I’m personally not a big fan of morning routines, though they’re great for people for whom they work. For many of us, however, they create unwelcome pressure.

I have a young child, so my mornings are hectic and don’t lend themselves well to a structured routine focused entirely on my needs. This is a season of life, and that’s okay.

All of that said, however, I do think there’s great power in setting some intentions for yourself each day. Whether it happens first thing in the morning or later in your day, I think it’s valuable to ask yourself some questions about how you want show up in the day.

I do this exercise most days—and give myself grace on the days when I can’t or I forget.

For those looking to create a similar habit, here are the four questions I use to become more intentional (and often as a result, more productive and positive):

1. What’s one thing I can do, no matter how small, to move me even incrementally closer to my big goal or my deeper why?

Whether you define this as your life’s mission (in my case, smashing patriarchy) or a smaller goal for the year or month, think of one thing you can do in the direction of reaching the destination.

This isn’t about swinging for the fences and “crushing the goal” in a single day.

Unlike many coaches, I think it’s far more powerful to think small. 

Being gentle and realistic with ourselves can often be the recipe for taking action and making progress. Those small steps can quickly add up. On the other hand, only setting your sights on nearly impossible monumental actions can leave you feeling lousy and, often, giving up.

2. How can I live into my values today?

When I talk about “values” I don’t mean looking at a list of inspirational words and picking a few that feel or sound good.

I’m talking about getting a clear understanding of what actually makes you feel good and brings you into a state of contentment. By that I mean flow state, or a sense of safety, not necessarily happiness (which is a fleeting high). In those moments of contentment, what value is being serviced?

Getting clear about your values—about what brings you contentment—is important for creating days that feel good (even if nothing else changes in your life).

How? It allows you to make adjustments so that you can tend to your values. As an example, I value connection. If my work schedule includes no meetings and I won’t feel connection, the day may not feel great. Knowing my value, Ic an think about how to add connection into a day of solitude (perhaps with a coffee date, texts to friends, or a Zoom chat).

3. What’s one way I can express my gratitude today?

Writing down a list of things for which you are grateful is great, and certainly can help shift you into abundance thinking. Even more powerful, though, is actually demonstrating or showing your gratitude.

How could you actually take an action to express gratitude to someone else? That might look like texting a friend to say thanks, writing a thank-you card, purchasing a present, sending an email to thank your subscribers, or leaving a sweet Post-it on your partner’s bathroom mirror.

However you do it, showing gratitude (rather than quietly writing it down) can instantly shift you into a lighter, more positive mindset.

4. What’s one way to show myself love today?

I believe this is the most powerful question on this list because it’s one many of us (especially those of us who aren’t white men) never consider.

We aren’t conditioned to put ourselves and our needs first. In fact, many of us are taught to habitually care for everyone else and that thinking of our own needs is “selfish” or “greedy.”

I’m not here for that! Caring for yourself is critical to avoiding resentment, overwhelm, burnout, and other poor mental and physical health outcomes. It’s also important for sustaining the energy needed to keep caring for others.

So how can you tend to your own needs today? Maybe it’s putting on comfy, going for a walk, eating a nice meal, or listening to a funny podcast.

You deserve to feel good, and asking yourself this question is one way to finally give yourself that gift every day.

 → Becky Mollenkamp is an ICF-certified mindset coach who helps women develop self-compassion and rebuild self-trust—the two keys to creating unstoppable confidence. Learn about her membership, The Gutsy Boss Club, here.

Best morning routine for success
4 questions to ask each day as an intention setting exercise for a successful morning routine from mindset coach Becky MollenkampBest morning routine for success