How often do you start your teaching day feeling tired, stressed and dreading having to turn up because you don’t feel you are ready to face the day? Do you find that you are feeling burnt out and maxed out even before you started teaching your first student? Are you lacking the mental focus and the energy you need to best serve your students and deliver the highest quality teaching you can possibly deliver? Did you know that the way you start up your morning is how you set up the tone for your whole day? In this episode, I am going to share with you some ideas on how you can win back your life, upgrade your happiness, feeling of aliveness and be more present, productive and energised as you serve your students each and every day just be making some changes to your morning routine. I can’t wait to share this episode with you and help you be the best version of yourself as a teacher and role model in our singing voice community.
I am here to tell you that Yes, you absolutely have a choice in how you show up and you can choose to make changes to your morning that will set you up for a brilliant day! Let’s think about this, brilliant and purposeful days turn into brilliant and purposeful weeks. Those weeks turn into months and those months turn into years and before you know it, you have led a brilliant and purposeful life. Or the other option is that we can choose to begin our days, weeks and months with a morning routine, that will only set up us up with a negative mindset for the day and before we know it, our lives have flown by us and we have wasted the opportunity to live our best lives and align ourselves with our passion and purpose. You may be one of those people, who do that unknowingly by waking up and the first thing is do is waste precious time on social media, consuming fake news. That just makes you feel reactive and puts you in a bad mood. I know it does me.
Did you know that the most influential, successful and prominent men and women of the world are early risers? A study of 300 most successful people revealed that the one thing they all had in common was that they were early risers and were a part of the 5am club. For those of you who don’t know, about the 5 AM club, it is a concept that was started by Robin Sharma, a legendary leadership and elite performance expert. This concept was created by Sharma over twenty years ago, to help his clients maximise their productivity, activate their best health and bulletproof their serenity in an age of overwhelming complexity and for many of us anxiety. It is a step-by-step method, where you wake up at 5 AM, the quietest hours of the morning, so you have time for twenty-minutes of exercise, twenty-minutes of self-renewal and twenty minutes of study or personal growth.
Ok I can hear the gasps from many of you as this early wake up time may be a little overwhelming for those of us in the voice community, especially for those of us who are voice teachers, and especially those of us who have performance careers or have come from a performance background. I can unashamedly admit that during my own performance career, I became a nocturnal creature and it was not unusual for me to go to bed beyond 5am, morning after night. I didn’t see the light of day for months at a time. I understand that after teaching all day some of us have families, we come home after a long work day to tend to the needs of others, we cook dinner, throw on the washing and after doing the cleaning up after dinner, we finally get to read the multitude of emails that we couldn’t get to during our teaching day, and then the only time we have to relax is late at night after everyone in the household has gone to bed. I know this is the case as I will often find an email from a colleague sitting in my inbox that was sent after 2am. Yes, for most of us in the singing voice profession, waking at 5am maybe a big ask.
There’s no denying that we are, indeed, creatures of habit. Making change is the hard choice and continuing on as you are is easy. Our minds and bodies are dependent on stimulants, actions and patterns that come to define who we are. Our habits are our security blankets, surrounding us in their constant and reliable presence and the comfort of familiarity. However as humans our brains have neuroplasticity, which allows the neurons or the nerve cells in the brain to adjust their activities in response to new situations or changes in their environment. In other words our brains have the ability to adapt and take the habit out of our lives, the same way we put one into our lives, freeing us of the unconscious and in some cases the detrimental patterns that habits cause. It has been scientifically proven that it takes 66 days of practice for us to form any new habit we would like to create for ourselves and to transform that habit into default behaviour. Therefore with patience and perseverance, we can replace those old negative morning patterns that do not serve us with new positive ones that help us set up our day to create more positive outcomes.
As I stated earlier, the most successful, influential, and prominent business persons, leaders and elite athletes rise at 5am. This is the time of day, in most places, before the sun rises, no one else in the household is usually up and we can focus on ourselves. I wanted to learn how to set up my day where I could feel more energised and my student at the end of the day was receiving the same standard of teaching as my very first student. They don’t get a discount because you’re having a slump in energy or you have mid-afternoon brain fog. You owe every student your best work irrespective of when in the day they have their lesson. For me, I ALSO wanted to go to work with a positive mindset where I could be a role model for my students and lead my voice community. I wanted to take care of myself and be in the best shape possible, so I could have a healthy body/mind so that my vocal instrument was finely tuned at all times.
Personally, if I am teaching an 8 hour day and have two hours of travel to and from work, I believe planning the night before is more effective for me and I find breaking my morning up into three ten minute segments works well. So, I took the 20/20/20 strategy and modified it to suit what worked best for me. I can tell you it’s been life changing.
The First 20 Minutes – Is exercise or just Move!!!
Motion is lotion!! Well at least that is what my osteopath, Nathan tells me and I must agree with him. As it turns I’m not the only one who believes this. Just go read the science. Singing is a whole body experience and our whole body is our instrument right? Therefore as voice teachers and singers, our physical condition needs to be considered. If we have kinks in our bodies, those kinks will not disappear and you will be modelling to your students and singing with a kink in your system.
Sometimes I wake up with a little niggle from sleeping in a weird or uncomfortable position and my neck might be hurting or I have a dull headache and I find after I have done just ten minutes of moving, my aches and pains magically disappear always, without exception. I plank each morning for six minutes and if you don’t know what that is look it up on YouTube. Basically, it is an isometric core strength exercise and what I love about it is that you can do it anywhere, and you don’t need any kind of equipment to do it other than your body. I break it up by holding the plank for three minutes, with a few minutes break and then do another three minutes. It is challenging and I have had to build up to this over a period of time. Whatever you decide to do for your morning routine exercise, may require you do the same. It is ok to do that. We are not here to break world records, it is about gentle movement.
I am not going to tell you what you should do here, but just try to get up and move, stretch, bounce, walk, swim, ride a bike, do some yoga anything that will activate your body first thing in the morning. All these things are important to increasing your frequency and to becoming a role model for our students.
Number 2 – Meditation
The second twenty minutes is spent meditating. This can mean different things to different people. I think of meditation as a way of catching a breath in life. You need to have the mental energy to deliver your best teaching, stay focused and feel vibrant and energised from the start of your day till the end. We all struggle from mental fatigue and lack of mental focus. We all get tired at times and we are worried about our overall health. Meditation helps us get back to our high performance mindset and physical health.
It is about deep breathing and using the breath to calm the mind, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. How you achieve this is so individual. For some people it can be by going for a walk along the beach, others it can be sitting in a park. No matter how you do this, this step in the morning routine cannot be skipped. I used to think that meditation was weird and it was for hippies that ran around hugging trees. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
It has become so important for me to meditate each morning and I can’t say that I am very good at it. I usually meditate for around 15 to 20 minutes during the week and 25 minutes on the weekend when I have more time. My mind often wonders, but at the end of it I feel amazing. It does help me re-calibrate each morning and remove any residual emotional baggage or stress from the previous day.
According to research, we have between 50,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day and these don’t leave us. When we carry these over to the new day, we can get in the way of our being our best selves and prevent us from achieving successful and positive outcomes. Tranquillity is the new modern day luxury, and it comes at no cost in the serenity of the early hours of the morning. The second 20 minutes of our mornings should be spent re calibrating our mindset for the new day ahead. My days are far more productive and I can now experience the bliss that comes from serving others by starting the day refreshed and invigorated.
Number 3 – Journaling or Personal Development
Your intuition is wiser than your intellect and this is a time for you to do some personal development or planning, a time to invest in your personal growth. It can be a time for you to be grateful, study how to become your best self in your best life, journaling. You can listen to Podcasts by some amazing thought leaders such as Jay Shetty, Bredon Burchard, Brene Brown, Louis Howes, there are so many of them. Or go and read one of their books for 20 minutes. Invest in your best life. I chose write in a gratitude journal each morning before I go to work. My journal is broken up into 3 sections. I start off by writing things that I want to let go of on that day. It can be anxiety, stress, self doubt, negativity. Basically anything that is going to hold you back from you achieving your goals for that day or living your day to your full potential. For me it is about acknowledging these feelings or behaviours and then letting them go. Not allowing them to take over. Next I write at 7 things that I am grateful for that happened the previous day. This can really force you to think especially if your day sucked and especially in the midst of this pandemic, but there is so much we have to be grateful for. Just look outside your window and find things that bring you joy. The smell of the rain, the green grass, the blue sky, the sense of community you have around you. When you think of all these things, you realise life is not so bad. Lastly I set my intentions for the day. I think about what I have on for that day and how I want my day to go. In other words, what do I need to focus on that day for me to have a productive, joyous….. day?
In terms of personal development, I usually do that in the car. I travel up to 13 hours per week to work and spend that time listening to the great thought leaders I mentioned earlier. This really works for me, so while I am driving, I am not focused on the long car ride home, but consuming valuable, life changing information. I imagine if you spent at least 10 hours per week on personal growth and development. Do you think that would change your life. I can tell you it has changed mine. I have feel I have discovered a whole new way of thinking about my life and I am totally addicted to it.
The first day I woke up a half hour earlier at 6am, I was tired. My eyes were red and my body felt like I had not slept at all the night before. It was painful but I managed to get through my teaching day. Tuesday 6 AM came along and again my alarm went off and again I crawled out of my bed. Again it was painful and this day I felt exhausted all day. My body ached and it was made worse by having 16 private students to teach that day. It was only then did I realise the obvious. If I was waking up a half hour earlier than I normally did, I need the be going to bed a half hour earlier. Once this obvious fact sunk in, I went to bed at 10:00 PM instead of 11:00 PM. That made a huge difference. Wednesday morning was fantastic. I woke up, felt normal and didn’t feel like I was crawling out of my bed. I managed to get through the day without feeling tired — well okay… just a little tired.
For the sake of your quality of life, the way you show up and the outcomes you want for your students, I urge you to find a morning ritual of movement, meditation and personal development that works for you and your lifestyle. Don’t waste time, try it today! You have nothing to lose except however many number of years not feeling at your best, not living your best life.
You are unique, you are different so find something that works for you. It doesn’t need to be at 5am, it doesn’t need to take an hour. Customise and carve out a routine that you can manage. One that makes you feel good and do this every day. Make a promise to yourself that you will take the time for self care and don’t break that promise. You can simply try what I have suggested, then tweak in a way that is going to make you feel more energised. You can chose how are you going to awaken your senses and how do you come alive every morning. Keep that promise to yourself to do this. Learn the simple discipline of this morning routine and this practise will help you in all areas of your life as well as helping the students you serve who will also benefit from this change. It is time to experience your best life.
Remember that singing is a higher form of self expression, not just in song, but in life. It is not just about a voice, not just about your voice.
It is about a voice and beyond.