Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment.

While I drove back to work from home one day last week after my lunch break, I vented by phone to my friend Leah Darrow: “I have so much to do, and no time to do it.”

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She gets it. She is also a writer and a speaker. She has as much writing and speaking to do, plus a husband and two kids. While we commiserated, she asked a question I didn’t expect:

“What time do you get up in the morning?”

I laughed: “Not early enough!”

That’s when she got excited.

“Let’s just do it,” she said. “Let’s get up at 5:30, every day, for the next seven days, and see what happens.”

I parked my car in the lot at work and spoke the words that would solidify something we didn’t yet know would be epic: “Challenge accepted.”

We would call it the Heroic Minute Challenge, because our decisions to set our alarms for far earlier than usual were inspired by St. Josemaria Escriva’s ‘heroic minute’, as outlined in his book, The Way:

Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a fixed time, without yielding a single minute to laziness. If, with God’s help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. … The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and… up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body.”

My body wasn’t interested. But my mind was, so I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. and hoped for the best.

Which, as it turns out, is exactly what I got.

I succeeded each morning. Never hit the snooze. Regretted my poor life choices on the mornings after I stayed up too late (a habit the Challenge helped me kick). The Heroic Minute Challenge provided silence. Much needed silence, since “anyone who wants to sense (the Holy Spirit’s) presence must be quiet,” according to the YouCat.

The Heroic Minute Challenge provided space. Much needed space, between me and the hustle and stress and bad drivers that so long have distracted me from inspiration. Space between my day’s start and my obligations, so I could do what I want to do — pray, read, think, write, exercise — before it’s time to do what I’m not as excited to do.

The Heroic Minute Challenge provided a new perspective of mornings. I’ve always thought of me as a night owl, but mornings, I learned, can look majestic, like the sun as it rises through the trees in my back yard, and they can look practical, like laundry. They can look funny, like accidentally texting Leah at 3:30 a.m. the morning I forgot that timezones are a thing.

But the best part of the Heroic Minute Challenge is being more in charge of me than my snooze button is. It’s the Challenge’s promotion of self mastery, which is a skill that virtue requires of us.

Which is one of the reasons Leah and I have decided to continue to challenge each other — today, we started our second round of the seven-day Heroic Minute Challenge. And today, we would like to challenge you:

Set your alarm for 5:30 a.m., every day, for the next seven days, and see what happens.

We think you’ll be affected in ways you won’t expect — good ones. If you’re in, starting whatever day you read this, let us know by tweeting the quote below:

Share your progress with us by showing us and your followers what the Heroic Minute Challenge looks like each morning, using #HeroicMinuteChallenge with pics or vids of the sunrises you see or the books you read or the protein shakes you make (you catch my drift) on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

See you in the morning.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • THIS: “But the best part of the Heroic Minute Challenge is being more in charge of me than my snooze button is.”

    THIS is what I have known for quite some time I need to work on. As soon as my wonky finals schedule is over in a week, I’m going to be joining you ladies. Thank you for the encouragement to master self-mastery! One of my favorite quotes about it: “Conquer yourself and the world lies at your feet” – St. Augustine

  • Nikki Janice

    I hope your next article provides tips and suggestions I feel like I need to ease into this and I’m very hesitant because if I get up early I tend to crash in the afternoon.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      I think that’s what makes the minute heroic! There’s no real easing into it. We just gotta do it or don’t. If 5:30’s too early, try 6 instead, or another time that’s earlier than your usual but not as early as we’re doing it.

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