Pilot Your Day

The alarm clock goes off. You hit the snooze button multiple times. At some point, you can’t delay getting out of bed anymore. So, you regretfully throw back the covers and drag yourself into the shower, where you automatically proceed to go through in your mind the likely challenges of your day ahead. Does this—or something similar—describe the start of your day?

That was pretty much my unconscious morning routine for more years than I care to admit. That was before I started studying conscious living principles and cultivating a spiritual practice. Then, I gradually shifted away from letting my day run on autopilot, busily reacting to the pre-programmed warnings and threats proffered by my fear-based ego about all the fires awaiting me to put out.

How Do You Start Your Day?

You Can Create An Exceptional LifeIn the book, You Can Create An Exceptional Life, authors Louise Hay and Cheryl Richardson devote one full chapter to talking about how they begin their day. The title of that chapter is what Louise Hay has been saying for years, “How you start your day is how you live your day.” (And, by extension, how you live your day is how you live your life, which, incidentally, is the focus of the next chapter.)

These two personal empowerment leaders have different daily routines. However, the common denominator is that they don’t rush to begin their day. Instead, they take their time to listen to their inner wisdom and to set intentions for their day. By the time they pick up the phone, go to meetings, write emails, etc.—the kinds of things we all do—they approach these tasks with high consciousness regarding what they’d like to say and how they want to respond to situations. Staying in tune with the best part of themselves, they communicate and carry on their day being intentional about the experiences they want to create for themselves and all involved.

What they say in that chapter really resonates with me. In my own experience of building my daily spiritual practice for the past 5 years, I can attest to the importance of living consciously. Instead of allowing life to continue to run on auto-pilot, I’ve been reclaiming conscious piloting of my life—and I’m passionate about helping others do the same for themselves.

Becoming An Inner Observer

As an overall result of reclaiming conscious piloting of my life, I’ve become more and more of an inner observer of myself. That is, I’m able to see the choice points in just about every situation and to decide at each juncture what I want to do. This minimizes doing or saying things that are ego-based and that which may court regrets later.

conference roomLet me give you a work example from a couple of years ago when I was an onsite consultant. I walked into a conference room with a meeting about to start. The two colleagues who were already there started venting about issues in the organization. Neither raised anything related to the purpose of the meeting, nor did they identify a specific problem to solve in that exchange. They were just in their unconscious, habitual commiserating mode. It was one of those auto-pilot conversations that could be taking place in any organization—anywhere, really.

In that moment, I was aware of my ego-based reflex, which was to join in the commiserating. After all, I had my own grievances to file, thank you very much! However, as an inner observer of my natural human reaction, I also knew that I had another choice. That is, I could talk instead about how grateful I was to be gainfully employed in a tough economy, happy to be able to use my experience and skills productively to make a good living. I decided to go with the latter, sharing very genuinely my heartfelt sentiments. If you were a fly on the wall in that conference room on that day, you would have witnessed the instantaneous shift in energy, as the air in the room got considerably lighter. My two colleagues immediately smiled in agreement, and chimed in with their own words of gratitude.

Stop Auto-Piloting Your Day

So, how do we start our day such that we don’t let it slip into auto-pilot? More importantly, what if we don’t have a lot of time in the morning to devote to an involved practice? As Hay and Richardson point out—and I fully agree—even if it means setting your alarm to wake up 10 minutes earlier so that you can sit quietly with a cup of coffee/tea, instead of immediately running around manically, that’s a good start. Here are a few suggestions:

  • woman drinking teaMeditate and/or sit quietly. Quiet your mind, if only for a few minutes.
  • Write in your journal how you intend your day to flow, e.g., meetings with people going harmoniously, etc. You don’t have to write a lot, but just enough to set an intention for your mind to follow for the day.
  • Find an affirmation that resonates, and use it every morning and throughout your day. For years, I used an adapted one from Dr. Gay Hendricks‘ book, The Big Leap. It goes, “Today, I expand in love, abundance and success, as I inspire those around me to do the same.” These days, my affirmation is “I am Infinite Love and Grace.” It aligns with my mantra, “Do it for Love,” which I use often, especially when I feel challenged by an event.
  • Spend a couple of minutes visualizing a positive experience, whether it’s your commute or a conversation by the water cooler.
  • Write a gratitude list. When you’re in gratitude, you can’t be a victim at the same time.

You can also use your commute time to focus consciously (and safely) on things/people to appreciate or for which/whom to be grateful. I did that on my 50-minute commute a few years back on a day that was promising to be extremely stressful. By the time I arrived at work, I was in a true state of grace. My day ended with my business partners thanking me for going above and beyond to resolve a situation where everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. So, I can attest to the fact that how we start our day does indeed shape how we live our day.

Over to you: What do you do to pilot your day? Do you have any morning routine or practice? Love for you to share in the comment box below.


Photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

If you’re new here, welcome! I invite you to subscribe to my blog via email or RSS feed. Simply look for the “Subscribe & Connect” box below.


30 Days To Living Your Best LifeLearn tools to become a conscious pilot of your day and your life in 30 Days To Living Your Best Life! The next group coaching program will begin in 2 days on April 11.

Each group is capped at 10, so that a true community can form and norm, and be supported by each other—and me!

Hear it from a participant:

“As you work the program, you will find out so much about yourself and Alice also gives you tools to make your Best Life come true! She breaks things down to bite size pieces that are achievable, even for people like me who do not have a lot of spare time. She has given me very helpful things to do that take no more than 1 or 2 minutes. Anyone can spare that much time. Loved the class and happy to work the program!—Renee F.

About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

Subscribe & Connect

Subscribe to blog articles by email, and connect with Alice across the web.

, , , , , , ,


Hi Alice, My morning routine used to be the way you described it at the begining of the article, in a rush trying to to do it as fast as I could to be on time @ work. But maybe a year ago I started waking up earlier and meditating and visualizing good vibes for my day, and it actually helps a LOT, maybe not as much in the part of relating with people and making them feel energetic around me (I'm working on it) but to feel more peaceful, appreciative and councious of the things I see, hear, smell, touch and taste, trying to be aware of all of my senses and my soroundings. IF I don't have time right after waking up I do it at work, it takes just 5-10. Everyone should do it! ... my suggestion: Pick your favorite meditation "song" and let the joy of life penetrate in your body and sould and express your creative side to the universe! 
Thanks for your writings... :)


I love the part about the inner observer. Something I have been trying to teach my kids. Wonderful reminder about how important it is to frame every day and still be open to what comes your way. Thank you!


Wonderful topic, Alice! I love it!

I try to live intentionally each day, though I do not yet have a mindful routine to create it every day in my life. After reading this post I am already thinking of ways I can do this. 

In addition to the tips you mentioned here, I imagine simply checking in with myself could help pilot my day, as you say. I won't feel great every day and I find knowing where I'm coming from can help me determine what I need to do to take care of myself and set myself up for a good day. 

When I respond negatively to the world around me is usually when I have unmet needs such as getting adequate sleep or taking 15 minutes of "me time". When my needs aren't met I'm far more likely to participate or even instigate a grump session with co-workers, or focus on the things that aren't working instead of focusing on the things that are. I may not always be able to immediately meet my needs but I have found even just recognizing I have unmet needs helps me respond to my day instead of reacting to it.

I have found gratitude lists to work wonderfully for me! I have also used positive affirmations to set the tone for my day. I love your suggestion to visualize a positive experience and I'm excited to give this a try!

Have a grateful day!



Alice - In the past few years I've really come to realize that intention is a truly powerful force. Appreciate your examples of how setting the tone at the start of the day through intentional practices truly made a difference for you.  I usually have crazy mornings getting the kids off to school and then starting my client meetings as soon as drop off time is over.  Finding ways to get into flow and off of auto-pilot will make all of the experiences of the day more meaningful.  Thanks for this post! ~ Alli


How we start our day is so important, and you highlight this fact as well as provide some ideas on how to begin each day in a centered way. This post really resonates with me, Alice, as I am working to change how I start my days. This past weekend, I took a beginners meditation class and I am ready to begin each day with this practice. It is also taking those "re-centering" breaks during the day, too. This is a wonderful post and a great frame on how to start our days in a meaningful way. Thank you! Jon

DrAliceChan moderator

@s3rdna Thank you very much for taking the time to share your experience on taking 5 to 10 minutes each day to ground yourself and the impact of this practice. What a testament to the power of doing something so simple that doesn't take long! You're absolutely right, that even if you can't do it first thing in the morning, doing it anytime is better than not doing it. Also, thank you for offering your suggestion of a favorite meditation song. Anything that facilitates getting centered is a good thing! Appreciate your contribution to this discussion!

DrAliceChan moderator

@scott_elumn8 Thanks, Scott. Good thing to teach your kids that will serve them well throughout their lives. Thank you for adding your comment.

DrAliceChan moderator

@livelovework Great point, Chrysta, on self-care as a key to how we run our day. You're so right that, when we're depleted ourselves, that's when we're more prone to react reflexively from our ego. Part of taking time, even if just a few minutes, in the morning to get centered is for the purpose of self-care. Being in gratitude is always a good practice any time of the day, of course. Have fun visualizing a good experience. I once worked with a very difficult client. I kept visualizing things moving smoothly on the project. Her behavior started shifting, and eventually she took another job, which make the project infinitely more enjoyable after she left! Enjoy your day, Chrysta, and thank you for taking the time to comment in such great depth!

DrAliceChan moderator

@AlliPolin Thank you for sharing, Alli. I almost wrote a piece this week about the power of intention (the title of one of Dr. Wayne Dyer's books). But, as I sat down to write, I felt that writing about the start of our day was where this piece needed to go. I can imagine that, for parents, the start of their day can be especially challenging. It takes more conscious arrangement to have a few moments to yourself before tending to everyone and everything else. Grateful to you for joining this discussion, Alli!

DrAliceChan moderator

@ThinDifference It's wonderful that you're starting a meditation practice, Jon, and taking "re-centering" breaks. I'm sure you'll notice changes rather quickly. What a great new addition to your life! Grateful for your resonance and comments, Jon. Perhaps you'll be sharing the fruits of your practice at some point on you blog?


  1. […] beginning your day with meditation and/or journaling. Allow your inner wise self to help you pilot your day consciously—and be good with whatever showing up as your best each day looks […]

%d bloggers like this: