The Hazards Of Morning (Day 6 of 100)

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I’m not a morning person and never have been.  My preference would be to stay up until 1-2 am and then get up around 9-10 am.  That probably isn’t a healthy pattern.  Also, activities like school and work have always been inconsiderately scheduled at ungodly morning times.  A long-ago acquaintance who served in the Marine Corps spoke of being awoken every morning in the early hours.  I observed that he must have grown used to it.  He said no, but he learned to accept it.  There is a nice distinction there that I have always remembered.  I accept that there is value (or necessity) in not being a night owl but I’ve never embraced it.  These days I work from a home office in a consulting/contracting capacity.  As much as I like the setup it hasn’t necessarily been good for me.  There isn’t much motivation to rise with the sun. I only have to make sure I am awake and functional to answer emails and calls during business hours.  It appeals to my baser impulses.

When I DO get myself to sleep earlier and get an earlier start to the day I feel quite good.  I find my day is usually more productive. There is a classic case of cognitive dissonance going on here.  I’m aware that if I push myself to be morning guy I’ll be all the better for it.  But in the moment when I decide what to do next it doesn’t sound like such a grand idea after all.  Aristotle would likely have called it Akrasia.  I don’t think I’m the only one who has ever had difficulty with this conflict.  Even so venerable a Stoic figure as Marcus Aurelius had to steel himself to face the morning (Meditations 2:1 and 5:1 for instance).

I’m especially aware of this now because of the goals I set for 100 days of practice.  If my day begins with the rest of the world already in motion I don’t have the time to focus myself with the mental practices I am trying to make a habit.  The kind of mental exercise that prepares one for the day, like Marcus’ review of attitude and what the day will bring, go out the window if I wake up to find I already need to respond to a message.  Also, exercise and my commitment to some daily practice in my martial art suffer with this pattern.  If I am going to the school then evening practice works well enough because I am with others.  Evening practice on my own is often a little lame.  Fatigue sets in, there’s dinner to be had or some other distraction beckons and the practice lacks focus and energy.  I know if I leave time and work out in the morning it’s a much higher quality practice.  But…well…cognitive dissonance tends to strike again.

This is part of the value of doing something like this 100 day program of building habitual practices.  It brings to light (or reminds me) of weaknesses in my outlook or approach to my affairs.  Obviously the goal is to build arête through the habits and skills that make up the program.  But sticking to a committed structure for daily life leaves less room for excuses and illusions.  You know when you aren’t walking the walk because it can be easily assessed at the end of the day.

The Homeric epics give us the earliest examples of individuals in pursuit of the arête ideal.  The heroes of the Iliad and the Odyssey weren’t always too big on deep self-analysis.  The ideal of a more detached, logical view of one’s life didn’t come until later in the Greek world.  But the Homeric world certainly did understand the necessity of walking the walk.  Its hard to fake it when you’re on the plains before the walls of Troy.  Arete in its most basic form has always been about concrete action and the measurable results we create.  Without that there is no foundation.  If getting there means changing some sleep patterns then that’s a small price to pay.

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