The First Step to Making a Difference: Get Out of Bed

Some days, making a difference begins with something as simple as getting out of bed. It means getting up and doing work that matters. Which always starts slowly and intentionally.

Get Out of Bed
Photo credit: Meredith Farmer (Creative Commons)

This morning, I didn’t want to get up. My mind was tired and my body exhausted. Having spent the last several weeks training for a half marathon, I just wanted to “phone it in.”

Something inside me said I just couldn’t do it.

The voice that holds us back

I’ve heard that voice before.

Every morning, I hear it. That soft but persistent whisper, telling me to give up before I begin. It says I’m not good enough. It tells me that another hour in bed won’t hurt a bit.

This voice is familiar; it speaks rationally and in a recognizable tone. As a result, I often believe it, entertaining whatever propositions it makes. But deep down, I know it’s a liar.

Just this morning, I heard it again. But this time, I refused to believe it. In spite of how I felt, I got up, disciplined myself to show up even though I didn’t feel like it.

And you know what? I survived.

Not only that, I made something that mattered — at least in some small way. All because I kicked up the sheets, planted my feet on the floor, and got to work.

You can do this, too. Despite how little you want to or how drained you feel, you can get started doing work that matters. All it takes is the will to show up, the strength to press in, and the perseverance to continue.

Sometimes, making a difference is just that simple. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it’s doable.

Where greatness comes from

Here’s what I know:

  • No great leader achieved greatness by sleeping in.
  • No successful general was renowned for slacking off.
  • No timeless artist was made famous by her sloth.

Certainly, rest is important, but there is a difference between slowing down and stalling. Don’t mistake the need to take life slowly with a procrastination habit.

Making a difference always comes down to momentum.

When we’re beginning, our greatest enemy is inertia. What holds us back is our lack of forward motion.

So what is it must you do to get started? Move.

How I deal with this

This is especially difficult for me, as a writer. By nature, I’m an emotional creature: a sensitive, fickle artist full of complicated emotions.

Feelings are my greatest source of inspiration. But they are also my biggest distraction and cause for creative block.

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how you feel. You just need to do it. (Insert Nike swoosh here.) Yes, passion is important. So is recognizing burnout and realizing when you’re just plain empty.

But inspiration often hides in the guise of  hard work.

Many times, I’ve found this to be true. Epiphanies come, if they come at all, not through lightning-bolt moments of illumination, but in the midst of deliberate action.

There is unparalleled fruit that comes from the discipline of doing what you know you’re made to do. Even if it’s hard. But to begin, you must get out of bed and get to work.

What gets you up in the morning? Share in the comments.

63 thoughts on “The First Step to Making a Difference: Get Out of Bed

      1. You’re both right.  It is a huge huge HUGE discipline to take a 15 (or 10) minute nap – and then Get. Up.
        Best boost Ever.

        I respect CATS who do this!

  1. Music and a to list. The first thing I do in the mornings is fire up the computer and put it on Pandora (sometimes it’s slow, mellow tunes, other times it’s techno – yes, even in the mornings). Then, I’ll have already prepared my to do list for that day so I know what needs to get done. Without that list, I’m sort of lost. And it’s a lot easier to procrastinate.

    But ultimately, it’s like you said. Getting up, doing the work, and building momentum. Once you have that momentum going though, it’s like nothing can stop you. It’s a great place to be and a great feeling.

  2. When I get up, it’s for my son. He’s an early riser, and I don’t get up until I hear him stirring on the monitor (every night I pray that he sleeps until 6 AM). There’s never any question about getting out of bed when someone else needs you to care for him. That voice of doubt completely goes away.
    I think this concept can apply to non-caregivers as well, though (or parents who don’t need to get up with their kids). Whether your intention is to exercise or immediately start on work, you are generally, at least in part, doing it for someone else. You’re getting yourself healthier so you can live longer for your family, or making more money so you can better provide for them. Thinking for the good of others often makes it easier to think for the good of oneself.
    Great post, Jeff!

  3. I get up for going to my job. But i don’t like it… (i’m a secretary in a football club). My dream is to become a writer. And i think i should try to engage me in that way soon, but i’m afraid.

  4. I’ve struggled with this my whole life. When I was young, and even a teenager, I’d get out of bed early to play video games while everyone else was asleep. That certainly shows where my priorities were.

    These days, even today, it was hard to get up, mostly from fatigue, and less from emotions. I’ve had enough momentum lately with rising early, that it does get easier, but always moves in seasons. I do find that fighting through laziness or fatigue in the evening to set up my morning helps as well.

  5. Such a simple truth, that if ignored, can lead to a life not living what you’re called to do. I woke up a few years ago. Realized that I was sleepwalking through life and decided I needed to change.

    Now, what gets me up in the morning is my writing. I used to put it off until late at night but now that I do it in the morning, it’s more intentional and lets me enjoy the rest of the day, knowing that I’ve done something to fulfill my purpose on this earth.

    Thanks for this great reminder, Jeff!

  6. For me, I don’t sleep well, so I get up. But lately I’ve ben a bit more inclined to lay there doing nothing. I still get up. Right now I get up to write and blog. But sometimes I get up to play music or exercise. I also have to get up as I’m a single dad to an eight-year-old girl. But the bottom line is that I want to get up and face the day, get something done.

  7. I had a similar experience this morning as I woke up. I made it out of bed, but I struggled with lacing up my running shoes and getting out in the coldness and darkness of the early morning. Something pushed me though – a reminder that no one else would do this for me. I had to get the exercise. I had to hit the dark streets. Reminding myself that I am responsible for how I spend my time – writing, running, etc. – is part of what gets me out of bed every morning.

    My run this morning was great! It was crisp. I had time to think. It started my day on the right foot.

  8. I guess it’s all about believing in yourself that you can do it. Staying at bed may let as feel at ease and secure, but I believe it is the place we bother too much. We think a lot of things, problems that create anxiety and fear. It draws us back to stepping and reaching our dream. But, if we try to get out of bed, make an action and have the courage to face whatever circumstances that encounter as we go along our journey, then I believe success will come to us.

  9. These last few days I haven’t been able to write anything at all, I just don’t have any inspiration.But now since school started it came back and I know I shouldn’t but I spend most of my classes writing and working on plot. Turns out I actually like something about school =P And it’s actually not very hard for me to get out of bed though most of the time I don’t – I move the computer to the bed =P It’s easier for me to write on the bed.

  10. Excellent post, Jeff. I need to do this, yet allow for rest and margin. I’m presently being walked through balancing on that tightrope. I need to allow just the right amount of tension for it to be safely passable. Too much slack and I won’t be supported. Wound too tightly and the rope might snap. Just the right amount of tension and I am able to make it safely to the other side. I’m striving to stay in the sweet spot, but it is a journey.

  11. Coffee. Lot’s of cream. Dogs need to go out. Sunrise over the mountains, and a quite pause to say “Thank you, God, for this day, and all you are going to do.”

  12. I know it’s sick and twisted thinking but I absolutely love getting out of bed. My most productive time of day is between the hours of 5:30a-9:30a…after that I think the coffee starts to wear off. Then, like you said, it takes deliberate and focused action

  13. Great post, Jeff. So very true. I rarely have trouble getting out of bed, but it can be very hard to start writing. And you’re right. Many days it’s just about showing up and writing one word after another until something starts to flow.

  14. Jeff, love the post. From the influences of Andy Andrews, The Robert D and Andy Traub I have been rising early for 45 days now at 4:30 a.m. to write. An incredible experience in so many ways. Thanks to all of you guys for blazing a path!

  15. The idea of being alone in the silence of my own imagination without any of the other voices in my house distracting me from the joy of being productive gets me out of bed every morning, at exactly 4:00 am. As soon as the sun rises there’s intolerable noise in every room, so I have to get my creative work done well before if I expect to get anything done at all.

  16. I love this post. It reminds me of something I was taught: every day make just a noticeable difference (JND). Whether it’s in writing or running, one of the most important qualities to have is endurance.

  17. I find this quote delightful: “There is unparalleled fruit that comes from the discipline of doing what you know you’re made for. Even if it’s hard. But to begin, you must get out of bed and get to work.”

    For me I am eager to spend time with God. I can’t wait to see what unexpected thing He is going to share with me. I feel blessed to get to do the things I love – not that it is always easy. My work truly makes my heart sing! 🙂 And because I am a morning person and write and do other things better early in the day it is all the more motivating to get out of bed and get to it!

  18. Great post! I hear ya, sometimes I have that awful voice whispering to me too “Another hour will not hurt” Oh my it does!
    I start out the day with a workout and prepare for the day. We are a homeschool family, so lots going on and it is so good for me to start my day before the kids are awake.

  19. What got me up and running then writing was that in both things there is a fire going. The hardest past is getting the fire started. After that if I feed it one log at a time the flame should become bigger and bigger. If I stop then I have to break out the flint and start a spark again. Momentum is HUGE. Blessings on the journey Jeff.

  20. Congrats on training for your half-marathon! I’ll be running my 13th full 26.2 mile marathon in March of next year. Shooting for a finish time of 4 hours! Pray for me! I’ll pray for you too. Smile.

  21. Apart from my dogs, the thing that gets me up in the morning is the sure and certain knowledge that I’m going to ‘lose’ so much if I lie in. What amazes me is that just an additional hour in bed seems to rob me of half the morning – whereas if I get up on time, I often feel I have acres of time and get so much more done.

    I do recommend a Labrador, though – a wet nose in the face and the sound of a tail banging against the radiator is so much more effective than a radio alarm 😉

  22. Oh ! As I understand you ! These days, I have a specific goal in mind and I know that to reach it, I have to get up and get to work… every day, even if it doesn’t tempt me. I find that the harder is to start, especially for someone who has ADD like me… But once I started, following comes easier. By the bye, I love your blog posts : they are always insightful and come timely in my life. Pursue your good work for the writers community !

  23. Lin Guest
    hmmm… Just get out of bed, if only it were that easy. When someone is out there in emotional pain and you know you can help, lying in your bed is not an option. Maybe I can’t get up without help or even walk (so marathon ½ or not is also not an option). When your baby cries, tired or not, you get up. Motivation comes in all flavors.

    1. And there are times when the baby naps, even if it is in the middle of the day if we are able we take a nap too. The life of motivated Mother with grown up children.

  24. In days past when I worked for a company that was difficult the need of a paycheck was my motivated to get up every morning. Now I am self employed and love what I do, I get up, because I love what I do.

  25. God has been providing a great deal of help and grace to me this past year. I have multiple medical problems and injuries the past 30+ years getting treatment perhaps 15% of the time. This past year I have finally been getting more help only by the grace of God! Pain levels are reduced and I am using my canes less and less but there is a problem of decades and that is getting out of bed. Pain increases and more! Even if I go to bed earlier now it seems 11 am is the best I can do this year even with reduced pain. I have come from too often being bedridden for weeks and months at a time! I am not complaining as I do believe in Romans 8:28. Nevertheless I would find it a miracle if every day I can get up at 8 am or earlier and not fall down! ( You can laugh it’s fine ) … I do now but used to curse til’ the air was blue! I am posting as I need suggestions perhaps and certainly prayer! I welcome your smiles and I will pray for all here as well … it’s one of my jobs too! Thanks for listening and please know that God is and has been listening and helping all of us even when doubt it. I wrote a couple friends this am just about this matter that is a long time and heavy burden! Then Jeff shows up with this post and another long time affiliate contacts me for help about similar issues! He really does hear us and is happy when we call and has a wonderful sense of humor (God that is) ! For everyone here I know He hears everything and is just waiting for you to call!

  26. Just knowing that somebody else out there is depending on me, and understanding what God has placed in me was essentially put there for someone else. Having the realization that life is really not all about me. Those things drive me to keep moving forward, which of course starts with rolling out of my comfortable bed every morning and even staying up all night on occasion.

  27. Reminds of this beautiful poem!


    The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
    Don’t go back to sleep.
    You must ask for what you really want.
    Don’t go back to sleep.
    People are going back and forth across the doorsill
    where the two worlds touch.
    The door is round and open.
    Don’t go back to sleep.

  28. I’m thinking the comments here give more inspiration, but none of them come from people who don’t get outta the bed and get moving. Come on people; ‘fess up. They’re the ones who don’t read our tweets until later, catch the blog a day late, and stay heavy-lidded all day, and, oh yes, the musicians. Musicians don’t even get to work until 9 p.m., so maybe they’re exempt. What do you think? I have noticed, no matter how early I get up, God’s already there waiting for me. I think He actually wakes me sometimes. It’s so cool. Good night y’all!

  29. On those “just one more hour” days, I remind myself that even if I only accomplish a little bit of work, that means I will have less to do the next day. The bonus: Usually I can get a full day’s work done once I am up and moving.

    The biggest thing I notice is something you talked about. When my body is lazy, so is my mind. Sunday night I was stuck on one sentence for an article pitch. It wasn’t until I was making my breakfast Monday morning that the answer magically appeared. Ten minutes later the pitch was done and sent – if I had lazed in bed, I doubt I would have come up with the solution so easily.

    Just one more thing to put into my bag of tricks to get myself up and at ’em!

  30. Pray & Read Bible,these are my goals for early morning. But I have my own battles as you mention in the post 🙂

  31. This is something I recently started doing. After putting myself on a timeline for writing my first book, I decided to being waking up at 4:30. I am naturally a morning person and annoy the rest of my family because of it, but I am not effective writing at night. I try not to do anything productive after about 8pm, because it is not efficient. Thanks for sharing Jeff.

  32. Good advice. I can dream all I want, if my feet don’t hit the floor the dreams will remain dreams! Seems like getting up and out is a huge leap into the day. When I get up after daybreak it feels like I missed something.

  33. This could be…it. Another chance, an unknown realm of possibilities, the opportunity to perchance, find something that trickles, then flows and gushes on the way to that estuary that puts out its fair, its good, even its bad compositions into an ocean of bubbling idea-mates. Gushing! That’s the morning start!! Usually.

  34. I get up early b/c I know if I don’t have my Bible reading/prayer time, the rest of my day stinks. Besides I also need an hour before I see my family so I can be a nice person!

  35. It definitely easier to make the plans than to carry them out. Any goal first originates as a thought and then must be broken down into actionable items. It’s in doing these items that our feelings can sometimes derail us. If you hear yourself rationalizing the feelings, that should be a sign to do the opposite.

    What gets me up in the morning is possibility. I love mornings for their built in sense of hope. A new day! Another chance to move one step closer to my vision.

  36. I get up early in the morning, as soon as my eyes open, just so I can’t lie back in bed and brood on the bad things that happened to me yesterday. I also think how good I’ll feel after I’ve finished my first task for the day.

  37. Oh man, did I hear that voice this morning! But when I hear that voice, it is the goals I have set and the person I want to be that drives me to move forward. Thanks Jeff for putting these thoughts in words.

  38. Prayer, after I pray I am bound to get up although going to fellowship has been quite an issue but after reading this I will have to ignore that voice that talks to me on sundays…thanks Jeff

  39. I don’t have a routine.

    Usually, I psyche myself by imagining an event I’m really looking forward to (like Ceramics class, or my English class.) If there’s something happening that day, I usually wake up thinking about it and get outta bed quickly.

    If I still won’t get up, I use a trick I learned in kung fu: rest for a little, then make a sound that makes me instantly jump up, ready to fight. It actually works.

  40. What gets me up in the morning is the anticipation of being engaged. If I have an appointment to go to, plans for lunch with a friend, a new work project, or a future event that requires days, weeks or even months of work in advance, I feel anticipation and motivation. What helps me to get to work in the morning is to have put in the necessary time the night before to straighten my home and, in particular, my work surrounds. Secondly, I am a major list maker. I may have one master list and several sub lists of what-to-do’s and when-to-do’s. Establishing a morning routine of pet care, breakfast, God time, exercise and work keeps me moving. Still and all, it’s important to keep my schedule fluid and flexible to whatever extent possible. I want to live my life on a reasonable schedule that allows me to be accessible, available, and in touch with the “real” (read that natural God-made) world.

  41. thanks for the post. Lately, the ‘I know I have a full day’ is what gets me up. I just sort of wake up and I’m ready to go. I am in a new leadership role at work and I know others are counting on me so that is my motivation. On the weekends, it’s getting up for a run to get the day started.

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