I recently wrote an article about Google CEO Sundar Pichai's morning routine. For dévotées of AM rituals, it's not, well, typical. Pichai doesn't cram exercise, reading, meditation, email, and goal-setting in before 8am. In fact, a big part of his routine is aligning his natural habits with self-improvement-focused activities. Slowly.
His morning routine success is not surprising. In fact, it underscores a scientific truth revealed by by Duke and Stanford University (highlighted in Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global): microsteps, not overly ambitious steps, are the way to progress.
For over-zealous leaders, ever focused on growing both personally and professionally, this can seem like a let-down. We want progress now -- and if we can email, meditate, exercise, read, and journal all before the work day starts, why not?
Because it doesn't stick. For morning routines to be successful, they need to be consistent. In other words, we need them to become habit. But the best habits are formed when we not only give our minds time to adapt, but also remove the pressure to be successful.
A couple of years ago, The Atlantic highlighted this exact problem. It seems, sometimes, that everyone is gushing about their successful morning routines and how productive, energized, and happy they are as a result. So why can't the rest of us get it right?
Here's why: Morning routines are not one-size-fits-all, habits are seldom built with giant strides, and the pressure to succeed is an almost sure-fire way of scuttling any AM efforts.
So, let's take a different tack. Start with microsteps. Instead of telling yourself you're going to do intense cardio exercise for 30 minutes every morning before work, begin with 5 minutes of yoga -- the same amount of time it takes you to get dressed. Add a minute or two every week until you've hit the 30-minute mark. Then, adjust your workout to add more cardio-hearty components.
Also (and this is important): Start with a routine that you care less about. If it works, great. If it doesn't, so what? Removing the pressure -- and progressing with microsteps -- will teach your mind and body how to build new habits successfully. As you write success stories with your new (albeit mission-uncritical) habits, you build confidence to try more impactful ones.
As a final nod to achievable growth, I would keep in mind that failure in this context has nothing to do with how you match up against others. Nor does a single failed routine mean your efforts were a waste. The goal, instead, is to progress. Every effort allows you to learn about how you process change and approach growth -- so pay attention to how your mind and body respond. They will give you clues that can inform what to do (and not to do) the next time you step into a new routine.