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Who's Driving Your Bus? (& a 5 min Morning Routine That Will Change Your Life!)


Welcome to my blog, where you'll find substantive, well-researched articles that blend neuroscience, philosophy, poetry, personal reflection, and the latest life coaching tools in service of helping people engage their full potential. 


Who's Driving Your Bus? (& a 5 min Morning Routine That Will Change Your Life!)

Kirstin Hotelling Zona

Hello, Lovelies! 

Do you feel like you start your days on purpose, with a calm, clear vision of what you want to feel, want to create, want to give, and want to receive?

Or do you feel like you start your days on autopilot, rushed and scattered, as if your life is somehow driving the bus and you're in the back, scrambling to pick up the notebooks you dropped as you hurried to find your seat? 

If you're like most of the people I work with, your mornings look more like the latter than the former. And that feeling--of being at the mercy of, rather than in control of your life--can, if left unchecked, siphon your confidence, self-trust, motivation, and--worst of all--your ability to dream. 

The good news is that moving from the back of the bus to the driver's seat is easier than you might think. Yes, it takes work and determination, especially if the back seat has come to feel comfortable.

But making this shift isn't all about "work": just as important is giving yourself permission to be curious (instead of critical), to experience wonder (instead of overwhelm), to play (instead of accomplish), and to be joyful (instead of burdened).

Cultivating these states of being is crucial to the "work" of setting goals, making plans, and overcoming the fears and old habits that inevitably rear their heads whenever we step beyond our comfort zones.

Why? Because curiosity, wonder, play, and joy bring us home to ourselves, to our embodied beings, to the fact of our aliveness, to what makes us at once unique and connected, in the most literal way, to the life force that moves through us and binds us to each other.

It is our aliveness--not our accomplishments, accolades, or even our "purpose"--that makes us worthy or good or lovable. It's simply the fact of our breathing, pulsing, thrumming selves: that which makes us capable of suffering, and therefore capable of compassion.

We are worthy of love because we live

Connecting to our own aliveness is, then, essential to setting goals and holding ourselves accountable to them (driving the bus), because it's what allows us to make plans from a place of abundance, rather than a place of lack.

When we set goals from a place of lack--"I want to do this because I'm not good enough as I am, because I must prove myself, because I must make myself worthy"--we will sabotage ourselves en route: fallbacks (which will happen) become evidence of our insufficiency rather than opportunities for growth, and back we slink to the rear of the bus, where we stare aimlessly out the window through a fog of self-defeat. 

When, in contrast, we remind ourselves that despite whatever mistakes we've made and sorrows we've incurred, our goodness, our worthiness, resides in the very fact of our miraculous aliveness, in our capacity to suffer and therefore to love, our goals become a means by which we awaken and express our fundamental goodness in the world. Setbacks become invitations for learning and discovery. Failures fortify our resilience.

And soon enough, we're sitting tall in that front seat, loving the wide-open view, confident in our capacity to drive the big bus of our lives, no longer carsick with self-blame and self-shame. 

When working with clients, I spend a lot of time at the start teaching them how to reconnect with their bodies, with their aliveness, and how to cultivate on purpose feelings of curiosity wonder, joy, and play. 

One of the tools I teach right away is a morning routine, and recently I created a brand-new five-minute routine that I'd like to share here with you--one you can complete before you're even out of bed!

Here it is: 

Five-Minute Morning Routine

Remove your phone from your bedroom. Do not sleep next to your phone. This is CRUCIAL to the success of this routine. If you use your phone alarm to wake up, buy an alarm clock. Do not give yourself the opportunity to pick your phone up first thing upon waking. (This step alone will transform your day).

- Upon waking, say "Good morning," in bed, out loud. Say it with a smile on your face. Say it to yourself ("Good morning, Kirstin"), and then to anyone else you'd like to wish well (partner, children, parents, friends, etc). If you wake up next to someone, and s/he is awake, wish him or her a good morning. If s/he's asleep, say your good mornings quietly, in a whisper. But say them, starting with yourself, and then say them to others, as if you're sending little balloons of love to the important people in your life.

- Close your eyes and stretch: point your toes and extend your legs, and reach your arms up over your head. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly. 

- Scan your body, starting with your feet and ending with the top of your head. As you focus your attention on each part of your body, name the body part (toes, feet, lower legs, knees, upper legs, groin, etc.) silently, in your head. Notice each part of your body with curiosity and compassion. Notice your body, how it's aliveness feels to you, pleasant and unpleasant sensations alike, without judgment. 

-  Open your eyes, and decide upon a  feeling that you would like to cultivate during the day, on purpose. Confidence? Trust? Motivation? Empowerment? Peace? Awareness? Worthiness? Gratitude? Pick one, and commit to it. Say, out loud (or in your head, if you prefer): "I intend to cultivate the feeling of _______ today." 

- Ask yourself a good question. Generally, we ask ourselves terrible questions, with the best of intentions, all day long. Questions like Why don't I finish the things I start?, What's wrong with me?, Why am I unhappy?, Why did I overcommit myself again?, Why is he so mean to me?, and the like. Our brains don't care if we are happy or sad, they just care about doing their job--solving problems--with efficiency. If you ask yourself a bad question, your brain will come up with lots of answers that become evidence of the very thoughts that are keeping you stuck (Because I am lazy and unmotivated; Because my childhood was traumatic and I'm too broken to overcome it; Because I make bad choices; Because I'm out of control; Because I'm not smart/sexy/kind/lovable enough...). You get the picture. So, asking yourself questions that serve you really matters. If you are feeling overwhelmed and want to cultivate a feeling of peace, a good question might be "What actions can I take today that will help me feel peaceful?" If you want to cultivate the feeling of confidence, a good question might be "What are my strengths, and how can I use them to guide my actions today?" Play around with this one, experiment and have fun!

So, to recap: 

*No phone in bedroom*
- Say "good morning," with a smile. 
- Breathe and stretch
- Body scan with curiosity and kindness
- Choose emotion to cultivate
- Ask a good question to guide your day

This five-step morning routine doesn't have to take you more than five minutes (though if you'd like to stretch it out, by all means do!). This five minutes can change your whole day. 

My invitation to you is to commit to this morning routine every day for the next 30 days. You will be amazed by how this one simple tool shifts your energy, emotion, and outlook. How it moves you from the back seat to the driver's seat of your life. 

As always, if you find this email helpful, please share it! And if you have any questions or comments, shoot me back an email and I'll happily reply. 

Have a beautiful Monday, and a great week!




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