My experiences with sleep
I can relate to your plight, Vektor. My sleeping patterns aren't as good as I'd like them to be, and while I can get up early if I whip out some discipline, it's not very sustainable and I eventually end up slipping up at some point. I find that since my body doesn’t adapt fast enough to a new sleep schedule, I end up not getting quite enough sleep and accumulating what some refer to as a "sleep debt", which basically means you end up feeling like you need to catch up on sleep because you're not getting enough (to learn more, check out the Sleep Debt article on Wikipedia
Although, like you, while I originally thought that it was the methods I was using that were failing me, after I tried Steve's methods and failed, methods that made so much sense and had reportedly helped so many people, I decided take a few steps back and look at the "problem" from a different perspective. Steve to the rescue - A possible solution to your problem
Suffice to say that after some analysis, I found that the reason I did not succeed in becoming an early riser was because again, like you, I failed to wake up and stay up
. No matter how much (or how little) sleep I got, going back to my warm and cosy bead was always the more appealing option.
And that's when I realised that waking up and staying
up had nothing to do with the "how", but everything to do with the "why" - the reason you were getting up in the first place. My main motivation for getting up early was so that I'd spend less time lying unconscious in bed and more time actually being productive. But when I had to choose between productivity and sleep in my warm, cosy bed, to my chagrin, I chose sleep.
I noticed that the only time I got up and stayed
up was when I either really wanted
to, or when I had
to. I found that while motivation may seem like the most important factor, it's only part of it. Without some sort of goal in mind - a goal that you deem both consciously and subconsciously worthy and is not victim to internal resistance - motivation means squat.
To further illustrate my point, I'd like to share a quote from Steve's article, What's Your Motivation Threshhold?
. It's actually a violation of Copyright to quote this much from an article, but since these forums are part of Steve's website, I hope Steve will allow it:
Originally Posted by Steve Pavlina
Are you familiar with the story about Socrates where a young man came to him near a lake and asked Socrates to teach him how to acquire wisdom? Socrates grabbed the man and plunged his head under the water. As the young man struggled for his life, Socrates continued to forcibly hold him under the water. Finally, Socrates let him up to breathe, and when the man, gasping for breath, asked why Socrates nearly drowned him, Socrates replied, “When your desire for wisdom is as great as your desire to breathe, then you will find wisdom.”
I love that story. I don’t know if it’s actually true, but it sure makes a great point. If your motivation for a goal is high enough (as compelling as the desire for air, food, and water), then you’re virtually assured of success if the goal is possible at all. However, in most cases our motivation to achieve a goal isn’t anywhere near the level of biological need. This is especially true when taking on growth-oriented goals.
Consider the example of waking up early each morning. For many years of my life, I wanted to become a consistent early riser. My goal was to condition myself to get up every morning at 5am. But during the decade I ran my computer games business, I largely failed at that goal despite making many serious attempts. I could do it for several days at a time, but I could never get the habit to stick consistently. I’d be lying in bed when the 5:00 alarm went off, and as my brain faced the choice between mustering the discipline to get up vs. sleeping in, invariably there would soon come a time when I chose to sleep in.
It’s not that I didn’t get enough rest or that I physically needed the extra sleep. It’s just that waking up early wasn’t motivating enough for me. The growth element gave me the drive to make the initial attempt at getting up early, but come day 3 or 4, that element was considerably reduced as the novelty wore off.
When I was at my best—when I made the decision to become an early riser—my motivation was at its peak, and I felt certain of success. But at those pre-dawn moments of decision when I was jolted awake by my alarm, my brain still drenched in sleep hormones, the power of my conviction couldn’t always overcome the desire to continue sleeping. So I’d sleep in.
However, months after starting my personal development business, I made the attempt to become an early riser again. And this time I succeeded right away. Yes, I had a good strategy, and certainly the previous attempts helped a little. But the main difference was that my motivation to get up early was now much higher. And that extra motivation boost was just what I needed to get past the hump and establish the habit once and for all.
My main reason for getting up early was to be more productive. I wanted those extra early morning hours while the rest of the family was still sleeping, so I could get a head start on my day. I also loved how I felt about myself when I got up early and dove straight into action. It felt wonderful when I could actually do it. The difference in motivation came from what I was producing though. What was the real value of that extra productivity? What was I going to do with it?
With my games business, those extra hours would ultimately mean producing more entertainment value for people. With my personal development business, it meant spending more time helping people grow. For me, the former seemed moderately motivating… perhaps a 7 on a scale of 1-10. Most of the time, I genuinely enjoyed running my games business. But getting up early to help people grow was far more motivating… on a scale of 1-10, it was an 11. And the motivation I needed to get up early every morning was about an 8 on that scale.
What made the difference between success and failure was purpose.
I think one of the reasons many people will initiate new goals and then fizzle out after just a few days is that the motivation to succeed just isn’t strong enough. If you’ve been struggling with a goal where you’re suffering from this pattern of repeated failure, instead of beating yourself up, get curious instead. Ask yourself what the ultimate purpose is. If you were to succeed in achieving your goal, what would it ultimately mean to yourself, to others, and to the world? What’s the actual value your goal would create?
We’re all unique individuals, so we may each have a different motivation threshold for achieving a particular goal. Establishing the habit of getting up at 5:00 each morning required me to have a level of motivation of about an 8 on a scale of 1-10. For some people that same habit may only require a 3, while for others it may require a 10.5.
Interestingly, I not only mastered the habit of early rising, but later that same year, I blew that accomplishment out of the water by adapting to polyphasic sleep (which for me required about a 9.5 in motivation). And once again purpose was a key factor in my success. I’d love to be able to report that having all that extra time for myself was enough to succeed, but that isn’t remotely true. If that was my source of motivation, I’m certain I would have failed. But being able to share the experience with thousands of other people pushed me over the edge.
With that quote in mind, lets continue... The real source of motivation
To be useful, your motivation must be channelled appropriately, and furthermore, you must realise that motivation, as with happiness, is available to you regardless of your external circumstances. Thinking that external circumstances motivate you is merely an illusion of the mind and is the product of troublesome attachment to outcomes and external circumstances—both things (depending on your beliefs) you have little control over. Ultimately you can only control your efforts, not your exact outcomes, so instead of using an outside-in approach (relying on external circumstances to motivate you), I've found it far more effective to use an inside-out approach (learning to feel motivated regardless of circumstances). That said, I must admit this hasn't been, nor does it continue to be easy, but like many things in life, it's not so much something you master and be done with, it's something you constantly have to maintain. The good news is that with practice it does become easier, and despite the initial difficulty, the results are worth it.
Of course, it's not impossible for external circumstances to motivate you even when using an inside-out approach, but circumstances are not the key ingredient here—you are. Once you no longer need external circumstances to motivate you, circumstances that can change and/or become undesirable with little to no intervention on your part, you’ll be liberated of your need for them and they'll only add fuel to the already existing fire. (This post is continued below...)