You’ve heard countless times about the benefits of gratitude, self examination, not sitting or standing all day, fasting, and the power of spending time in solitude, and focusing on your breath. The amount of scientific and anecdotal evidence supporting these practices is overwhelming, and so there is no reason you need to be convinced of their importance… Right?
I challenge you to assess your current routine and answer these questions:
- Do you have a daily gratitude practice?
- Do you spend time in self examination and ask yourself what you could have done better every day?
- Do you connect with your body each day and get out your head by walking, dancing, lifting weights, doing jumping jacks, or other movement practices?
- Do you ever sit quietly by yourself and just focus on your breath?
- Do you sometimes spend 24 hours completely abstaining from food?
How many of those five questions did you answer yes to?
If you agree that you don’t need to be convinced of the importance of these spiritual disciplines, why aren’t you practicing them?
I challenge you to pick at least one of the practices I outline in this article and adopt it into your daily routine. Pick whichever one seems the most approachable to you.
All of these practices will put you more in touch with your inner child. The part of you that could play outside for an entire day and not get tired. The version of you that always asked why and why not. Your creative side that loves to come up with new ideas and try new things.
Becoming more disciplined as an entrepreneur has helped me to grow my business, build better relationships with my clients and spouse, connect with my Creator and inner child, and much much more.
Daily practice of gratitude
My friend Ben Greenfield and I created the Christian Gratitude Journal and launched it on Kickstarter in 2017. Since the launch of the journal thousands have cultivated a new daily habit of gratitude. The journal cleverly provides you with one verse and three questions to meditate upon and answer each day:
- What am I grateful for today?
- What Biblical truth did I discover in today’s reading?
- Who can I pray for or serve today?
Science has proven a habit of gratitude will make you happier and healthier and the journal supports you in building this habit by taking out the guesswork and by providing a predictable and easy to follow system.
With the journal I’ve learned to be grateful with the numerous blessings in my life: an afternoon walk in the sunshine, listening to a good podcast, spontaneous conversations with friends in my neighborhood, a few extra minutes under the covers in the morning, and how a great song can make me sing and dance.
Each night before dinner my wife and I take two deep breaths and recollect what we are grateful for from the day and it always kicks off our dinner in a positive light and creates space between the work day and our time together at night.
Earlier this month I interviewed entrepreneur, author, and speaker Dave Kerpen during the first Make You A Millionaire episode on The James Altucher Show and he shared his daily gratitude practice.
“I practice gratitude every morning, evening and night. So when I wake up, I make a list in my head of five things and people that I’m grateful for. And I guess you could say I’m having a conversation with God or some higher power. I prefer to think of it as a conversation I’m having with myself, but nonetheless, that’s a conversation that I have every morning. And then every evening at dinner, our family goes around the table and everyone shares one person that they’re grateful for at the table. One person that they’re grateful for not at the table, and their favorite moment of the day.
Which again many would not consider a spirituality necessarily, but for our family and certainly for me, it’s a conversation that brings us closer together and closer to the universe, and, or some higher power.”
Last month Ben Greenfield launched a new journal called the Spiritual Disciplines Journal and I’ve found it to be a useful enhancement to the Christian Gratitude Journal. The new journal is built to be used each morning and evening and has five questions you meditate over and respond to:
- What am I grateful for today?
- Who can I pray for or serve this day?
- What good have I done today?
- What could I have done better?
- What is one way I lived my purpose statement today?
At first I didn’t like the idea of an added evening component to my journaling habit because sometimes it’s difficult to set aside the time for another habit. But after using this journal for a couple weeks I’ve grown quite fond of the dedicated self-examination time each evening. Socrates is reported to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Starting each day in gratitude and ending each day in self examination seems to be a perfect recipe and a great spiritual discipline to adopt as an entrepreneur.
Since adopting these habits I’ve become more patient with my clients, appreciative of my good fortune of managing a small business and having control over my destiny, and more attuned to what is important for me to achieve each day.
At the end of each day I write what I could’ve done better and what’s one way I lived my purpose. This holds me accountable to making meaningful improvements within my life and business and not just accomplishing the bare minimum. It helps me to work on my life and business instead of always working in it.
Every morning I schedule at least 15 minutes of refreshing and invigorating morning movement. This time allows my organs to wake up, muscles to stretch, and sets the stage for good movement habits for the rest of the day.
I end up being lazy all day long when I skip my morning movement routine and instead sit on the couch curled up under a blanket, drinking a second cup of coffee.
The mornings I prioritize these 15 minutes of movement I’ll end up doing stretches, kettlebell swings, pushups, and dips every hour, take a walk after lunch, have a full workout at 4pm, and take a walk with my wife after dinner.
The 4pm workout isn’t even a requirement anymore because I was in motion all day long. I find that when I keep physically moving all day long I’m able to power through my entire to-do list, I’m more effective when speaking with my clients, and I spend less time browsing social media, reading the news, or spending time on other low impact tasks.
Are you noticing a theme here?
Your spiritual disciplines are critical to winning the day.
My morning movement isn’t complicated or taxing on my body. Therefore it is easy for me to continue my practice of gratitude and self examination, and prayer at the same time. Also, because it isn’t overly complicated, I don’t have to motivate myself much to get started.
I can think about the Lord and what I am grateful for while I am on the floor foam rolling my sore muscles. It’s simple for me on a morning walk to pause and watch the birds, enjoy the sun shining upon my face, look at the alligator in the pond, observe the way the Spanish moss drapes from the ancient live oak trees and sways in the breeze, and breath in God’s love for me and this world.
It’s really about being present on the walk and not listening to a podcast, making to-do lists for the day, and thinking about a conversation I need to have with a co-worker later. There is a time for all of that, just not when you’re kicking off the day!
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.”Annie Dillard
Breath work and sitting quietly
Another option for creating space and time for self reflection, solitude, and gratitude is through time spent alone sitting quietly in silence. You don’t have to get fancy here. You can sit on the floor with your back against your couch or sit in your favorite chair. The place doesn’t matter as much as the consistency of the habit.
Here is a simple breath work routine that you can try right now while reading this article. It is called box breathing– which I first read about in retired Navy SEAL and founder of SEALFIT, Mark Divine’s book, Unbeatable Mind.
“Start by exhaling all of the air from the lungs. Now inhale to a count of five, and then retain and hold your breath to a count of five. Don’t clamp down and create back-pressure with this hold. Just stop the inhale but continue the upward rise of the chest. After the retention, exhale the air slowly to a count of five, and then suspend and hold the exhaled breath for a count of five…
The technique can be used in short 1-3 minute “spot drills” several times a day or before an important meeting or event.”
I use box breathing to calm me down when I’m anxious and to center me before reading my Bible or making an important decision. I find it to be a good way to be more present and aware of my feelings.
Do you ever find yourself extremely stressed over making a decision? Try doing a few rounds of box breathing and then make your decision. Your decision making ability will improve by following this practice.
Ben Greenfield wrote 5 ways a breath work practice can make your life better. And his article is full of useful tips to take your breath work to another level.
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord, indeed. I am a miracle, you are a miracle, and our bodies – including our respiratory systems – are absolutely also miracles. You should be in awe and thankful for the magical complexity of breath every day. I recommend you begin by silently thanking God with each and every breath that you take when you engage in a daily mindful breathing habit, even if just for one minute. Eventually, this emotion of gratitude will subconsciously become woven into every breath you take.”
As I shared in my summary of Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough, fasting is a fantastic tool for taking your spiritual disciplines to another level. You must set aside and schedule time for fasting while making a conscious effort not to eat for a particular reason. I like to fast for 24 hours starting after dinner on Sunday night and then I resume eating at dinnertime on Monday night.
I schedule this fast twice per month on my calendar. The spiritual benefits aside, you’ll be shocked at how much time you spend preparing, eating, and cleaning up your meals. This 24 hour fast twice per month ends up being extremely productive with all the extra time I gain by not eating and the added sharpness of my mind.
Are you fasting so you may earnestly pray for a friend whom is sick? So you can meditate over the Bible without any distractions? To create space for God’s wisdom to come upon you during a particularly challenging season in your business?
Or is it just to show your gratitude for the fact that unlike much of the world you have the choice to not eat and you’ll still be okay. Much of the world does not have that choice. According to FAO’s 2020 state of food security and nutrition in the world report a shocking 690 million people, or 8.9 percent of the world, is undernourished.
Fasting has become mainstream in the health and wellness community for its curative powers. The entrepreneur community needs be leading the charge in bringing fasting back to the forefront as a spiritual discipline.
“When we fast, we become more attuned to the stubborn reality of the world’s suffering. Many of our neighbors’ sufferings are hanging out there in the open, and they need to be seen. Confronted. Named. Especially by those like me who do not suffer as they do.”The Common Rule, by Justin Whitmel Earley
When will you get started?
The key is spend a little time each day on your spiritual disciplines. You focus on the other areas in your life and you schedule conference calls, workouts, date nights, vacations, and haircuts, but are you scheduling time to work on your spiritual disciplines each day?
If not, why not?
When will you start?
I suggest using your alarm clock as your schedule. Your alarm no longer is the time for you haphazardly leap out of bed, brew a cup of coffee, check your email, get dressed, and start working. When your alarm goes off it’s time to start your day off by working on your disciplines.
Will you hit snooze?
Which discipline from this article will you start with? Leave your comments, questions, and tips in the comments below. I read them all!
Feature image courtesy of fotografierende.