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No, I’m not talking about weed, which has at times had a positive, and other times, a profoundly negative, impact on my life – but that is a topic for a different blog post on a different day.

I’m talking about the time of day that my alarm goes off so I can get out the door and go for a walk while it’s dark and quiet.

I’m usually out the door before 4:30, and I post a screenshot of my phone on my Facebook timeline as evidence and as an example to others who may benefit from an early morning rising. I took this idea from Jocko Willink, who posts a picture of his wristwatch at or around 4:30 every morning with some exhortation to “get after it“, aiming to inspire the thousands who follow him to get up and start their day working out and being strong.

I don’t get up at 4:20 because I like to. I get up at 4:20 because it’s the only time I can create a window of quiet productive time while I have energy. My wife and our two sons are sleeping at that time, and it’s only a couple hours later when they awake and suddenly life becomes about them, their needs, and my role in for filling them. I’ve tried doing my time at the end of the day, after the boys’ bedtimes, but by then I’m wiped out and ready to relax.

So 4:20am is my time. I get up, get dressed for walking, drink between 8 and 12 ounces of water, and hit the pavement for a 2.36-mile loop around my neighborhood.

While I walk, I have a conversation with myself.

I greet myself the way I would greet a beloved friend; I say “good morning“ and comment informally on how I’m feeling and what the morning feels like. Depending on how alert and well-rested I am, this might be crisp and brief, or it might drag on a bit until I’ve awakened sufficiently to begin generating the morning’s conversation.

When I’m ready, I run through a formal routine for the sake of marking a distinction between my normal, freewheeling stream of consciousness and the more purposeful practice of speaking aloud to myself as I walk:

I state the date and time, give myself a brief weather report and declare the status of my physical and emotional well-being:

“It’s cold this morning, approximately 38℉ (I’m surprisingly good at this, having checked myself numerous times for accuracy and discovered I’d nailed it); there are no clouds to keep the heat in, I can see many stars, and my body feels sore from yesterday‘s workout; but my mind is clear, and I feel blessed by the opportunity to face this day…”

Or… “it’s cold as fuck, I don’t want to be out here, my body is stiff and aches everywhere, and I wish I could just sleep in.“

Or something else entirely – whatever is true the moment.

Then I speak out loud a list of the wins from the previous day, or if I didn’t walk yesterday then a list of wins from the last couple of days. This is a great way to start my morning because I own all the progress I making on all fronts of my life – my physical health and well-being, my relationships, my work… all wins are declared, claimed, and celebrated.

Then I declare a few things I am grateful for, being mindful of any resistance or underlying anxiety around a particular thing, working my way through that if I must to find my way to actual gratitude and appreciation.

Then my conversation takes various forms, depending on the morning: sometimes I go right into a deep discussion of some transformation that’s taking place in my thinking for my feeling about things, discovering insights about obstacles and conflicts that have arisen in the course of my daily life…

Other times, like on the morning when this blog post was written, I will dictate a blog post, holding my phone to my mouth as I speak some truth that I think will be valuable to share;

Other times, I’ll grapple with something that is vexing me; I’ll work through some knotted up emotional blockage and find myself crying in the middle of the street.

Sometimes I’ll just be quiet, letting the morning wash over me as I take in my surroundings as I focus on walking and letting my mind wander.

4:20 is my time, and it’s saving my life. It’s prime real estate on my calendar, the time of day when my body is the most rested and my mind is the most available to sharpen and hone it’s perceptions and orientation to the work of the day.

It is a precious sacred container in which my most important investment occurs each day – the investment in myself as someone who matters, someone who deserves to be taken care of with excellence.

Truly, I am the primary person to whom I am accountable for standing and delivering my gifts – and this early morning ritual ensures that I am ready, willing, and able to stand and deliver all day.