Radhanath Swami stresses the importance of compassion in leaders

A world-renowned speaker and social activist spoke at Northwestern on Tuesday and discussed how his experiences shaped his view of the role of different leaders in society.


The event, called ‘The Power to Lead,” featured Radhanath Swami and drew a crowd of about 150 individuals to Harris Hall. It was co-sponsored by several student groups including the Bhakti Yoga society, Engineers for a Sustainable World, Wild Roots, NCDC, Interfaith Advocates, among others.

Radhanath Swami began his talk through discussing how the choices he made throughout his life affected his spiritual decisions. Radhanath Swami left his hometown of Highland Park, Illinois at age 19, when he traveled to Europe to spend a semester abroad. At the end of this experience, he said he was drawn to India, where, after several years of living in the Himalayan forests, he adopted a Hindu and Buddhist theology called Bhakti yoga. A few years later, he took monastic vows.

Radhanath Swami attributes his decision to become a monk to his childhood experiences, pointing to his parents and uncle as role models. He said when he was growing up, his family often experienced economic hardships, followed by success.

“Either way, (my father) would regularly say to his children, ‘What really matters is our love for each other,’” he said, “’We work for money because we have to.’”

During his talk, Radhanath Swami stressed the importance of the inherent goodness in each person and the change that individuals can make in their societies. He illustrated this by recounting the story of an older woman he heard speak at an International Woman’s Day event in India last year.

He said the woman frequently was punished for abandoning her chores to sneak off to school during her childhood. After she got married, she was brutally beaten by her husband when another man claimed she had been unfaithful.

From that point on, she was homeless and fell into depression, contemplating suicide. During a suicide attempt, she heard an older man’s cry for help. In response, she chose to respond to the man and from then on, devoted her life to serving others.

Radhanath Swami recounted the woman saying, “My life was full of thorns, but I made friends with those thorns, and my life became beautiful.”

She went on to found an orphanage and took in more than 1,500 children, referring to each of them as her child.

“People will not love you for what you achieve,” Radhanath Swami said, “People love people because of their values, their compassion, their love.”

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering and SESP Prof. John Kretzmann also spoke at the event.

Mayor Tisdahl explained that she was asked to speak at the event several months ago and when the organizers reached out to her, she was struck by their passion. She attributed this to the power of Radhanath Swami’s teachings.

“To inspire that kind of excitement and pure joy in these young people is just as important as everything else,” she said.

Weinberg junior Erik Linnell, who is involved in Bhakti yoga, said Radhanath Swami’s ideas on the importance of compassion in leaders struck him the most.

“Leadership is basically compassion for other people,” he said. “The main image of leadership that’s talked about today is that of a very egocentric version, the one person who must be in control of everything, when really it’s having compassion for others and, as he said, seeing potential in others.”

During the conclusion of his speech, Radhanath Swami used a metaphor of two dogs, one good and one bad, both trying to get a person’s attention in an effort to highlight that individuals have free will to make their own decisions but can be influenced by leaders in one’s community.

“Leaders of society are required to help and nourish the good dog in others,” he said, “If we are able to see the good dog in ourselves, we can help others see.”

(This article originally appeared in The Daily Northwestern)

Understand the science of happiness for better connections

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

Online socialAfter much deliberation, in June of 2012, I finally entered the online social networking scene. The fear of rejection had held me back for so long. My acquaintances from graduate school – now top leaders in the corporate – would they accept a friend request coming from a simple monk?

I was a loner even at the university. Right in the first year I found my passion in spirituality, which kept me from making many close friends; my newly formed outlook to life differed from my peers’. While I struggled to steer clear of pleasures, they considered it an important part of life, and some even overindulged. After all, for most of them, this was their first opportunity to fully experiment with the pleasures the world promised; here at the university, far from home, no conservative Indian tradition watched over them.

All through university study, I lived in my world, and they in theirs. So when I contemplated reconnecting with them a decade later, in 2012, through online social networking, I kept my expectations low.

But life has surprises in store, and some are pleasant ones. When I tried to reconnect, I found my relationships with them much more cordial now than ever before. Had my outlook to life evolved? Or had theirs? On deeper contemplation I concluded that my outlook had evolved, and so had theirs.

What molds our outlook?

SatisfactionEveryone is looking for happiness. To sound more wholesome, we call that happy state of being as satisfaction, fulfillment, contentment, well-being, etc. What we believe will help us reach that wholesome state molds our outlook to life and our persona. For example, if I firmly believed that only money can bring me happiness, I would not bother much about home. But if I believed that family life added significantly to my satisfaction, I would constantly plan to spend more time at home.

Because our beliefs about what will make us happy subconsciously changes over time, life experiences playing a major role in inducing this change, our outlook to life too evolve over time. It is a slow process.

A deeper look into happiness

Since our beliefs about happiness play such a crucial role in moulding our outlook and our persona, it is worth trying to understand happiness in more depth. The good news is that psychologists of the 21st century are taking a closer look at happiness. We have entered an era of positive psychology. Martin Seligman, who is attributed by many to have ushered in this new era, in his book Authentic Happiness reveals his findings. He speaks of three components of happiness:

  1. Pleasure from the senses.
  2. Engagement – the depth of involvement with one’s family, work, romance and hobbies.
  3. Meaning – using personal strengths to serve some larger end.

Of those three roads to a happy and satisfied life, pleasure is the least consequential, he insists: “This is newsworthy because so many Americans build their lives around pursuing pleasure. It turns out that engagement and meaning are much more important.”

It’s interesting that in Vedic living a person was educated to fulfill all components of happiness in a balanced way. Any ancient book concerning the Vedas will talk about dharma, artha, kama and moksha as the four interests of human beings. Artha refers to economic development and kama refers to sensual pleasures, something that Seligman calls the first component of happiness, pleasure. Dharma refers to pursuance of familial, social and occupational responsibilities in a manner that gives you fulfillment. This Seligman calls the second component of happiness, engagement. And moksha refers to search for a higher purpose, or transcendence. This Seligman calls the third component of happiness, meaning. And even the Vedas, like Seligman, point out that happiness derived from pleasure is least important. They go further to urge human beings to try and increasingly focus on the third component, meaning.

The urge for pleasure is prompted by the body. The urge for engagement is prompted by the mind. And the urge for meaning is prompted by the soul. Since our true identity is spiritual, heeding to the urges of the soul can fulfill our deepest selves.

In their immense maturity, the Vedas recognize that people are made of different psychophysical natures. It may be hard, and evbalancing our needsen dangerous, to ignore the urges of the body and mind all of a sudden.  Different people feel these urges to different extents, and the extent to which we feel these urges also varies with age. For example, in youth our bodily urge for pleasure is at its peak.
And so the Vedic civilization provided a scientific master plan for balancing the needs of the body, mind and spirit, according to one’s psychophysical nature and the phase of life one was in. That master plan was called by the name Varnashrama.

Empathy and Connection

connectionThis deeper understanding of the science of happiness paves the way for empathy and connection. This person too is seeking what I am seeking – a wholesome life – though externally he or she may be focusing on a different component of happiness. Let us connect and help each other fulfil the missing components in each other’s lives.

While at the university, I expected everyone to be like myself – exclusively focusing on the third component of happiness, i.e. purpose. So lacking maturity I alienated myself. And my peers perhaps recognized only the first component of happiness, i.e. pleasure, and so considered me strange.

But with time, through life experiences, we develop more maturity and understanding – many times subconsciously – of the different ways of happiness. And that’s the reason, I suppose, I am now able to appreciate my friends more, and they are able to appreciate me more. That mutual appreciation is the foundation for better connections.

If I had this deeper understanding of happiness while at the university, I could have developed better connections even then. But of course, it’s never too late, thanks to social networking sites.

How to stop the mind from wandering?

leader screaming“If our mind is in conflict, not balanced with our body and with the needs of the soul, then there is a fundamental disunity in our life. Only if we have unity within ourselves, we can create unity in the world around us. You can’t give something you don’t have, even if you have all good intentions”

Radhanath Swami

Leadership can be a daunting task with a wandering mind. It can lead you to weird decisions, insensitive dealings, display of negative emotions, and of course low efficiency.


A model for the mind

modelformindTo find a solution, we first look for a model that explains the working of the mind. Models are used extensively in science and everyday life; examples are wooden models of bridges, planes, or ships, Watson and Crick’s metal model of DNA and Phillips’ hydraulic model of the economy.  There are also models that are not material models. The Bohr model of the atom, a frictionless pendulum, or isolated populations, for instance, are in the scientist’s mind rather than in the laboratory and they do not have to be physically realized and experimented upon to perform their representational function. Simply put, models are vehicles for learning about the world. Significant parts of scientific investigation are carried out on models rather than on reality itself because by studying a model we can discover features of and ascertain facts about the system the model stands for. So to study the mind, we begin with developing a model for the mind that most accurately represents the characteristics of the mind.

Characteristics of the mind

What are the characteristics of the mind? In Bhagavad Gita, the ancient Vedic classic, featuring the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna, Arjuna eloquently puts forth the ‘mind problem’: “The mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind.”

So the characteristics of the mind are restlessness, turbulence, obstinacy and strength. In case you aren’t convinced, try to closely observe your mind – just for a day – and that will definitely help.

Mind – ‘the desperate searcher’

man searchingRecently I visited Bangalore, and my travel was quite eventful. I boarded the train at noon, and tired as I was, thought of beginning the journey with a good nap. But no sooner did the train start moving than I realize my identity card was missing; and without that I was no better than a ticketless passenger, as per the rules.

I began the desperate search. Fellow passengers looked on in wonder as they now saw me suddenly restless. The bag got emptied with stuffs flying all around, as though hit by a turbulent tornado. All thoughts of a nap which I cherished just a few minutes ago disappeared, as I obstinately went about searching. With every passing moment I seemed to grow in strength; I was powered by my desperation. And when I finally concluded that the card was nowhere to be found, I started searching for the railway ticket checker, in hopes that he would understand my situation and let me travel. I finally found him in another compartment, and fortunately for me, he was a man who believed in sympathy. With his blessings, I peacefully returned to my seat and nodded off.

Later, a deep thought made me conclude that the incident had helped me find the model for the mind. The mind is like ‘a person on a desperate search’. When I was on a desperate search, I too was restless, turbulent, obstinate and strong – just like the mind.

What is the mind searching for?

If the mind is like a person on a desperate search, is the mind also searching for something?

At Harvard, as part of a bigger research, an experiment was conducted on rate of mind wandering. 22 activities were analyzed – taking a shower, brushing teeth, working, exercising, etc. And it was found that people’s mind wandered the least while having sex. The natural conclusion is, the mind is searching for happiness or pleasure, and when it finds it – in this case in sex – it stops wandering, just as the person searching for something, calms down when he or she finds that object.

Try the work that makes you happy

So one easy way to keep the mind from wandering at workplace is to take up projects you are happy working at – projects that are meaningful to you, satisfying to you and give you a sense of contribution.     

Many a times people go for jobs or projects that makes more money or gives more prestige. That may seem a nice option in the short run, but from a long term perspective, we need to go for something that keeps the mind happy. That will help us focus well, which will automatically lead to greater efficiency and more money.

Try Meditation

Radhanath-Swami-singing-KirtanMeditation is intended to free the mind from the wandering habit. But from our analysis so far, we can safely conclude that meditation can be most effective when that meditation gives us joy. And that’s precisely what meditation in the bhakti school is all about.

Kirtan and japa of God’s holy names are the processes of meditation in bhakti yoga. When practiced consistently, the holy names give us a sense of joy, happiness and satisfaction. That makes meditation easy. Consequently we meditate more effectively and derive more joy from the holy names, which in turn leads to better meditation. This cycle of cause and effect – a unique feature offered by bhakti meditation – lifts us higher and higher, until the mind totally loses its habit of wandering.

Try the Joy of Love

motherEver seen a mother nurse her baby? She is focussed because she loves her child. Love is the source of greatest joy, and so when our mind tastes that joy, it just cannot wander to any other place.    

The highest love is experienced when we learn to love God and all his children. The ultimate teaching of bhakti yoga is that we be driven by that love – in our daily activities, in our actions, in our thoughts, and in our decisions. And when we are motivated by that love, our mind is inundated with unlimited happiness – and it just cannot wander.

“When the mind is turbulent, uncontrolled and restless, it is like a pond of water that is filled with mud. Therefore when we look within ourselves, all we perceive is the mud of our material conceptions of life. But when the mind is still through discipline, and through yoga, it is like a pond that has no waves and no turbulence. Then we can perceive through that crystal clear water the eternal nature of our soul.” – Radhanath Swami


What is most personal is most general

“What is most personal is most general”—Carl Rogers.

If we dig deep, beneath the superficialities, we will find that others have the same basic needs, interests and concerns—whether physical, emotional or spiritual—as we do. Understanding and realizing this aspect of human psychology is fundamental to great leadership.

Once when Mahatma Gandhi was boarding a train, one of his footwear slipped and fell back on the railway platform. The train moved ahead before he could retrieve it. In the quick seconds that followed, Gandhi related his current misery of having single footwear to the misery of the person who would later find the other footwear on the platform. Gandhi quickly shoved the one that he had out of the moving train. The second footwear of the pair feUnderstand feelingsll on the platform some distance away from the first. Now the person who would find the first could also find the second. Gandhi felt relieved. This incident exemplifies Gandhi’s ability to connect other’s feelings with his own.

Dr. Stephen Covey, whom Time magazine recognized as one of 25 most influential Americans, also stood apart in his ability to relate to the pain that most people suffered at their workplaces or at home. Putting himself in the shoes of the masses, he came out with solutions that when published became best-sellers.

‘I feel pleasure in a certain situation and pain in another. Similarly, anyone else would feel similar emotions when put into those situations.’ It sounds simple to understand, but it isn’t so. Take for example the non-vegetarian population. Most non-vegetarians are non-vegetarians because they don’t relate to the fact that the animal on their dining table underwent the same pain that they would go through if their throat were slit.

The Vedas point out this lack of empathy a symptom of tamo-guna, or the dark state of consciousness—we seem to understand other’s feelings, but we somehow fail to understand them. Most people’s consciousness is covered by darkness, to one degree or another. According to the Bhagavad Gita, the exceptions are only the ones who have attained spiritual perfection. ‘He is a perfect yogi who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings, in both their happiness and their distress, O Arjuna!’ (Bhagavad Gita 6.32)

Spirituality is indispensable in order to be able to connect to other’s feelings to any considerable level. Gandhi and Covey, the examples that we discussed earlier, were spiritualists in their own way. Gandhi spent a major portion of his day in his prayer room and Covey was a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Spiritual practices begin to connect you to your real self. From that dimension of reality you learn to see the equality of all beings, and their connection with the self. And from that dimension of reality you can relate the feelings of all beings to the feelings of the self. The whole process unveils in a mystical effect with progressive practice.

Close association of advanced spiritualists can help a lot; you witness the science in action. (In my case I have the good fortune of Radhanath Swami’s association) And gradually you too get habituated to see the world as they see—with empathy.

So, somehow connect to other’s feelings. Why? Firstly, we will find in doing it fulfillment of the soul’s real nature. And secondly, we will find in doing it fulfillment of our leadership roles. Because, leadership is about entering people’s hearts and people open their hearts when they feel they are understood; but you can’t give them that feel unless you are able to connect to their deepest emotions.

Only, I can!

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. ~ Lao Tzu

A physician gave some rather whimsical advice to a patient who was an aggressive, go-getter type of businessman. Excusing himself, the businessman told the doctor what an enormous amount of work he had to do and that he had to get it done right away or else things would fall apart. He said, “I take my brief case home every night and it’s packed with work,” he said with nervous inflection. Continue reading “Only, I can!”

The Business Magnate and the Spiritual Magnet

Mr.  Hrishikesh Mafatlal is the Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive of the multi-million dollar Arvind Mafatlal Group of Companies (AMG).  AMG has major interests in Textiles (Mafatlal Industries Ltd.), Denims (Mafatlal Denim Ltd.),  Rubber Chemicals (NOCIL Ltd.) and Fluorochemicals (Navin Fluorine International Ltd.). With his AMD from the Harvard Business School, USA, Mr Mafatalal has, in addition to his major corporate presence, a significant role in the shaping of management education in Mumbai and India. Continue reading “The Business Magnate and the Spiritual Magnet”

Personalized Leadership

The word Krishna means all attractive; in other words Krishna attracts all. When He used to do the Raas Leela all the gopis used to think Krishna is dancing with me and He loves me the most. Krishna is personal with His devotees.

A leader needs to be personal with his followers.

Hotel Taj
Hotel Taj

I remember some months back, I was checking into Taj, Baroda, and as soon as my car entered the porch area, the security guard opened the door and welcomed me by saying ‘Good evening  Mr Bharwani, welcome to Taj’. I was elated to hear my own name and I kept on hearing it from the staff till I entered my room.

They simply personalized their offering (from my name to the food ) to attract me, so much so I have very fond memories of my stay in that hotel and I have spoken about this to many of my friends. I have become a loyal follower of this hotel.

The leader reciprocates with the follower in a way that makes the follower feel special.

A well known industrialist of India narrated this incident. “I was with Radhanath Swami in my building and we saw somebody whom I had not seen smiling since the very first time I saw her, while that day she smiled and I saw Radhanath Swami also smiling at her. I was shocked. I revealed to him my astonishment and how I had tried in so many previous occasions but she never smiled.”

Personal Leadership
Personal Leadership

I have seen Radhanath Swami meet many people from flamboyant billionaires to simple villagers and they seem so connected with him and sometimes tears just roll down without speaking a single word.

Connecting with people personally means striking a chord with their deepest feelings and needs, which sets them free to express themselves fully. Conversations and Listening are powerful tools to connect with the follower and as we see more of the follower, the reciprocation becomes more meaningful and this attracts the follower to the leader. So much so the Gopis in the dead of the night would leave their homes to meet their eternal lover Krishna not too worried about the consequences at home. Followers will take risks and put in that extra effort if they feel their leader is personal with them.

Sleep baby sleep

“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” (Benjamin Franklin)

What is the common factor amongst Apple CEO Tim Cook, Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior, Starbucks president Michelle Gass, Founding Father of the United States Benjamin Franklin? Apart from being successful, they all attribute the most crucial factor for their success to their waking up early in the morning!

A german biologist Christoph Randler in 2010 found in his research that early risers are more likely to anticipate problems and be proactive and thereby have a productive mindset. You can not only accomplish a lot from your ‘list of things to do’ when you get up early but also you’ll find yourself breezing through the rest of the day with a sense of achievement, feeling lighter and most importantly with significantly less anxiety. When I look around, I see people on a perpetual ‘catch-up’ mode at their work places leaving hardly any time for family, friends and other meaningful pursuits in their lives. I believe this is the number 1 factor for stress in the lives of millions of people across the world today! Think about it, if you woke up 1/2 hour early everyday, you will have gained 300 extra hours in a year! A well known writer I read about regularly, said in those 300 extra hours that he gained in his life last year, he wrote 6 books, started 3 new businesses, completed an Honors degree and all this keeping his day job! That’s a lot of achievement, isn’t it? In my own life, I noticed that whenever I woke up early, my productivity was almost always higher, not just in the morning but all through the day and I also felt a significant feeling of well-being.

It is recommended by all the old sages and teachers in the yoga tradition, especially in the Bhakti or devotional schools, that if one is serious about a yoga-based lifestyle, one should be awake and performing some spiritual activity during the brahma-muhurta. The brahma-muhurta begins approximately one and a half hours before sunrise. It is generally accepted as the most auspicious time of the day to perform spiritual practices. During this time of day the world is peaceful and the influence of the modes of passion and ignorance are less thus enabling us to focus more on our spiritual practices.

In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna says,


yukta-cestasya karmasu


yogo bhavati duhkha-ha

He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.

Leading a regulated life helps us to overcome the influence of the modes of material nature and thus be situated in a position more conducive to developing a higher state of consciousness which is the means to a life of peace, unlimited happiness and fulfillment which everyone aspires for.

But I must admit, waking up early did not occur to me naturally. I’m still training myself to become a natural early riser.

The benefits are well known but the question is how do I become successful in waking up early…everyday, for the rest of my life? There are lot of articles that teach you techniques to get up early but I really like one tip from a well researched piece of information. This research shows that we sleep in cycles and an average sleep cycle (of transition, light sleep, and deep sleep) is about 90 minutes. Which means that even if you’ve enjoyed a full night’s sleep, getting out of bed can be difficult if your alarm goes off when you’re in the middle of deep sleep. So, if you want to make a more realistic attempt at getting up early, set up a wake-up time that is a multiple of 90 minutes. For eg: If you go to bed at 10pm, set your alarm for either 4.00am or 5.30am (if you need your 7 hours of sleep) instead of 5.00am or 6.00am. You may feel more refreshed at these times than if you add an extra 30 to 60 minutes of sleep because you’re getting up at the end of a sleep cycle when your body and brain are already close to wakefulness. You see that in our own experiments with sleep & waking up, sometimes you wake up feeling fully refreshed and sometimes very groggy irrespective of the number of hours of sleep is because of this very reason! This is the reason that most attempts such as trying to wake up 1/2 hour earlier than your normal time usually fails.

Steve Pavlina best known for his polyphasic sleep experiments, writes that the success mantra for early rising is to get up at the same time every day. I believe in the truth of this statement. It is also recommended in ancient Indian Vedic Scriptures that one should get up at the same time everyday. So, you have to decide what is the right time to wake up for you (consider factors such as realistic number of hours of sleep for your body type). But here comes the hard task! The alarm clock, which unfailingly goes off. Are you inspired and motivated enough to wake up right away or your mind cajoles you into stealing those 5 precious minutes of extra sleep and you wake up after two extra hours of sleep! Well, let me reassure you that this is the most common problem in the world. The proof is in a new emerging market for alarm clocks with ingenious designs to get you to wake up!

Snoozing the alarm!
Snoozing the alarm!

If you are caught in this trap of snoozing the alarm, please know that by repeatedly doing it everyday over several years, you have conditioned the habit into your subconscious. Every time you fail to get up when your alarm goes off, it becomes ever more your default physiological response. If you want to change that behavior, you’ll need to undertake a conscious reconditioning program. How do you do that? Your willpower alone might not help you get out of the bed. Remember you have conditioned yourself to doze off and made it your default physiological response. There are other factors such as ‘brain fog’ i,e your brain isn’t yet fully conscious and alert and decisions you make in this state aren’t necessarily the ones you want to trust! Instead, you can adopt a simple techniques you learnt as a kid and replicate them! During my schooldays, I seldom used the alarm clock, I used a practice my mother taught me. Previous night, just before falling asleep, I would keep affirming my mind that I want to wake up at 4.00am and pray to the Lord to enable me to get up and lo! I would spring up from bed, dot at 4.00am!

One way that Steve Pavlina suggests that sounds interesting is to switch off the conscious mind and turn to your subconscious mind and repeat the practice of getting up, till you become skilled at it. Its called Rote memory function. Eventually your subconscious will take over and run the script on autopilot. It might sound too simplistic but you have to get up immediately after the alarm goes off, without allowing your mind to think anything at all. Cut your conscious mind out of the loop because its very easy to convince yourself of a multiplicity of reasons why you wouldn’t want to get out of the bed yet. Don’t even allow those thoughts-just get up! With practice, he says, you’ll condition a new physiological response to the sound of your alarm. When your alarm goes off, you’ll get up automatically without even thinking about it. The more you run the pattern, the stronger it will become.  Eventually it will be uncomfortable not to get up when your alarm goes off. The more you practice your wake-up ritual, the deeper you’ll ingrain this habit into your subconscious. You only have to go through the conditioning period once, then you’re set for life and it will eventually become your favorite ritual.  I particularly like this suggestion because it has worked for me, to just mindlessly get up instead of using the mind and failing to get up. Ofcourse, during these trials, in the beginning, I would feel that I am not getting enough rest (but guess what, its a psychological trap!), this phase will only last for a short time while your body adjusts to the new settings, so some naps may be necessary. But if you stay with the schedule, you will find that after a while that you will automatically wake up early without difficulty.  If you decide to adopt this schedule, it will honestly take you about two weeks to adjust to it physically, but the rewards are beyond belief.

One other factor that support early wake up that I use is eating a super light dinner e.g, a soup or a glass of milk 2 hours before sleeping or eating nothing at all. By eating a heavy meal at the end of the day you force the body to stay awake instead of giving it much needed rest and that is the reason for feeling sluggish in the day.

Finally, I would like to add that it is very easy to fall back to old bad habits unless one is consciously practicing it, every day of your life until the habit becomes natural to you. So, choose a mechanism to keep you going and motivated. I suggest practicing early wake up with a group of enthusiasts, exchanging notes and celebrating success! My prayers for your success!