TO SLEEP PERCHANCE TO DREAM
February 3, 2014 18 Comments
“Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.”
Glen Cook, author of Sweet Silver Blues.
I was asked not long ago to talk to a group of young people in a software development centre in India, about how to get the most out of their lives, based possibly on the fact that as I was at least twice or even three times their age, I may actually know something about the topic. Despite the fact that I disagreed with the logic, I agreed to do the talk.
I called the presentation “Life Laws from Les”, of which there were 10.
The most contentious of my 10 laws and the one that generated the most discussion afterwards, was the one that said “If you feel that you do not have enough time to do the things that you want to do in life, just get up an hour earlier”. I have long believed this “life law” based on the fact that I have never seen an epitaph that read “I wish that I had spent more time sleeping”, and the fact that I feel that the belief that we need at least 8 hours sleep per night is not based on any established fact, as much as being based on some old adage.
I have no question that there are some people who may actually need 8 hours sleep or even more per night, but I feel that these are few. I also believe that the goal must surely be to achieve a high quality of sleep rather than quantity, and that most of us can get by on 6 or 7 hours per night, if we have built a suitable sleep pattern.
However, I was really just trying to make a point.
We all get the same number of hours per day, and yet some people have the ability to achieve an incredible amount in the time they have available while others don’t, and I don’t believe that this is just because some people are better organised than others (though they are), or that some people are just smarter or more driven than others (and they are). I believe that the difference is mainly one of attitude to how one should spend the waking hours, and that this is what also drives how we feel about when we get up in the morning and how we feel about doing so.
To add to their anxiety, I told my young audience that I had received agreement and approval from their management to run a follow-up session with them the next morning, but because of my tight schedule we would need to start this session at 6.00am. Their reaction was one of disbelief and despair. I then told them that to make the session more interesting for them, Kareena Kapoor and Akshay Kumar (2 top and unbelievably good looking Bollywood stars) had agreed to come and join us. Their first reaction to this news was one of visible joy and excitement, which was very short-lived, as they started to think it through and then question the reality of what I had told them. I admitted that I had not been serious about either statement, but that I wanted them to think about their first reaction to both.
When I first suggested a 6.00am start, most of them would have worked backwards to a 4.00am wake-up which didn’t appeal at all. When the thought of meeting the Bollywood stars was mooted, a 4.00am start was suddenly not an issue. I even suggested that some of them would have been thinking about whether they should just spend the night in the office to ensure that they would not risk missing the event, and also to enable them to secure a prime position. The general conditions of their planned morning activity which was their having to wake at 4.00am to be in the office by 6.00am had not changed at all. The only condition that had changed was what was waiting for them when they got there.
The reality is that the way that we get up in the morning is based entirely on for what reason we are getting up.
My advice to them about when to wake was that it was not really a question of getting up an hour earlier, but that no matter what time they did get up, they should get up to an activity that they loved to do. This meant that they should not get up leaving only just enough time to get ready and go to work. It was really important that they also had enough time to do something wonderful before they started all the activities that were related to their job, including not looking at their email, Facebook, Pinterest , Twitter etc., etc., until after this emotionally enriching activity had been accomplished.
This was even more seriously important if they didn’t particularly like the job that they were getting up to go to.
Getting up to do something you dislike is really hard. Getting up to do something you really love to do, and that excites you, is significantly easier, whether this is exercise, reading a book, writing poetry, playing with your children. or anything else that is important and exciting in your life, but it should be something not associated with your work, no matter how much you enjoy your job, and it should be done regularly enough and in a way that it becomes a habit.
It is extremely hard to get very young children to go to bed at night, and generally they are also the first to leap out of bed early in the morning, usually in a state of high excitement and anticipation. The reason is that they just don’t want to miss anything, as there are so many new things to discover and to learn, and so many fun things to do, so there is no attraction to staying in bed and keeping on hitting the snooze button.
We can make our life significantly more worthwhile if we can relearn the ability to wake up with this same childlike sense of anticipation.