“Destiny is not a matter of chance. It’s a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”~William Jennings Bryant
It’s early in the morning.
Your alarm goes off.
Beep, beep, beep.
You open your eyes, feeling groggy and disoriented.
Still half-asleep, you try to figure out what’s going on.
Then you remember.
Last night, feeling particularly inspired, you decided you’d get up early and go for a run before heading to work.
Your bed feels so warm, so comfy, like a little cocoon.
You close your eyes again. You know you have to make a decision.
You can take the easy way out, hit snooze and go back to sleep…
Or take the highest road, put on your running shoes, and head out the door.
The choice is yours and only yours… What will it be?
Every single day, we’re faced with countless little decisions like this one.
In these moments, we have to decide between what’s good for us… and what’s easy, comfortable, safe.
Individually, most of these decisions are fairly inconsequential.
But together, they add up. They compound.
And it’s the sum of all these micro-decisions that determines our destiny.
Consistently take the higher road and you’ll achieve your biggest goals, reach greatness, and maybe even change the world.
Take the easy way out too often and you’ll live a life of mediocrity, constantly disappointing yourself… Until one day, you look back in regret, wondering… “What if?”
Imagine for a second that there was a switch in your brain that would allow you to efficiently smash through your daily to-do list, eat only foods that are good for you, and never skip a workout again.
How would your life be different then?
You, my friend, have the power to develop that switch.
As Roy F. Baumeister, PhD, author of the bookWillpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strengthtells us, “willpower is not a personality trait, a skill or a virtue. Instead, it operates like a muscle. And as such, it can be strengthened.”
By implementing the strategies I’m about to share with you. Use them consistently, and you will acquire superhuman willpower, extraordinary self-discipline, and the ability to get anything done on command.
Right here, right now, as you’re reading this, you’re at a crossroads in your life.
You can stick to your old habits and patterns, knowing deep down you’re not living nearly at the level you’re capable of…
Or you can use this article as a springboard towards greatness by implementing the strategies it contains.
Today could be the day you start developing superhuman willpower and discipline.
The choice is yours and only yours… What will it be?
1. Meditate like a Zen Buddhist Monk
Kelly McGonigalPh.D, who teaches a class on The Science of Willpower at Stanford University, ranks meditation as the #1 way to increase willpower.
She says, “Practicing mindfulness meditation for a few minutes each day can actually boost willpower by building up gray matter in areas of thebrainthat regulate emotions and governdecision making.”
2. Take the Magic Pill of Exercise
The more I research the benefits of exercise, the more I see it as a magic pill.
Not only does it increase our fitness and mental performance, improve our mood and sleep quality, reduce our body fat percentage, anxiety levels and likelihood of becoming sick… It’s also been shown to improve our willpower.
In a 2006study by Oaten and Cheng, participants were given free gym memberships and personalized training programs. The study participants who regularly exercised reported:
“Signiﬁcant decreases in perceived stress, emotional distress, smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and an increase in healthy eating, emotional control, maintenance of household chores, attendance to commitments, monitoring of spending and an improvement in study habits”.
Even 5 minutes a day will make a difference but I recommend shooting for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week.
Find something you love (ie, if you hate running on a treadmill, DON’T do that), have fun doing it, and work on making it a regular part of your life.
If you don’t like exercising, it’s not because you’re “not made for it”. It’s because you haven’t found the type of exercise that’s right for you.
Keep looking. It’s worth it.
#3 Harness the Power of Accountability
Admittedly, accountability isn’t the sexiest word in the English language. But the concept it represents is extremely powerful.
The idea behind it is that when we’re left to our own devices, it’s easy to come up with excuses not to do something.
“I’m tired, I don’t feel like it, it’s too much work, it’s too hard.”
Let’s be real. 99% of it is just excuses our “small self” makes to stay comfortable and avoid stepping into greatness.
The solution is simple: build structures in your life that will hold you to a higher standard and that will prevent you from coming up with excuses.
There are several ways to do this. Here are a few to consider:
Get anaccountabilibuddy, a workout partner, work side-by-side with a coworker (or friend),hire a coach, join (or create) a mastermind group, or use the websiteStickk.
Whatever specific system you use, the most important thing is that it takes away your ability to procrastinate and make excuses, and that it makes you stick to your plan and highest values.
#4 Set SMART Goals
When someone emails me asking how they could have more discipline and willpower, my first question to them is always, “do you have clear goals for yourself?”
90+% of the time, the answer is no. Oops.
Why is it so important to have defined goals?
Because they give you a clear direction in life and help you connect your daily actions to a greater purpose.
When I was atThe Bold Academy, I asked Ryan Ellis, a 28-year old entrepreneur who sold his first company for $169 million what his number one advice for young ambitious people was.
He said, “clearly define your goals, print them out, and put them up on your bedroom wall.”
When you create your goals, make sure they are SMART:
For instance, don’t set a goal of “Iwant to lose weight” or “I want to make more money”.
Instead, it should look more like “I want to lose 10 lbs of body fat by March 1st” or “I want to increase my monthly income by $5000 by June 10”.
Once you do that, taking action and staying disciplined every day will be infinitely easier. You’ll be “pulled” towards the achievement of your goals, and you’ll feel a great sense of purpose andfulfilment.
#5 Unleash Your Inner Conquistador and Burn the Ships
In 1519, a Spanish conquistador named Hernan Cortez made a bold-as-hell, history-changing decision we can all learn from.
He sailed from Spain to South America with a fleet of 11 ships, and upon arriving to the new land, realized that his troops would have to fight the natives in order to claim the land.
His men were tired, malnourished and out of shape from the long journey across the Atlantic. Many of them didn’t want to fight.
Cortez knew they had to do this. He ordered everyone to go on the beach, and once he was the only one left on the ships, he proceeded to burn them all (!).
Now his men had no option to retreat. So they gathered up all their strength and courage, fought, and claimed the land that is now known as Mexico.
Pretty damn bold, right?
Now, how does this apply to you?
If you have a big project to complete, and you’re struggling to discipline yourself, burn your ships.
Engineer a situation that will prevent you from retreating and that will force you to get into action mode.
For instance, before I created The Superhuman Blueprint, I sent out an email on September 1sttelling more than 2000 people that the course was going to start on October 8th.
At that point, I had yet to build any of the content or marketing material.
But now I had burned the ships. I had no choice but to get it done. And I did.
Moving forward, I’ve decided to use this strategy for all my major projects, and I highly suggest you do the same. It’s astonishing what we can do when we take away our escape route.
#6 Remove Temptations and Distractions
All humans are subject to temptation—it’s just in our nature.
And in today’s world we’re surrounded by more temptations than ever.
Google gives us access to all the information in the world within a few seconds. YouTube is filled with funny, entertaining, and interesting videos. Our Facebook newsfeed gets updated every few seconds. Our smart phones are full of apps and other cool things.
Knowing this, it’s imperative to figure out a system to bulletproof ourselves against all these distractions.
First, identify what are your common distractions are.
Second, build a structure to mitigate them.
Here are a few of the particular strategies I use:
-UsingFreedom, a web-app that allows me to “block out” my internet for a set period of time.
-UsingStayfocusd, a Chrome web-app that allows me to block out chosen websites for certain parts of the day (Thanks to Max Nachamkin fromInner Gladiatorfor the tip)
-Putting my phone on Airplane mode while working.
-Keeping only healthy foods in my fridge/cupboards.
Once the temptations are removed, you can direct all your willpower to doing great things instead of fighting the urge to procrastinate yet again.
#7 Eat the Big Ugly Frog First
Another discovery Roy F. Baumeister PhD made during his research is that we only have a finite amount of willpower each day.
Our willpower is at its highest at the beginning of the day, and progressively decreases as we go about our business.
Knowing this, we want to engineer our day so as to do our most challenging tasks in the morning, when we are fresh and rested.
In his book The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss talks at lengths about Pareto’s Law (also known as the 80/20 rule) which states that 20% of our input creates 80% of our output.
Every morning, get clear on what your 20% is. If you’re not sure what that 20% is, it’s generally the most uncomfortable/challenging task you have to do all day. Once you figure out what it is, roll up your sleeves and get it done.
#8 Eliminate Unnecessary Decisions
When asked abouthis productivity strategies, President Barrack Obama said, “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.”
As Baumeiseter found, every single decision we make during the day dips into our willpower reserves. Therefore, we need to cut down the number of decision we make to a minimum, and focus on the most important ones.
I personally have the same breakfast (superfood smoothie) and lunch (mixed green salad with a chicken breast and a half-cup of quinoa or beans) every day. I never spend more than 15 seconds deciding what I’m going to wear today. And I’m learning to empower my team to take more decisions without seeking my approval.
As you go through the day, try to pay attention to where you are getting hung up in your decision process.
Try to eliminate or minimize all the unimportant, and preserve your brainpower for what truly matters.
#9 Create Powerful Habits, Rituals and Routines
Building on the last point, creating rituals is a great way to remove needless decision-making from your day.
Once something has been turned into a habit, you don’t even have to think about it. You do it without using any of your willpower.
Every morning, I start my day with the same 60-minute power routine to get me in an optimal physical, emotional and intellectual state.
Each step of the ritual is carefully choreographed for optimal results, yet it requires no willpower on my part because it’s engrained in my ritual.
Look for all the ways you can “routinize” your life, and you’ll gain the double benefit of having better habits while conserving more of your willpower.
#10 Hack Your Mind with the 5-Minute Rule
Our mind can be our greatest ally… and our greatest foe.
The trick is to be aware of its inner workings, both its strengths and its weaknesses, and optimize around them.
One of our mind’s greatest flaws is that it often struggles to get things started. But once we’re in flow, it’s easy to keep going.
If you’re struggling to get started on some work you have to do, or to start your daily meditation/workout, make the following deal with yourself: you’ll do it for just 5 minutes.
Answer one email. Run 1 time around your block. Meditate for 5 minutes.
From personal experience and discussing it with others, I’ve found that 80 to 90% of the time, once we’re in motion, we end up continuing well past the 5-minute mark we had decided on.
This is truly a Jedi Mind Trick we can use on ourselves.
#11 Go for 100% Commitment
Jack Canfield, author of the book Chicken Soup for the Soul famously said “99% is a bitch, 100% is a breeze.”
If you really want to do something, commit to it 100%.
If you’re just sorta-committed, there’ll always be a little voice in your head saying “aahh, maybe today I’ll take the day off“. You’ll waste a lot of willpower fighting off that little voice.
But the moment have you that 100% commitment, the game becomes easy. You don’t have to think about it… you just do it!
One of my teachers once told me, “our human spirit is the greatest gift we’ve been given.”
That human spirit is what built magnificent cathedrals, explored far-away lands, and created world-changing technologies.
That force is inside of you, it’s inside of me; it’s inside all of us.
And it’s your duty to put it to good use. For yourself, for those around you, and for the next generations.
You, my friend, have been bestowed with some unique gifts, talents and passions. You can do things that no one else in this world can do. Seriously.
And we need you to rise up and shine. To be a beacon of light, love and inspiration for others.
So please take the teachings I’ve shared with you today seriously.
They will change your life. And you, in turn, can go out there and change the world.
Natural talent counts for little unless it's supercharged by self-discipline.
Self-discipline can, to some extent, overcomelackof natural talent.