For many years, I arose in the morning darkness to head out to swimming practice. Even now, in order to swim before the demands of the day (and horrible traffic on Interstate 95) make such an endeavor problematic, year of habit lead me to naturally wake up at 4:30 am. I don’t always swim, but I am almost always up. Also ingrained is the habit of making up my bed and prayer as first things. I suspect many readers are thinking, “What….??? let me alone. I am just fine, warm and cozy under my blanket, thank you very much.” Why would I want to leave this comfortable cocoon of happiness?The Roman emperor and a Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius has some advice for you on how to motivate yourself to get out of bed and accomplish something:

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

To the mind’s natural protestation that staying under the blankets simply feels nicer, Aurelius retorts:

So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

Our nature, he insists, is to live a life of service — to help others and contribute to the world. Any resistance to this inherent purpose is therefore a negation of our nature and a failure of self-love. He writes:

You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you.

When you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, remember that your defining characteristic— what defines a human being — is to work with others. Even animals know how to sleep. And it’s the characteristic activity that’s the more natural one — more innate and more satisfying.

Want something a little more modern? Might I suggest a commencement speech by the Chancellor of the University of Texas,  Adm. William McRaven (Ret.) or his book “Make Up Your Bed: Little things that can change Life” (available at most book sellers).

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations – adapted from post by Maria Popova

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