What keeps you up at night? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Working for various companies in the cooperate industry people used to proudly say to me that multiple aspects of the business kept them up at night. At the time, I found it kind of “wanky,” and now that I reflect on it, I still find it “wanky.”
1. Wanky (slang)- contemptible, worthless, or stupid.
Being kept up at night is not healthy. If you are someone who finds themselves up in the middle of the night or not being able to get to sleep easily, I wonder what aspects of your business or life are the cause. Are they justifiable? Are they important? And why?
Of course, there are many reasons why we may be kept up at night – stress, anxiety, health, unmet expectations. However, to put this in context of my business life let me provide one example. The boss would say to me, “The out of stock issue is what keeps me up at night.” Of course, I’ve heard umpteen more examples, but for now, this one will do.
What is it about the “out of stock issue” is so important for one to lose sleep? Okay, in all fairness, an issue is related to our business, career or some other aspect of our life may absolutely be important.
The first obvious questions that I’d ask is whether this matter that keeps you awake truly that important? If you believe it is, ask why? Will it matter at the end of your life? Will you be able to reflect back and be thankful that you spent your nights awake thinking or worse, worrying, about this issue?
After such an assessment there are two possible outcomes. Number one, you answer ‘yes’ – it is important. Alternatively, you decide that it’s not so severe or worthy of any loss of sleep. There are solutions for both.
If you do consider it an important issue, worthy of your attention the question that I would prompt you to ask is this – what are you doing about it?
Sleep, rest and recovery are essential for peak performance. Are those things that keep us up at night more important than sleep? Of course not! How can we tackle any of these issues with a sense of energy, clarity and cognitive ability if we lack sleep? We will be less effective in dealing and solving the problem and therefore likely find ourselves awake night after night. A lack of sleep surely won’t help us address the world issues.
In my experience, I know too well that worrying about “whatever” in the middle of the night prevents us from falling to sleep, exacerbates the concern and increases the burden a lack of sleep has on our lives. A lack of sleep won’t just affect our ability to solve this one particular issue; it will decrease our performance, mood and attitudes towards other areas of our life, too. It’s like the snowball effect; it can grow out of control if not dealt with correctly. We need sleep.
Here is my resolution of those issues we deem necessary. Make it your intention every day to do the very best you can to solve the problem. When it becomes your primary motivation to get out of bed each day, and you do your heartfelt best at dealing with it, you will be better able to rest at night. When we know and feel we’ve done the best we can each day, even if we haven’t fully resolved the issues, we will be more confident, content and relaxed and likely sleep better.
I think the reason why we are kept awake at night by issues we deem necessary is that we are either not personally doing enough towards solving the problem or that we feel helpless or that we have a lack of control to do anything about it.
Let me revert back to this question, is what motivates you to get out of bed each day an excitement to address the same issue that causes you a loss of sleep each night?
If the answer is ‘no’ then I’d suggest you believe the symptom or cause of the issue is not that important. If that’s the case, then stop fucking worrying about it. Easier said than done, right?
Solution. Instead of stressing about the issue that’s not so critical, try to shift your thoughts. Think about areas of your life that are important. Like your kids or partner, or ability to help others. Usually, a shift of view from self to others, although challenging, can be a huge relief. Also, you can shift your thought to some of the more positive aspects of your life. What you’re passionate about, curious about, or some of your recent achievements. Try these things, see if they work and let me know how you go.
If you still think the issues are important, then you need to make it a priority. When we have something to wake up for each day, with passion, with excitement, with total energy, then we will do everything with a great purpose. Then, and only then, we will be able to rest easy at night knowing that we’ve done our very best.
So make this problem your obsession. Make it your passion, your purpose, your goal to solve. Every day when you awake, it is the first thing you think. Assuming, of course, that you managed to get back to sleep. Before you leap out of bed ask yourself, how am I going to tackle this “beast” today? Then get up and active and do what it takes.
Yes, there are other aspects of our daily lives that we must deal with but nothing more important than the issue that is causing us a loss of sleep. Deal with it, solve it, progress and move on. I would almost guarantee that when you do whatever you can with passion and purpose each day, you will sleep better at night.
One final observation. Often that which keeps us up at night is not the crux. Usually, it is but a symptom of a deeper issue. In personal experience, all kinds of things used to keep me awake at night. I wish I knew what I know now. I wish I had this advice.
Every day I’d wake up and try tackle these issues, but I was essential just putting out spot fires and never getting to the core of the problem. It was health. Poor health kept me up at night. A lack of exercise, a lack of proper eating, an overindulgence in the pleasures fixes. Unknowingly I was dealing with all these unimportant side issues and never resolving anything.
My poor health kept me awake, my lack of sleep made me less aware and effective in taking care of my health. If anything a lack of sleep made me more prone to unhealthy behaviours. They played on each other. When I focused on my health, when it became my reason to get out of bed, I got better. I began to sleep like a baby.
In summary, if something is keeping you awake at night take some time to reflect on why. Make sure you get to the cause. Often what we think is essential is not and may just be a cover or excuse for us to avoid something that we know we must face.
Find what it is that motivates you to get out of bed each day. Those things you are passionate. Those things you love. Usually, they are the things which are most important. When we focus on these, we start and finish each day with a purpose that matters. The trivial, mundane, bull-shit clutter and stress fall away. It is lifestyle by design.
Further Reading and Resources