In the military, recruits get accustomed to waking up early.
Days are strictly regimented—especially for Navy SEALs, often considered to be the most hardcore special operations force in the United States military.
SEALs routinely get up at around 4:30 in the morning. When they leave the service, most continue to wake up early; after all, it’s not an easy habit to break.
That’s not to say that they’d want to break that habit, however. Former Navy SEAL commanders and “Extreme Ownership” authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin recently told Business Insider about their philosophy on waking up early.
“Number one, just on a practical side, if you wake up early in the morning, like at 4:30 in the morning, you’re going to have some free time to yourself, to make things happen, to take care of things that are important to you,” Willink explained.
“You know, if you try to work out at 4:30 in the afternoon, how many people are going to chip away at that time? Your boss, your job, your work, your family, your other obligations. At 4:30 in the morning, all those people are asleep.”
“The other part of it is straight up self-discipline.”
“It’s not fun to get out of bed early in the morning. When the alarm goes off, it doesn’t sing you a song, it hits you in the bed with a baseball bat.”
“So, how do you respond to that? Do you crawl up beneath your covers and hide? Or do you get up, get aggressive, and attack the day?”
Willink then explains that he disagrees with research that suggests that willpower gets depleted throughout the day.
“Whatever scientist wrote that, contact me, because you’re wrong,” Willink said. “It’s not true.”
Do these SEALs know something that modern scientists don’t?
It’s true that the general scientific consensus is that willpower can be depleted when used regularly.
However, there’s also scientific support for the idea that attitude can act as a check against this depletion. One study from the University at Albany found that people who felt compelled to use self-control regularly didn’t have their willpower depleted as quickly as other people in the study.
In other words, while all willpower can be depleted, people who regularly exercise self- control have more resistance to this effect.
Science also indicates that mood plays an important role. People who maintain positive attitudes can exercise more willpower, according to the same University at Albany study. Even your perception of willpower can have an effect; a University of Stanford study showed that people who think of willpower as a limited resource were more often subjected to willpower depletion.
That’s a scientific way of explaining what Willink and Babin already know: Willpower is all in your head.
So, what should you do with all your free time in the morning?
For Willink and Babin, the answer is simple: exercise.
“I guarantee if you get up in the morning and you work out and work hard, you will have a better day,” Willink said. “100 percent guaranteed.”
The video is pretty inspiring. Check it out below (and get ready to set your alarm clock).