One of the most relatable moments in Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations is the argument Marcus Aurelius has with himself in the opening of book 5. It’s clearly an argument he’s had with himself many times, on many mornings—as have many of us: He knows he has to get out of bed, but so desperately wants to remain under the warm covers.
It’s relatable…but it’s also impressive. Marcus didn’t actually have to get out of bed. He didn’t really have to do anything. One of his predecessors, Tiberius, basically abandoned the throne for an exotic island. Marcus’s adopted great-grandfather Hadrian hardly spent any time in Rome at all. The emperor had all sorts of prerogatives, and here Marcus was insisting that he rise early and get to work.
Why? It’s because Marcus knew that winning the morning was key to winning the day and winning at life. He wouldn’t have heard the expression that “the early bird gets the worm,” but he was well aware that a day well-begun is half done. By pushing himself to do something uncomfortable and tough, by insisting on doing what he said he knew he was born to do and what he loved to do, Marcus was beginning a process that would lead to a successful day.
It’s one that we have to follow today and every day. We should get up early. We should not delay. We should get the nutrients we need. We should practice good habits. We should go right into whatever the biggest or most important task of the day is. We want to win the morning so that the rest of the day (much of which will be out of our control) has less power over us.
Well-begun is half won. So get started.