Tag Archives: Read Of The Month

Read of the month: the miracle morning

What does your morning look like? Do you wake up rested, have enough time for a shower, enjoy eating your breakfast, and do some things around the house before starting work? Or do you wake up late, rush to wash, dress and eat, and get to work feeling you’re already behind with everything?

How you start your day matters. My latest read of the month had some ideas to make the best of it. “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod is very much a self-help book. It also is very, very American and full of repetitive sales language (pity there is no ad-blocker for a book…). Every page transmits messages like “this book is going to change your life”, “success is a choice”, and “become like me and your life will be great”. In short, it is intolerable and awful as a book. Don’t read it for the book.

Still, in between the “you can be 100% successful in everything claims”, the book shows you how it matters how you start your day. Elrod recommends a six-step routine, and while I don’t agree with his claims (and even think it is dangerous to say that everybody can “reach a 10 in happiness”), I think it’s worth giving it a try. Especially before writing a book review on it.

Ready to go? Let’s start our morning walk along SAVERS: Silence, Affirmation, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing (or simply put, Journalling). In practice, they are all about starting the day with focus on what you want to get out of it, and paying attention to your head start.

So here’s the morning routine I took for a few weeks:

The S of Silence

Elrod recommends to start the day with focused silence. Not just sitting still, but in focus, for instance through meditation, a breathing exercise (as I do), yoga, or prayer if you are religious. The silence then brings you in the right flow to do the routine.

Usually I am quite sleepy when I wake up, so if I just sit in silence, I tend to yawn a lot and risk falling asleep. Therefore I tend to do a few things in the house – feeding the cat, putting the clean dishes away, cutting off some dry leaves from a plant – before I start the breathing part. To get some help, I play the five minute guided meditation video below. It gives focus by trying to instill positive thoughts about what you already did that day and what you can plan for the rest of the day. Some days I manage to focus on breathing; other times I am carried away. It doesn’t matter, it is always a few careless minutes to start.

The A of Affirmations

Affirmations are a trick you can use to instill a certain attitude with yourself. If you tell yourself something, and start to believe it, it will become true. Or more simply: fake it till you make it! If you make yourself believe that you are confident, it is more likely that you will become confident then. An example in the book is about Muhammad Ali yelling “I am the greatest”.

I however propose more modest affirmations. You can write your own if you like, or use ready-used made. I simply picked a few I liked from the list here.

Rather than telling me I am the greatest (which I don’t think will lead to happiness…), the first two relate to shaping your own life and balance, which are important to me. The third one is about creativity. I don’t consider myself creative, but maybe if I tell myself it for some time… it shouldn’t do harm! And the final affirmation again is about this focus in the morning:

  • I am the architect of my life; I build its foundation and choose its contents.
  • My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant; my soul is serene.
  • Creative energy surges through me and leads me to new and brilliant ideas.
  • I wake up today with strength in my heart and clarity in my mind.

The V of Visualisations

Visualisation, it appears, is a technique used by many well-known people (if a self-help book doesn’t quote a bunch of famous people doing whatever they tell you will change your life, does it really exist)? Imagine, the more detail the better, achieving a result in part of your life. For instance, if you are a runner, can you imagine yourself passing fastest in front of all the competitors and then winning a 10k?

I try to visualise my own dream: writing a book about happiness. But to be honest, the V is the trickiest part of the routine for me. Maybe the dream is too big, so that I struggle to imagine the details of what this book would actually look like…

The E of Exercise

A bit of movement to get the heart rate a bit up! Although there is no fun in time, I opted for push-ups. It shouldn’t hurt to get a bit of power in my arms. Doing the and slowly improving condition matters more than the number. On a warm day, I do very few; on a better day, I do a bit more. But my heart rate goes up and I start panting, so Elrod – the writer of the morning miracle – should be happy!

The R of Reading

After exercise, Elrod thinks it’s time for reading (a fast way to learn new skills), but I think I deserve a coffee. My ‘old’ morning routine was simply sitting with a cup of coffee, often in silence, at the balcony, trying to prevent the cat from going to the neighbours and listening what happens around – children playing in the garden, or mostly, listening to birds. Now, I get my coffee, and start reading a few pages. At the moment I picked a book on writing, as I hope to improve my writing skills – On Writing Well by William Zinser. And of course, it matches my visualisation of a happiness book…

The old morning routine, coffee without a read.

The J of Journalling (or the S of Scribing)

The final part is journalling. Writing down your ideas can help shape your thoughts and actions, so this also matches the idea of having a focused start of the day.

I usually write down

  • three things I’d like to achieve during the day (usually two private and one work related; and they can be as simple as doing groceries). Sometimes I go through the list during the day and it acts as reminder what I wanted to do. Sometimes I don’t get it done, and list it again the next day.
  • three things I look forward to (usually related to time spent with my wife or cat – or to food!)
  • and three things I am grateful for or appreciate about the day before. This is probably my favourite part, as it really makes me reflect about the day I had and the positive things that happened. Happiness, to me, is simply aware that you have experienced pleasures great and small during your day.


It’s quite a feat Elrod has accomplished: he has written an absolutely cringe-worthy book (resulting in some hilarious bad reviews at Goodreads), but offers some nice ideas on how to structure your morning to achieve focus. Spend some time:

  • in Silence
  • doing Affirmations, and
  • Visualisations,
  • Exercising,
  • Reading to learn, and
  • Scribing (or Journalling)…

… and see if it works for you!

Happiness read of the month: Flourish, by prof Seligman

I usually have New Year resolutions. Sometimes only one for the year, sometimes a bit too many. This year I have about five, and if there’s one that I really aspire to make, it is this one: I would like to read a book about happiness every month.

I built up a nice little collection of happiness books, so why not motivate myself to read a bit more this year. And – of course – find an excuse to buy a few extra books…

In January I read Flourish by prof Martin Seligman. I have spoken about prof Seligman, the role he played in positive psychology and the PERMA model of happiness and well-being already before. I however never read his book.


Happiness is out. Wellbeing and flourishing are in.

Flourish came out in 2011, and Seligman wrote it partially to correct his understanding of happiness in an earlier book, Authentic Happiness (2002). Over time, Seligman’s – and positive psychology’s –  understanding of what happiness and wellbeing are evolved. Gradually, the distinction between happiness and wellbeing  became more clear. Happiness relates to a brief, quickly passing moment, and is quite of a buzzword. It is a term easily understood by people, but when you look under the surface, it can have many meanings. Indeed, happiness is often used as a proxy for well-being or quality of life (in his book, Seligman also uses flourishing). Well-being is a more complex and generic phenomenon, describing everything what is important to a living good life.

In 2002 Seligman thought happiness manifested itself in three aspects: positive emotions, engagement, and meaning. In 2011, he argued that well-being or flourishing – a more stable and more permanent notion – should be the focus of positive psychology. He also added two ‘missing’ dimensions of flourishing: positive relationships, and accomplishment. The PERMA model was born.

The PERMA model. Source: Authentic Happiness pages, Penn University

The PERMA model. Source: Authentic Happiness pages, Penn University


The mission of positive psychology

The fundament now laid, most of the book is about fulfilling the mission of positive psychology: increasing flourishing. The chapters focus on what type of positive psychology interventions work. This can be compared to what standard psychology started to do when it was invented: find out, through academic research, what type of interventions can treat personality disorders and depression.

An example of a positive psychology ‘intervention’ is what Seligman calls the ‘gratitude visit’: think about someone in your life that did something for you for which you couldn’t thank them enough. Found the person? Now write down, in some detail, what the person did for you and what it meant to you. Then announce you want to visit the person, but don’t tell them why. When you visit the person, read out your gratitude letter aloud. I am sure that if you try it out, it will be a very powerful moment.

Seligman and colleagues then expanded these interventions in different areas. They built a positive psychotherapy programme to treat people with depression. They developed a positive education programme to reshape curricula in some pioneering schools. And they worked with the US Army to train soldiers on resilience.

The book then even stretches on to other areas, such as the economy and happiness – it was precisely the debate on alternative ways to measure progress than GDP that brought me into happiness blogging seven years ago.


What are your signature strengths?

One of the most interesting areas, though, is the work of Seligman and co on strengths. They defined what key call ‘signature strengths’. While acknowledging we all need to work on our weaknesses, they argued it’s just as important to build on our strengths when we define our ambitions and plans for personal development. The book contains a questionnaire, which can also be found on the website of the VIA Character Institute, that helps you to identify your personal strengths out of a set of 24. I did the test myself, and for me these strengths are honesty, gratitude, and curiosity. It’s a nice narrative to think that these traits define me.

  • Honesty is about authenticity, and being true to yourself. For instance, this helps to share your opinion when someone asks for it, or to name – and then improve – a bad habit.
  • Gratitude means being grateful for the good in your life, and being able to express that gratitude. This can help in maintaining relationships with others (people like to hear ‘thanks’), but also to accept life events outside your control as they are.
  • The strength Curiosity concerns an interest in new topics and experiences. I believe it’s a factor in personal growth, as it motivates to increase or go out of our comfort zone.

Curious what your strengths are? Read more and do the test here.

VIA Signature Strengths. Source: VIA Institute on Character

VIA Signature Strengths. Source: VIA Institute on Character