Zoo-notable: Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of being coached not once, but twice by Hal Elrod this past year. But before I even knew who Hal Elrod was, I listened to a Philosopher Note (Optimize.me) on his book Miracle Morning. I distinctly remember listening to it on my way to a Memoir Writing Group, because his story resonated so deeply with me. Hal was on his way to becoming a huge mega-salesperson with Cutco at the ripe age of 21 when he was hit head-on and literally died. He was dead for 6 minutes and brought back, only to be told by doctors he would likely never walk again. Hal had permanent brain damage and broke nearly every bone in his body.

Why did this story resonate with me? Because while Hal accepted his fate– he was not angry or depressed– he also did everything in his power to overcome that challenge. And he didn’t just walk again, at the age of 26, Hal completed an ultramarathon (something he discusses in-depth in Miracle Morning), even though he hates running.

Now that is powerful.

Make Your Morning a Miracle Morning

I borrowed the book from the library right after I had my first coaching call with him during a Self-Publishing Author’s event. His advice for writers was incredibly inspiring and empowering. And I never realized that Miracle Morning was self-published. Hal did all the marketing himself. He booked hundreds of podcasts, dozens of television appearances, and made Miracle Morning a success. I was so pumped.

And then he was brought on as a Luminary Coach for the Optimize Program to discuss creating Miracles. I had actually finished Miracle Morning and moved onto his second book Miracle Equation (Zoo-notable coming soon). I thought I could combine the two in one Note, but that’s ridiculous, as both are so packed full of applicable wisdom, I do believe they both deserve their own note.

After his accident, Hal became a motivational speaker and coach. He started by creating a Miracle Morning community of people he coached to practice his principles for imagining and creating a better life for ourselves. I’m in love with Hal’s optimism, courage, and passion, and I am impressed by his dedication and relentless ambition to succeed. These books both spoke to me and moved me, and I think you could get a lot out of them, too.

 Big Ideas

  1. Becoming What We Repeatedly Do
  2. Life S.A.V.E.R.S.
  3. Going from Unbearable to Unstoppable

Big Idea #1- Shaping Our Identity With Our Actions

“You may think it’s no big deal to miss a workout, procrastinate on a project, or eat fast food because you’ll get a “do-over” tomorrow.  You make the mistake of thinking that skipping a workout only affects that incident, and you’ll make a better choice next time. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Every time you choose the easy thing, instead of the right thing, you are shaping your identity, becoming the type of person who does what’s easy, rather than what’s right.

The reality is that this type of action is programming our subconscious mind with instructions that it is okay for us to not follow through with the things we intended to do.

Always remember that who you’re becoming is far more important than what you’re doing, and yet it is what you’re doing that is determining who you’re becoming.”

Hal Elrod- Miracle Morning

Reality Check

Kick in the gut from the get-go, there. This is from chapter 3 titled  “95% Reality Check”. Hal is an obvious lover of stoic philosophy, as his statement on doing determines who you are becoming illustrates Aristotle’s idea of excellence, or Arete. “We are what we repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence is not an act, but a habit.”

So, this begs the question, what are your goals? What are your dreams? Who do you want to be in this world? A zookeeper? Animal trainer? Do you want to save the world and endangered species? Well, what are you doing right now to be that person you want to be?

Let Your Actions Demonstrate Who You Are

Okay, I get that you can’t be a zookeeper unless you have a zookeeper position. But is that ultimately true? Can we do more to become that which we seek? Can we practice the identity of being a zookeeper in our daily lives?

This is why I’ve fallen so in love with the Optimize Coach program. We start by working ultimately on ourselves. It isn’t an evangelical program where we convert others to the Optimize cult. We share by shining bright as radiant exemplars. But first, we have to become radiant exemplars. There are hundreds of paths to take to get there. Hal’s remarkable book is one of them, and the rest of the book shares ideas to make a huge difference in your life. But first we must recognize that perhaps the way we are doing things isn’t working, or we aren’t being the best versions of ourselves. If we have grand ambitions to change the world, we have to look at ourselves first, and change our own lives.

Why Did You Wake Up in the Morning?

Wake up for your morning miracle

“When you delay getting up until you have to—meaning you wait until the last possible moment to get out of the bed and start your day—consider that what you’re actually doing is resisting your life. Every time you hit the snooze button, you’re in a state of resistance to your day, to your life, and to waking up and creating the life you say you want.”

Yes, it feels good in the moment to hit the snooze button, and sleep a little longer, but is that the identity you want to create for yourself? Do you want to be the type of person who says they will exercise in the morning, or packs their lunch, or gets up on time, but doesn’t follow through?

This is an important aspect to consider because what Hal is suggesting in Miracle Morning takes a commitment to doing what we say we are going to do. Following through and becoming the type of person who creates miracles first thing in the morning. Are you ready for that commitment? Because it will change your life.

Big Idea #2- Life S.A.V.E.R.S

This is what the Miracle Morning is all about. It’s the meat and potatoes of the book. As Hal puts it:

The (Life S.A.V.E.R.S. as part of your Miracle Morning) will enable you to overcome your own self-imposed limitations so you can be, do, and have everything you want in your life, faster than you ever thought possible. It’s a life-changing daily habit, and while most people who try it, love it from day one, getting yourself to follow through with it for 30 days—so you can make it a lifelong habit—will require an unwavering commitment from you. On the other side of the next 30 days is you—becoming the person you need to be to create everything you’ve ever wanted for your life. Seriously, what could be more exciting than that?

Hal Elrod- Miracle Morning

Seriously, how can you not get pumped? So, Life S.A.V.E.R.S is an acronym for six small activities to do every morning. Every. Morning. Yes, you will have to get up a little earlier than you currently do to accomplish this. Hal does share some helpful tips for helping you get out of bed when it’s time to start your Miracle Morning.

  1. Set your intentions the night before (or as I say, define your “why”)
  2. Place your alarm clock as far from the bed as possible. This gets you up and moving instead of allowing you to fall right back to sleep.
  3. Brush your teeth. It’s an easy behavior, mindless activity which allows your body and mind a little more time to wake up.
  4. Have some water.

And then start your Miracle Morning Life S.A.V.E.R.S.

Each letter stands for a separate Miracle Morning activity.

S is for Silence

Silence- Miracle Morning

“You can learn more in an hour of silence than you can in a year from books.”

Matthew Kelly- The Rhythm of Life

Silence is quiet meditation. How long you practice this activity is up to you, but ideally, it will last 10-15 minutes, at least. This is a time to practice focusing your presence to the here and now. Just as we exercise to make our bodies stronger, so do we meditate to make our minds stronger. Mindful meditation is linked with several healthy attributes- stronger willpower, more focus, more peaceful and calm in stressful situations, clarity of mind, improved memory, presence, and positive outlook. Who wouldn’t want to start their day with that kind of performance enhancement?

A is for Affirmations

Affirmation- Miracle Morning

Nearly every day, I would hear (my roommate) Matt shouting from the shower. Thinking he was yelling at me, I approached his door, only to find he was shouting things like, “I am in control of my destiny! I deserve to be a success! I am committed to doing everything I must do today to reach my goals and create the life of my dreams!”

Hal Elrod- Miracle Morning

Affirmations get a bad reputation (I may be speaking for myself) because it may feel inauthentic. In his latest book Miracle Equation, Hal shares that there is a difference between lying to yourself (repeating “I am a millionaire” when you’re broke and jobless) and programming your brain into motivating youself to accomplish your dreams (and establish unwavering faith and extraordinary effort…but we’ll get to that in my next Zoo-notable).

The main idea of repeating affirmations is to convince your brain of who you want to be, what you want to accomplish, and (probably the most important part of an authentic affirmation) how you are going to accomplish it. With enough repetition, your subconscious mind begins to believe what you tell it, act upon it, and help you make your dreams a reality.

V is for Visualization

Visualization- Miracle Morning

Once you’ve created a clear mental picture of what you want, begin to visualize yourself living in total alignment with the person you need to be to achieve your vision. See yourself engaged in the positive actions you’ll need to do each day (exercising, studying, working, writing, making calls, sending emails, etc.) and make sure you see yourself enjoying the process. See yourself smiling as you’re running on that treadmill, filled with a sense of pride for your self-discipline to follow through. Picture the look of determination on your face as you confidently, persistently make those phone calls, work on that report, or take action and progress on that project you’ve been putting off.

Hal Elrod- Miracle Morning

Visualization is another activity like affirmations that seemed a little too woo-woo for me. But then again, Hal provided a distinction. He’s not talking about creating a vision board and then letting it sit there on your desk as pretty pictures and nothing more. Vision boards are fun, but it doesn’t change you without action. So, when you practice visualization, it’s important to not just picture your success. In fact, don’t focus on the outcome at all (besides, outcome is out of your control). Visualize the PROCESS of working toward your desired outcome. See yourself doing what you need to do, and then…here’s the kicker- GO DO IT.

E is for Exercise

Exercise- Miracle Morning

Exercise every day, every morning. Not to punish yourself. Exercise is not a punishment for what we ate, or what we did or didn’t do. It’s a celebration of movement. And, as science shows us, it’s the whole reason we have a brain (see my notes on becoming a sea squirt). This is an important component to take care of your body so your body will take care of you. Feel the vibrant energy and mental clarity after you exercise for as little as 10 minutes in the morning. Your exercise session for your Miracle Morning doesn’t have to be extravagant. It can be 10 minutes of yoga or a 15-minute walk. Of course, if you would like to start your Miracle Day during your Miracle Morning with a full 20-30 minute workout, that’s great, too. But celebrate this opportunity to move, and in the process, be moved towards achieving what we dream.

R is for Reading

Read- Miracle Morning

Before I discovered social media, email, and the black holes of Netflix and YouTube, I used to read. A lot. I used to read so much, I have books I’ve re-read multiple times, and still read close to a hundred new books every year. So, the idea of setting time aside each morning to do nothing but read was nostalgic for me. But this isn’t a time to read the news, or your emails. Read. You know, like, a book. It doesn’t have to be fiction, it doesn’t have to be non-fiction.

I’ve started dedicating my Miracle Morning reading session to books that fall within the genre I want to write. It is insanely inspiring.

Read some biographies or memoirs of conservation heroes. Or read a book from my Zoo-notable series. Or a book on training, wildlife, or positive psychology. Read kids’ books. Or romance novels, but let it be something inspiring. (Don’t knock the inspiration that can come from romance novels—I don’t read them, but I know better than to criticize such an intensely popular genre)

S is for Scribing

Scribe- Miracle Morning

The last letter is for Writing (Hal admits he struggled a little with an S-word to fit his Life S.A.V.E.R.S. acronym). Writing for me is a really natural habit. I’m a writer. But even before I “became a writer” I understood the value of writing things down.

Research shows those who keep a food journal are 28% more successful in achieving their weight-loss goals. If we want to improve on something, the best way for us to do that is to track it. Bring awareness to that which we want to improve. Write your ideas down, your dreams, your plans for the day. Write what went well yesterday and what needs a little work. Jot down lessons you learned (what may not have gone as well the day before), and how you move forward into growth next time. Make a list of things you are grateful for. Reflect on your day and share what inspired you, touched you, and surprised you. Write it all down, and let these ideas become a contract for you to create not just a Miracle Morning, but a Miracle Day that leads to a Miracle Week, Month, Year, and yes, a Miracle Life.

Is this a tall order? Yes. Simple, but not necessarily easy. But Hal inspired me to try it out for 30 days. I’m not perfect at achieving everything every day, but I’m working towards progress and creating those Miracles.

Big Idea #3- Going from Unbearable to Uncomfortable to Unstoppable

I have to give credit where credit is due. My first time hearing about Miracle Morning was from Brian Johnson’s Philosopher Notes (which is what Zoo-notables are inspired by). And on a deep unconscious level, this idea of moving from Unbearable to Unstoppable stayed with me. I forgot where I heard the idea, but repeated it to clients, zookeeper groups, and coaching calls. Because it deeply resonated with me. It’s one of those ideas that is so incredibly powerful, it literally changed the way I present my ZooFit program and creating new healthy behaviors within our own lives (so we can be a better service to our animals and the planet).

But reading the book reminded me where I had heard this concept before, and I can’t wait to share it again from the original creator. And how it applies to using animal training techniques to achieve success in our own fitness.

The Three Phases of Developing a New Habit

Hal states that there are three phases to developing new habits. The first phase is Unbearable. Implementing any new habit, or ridding yourself of an old habit can feel almost unbearable. While the first couple days may be exciting, the newness wears off pretty quickly, and you realize…you hate this. This habit is NOT fun. And every fiber of your being resists and rejects the change. You find yourself thinking: I hate this. Your body screams: I don’t like how this feels.

And it is here where we run into problems. As Hal puts it:

The problem for most people is that they don’t realize that this seemingly unbearable phase is only temporary. They think it’s the way the new habit feels, and will always feel, telling themselves: If the new habit is this painful, forget it—it’s not worth it. As a result, 95% of our society fail time and time again to start exercise routines, quit smoking, improve their diets, stick to a budget, or any other habit that would improve the quality of their life.

This is because it’s incredibly difficult to convince our brain that the pain we are feeling is only temporary. It’s the difference between doing what is right, and what is easy.

But if we “power” through, we can make it to the next phase, which is Phase 2- Uncomfortable.

First it’s Unbearable, then it Becomes Uncomfortable

Once you get through the most difficult phase, which can last 10 days to a few weeks, you find the second phase considerably easier. You see the benefits of the habit and it doesn’t completely suck…but it’s still, well, uncomfortable. There are plenty of times you don’t feel like doing your new behavior, and are tempted to fall back to your old habits. It still takes discipline and commitment to stick with it. But if you stay the course, you will pass from unbearable and uncomfortable, and discover what it’s like to be unstoppable.

And then you enter Phase Three: Become Unstoppable

As Hal puts it, this is where you positively reinforce and associate pleasure with your new habit. Instead of hating your new behavior, you feel proud and accomplished. This is where the actual transformation occurs. The habit becomes part of your identity. You become like Yoda. “Do…there is no try.” You aren’t trying anymore, you are becoming.

I know what it’s like to be in all three phases. And yes, the unstoppable phase is real, you can get there. When I first started on my fitness journey, going to the gym, eating healthy, and giving up a lot of my vices wasn’t FUN. They were just as unbearable as Hal described. But by using the principles of animal training and implementing positive reinforcement, I quickly moved from Unbearable, to Uncomfortable, and became Unstoppable. Nowadays, you couldn’t PAY me to skip a workout, or eat junk food with palm oil, wrapped in plastic, and made with processed sugar.

Making Unbearable and Uncomfortable a Little More Bearable

And that is one small thing I’d like to add to this Big Idea. Using positive reinforcement, appropriately (and not as in a burger after the gym), can help the Unbearable and Uncomfortable phases feel a little less unbearable and uncomfortable.

For instance, when I first started out with my fitness program, I rewarded my habit of going to the gym by downloading a new song every time I went. Eventually, I had an arsenal of uplifting, highly motivating songs that inspired me and empowered me. And soon, I didn’t need a new song every time I went to the gym. I had entered the Uncomfortable phase, but I couldn’t become complacent, because there were still plenty of times I didn’t feel like working out. I wanted to sleep in, it was too dark, too cold, too Seattle-ish. So, I’d give myself an incentive such as downloading a new song. And that worked. Until eventually, there came a day when I realized, I didn’t need to download a song. Even if I didn’t feel like doing a workout, I got up and did one anyway. Because I knew I’d 1) regret it if I didn’t do the workout, and 2) feel amazing after I completed the workout. I was Unstoppable.

You don’t have to necessarily wait until you power through the first two phases to reward and reinforce your habit. Implementing the right incentive can make even the most unbearable activity something we can’t wait to do.

Create Your Own Miracle Mornings

Miracle Morning Cycle

So, how can you incorporate positive reinforcement into your routine and kick-start your Miracle Morning? What are your Life S.A.V.E.R.S. and what small way can you move toward practicing this theory, starting today? Let’s create miracles in our day and our life by moving from theory to practice to mastery, becoming the best versions of ourselves, one morning at a time.

That’s all I have for this fantastic book. What big idea stuck out to you? And how can it help you in your life? Let me know in the comments. If this book intrigued you, I encourage you to check out Hal’s amazing work at Miraclemorning.com. Get his book, join the community, and change your life.


While blame determines who is at fault for something, responsibility determines who is committed to improving things.”

Hal Elrod- Miracle Morning

YES! We cannot control what cards we are dealt, we can only control how we play the hand. Who are you, a victim, or a creator of solutions? Let’s take responsibility and improve our life.

How you do anything is how you do everything”

 T. Harv Eker

“If you really think about it, hitting the snooze button in the morning doesn’t even make sense. It’s like saying “I hate getting up in the morning, so I do it over, and over, and over again.”

Demetri Martin

That’s a great way to remind us to get out of bed and get started on our day. Because waking up is the worst part, getting up is the answer.

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”  

Jim Rohn

And finally, back to Hal who shares his amazing story of running a marathon, despite his absolute hatred of running:

“On the other side of that line was freedom—the kind of freedom that can never be taken away from you. It was freedom from our self-imposed limitations. Although through our training we had grown to believe that running 52 consecutive miles was possible, none of us really believed in our heart of hearts that it was probable. Each of us struggled with our own fear and self-doubt. But the moment we crossed that finish line, we had given ourselves the gift of freedom from our fears, our self-doubt, and our self-imposed limitations.”

Let’s find that freedom, and that wonderful feeling when we cross finish line after finish line. Today. Tomorrow. And forever.

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