Other "Thinking Drafts" and writing by Keith Drury --http://www.indwes.edu/tuesday .
From: Money Sex and Spiritual Power by Keith Drury
(c) 1992 Wesley Press
Sharon is a morning person. She cheerfully pops out of bed every day, German blood coursing through her veins, with thoughts of projects to start, devotions to begin, and work to get done. Not me. I start in low gear.
To tease me about my morning laziness she once got a button announcing "SOMETIMES I WAKE UP GROUCHY," underneath were the tiny words "AND SOMETIMES I LET HIM SLEEP."
I've always been a night owl. Morning people sing in the shower... even before breakfast! I started each day with several refrains of the snooze button. Eventually I'd grumpily stumble out of bed, stagger to the living room and collapse on the couch for a few more precious minutes sleep.
Morning people disgusted me... especially their nauseating cheerfulness in the most gloomy part of the day. Cheerfulness seemed inappropriate in the morning -- like laughter at a funeral. Cheerful morning people seemed sick.
Worse yet, morning people have this air of superiority... as if night owls are inferior and undisciplined. You know, "Hi Ho, Hi Ho it's off to devotions we go." Their favorite verse is "Early will I seek him" and they like to tell night owls how they always "start off the day right" with the Lord. Night owls are lucky to get through a blurry devotional time without falling back asleep.
All this makes the night owl life rather miserable. Does anybody ever drive by a pastor's home at 2 a.m. and remark "Now there's a disciplined preacher -- probably reading his Bible." No. At 2 a.m. they figure you're watching the late show. But if they come by at 5:30 a.m. and see the lights on, they say "Saw the preacher up early this morning -- boy he's sure a hard worker." Unfair! I actually heard of one night owl pastor who rigged up a timer so the lights in his study would go on early, just to impress his farming community!
I always felt my genes got crossed up. I figured I was born this way. Writers are infamous for being night owls, so I accepted it as "just me." Then I got to know a well known author I really respected. He was a night owl who said he'd become a morning person. I wondered, "Could I become a morning person?"
It can be done! Since then I have actually become a morning person. It did not come easily or quickly. The process took several years. But I can testify that it is possible for night owls to become morning persons. If you really want to. Do you hate mornings, and really want to change? Here's how.
If you want to become a morning person merely to be considered more disciplined and improve your image you probably won't make it. Or if morning people have imposed guilt on you so much that you're ready to buckle in, that is probably not enough motivation. Doing this for personal professional reasons may not be enough to get you changed. You need God's help. Changing with God's help is hard enough. Without His help, change comes harder, maybe even not at all.
However, if you sense a spiritual conviction about the whole thing, your chance of actually changing multiplies. Do you believe God wants you to change? That's the first question.
People are probably not born night owls or morning persons. (Though there may be a gene which inclines us to it.) Regardless of your born inclination to stay up late and grouch in the morning, somewhere along the line you developed the entrenched habits of a night owl. An inclination does not make a destiny. You had to "get into the habit" of acting on your inclination to form a life pattern.
When did your owlish habit start? Recall your childhood bedtime habits. How about high school? College? Scrutinize how you've reinforced the night owl habit through the years. Even if you believe your owlishness was a birth trait, confess the habit as an adopted one. In other words, as long as you claim "I was just born this way" you'll never change. But, once you agree that you don't have to act on any sort of inclination you were born with, then you have moved one giant step toward being changed.
I don't need discipline in getting up -- it is in going to bed that I need discipline. I have always hated to end the day. I'm always wanting to complete one more letter, jot down one more idea, write more chapter, watch one more TV show, have one more... This lack of discipline at night was half my problem. Once I learned to stick to a bedtime hour, even if I didn't fall asleep right away, getting up in the morning became possible.
Pick a sensible time to get up and stick to it -- every day. Totally abandon sleeping in even on your day off. Set your alarm permanently for your rising time and place the alarm out of reach so you can't use the snooze button. If you absolutely must "catch up" on your sleep (most sleep experts say you can't) do it in the afternoons -- but for six months straight never sleep in during the morning hours. Never. Sleeping in is the equivalent of an alcoholic going on a "binge." All of last week's gains can be lost in one morning.
However, Be realistic in setting your rising time. Many of my own attempts to change failed because of unrealistic expectations. I'd hear about Martin Luther or John Wesley and feel condemned about my morning laziness. If John Wesley could get up at 4:00 a.m. I should do it too. So I'd set my alarm for 4:00 a.m. with great plans to start the day with several hours of powerful prayer. Too much change too quickly. In a week or two my plans had fizzled. It is much better to start with a realistic time and stick to it. After a year or so at that time, you can then shave off a half hour of sleep the next year. The point here is to set a sensible goal then stick with it until it becomes habitual.
C'mon. You remember what we say to new Christians about feelings. Apply that thinking here. If you go on feelings, you'll give up quickly. Feeling like a morning person -- literally feeling cheery and motivated when you get up -- is the result of years of habit. Start with behavior -- get up early. As you repeat the behavior it will eventually become a habit. When the habit is ingrained you will actually become a morning person. Finally, after the habit is "second nature" the feelings will come... only then do you actually experience morning person sensations. For now, forget feelings -- work on the habit.
One of the reasons you are not a morning person is that you have told yourself that so long. Your attitude toward mornings is a result of years of "self hypnosis" -repeatedly telling yourself and others "I'm not a morning person." You've said it so often that you automatically act like it. Hating mornings is now so much a part of your self identity you can be nothing but a morning-hater. Being a night owl is part of your very persona. You hear a pre-recorded message every morning.
To change this you must record a new message in the morning section of your psyche. You must reprogram your mind. You do that through self-affirmation -- what you repeatedly say to yourself and others.
Begin telling yourself "I'm becoming a morning person." Announce it to others too. As you start your new behaviors, and they become habits, change your self-affirmation to "I am a morning person. Watch this simple self-talk begin to change your attitude toward mornings. I felt silly doing this at first. I'd stagger out of bed and mumble sarcastically "I'm a morning person." I even put a little card on my dresser for a while: "Good morning, morning person." But, silly as it was, I was indeed becoming just that. Eventually I was able to reprogram my attitude toward mornings. As long as you keep telling yourself you are what you are, you'll never become anything more.
If you really want to become a morning person, pick a good time to begin. Since becoming a morning person is essentially a habit, laying down a new rut takes time and persistence. Don't start during Christmas vacation, or the week you are leading a overnighter with the youth group or serving as a counselor at youth camp. Pick a six week period when you can stick consistently with your new habits every day.
Most habits take a minimum of six weeks to get started, plus another five months to develop it as a lifetime permanent change. In any behavioral or attitude change, most defeats occur during the first six weeks. Pick the right period of time to start.
In my thirties I got a chance to do a traveling tour with several friends including Lee Haines and David Keith. Both of these men seemed to be in a contest to prove who could get up earliest. I had traveled with David Keith for years and was always shocked by his refusal to set an alarm clock -- even if we were leaving at 4: a.m. "Oh, I'll be awake" he would insist. Impossible! But he would be. Lee Haines was just as bad. He was one of those types who got up and walked a couple miles at dawn or before. Both men even ate breakfast. How disgusting to me at the time -- they actually put food in their stomachs before noon! As they rattled about in the room in the pre-dawn hours I would groan then roll over for a few more hours sleep and a more decent hour.
I talked to Lee Haines once about my morning groaning period. He promised that as I got older, waking up would get easier. Most older people agree with this. So, if you are young, and want to become a morning person -- you could simply wait until you reach the 50's and your problem may solve itself.
I couldn't wait. I decided to become a morning person before it happened naturally. So I followed the above regimen. I can honestly now say "I'm a morning person." I too can now savor the sweet sensations morning people have when they have finish several important tasks while their neighbors are still asleep. Now I too can bask in the feelings of spiritual success in morning prayers before many folk have even awakened.
Admittedly, this teaching isn't for everyone. If you are a morning person, all this seems so elementary. For others the idea is totally unattractive. I taught college students several years. this idea about as alluring as a chapter on "How to enjoy eating dead cats." Most collegians can't imagine why an individual might even want to be a morning person.
But many adults are stuck in their collegian era. I was for years. Then I decided I could change, with God's help. Do you want to change? You can if you really want to. Especially if you think God wants you to change. However, if you really believe that "This is just the way I am," you think there's nothing wrong with it, and you have no desire to change... well, then you are stuck with being what you are.
Perhaps you are wondering by now why I would waste the final chapter of this book on becoming a morning person?
I didn't. This chapter, and this book, is about change... any change. Forget becoming a morning person for the moment. What change do you need? Are you saying "This is just who I am" about something in your life? Are you saying "I was born with this?" Is God talking to you about changing some pattern, habit, desire, or thought pattern in your life?
How do you need to change? How will God help you do it?
From: Money, Sex, and Spiritual Power by Keith Drury
(c) 1992 Wesley Press
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