and have started hitting the snooze button again. This was a great reminder of what I am missing! Thank you for this timely post!

  28. Tess

    I literally started doing this a couple weeks ago! I’ve noticed such a difference to my day, my attitude, my life! I seriously sore I’d never be a morning person… I’m the type of person who dreams of sleep and more sleep. I actually get excited about waking up early. I was also in a bad place for a long time… Worried, anxious, overwhelmed. Always starting my day feeling behind. So thankful for the sweet time w The Lord!

  29. Melanie A.

    I would so love to do this, because I feel this way! With three kids under four, I wake up to a madhouse of kids needing diaper changes and food NOW. My problem, and my lack of a routine, is that I work full time evening/night shift. I get to bed at either 2 am, or 6 am, and just hope the kids will sleep in for me until 9:30 or 10 am so I can feel human for the rest of the day. I have given up on getting up early, at this point, and just get my “me” time in at nap time or when they go to bed at night, on evenings that I am off. It can make for a rough morning, but I just do the best I can during this season 🙂

  30. Jessica Lynn

    Love reading your words, Kat! I’ve heard your comments about getting up for your life and family, not to them so many times, but reading them again just now was a good reminder of why I head to bed before the “normal” burning the midnight oil hours and why when my alarm rings early I am motivated to get up! Thanks, friend!

  31. Kristy S.

    Loved this! So true to wake up “for” your life instead of ‘to” your life. I have started implementing this recently and it has made a tremendous difference in my attitude and stress levels. This week I have not followed through on this habit and I have been playing catch up all week. Thank you for the beautiful article today!

  32. Joy

    Had my own melt down in the car this evening. Thank you for this. I know from experience that having quiet time in the morning helps me tremendously. I’ve just not been in the habit for a long time.Got to get back to it. For my life. Thank you.

  33. Jessie

    I wanted to spend more time with my preschooler, so thought going from a 40-hr a week job to a few part-time/freelance jobs would be less stressful. Wrong. I’m spending all my evenings after bedtime trying to crank out work, my exercise routine has disappeared and I’m getting to bed if I’m lucky at 11. While I’m getting more quality time with her during the day, it’s not helping my moods or my tiredness, or quality time with my husband for that matter…which then makes me a cranky impatient mom. Making a new rule of no technology after 9:30pm so my brain has time to wind down, and then ideally getting to sleep earlier and maybe when the alarm goes off at 7, I’m not grumpy. And hopefully that alarm can move to 6:30 to have some God time before the day really gets going! Thanks for the post, the extra kick in the pants I needed. Oops, 9:20, time to sign off!

  34. Laura

    Love this! Need to try it. I find that I have way more energy in the morning to do the things I want than I do at the end of my day (which is where I currently try to fit things in). Thanks

  35. Fwcamy

    As usual, God’s timing is perfect. I have just been pushed into a new season of my life, one that was pretty busy to start with… Now add caring for my dad and loss of income… I did pretty good with God time and exercise first thing in the morning back in January, but have seriously fallen away… The last few days of having another person to care for has really reminded me that if I don’t put those two things first, they likely won’t happen at all… And they are both as necessary as breath… I WILL MAKE TIME FOR WHAT IS IMPORTANT!!!!!!

  36. Bethann

    Kat,

    Such a great reminder and truths in your post! I’m not naturally a morning person, but if I don’t get up an hour earlier than everyone else in the house…I’m playing catch up all day. Love your insight of “waking up for my life not to my life”! Thanks again!!

    Bethann

  37. Ally | A Home Called Shalom

    “Our hours are made up of choices.” How convicting! And how often do I forget that a small choice can make such a big difference!

  38. mcse

    I have tears streaming down my face reading this. This is me. You wrote my sentiments word for word. I just started doing this YESTERDAY and the effects are EXPONENTIAL and felt in every facet of my life. I am in Texas, I have 3 littles, I drive a minivan and I was lost as well – not knowing what to do, but I knew something had to change. Thank you for putting this into words to share – so many mommies will benefit from this tiny act of change!!! YES!

  39. Sarah F

    I have always been a morning person, but this is a time that I am needing to wake up with a purpose. I have been feeling a little out of control, but I have found that if I can eat a little breakfast…even at 5:45am and enjoy 20 minutes of reading on the ferry on my way to work…it has made a world of difference in my day.

  40. Deirdre

    Beautiful — thank you!

  41. Amy

    Yes! God has been teaching me exactly this lately. I’ve started trying to intentionally wake up about 30 minutes before the school rush to just drink my coffee, read my Bible, and honestly sometimes just stare at the wall. Quiet intention in the mornings has changed the trajectory of my day. Thank you for this beautiful post, and the reminder!

  42. donna

    Recently I returned to work after 20+ years as a SAHM. It’s 20-25 hours a week and while I LOVE it, I know I need to make my daily life choices WAY more intentional now that I have to be out of the house certain days a week.
    The transition has been challenging, but not impossible :). I love my new job but I find I am simply not using my at home time for the better of my life…and my family :).
    This was a lovely post and served as a gentle reminder that *I* am in control over my days {well, oky God is but you know what I mean 🙂 } and I am the only one that can create a doable to-do list that energizes me either by being more productive OR having a day completely off….both of which are important to balance in life, ya know :)?
    Enjoy this day!!!

  43. Dawn

    Thank you a nice reminder for me to refocus, blessings Dawn

  44. Stephen Spiller

    Thanks for your nice post . I hope I will see this type of post again in your blog.

  45. Rivkah Leah Gelb

    Wow! Thank you for sharing this piece. I really appreciated your honesty and humor, as well as the distinct difference you making in the possible ways of waking up in the morning. I, too, am not a morning person and it’s a very difficult thing when you have three little kids. Thank you again for your insights and inspiration to take one small step towards positivity!

  46. Gloria

    Do you have advise for night owls? I wake up at 5:30am as is and know that I cannot get up any earlier to do any “me” time before the day starts. Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

  47. Keijo

    Great article! Will you post your morning playlist?

  48. Christa

    Wow! Thanks for being honest… I need to wake up to my life too…

  49. Alissa

    One jumping jack!
    There is so much brilliance there – even when there are only a few minutes of “morning time,” you are still doing that one small thing to set the tone for your day. On the days when you have more time, you do more. When you have less, you do less… but you still do SOMETHING.

    Your description of waking up FOR your day makes so much sense. I’ve always said that I’m not a morning person, but really, I think I’m just a “slow starter.” Even before I had kids, my alarm went off at 6am for a 7:15 commute time. What did I DO with that time?!?! Now, we are lucky to have a later (8:45) start to the school day, so I can set my alarm for 6:15 and still have an hour before the kids need to get out of bed. Even on the weekends, I find that it takes me 1-2 hours of being awake before I can have a rational conversation.

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