What gets you out of bed


The alarm went off. I heard it, phased it out and went back to my dream. When I finally woke up an hour or so later my neck was sore, my front of my brain felt numb and I was still tired. I wanted to stay in bed but I had work to do, and a meeting in an hour.

Or at least that’s how I remember the days starting when I was in a “down” phase. But nobody wants to hear about depressing stuff—especially about something as trivial as not wanting to get out of bed. Yet, as a symptom, not wanting to get out of bed is a pretty good indicator that something ain’t right.

On the other hand, I can also remember times when I couldn’t get to sleep at night, and in the morning I’d be up and running at first light. These periods were hectic, sunny times, with lots going on—especially on the job.

What we do has a lot to do with how we feel, and even who we are. When we’re doing stuff that suits us, we’re different people—happier and more focussed. And it’s not only about employment. Hobbies can get us up in the morning, too. So can being with people we love, especially when we’re “in love”. Even buying something special like a new car or a boat or a new house can lift us up.

For me, wanting to get up in the morning is a litmus test for my level of creative expression. If I’m on a creative roll, say, starting a new writing project, or a unique development project, I can’t wait to get the day started. It was that way when I started my first design company. I felt great when I was doing the development gig in St. Stephen. And I feel that way now, with several good projects on the go.

And it has nothing to do with the money. (Although money is good, too.) Back in my mid-twenties I was unemployed for a short time and the only job that came my way was a training job at Ontario Hydro. It should have been a wonderful job. The pay was great and all I had to do was wander around a generating station learning how to become a stationary engineer. And for a nightowl like me, even the prospect of shift work should have looked good. But I hated it. The generating station was off-line for a year, so there was no real work to do. The crew took turns looking for places to go to sleep, or bringing their cars and trucks inside the huge workshop for repairs. This working on your own stuff on company time was euphemistically called “government work” or a “government job”. Indeed.

But to me the place was agony. I quit the job after exactly one year—the time it took to pay off a farm I’d bought. Quitting that job seemed like a stupid thing to my coworkers, most of whom were planning to stay on with Mother Hydro for life. I heard a couple of years ago that one of the guys I started with died there. Heart attack. I don’t think I could have taken the combination of sedentary working conditions and the stress of driving a 100 megawatt gen set, either.

After I left one job a few years ago, I went to work for a law firm. They were a great crew of people. I was well paid to do marketing for them two days a week, so it was an easy gig. But I soon found out that “one of these things is not like the other”. I was a marketer in with a bunch of lawyers. At first that was interesting. But while they worked together on cases, I was the odd person out. After a couple of months in isolation, I found it harder to get out of bed. My built-in morning meta-filter was telling me it was time to find something different to do.

I’ve noticed that teenagers seem to display the sleep-in symptom bigtime. Our teenager, who’s turning 17, can sleep on weekends until noon or later. It’s not that she’s feeling down, she doesn’t have anything particularly exciting on the go on the weekends. We’re sometimes tempted to roust her out of bed on Saturday mornings, but we don’t. Let her sleep. There’ll be plenty of sleep-deprived weekends ahead.

Our younger kids are the opposite. They’re up earlier on the weekends than on school days. For them the weekends are the best. There are cartoons, video games, Legos and snow outside. Why sleep in when you’ve got that going on? The problem is, when they get up—they wake us up. They seem to think we’re just waiting to join in on their fun. And ho wouldn’t want to jump out of bed to play video games at 6:30 a.m. every Saturday morning?

But the kids do demonstrate the point. Enthusiastic people like to wake up in the morning. And by that reckoning, I suspect that drug users and alcoholics have a bit more trouble in the morning than the rest of humanity, all things being equal. That’s just what happens when the morning after is never as good as the night before.

As for me, I think the “up early in the morning” theory is the key to world peace. Among other things. If we all steered our lives toward doing those things that make us want to get up in the morning, the vast majority of us would be doing more of the right things—and less of the wrong things.

Pick your dream. What if you knew that you could work on your dream tomorrow with nothing else getting in your way? Would you be happier? Would you want to get up as early as you could, so you could hang out and do your favourite thing?

Sure, most of us work at less than a dream job to pay the bills. But we all have the ability to make the job we have a lot better than it is. If our job is boring, or menial, we can get up in the morning with a mission to bring more excitement and dignity to our work.

Having a purpose in life is the ultimate wakeup call.


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