Effective morning routines come down to a very simple question.

The problem is that most people don’t ask themselves this question in the first place. It’s the same issue with goal-setting, and our inherent knack (and love) for setting goals that sound lofty, important, valid, even appreciated by the people around us. But are they really the right goals? Are we asking ourselves the right questions?

Most morning routines come down to a few basic things:

1. Habits. Things like brushing your teeth, showering, the way you get dressed (do you lay our clothes out the night before?), etc.

2. Food. What you eat for breakfast says a lot about your routine, your schedule, and the way you treat your body.

3. Knowledge. Do you wake up and immediately turn on some music? Do you watch TV while you eat a bowl of cereal? What is the first piece of external information that you allow into your brain in the morning?

So when people construct their morning routines, they go filling in the gaps without taking a moment to question why they are making the choices they are. They say, “OK, I’m going to wake up, take a shower, get dressed, make a smoothie, and run out the door.” That list, in itself, sounds like “a morning routine.”

But is it, really?

The truth is, it’s not.

The actual meaning behind a morning routine implies intention.

A routine is something you do not for the sake of it, but because the repetition of it guides you in the direction you want to head — and ultimately leads you to where you want to go.

Which means the question you need to ask yourself in the morning is:

Why am I doing what I’m doing?

If you wake up at seven a.m., why do you wake up at that time? Is it because you need X hours of sleep in order to function? Is that early or late? Are you sleeping in because you spend your nights working? Or are you waking up early to get a jump start on the day?

If you make yourself a smoothie for breakfast, why? Are you choosing ingredients because they fit in a blender? Or are you choosing foods you know will give you more energy? Does this breakfast contribute to a larger goal or way of life?

If you wake up and immediately turn on music, why? Are you looking to distract yourself? Are you dreading going into the office? Maybe you should examine that. What would happen if you made breakfast in silence instead? Or what if you listened to a podcast every morning while you cooked yourself some eggs?

You have to ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, otherwise you don’t have a morning routine. You have a chop-shop special of different activities, none of which hold any real value or intention.

A real morning routine should begin to compound on itself. That’s the whole point of routine, is to pass things off to your subconscious so that you can continue growing in an array of different ways, without stretching yourself thin (or worrying about every step of the process). You should be able to tell yourself, “I want to get fit,” and then come up with a morning routine that, when repeated day after day after day, moves you closer toward that goal.

That’s a morning routine with intention.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have morning routines. Actually, they don’t have routines (or better thought of as rituals), period. They wake up. They get themselves to work. They work. They get themselves home. They do something. And then they go to bed.

Where is the intention?

Where is the aim?

So before you go setting your alarm for the next morning, ask yourself this one question:

Why am I doing what I’m  doing?

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Originally published at medium.com