The fact that I’m doing yoga at 7 AM every morning still blows my mind.
It’s been two weeks since I became an early riser, and I love it just as much as I did on day one. The quiet solitude of the morning, the sense of having so much more time, the increased exposure to sunlight… All so wonderful.
But, for all its awesomeness, this change has created something of a splinter in the back of my mind.
The Stubborn Night Owl
You see, for years I was convinced of my own superiority as a night owl. It appealed to my introverted nature, and I liked the rebelliousness of staying up and sleeping late. I associated early rising with convention. Getting up at 8 AM, driving to a cubicle, sitting there all day, and then driving home exhausted and horrified at having to do it all over again tomorrow — it seemed like no way I’d ever want to live. If it works for you great, but I knew it wasn’t for me.
It still isn’t, at least when it comes to the sitting-in-a-cubicle-all day part. But fortunately, I’ve avoided — by both choice and design — that sort of existence.
Instead, I get up with the sun, practice yoga, make tea, read, and then write and make things. It’s a routine with which I’ve quickly become obsessed.
What’s given me pause, though, is the fact that I was so wrong about night owlism. Actually, no; I wasn’t wrong about night owlism so much as I was wrong about being an early riser.
I still think being a night owl is great, and people who prefer that lifestyle should continue to live it as long as it helps them grow and do what they want to do.
Unfortunately, staying up late and sleeping in every morning was paralyzing me. My creativity and productivity stagnated. I was stuck in an incredibly depressing rut, and the only way out was to make a drastic life change: to start getting up early.
I see now just how wonderful being an early riser can be. It’s not painful at all — provided you’re getting your required amount of sleep — and it opens up a whole new world you may have forgotten existed. I certainly did. It truly is life-changing.
Of course, one could easily reverse my story and get the same benefits. Someone who is forced to rise early every morning and go to a job they hate and come home exhausted could, in theory, quit, start their own business, and sleep until mid-morning before doing the work they love all day and late into the night.
It works both ways, and I make no claims that one is better than the other. The best one is the one that works for you.
But, back to my splinter.
What Do I Know?
The feeling I’m experiencing now is that I was wrong.
Wrong in the sense of thinking one way was better than the other, and wrong in thinking I could never become an early riser. Ever. I never wanted to, never thought it would be good for me, never even entertained the idea.
I was a proud night owl. Stubbornly proud.
And yet, here I am.
And so I find myself thinking, “If I was wrong about that, I might be wrong about other things too. Maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about.”
Maybe minimalism isn’t healthy?
Maybe politics are important?
Maybe sports do have value?
Maybe being an introvert isn’t better?
These are scary thoughts, because my identity is ingrained in these possibly incorrect notions. If I’m wrong about them, then part of my identity is lost and/or needs to be rebuilt.
Being wrong is scary.
But, like anything, the solution lies in perspective.
First off, people grow and change. This is for the better. I might be telling my kids someday, when they’re groaning and hiding under the covers at 10 o’clock in the morning, how I used to love to sleep in when I was younger, until it stopped working for me. And that’s the thing:
If it’s working for you, keep doing it. If it’s not, change it.
Minimalism works for me. Being apathetic about sports works for me. These things, at the very least, do me no harm.
I thought being a night owl was working for me, and for a long time, it was. But, then it stopped. When my life changed — when theses and job hunts and apartments and writing and responsibilities became the focus — I needed to change too. Staying up late was not helping me write my thesis or become any more of an adult. I was stuck. I wasn’t growing.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the concept of staying up late. But, I was wrong to think I could keep doing it and still get to where I wanted to be. I couldn’t. So, I had to reevaluate and change my habits.
Not a Thing
The know-nothing principle is a solution to the fear of being wrong. The fear of being wrong grows out of being so attached to your ideas that you become unreceptive to new information, which might contradict or disprove your ideas.
“I am a night owl, and it works for me” was my idea. I knew night owlism was better. I shunned the notion of early rising out of fear that it might in fact be superior to my idea. I did not assume the know-nothing principle when it came to sleep schedules. As such, I was unable to see the benefits of an idea different from my own, and in turn it took me a long time to realize that my stubborn adherence to my own idea was causing me to stagnate.
It was only when I stopped being closed off, when I became open to the idea of early rising that I was able to adopt it and change for the better.
By being open to alternative ideas, by thinking of them not as wrong, but merely as different, and by being willing to try them, we free ourselves from being prisoners of our own ways of thinking.
And so, this experience of being “wrong” does not fill me with the fear that I might be wrong about everything. Rather, being wrong is humbling. It’s a reminder that I know nothing. I had forgotten that, and so I had become attached to my ideas. And of course, I was hurt when life reminded me that my idea wasn’t the only way.
The past two weeks have reminded me of the importance of an open mind. An open mind frees you from the fear of being wrong. You don’t have to cling to one idea or another, and you don’t have to jump to defend it from anyone who thinks differently than you.
As Socrates said:
As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.
I thought I knew something about sleep schedules. But, it turns out I don’t know the first thing about them. And that makes me smile.