If there’s one thing that’s sure to ruin your whole day, it’s being ambushed by masked gunmen and held for ransom. I’d even be willing to bet that a situation like that would ruin your whole week, month, and maybe even year. This time frame, of course, completely relies on the gunmen’s fortitude, since most of the time your only hope is that your kidnappers’ demands are met and they decide to honor their agreement. Your next best hope would be that SEAL Team Six rescues you, while managing not to shoot you or explode you during the operation. But even then, you may still go insane waiting on heroics.
This is exactly how it feels when you allow your brain to tell you that an outcome is dictated by the intensity of the situation.
Just like a negotiator, the brain’s main function is to bring about nonviolent endings to crisis situations. Your brain will “chip away” at situations in your life by offering you minor concessions, in return for the feeling of prolonged safety. By continuing this process, your brain (the negotiator) will gradually weaken your positions, causing only temporarily safe emotional states that result in anguish caused by your delay in action. Look at the many people who are so talented at different things, but never accomplish anything. Those people have allowed themselves to negotiate with their minds and have forgotten that only the body has limitations.
Discipline Requires Action
At the beginning of each day, prepare to dominate your day. For most all of us, this starts with the snooze button on our alarm clock. For former Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, their days also begin with an alarm clock, but it’s set for 4:30am so they can work out. In their book, Extreme Ownership, they note that the practical side behind the early morning is because if they chose to work out in the afternoon, then others would chip away at their workout time.
The other side is the principle of self-discipline. To be able to teach discipline, they must stay disciplined themselves, and it starts as soon as they get out of bed. I know you may not feel like getting out of bed early in the morning, but who does? When you are finished with your feelings, you have nothing, but behind every principle is a promise to yourself. When the alarm goes off, it hits you in the head with a baseball bat. So how do you respond to that? Do you hit the snooze button and break a promise to yourself? Or do you get up, get aggressive, and attack the day? If you aren’t mentally ready, you will never be physically prepared.
The biggest difference between people who achieve their hopes and dreams and the negotiators is action. The most prosperous among us are unrelenting in the pursuit of their passions, and if you haven’t found yours, you have to be willing to continue to try. Steve Jobs famously said,
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
Everyone has a unique gift, but it’s your job to figure out what that gift is, and you must be the one to act on it. How you figure things out is to create your own personal philosophy and set a focused goal, because without a target, you will miss every time.
There Is No Straight Line to Success
Most people believe that they need to just follow a straight line to find success. They think that they will finish college, find a high paying job, and everything else will just fall into place. We know that the real truth is a winding road that will take you all kinds of places. It is difficult, discouraging, demoralizing, even scary.
Pivotal moments often come when you are the most demoralized. For Pete Carroll, his lowest point was after being fired by the New England Patriots. It was the first and only year that he had not been playing or coaching football, and he knew if he ever wanted to coach again, he would need a philosophy that drove all of his actions. After reflecting for several months, Carroll’s philosophy became, “Do things better than they have ever been done before.” That philosophy has since seen him win multiple national championships at the University of Southern California, and a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks.
Building the discipline you need to get what you want sometimes means taking the hard road to do what’s right. Most of us stop at failure. But we all fail at things, and we will continue to fail at things. Failure can transform into the most powerful tool you can use, but it all depends on how you use it.
What Fear Can Tell You About Your Goals
A clear, well-defined philosophy may give you the guidelines to keep you on track, but when you have millions of things you need to do well, how do you prioritize? Warren Buffet, the self-made multi-billionaire, gave his personal pilot a simple, three-step process for prioritizing his goals.
- Write down 25 career goals.
- Mediate and really take the time to consider those goals and narrow them down to just five.
- Take a hard look at the twenty goals you didn’t circle, and avoid those at all costs.
Buffet says that the twenty that didn’t make the cut are the goals that will distract you and eat away time and energy, taking away from the goals that matter more. You must learn to discipline and contain your fear when you cut twenty of your goals, because if you don’t, your brain will start negotiating with the things you want most.
If you become paralyzed with fear, that’s a good thing. Fear and self-doubt are like barometers for what we must do next. Your negotiations with yourself are often experienced as fear, and the degree of fear equates to the strength of the negotiation. If you didn’t really care about your goal, then there would be no need for your brain to negotiate with you. This means that the more fearful we are about accomplishing a goal, the stronger the indication of how important it is to our personal growth.
Self-doubt is also your friend, and serves as an indicator of your aspirations. According to The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, self-doubt reflects love of something we dream of doing and the desire to do it. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident, but the real one is scared to death.
Make the Decision
There are two types of people: those who are going to get what they want out of life, and everybody else. Most of us are constantly trying to improve ourselves, but we are too focused on the one thing that will change everything. We can’t break loose of the paralysis of fear, and are looking for the one thing that will change it all. But hitting the jackpot one time won’t make your dreams come true, even if you hit it ten times or a hundred times. Going after your passion isn’t a lifehack, trick, or a one-time decision; it’s a campaign. Every hour, every day, every week you must fight against laziness, weakness, and negotiation. Hard work is waking up early and making the tough decisions every day to make your passion a priority.
What will change your whole life is action. We don’t usually take action because we have created a story as to why we couldn’t achieve what we want, and we lose the negotiation with our mind. How do we get past our own story and beat our own minds? By making a decision to take massive action.
The word “decision” comes from Latin, in which it literally means “cutting off.” Making a decision doesn’t mean that you will try and see what happens. When you make a real decision, you are cutting off the fear that controls your mind and keeps you from your hopes and dreams. Remember that your brain’s job is to bring about non-violent endings to threatening situations. It also interprets everything you have never done before as a threatening situation, which means it wants to hold you back form everything you are capable of doing.
Your decision is the pivotal point in your life. When you have made it, no matter how hard something is, you will find a way. Decisions are the first step to making yourself into something. Commitment is what happens after you have decided on your goal, and provides the grit you need for the future. Decide, commit, and resolve to never let anything distract you from your passions.