What you “don’t” can matter more than what you do.
Motivation is weird.
When we go to bed late at night, we’re dying to change our lives and make great plans. But when tomorrow comes, it’s all gone – we snooze the alarm, turn around, and hope for better times.
The funny thing is, our drive is always there. It’s hardwired into our DNA to survive and thrive, make our lives better, have healthy offspring, and be a champ. But our daily actions often kill that drive, leaving us stuck on the couch.
“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” – John Dryden
If you want to experience relentless drive, endless energy, and roof-blasting motivation instead, drop the habits that drain them out of you.
Hiding From The Sun
When you ask people what makes them feel energized, you often get the same answers.
Food. Water. Exercise. Loud music. A double espresso shot followed by a red bull and Coca Cola. Fair call on all of these – but there’s another important source.
It’s so obvious most people miss it.
Studies show again and again that exposing yourself to bright sunlight in the morning has a ton of health benefits and skyrockets your energy levels. On his podcast, neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman emphasizes the biological imperative for mental and physical health of getting 2-10 minutes of sun every morning upon waking as an energy management habit:
“First of all, this is not some woo biology thing. This is grounded in the core of our physiology. We’ll talk about all that, but everybody, whether or not you live in a cloudy place or a sunny place, whether or not there’s cloud cover or not that day, should really strive to get bright light in your eyes, ideally from sunlight within the first 30 to 60 minutes after waking. The reason for that is very simple. […] In fact, when you start doing this, you’ll notice that your body will start to feel more energized and it will feel more energized more quickly.”
If you don’t do it, you’re shooting yourself in the foot because you’ll miss out on two powerful effects.
- Exposure to morning sunlight triggers cortisol release. This is a natural wake-up signal and boosts alertness and focus throughout the day.
- It sets your circadian rhythm, which makes you sleepy at night. You help your body release melatonin, a sleep hormone, at the right time – improving your sleep quality and helping you start the next day well-rested.
Sunlight exposure is simple – just follow these guidelines:
- In the morning right after waking up, get outside and face the sun for two to ten minutes (twice as long if you’re behind a window.) If it’s cloudy, expand this time to 30 minutes. If the sun isn’t up yet, use bright overhead light.
- In the afternoon or evening, go outside for 20 to 30 minutes again. This helps your sensory cells and hormone cycles adjust further, making you more alert during the day and more sleepy at night.
- Dim lights in the evening and avoid artificial lights between 10pm and 4am. If you don’t, you’ll trigger an early cortisol release, which messes with your sleep quality. You’ll also suppress dopamine production, which can seriously dampen your mood.
The sun determines our body’s natural rhythms – work with it instead of against it.
Maintaining A Super Sedentary Lifestyle
I recently read something that made me shake my head like a dog with itchy ears.
A health coach recommended taking a daily 20-minute walk as exercise. So far, so good – walking has tons of scientifically proven health benefits. What surprised me was that 20 minutes of walking was considered exercise.
Our ancestors couldn’t even get breakfast without that.
This is just one of the effects of our sedentary lifestyle. We park our behind at work, in the car, and on our couch at home. According to the Washington Post, the average US adult sits for 6.5 hours per day.
When you plop down on your butt, your body winds down. You get into a lazy position, so you start to feel lazy. But that’s not all.
Long sits increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, likelihood of dying from diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and overall risk of early death.
This doesn’t mean you have to stand all the time – according to Harvard biology professor Daniel Lieberman, you just have to avoid vegging out.
“Experiments that ask people to interrupt long periods of sitting even briefly – for example, just a hundred seconds every half hour – result in lower levels of sugar, fat, and so-called bad cholesterol in their blood […] and stimulate muscles to quench inflammation and reduce physiological stress.” – Daniel Lieberman
Apart from the health benefits, it will keep your body functioning properly and increase your drive and energy.
So instead of getting glued to your couch, find ways to keep moving.
- Play with your dog or kids
- Fold laundry
- Do light stretching
- Stand up to look out of the window
- Do light cleaning
Stay active and driven instead of paralyzing yourself in the same position for hours.
Eating Energy-Draining Foods Regularly
Your body is an engine – and engines need fuel.
If you fill a car with the wrong fuel, it stutters or dies. If you feed your body the wrong fuel, it won’t perform at stellar levels, either. Don’t expect yourself to feel like a king if you eat like a beggar.
However, nutrition is a complex topic. There are thousands of pieces of advice for what you should eat. But to increase your drive and energy, just avoid these:
- Any type of greasy fast food. Munching burgers will glue you to the couch for hours because that’s how long it takes to digest them.
- Sugars and sweets. When you eat a ton of sweets, you get a sudden burst of energy – then crash once you’ve burned through them.
- Excess caffeine consumption. There’s nothing wrong with a coffee to boost your energy levels on a sluggish day. But too many mess with your sleep and make you dependent – both drain your energy and drive.
Now all that’s left to skyrocket your energy is this: Drink plenty of water.
The National Academy of Medicine recommends at least 13 cups (3 liters) for men and 9 cups (2 liters) for women per day – more if you’re in a hot climate or work out. To kickstart your day, drink half a liter in the morning – we lose a lot of fluid during the night and this will help you get back into high gear.
Don’t feed your body crappy fuel and don’t let it dry out – this will make you feel more energetic and driven than any coffee ever could.
Entering A Reactive State In The Morning
“How you start your day is how you live your day. How you live your day is how you live your life.” – Louise Hay
Many men set themselves up for failure right when they get up.
In the morning, you’re still fresh. You just had a night of deep restorative rest. The world hasn’t yet gripped you with all its troubles and there are no fires to put out.
But then, you do what most men do – and grab your phone.
Messages roll in. Reminders for appointments plop up. A notification for an email from your boss shows on the screen.
This puts you into reactive mode – you respond to your surroundings and let them drain your energy. When your day starts with a ton of to-dos, it’s no wonder you lose your motivation.
Instead, go into active mode – decide what you will do. Take some time for yourself to meditate, journal, or have breakfast. Don’t overload yourself before your day has even started.
In the evening, I put my phone into airplane mode – this guarantees that no distracting notifications will pop up on the screen. I keep it like that until lunchtime, after I’ve done the most important things for the day. You may need your phone before, but you don’t need to check all its notifications right after you wake up.
Start your day right to maintain your drive and energy.
Spending Too Much Time In Thought
Your mind is both your best and worst asset.
It helps you solve problems and improve your life – but also keeps you stuck in endless loops of ruminating about the past and worrying about the future.
You can spend hours thinking about what your boss said, how to best communicate with your partner, or which way you’ll lose that stubborn belly fat. When you do that, you’ll find a bunch of reasons why this or that won’t work. It’s how your mind functions – it’s always looking for problems.
Overthinking drains your drive, energy, and motivation. No matter how much effort you put in, you’ll always hit a hypothetical wall. Counter it with action.
- Set time limits on when and how much you think about something. Don’t let it take over your life.
- Write down your thoughts. If you don’t, your mind will run in circles, burning more energy with every round.
- Take small steps. Ask yourself, “what’s the next small thing I can do?” Then go and make it happen.
You can create your drive and motivation yourself. Don’t get stuck in your head. Get moving instead.
Action creates energy.
Summary To Boost Your Energy, Drive, and Motivation
You already have it all inside of you. You’re genetically hardwired to be a badass. You just need to stop doing what drains you.
- Get sun exposure as soon as possible in the morning.
- Stop the super sedentary lifestyle and move frequently.
- Don’t react to your phone first thing in the morning – enter an active state instead.
- Don’t eat energy-draining fast foods every day.
- Stop wasting your time and energy on overthinking.
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