I love mornings. And I hate waking up early.
Like, truly loathe it. Anything that starts with a 5? Nope. Not happening. I’ve spent years trying to wake up at 6am to write or read or exercise, but the only thing I’m good for at 6am is deciding not to wake up at 6am. Currently, my most ambitious alarm is set for 6:45 so I can get to the gym by 7am. This is my level best.
So you can imagine how I feel when my alarm goes off at 4am every other Tuesday morning.
It is. The worst.
I start to feel panicked about Tuesday’s early wakeup call on Sunday evening because I am nothing if not super great at anticipating the future with low-grade dread. Monday’s entire schedule revolves around the knowledge that I will be rising literal hours before the sun. By Tuesday morning at 4:02am, I’m convinced I need to quit my job.
For the record, I have a fantastic job that I 100% should not quit.
There is one thing, and only one thing, that gets me out of bed on Tuesday mornings—gainful employment notwithstanding.
It’s a whole wheat* bagel, toasted, with scallion cream cheese.
*Note: the whole wheat selection is based solely on flavor. The fact that it’s a healthier alternative to its all-white cousins is just an added bonus.
I start dreaming about the next Tuesday bagel basically as soon as I finish the current Tuesday bagel. I’m not sure a time exists when I’m not dreaming about a Tuesday bagel. Though I am sure that long before I remember how much I enjoy my job and coworkers and the privilege of commuting to NYC, I remember how much I love that bagel.
This is because humans are pretty simple.
If I tried to get up at 4am on any other morning by maturely reasoning my way into it, I would never actually get up. I know this because I have a graveyard of pre-7am aspirational alarms. Getting up early to write for the sake of writing, to run for the sake of health, to read for the sake of personal growth? It’s almost definitely not going to happen.
But introduce a bagel to the situation? And, you know, job requirements? I’ll be out of bed by 4:05am and out the door 30 minutes later—at which point I will be fully awake and legitimately happy about the whole experience. Mostly about the impending bagel.
I want to believe that I don’t need a reward to do something I won’t naturally want to do. I’m not a toddler. I don’t need an M&M as a congratulatory prize for going to the bathroom. I should be self-disciplined enough to do whatever I need to do, whenever I need to do it, with the sole reward being the accomplishment of whatever needed to happen!
But that rarely works.
See: nearly every well-intentioned New Year’s Resolution.
Most of the time, when my best intentions fail, I don’t need more commitment. I need more bagels. I need rewards that are much more tangible, immediate, and enjoyable than my lofty ideals for all of the beneficial things I should be doing. This is the simple science of habits.
So at the start of a brand new year, let’s resolve not to make life any harder than it needs to be. We are all very responsible and capable human beings. We can do all sorts of challenging and not-so-challenging things. And if bagels, literal and otherwise, make the process easier and less stressful and more likely to actually happen? Let’s not be heroes. Let’s have some bagels.