365 Days With Self-Discipline: 365 Life-Altering Thoughts on Self-Control, Mental Resilience, and SuccessMartin Meadows
How to Build Self-Discipline and Become More Successful (365 Powerful Thoughts From the World’s Brightest Minds)
Its lack makes you unable to achieve your goals. Without it, you’ll struggle to lose weight, become fit, wake up early, work productively and save money. Not embracing it in your everyday life means that you’ll never realize your full potential. Ignoring it inevitably leads to regret and feeling sad about how more successful and incredible your life could have been if you had only decided to develop it.
What is this powerful thing? Self-discipline.
And if there’s one thing that self-discipline is not, it’s instant. It takes months (if not years) to develop powerful self-control that will protect you from impulsive decisions, laziness, procrastination, and inaction.
You need to exhibit self-discipline day in, day out, 365 days in a year. What if you had a companion who would remind you daily to stay disciplined and persevere, even when the going gets tough?
365 Days With Self-Discipline is a practical, accessible guidebook for embracing more self-discipline in your everyday life. You’ll learn how to do this through 365 brief, daily insights from the world’s brightest minds, expanded and commented upon by bestselling personal development author Martin Meadows.
This isn’t just an inspirational book; most of the entries deliver practical suggestions that you can immediately apply in your life to become more disciplined. Here are just some of the things you’ll learn:
- why living your life the hard way makes it easy (and other suggestions from a successful entrepreneur and longevity scientist);
- how to overcome your initial resistance and procrastination based on the remark made by one of the most renowned Renaissance men;
- why, according to an influential neurosurgeon, it’s key to see problems as hurdles instead of obstacles (and how to do that);
- how to embrace an experimental mindset to overcome a fear of failure (a technique recommended by a successful entrepreneur and musician);
- how to quit in a smart way, according to a world-famous marketing expert;
- how to improve your productivity at work by implementing the advice from one of the most successful detective fiction writers;
- how a trick used by screenwriters can help you figure out the first step needed to get closer to your goals;
- how to maintain self-discipline in the long-term by paying attention to what a bestselling non-fiction author calls necessary to survive and thrive;
- how your most common thoughts can sabotage your efforts (and other valuable insights from one of the most respected Roman Stoics); and
- how to overcome temporary discouragement and look at your problems from the proper perspective, as suggested by a well-known public speaker and author.
If you’re ready to finally change your life and embrace self-discipline — not only for the next 365 days, but for the rest of your life — buy this book now and together, let’s work on your success!
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[image: ] 365 Days With Self-Discipline 365 Life-Altering Thoughts on Self-Control, Mental Resilience, and Success By Martin Meadows Download Another Book for Fre e I want to thank you for buying my book and offer you another book (just as valuable as this one): Grit: How to Keep Going When You Want to Give Up , completely free. [image: ] Click the link below to receive it: http://www.profoundselfimprovement.com/365 In Grit , I’ll tell you exactly how to stick to your goals, using proven methods from peak performers and science. In addition to getting Grit , you’ll also have an opportunity to get my new books for free, enter giveaways, and receive other valuable emails from me. Again, here’s the link to sign up: http://www.profoundselfimprovement.com/365 Table of Contents Download Another Book for Free Table of Contents Prologue WEEK 1 Day 1: On Living the Hard Way Day 2: On Your Choices Day 3: On Being a Human Day 4: On Creating Systems Day 5: On Enslavement to Self Day 6: On Superhumans Day 7: On Poverty and Self-Discipline WEEK 2 Day 8: On Unessential Necessities Day 9: On Your Future Self Day 10: On Building Your Story Day 11: On Self-Discipline and Talent Day 12: On Calmness of Mind Day 13: On What You Want Now and What You Want Mos t Day 14: On Long-Term Focus WEEK 3 Day 15: On Constant Improvement Day 16: On Self-Reliance Day 17: On Rising from the Ashes of Failure Day 18: On Higher Standards Day 19: On Fighting Well Day 20: On Taking Small Steps Day 21: On the Importance of Habits WEEK 4 Day 22: On Self-Discipline as Freedom Day 23: On Disciplined Education Day 24: On Happiness Through Self-Discipline Day 25: On Starting Today Day 26: On the Long-Term Consequences of Your Choices Day 27: On Following the Wrong Path Day 28: On Living in Offensive Mode WEEK 5 Day 29: On Avoiding Effort Day 30: On Looking Like a Foo l Day 31: On Being “Normal” Day 32: On Cultivating Self-Discipline Like a Plant Day 33: On Things You Can’t Rush Day 34: On Enlightenment Day 35: On the Value of Difficulty WEEK 6 Day 36: On Pushing Your Limits Step by Step Day 37: On Initial Resistance Day 38: On Moderation as a Good Thing Day 39: On Moderation as a Bad Thing Day 40: On Talking vs. Doing Day 41: On Arrogance Day 42: On Diligent Practice WEEK 7 Day 43: On Making Continuous Efforts Day 44: On Optimism Day 45: On Honesty Day 46: On Looking Fear in the Face Day 47: On the Folly of Loafing Around Day 48: On the Deadening of the Soul Day 49: On Obeying Lust s WEEK 8 Day 50: On Not Resting on Your Laurels Day 51: On Taking Action, in Spite of Potential Criticism Day 52: On Thinking for Yourself Day 53: On Having a Burning “Yes” Inside Day 54: On Underestimating the Long-Term Approach Day 55: On Bearing Misfortunes Nobly Day 56: On Thinking You Can WEEK 9 Day 57: On Two Types of Happiness Day 58: On Cultivating Physical Excellence Day 59: On Your Vices Masquerading as Virtues Day 60: On Pressing On Day 61: On Extreme Actions Day 62: On Moonshot Projects Day 63: On the Will Being Stronger Than the Skill WEEK 10 Day 64: On Seeing Obstacles as Hurdles Day 65: On Self-Discipline with Mone y Day 66: On Pointless Complaints Day 67: On Borrowing Money Day 68: On Choosing the Right Motivator Day 69: On Climbing Steep Hills Day 70: On Parkinson’s Law WEEK 11 Day 71: On Taking a Step Forward Day 72: On the Value of the Struggle Day 73: On Having Fun Day 74: On Acting Less and Thinking More Day 75: On Haters Day 76: On Changing Your Mind Day 77: On Hurting Yourself with Your Own Judgments WEEK 12 Day 78: On Collaboration Day 79: On Books Day 80: On Cultivating Positivity When Things Go Bad Day 81: On Identifying Your Resources Day 82: On Extreme Focu s Day 83: On Changing Your Identity Day 84: On Work and Chatter WEEK 13 Day 85: On Experimenting to See What Happens Day 86: On the Spillover Effect of Success Day 87: On Attributing Failure to External Factors Day 88: On the Comfort Zone Day 89: On Not Making Excuses Day 90: On Quitting in a Smart Way Day 91: On Starting Now WEEK 14 Day 92: On Pleasure Gained from Abstaining Day 93: On Connecting Dots Day 94: On Overidentifying With Your Emotions Day 95: On Early-morning Workouts Day 96: On Silence Day 97: On Treating Yourself Well Day 98: On Society (Not) Holding You Back WEEK 15 Day 99: On Applying Knowledge Day 100: On Being a Leade r Day 101: On the Ultimate Excellence in Self-Discipline Day 102: On the Deeper Meaning Behind Temptations Day 103: On Controlled Burn Day 104: On the Past Predicting the Future Day 105: On Predicting When You’ll Give In WEEK 16 Day 106: On Valuing Your Own Opinion Day 107: On the Innocent Distractions Day 108: On Following a Routine Day 109: On the Size of Containers Day 110: On Moving Yourself Closer to the Finish Line Day 111: On Patience With Mindset Changes Day 112: On Self-Licensing WEEK 17 Day 113: On a Lack of Time Day 114: On Fulfilling Your Own Standards Day 115: On the Cost of Indulgence Day 116: On Taking the Low Road Day 117: On Dressing New Things in Old Habit s Day 118: On Free Things Day 119: On Hatching the Egg WEEK 18 Day 120: On Handling Interruptions to Your Routine Day 121: On the Mark of a Champion Day 122: On Making Agreements With Yourself Day 123: On Doing This or Nothing Day 124: On Daily Gratitude Day 125: On Going Away From Work Day 126: On Shedding Light on the Dark Things WEEK 19 Day 127: On Cold Exposure Day 128: On Principles Day 129: On Everyday Practice Day 130: On Working on Laziness Day 131: On Building an Ark Day 132: On Being Willing to Be Bad Day 133: On Self-Caring WEEK 20 Day 134: On Staying Congruen t Day 135: On Staying in Love With Your Goals Day 136: On the Desire for Happiness Replacing the Need for Self-Discipline Day 137: On Waiting for Ten Minutes Day 138: On Nature Boosting Your Focus Day 139: On Tolerating an Absence of Novelty Day 140: On Longing for Paradise WEEK 21 Day 141: On Punctuality Day 142: On Keystone Habits Day 143: On Falling in Love With the Idea of Starting Day 144: On the Work of a Human Being Day 145: On Complicating the World for Profit Day 146: On Decision Avoidance Day 147: On Walking by Your Mistakes WEEK 22 Day 148: On Fear Day 149: On the Weak Point in Your Armor Day 150: On Indulgences Charging You Interest Day 151: On Changing Your Characte r Day 152: On the Future Value of Money Day 153: On Spontaneity Day 154: On the Value of Doing Things Yourself WEEK 23 Day 155: On Broadening Your Horizons Day 156: On Wanting What We Already Have Day 157: On Remembering Death Day 158: On Learning From the Greats Day 159: On Having Options Day 160: On Deliberate Practice Day 161: On Addressing the Real Mistakes WEEK 24 Day 162: On Inverse Paranoia Day 163: On Angry Comebacks Day 164: On Easing Yourself Into the Pain Day 165: On Not Living Up To Your Ideals Day 166: On Handling Emotions Day 167: On Routines Overcoming a Bad Mood Day 168: On Wasting Your Energy When You Don’t Have Important Rituals WEEK 2 5 Day 169: On Stopping at the Right Moment to Help You Tomorrow Day 170: On Supply and Demand Day 171: On Stress Day 172: On Having More Than One Identity Day 173: On Eating Alone Day 174: On Experiencing Life Day 175: On Improving Self-Control by Using Your Other Hand WEEK 26 Day 176: On Jotting Things Down Day 177: On Sleep Day 178: On Losing Momentum Day 179: On Effort Generating Satisfaction Day 180: On Paying the Price as Fast as Possible Day 181: On the Disciplined Pursuit of Less Day 182: On Saying No WEEK 27 Day 183: On Shocking Your Body Day 184: On Creating Value Day 185: On Staying With Problems Longe r Day 186: On Simple Rules Day 187: On Not Judging Too Quickly Day 188: On Pride Day 189: On Adventures WEEK 28 Day 190: On Being Specific About Your Resolutions Day 191: On Futile Determination Day 192: On Being in It for the Long Term Day 193: On Becoming a New Person Day 194: On Pain and Quitting Day 195: On Procrastination as Your Ally Day 196: On Impermanent Motivation WEEK 29 Day 197: On Eliminating a Negative Attitude Day 198: On Your Maxims Day 199: On Your Inaction Hurting Others Day 200: On Fretting About Yesterday’s Problems Day 201: On Teaching Others Day 202: On Accepting the Worst Day 203: On Maintaining Composur e WEEK 30 Day 204: On Psychological Limits Day 205: On Treating Hate as an Exercise Day 206: On Vice Fasts Day 207: On Enthusiasm and Endurance Day 208: On Profiting From Your Losses Day 209: On Finishing Quick Tasks Right Away Day 210: On Deferring Happiness WEEK 31 Day 211: On a Simple Adherence Hack Day 212: On Learning From Your Illness Day 213: On Sudden Trials Day 214: On Fearing the Future Day 215: On Self-Determination Day 216: On Accounting for Flexibility in Your Plans Day 217: On Things Not Being Up to Us WEEK 32 Day 218: On Protein in Your Diet Day 219: On Dropping Unnecessary Tasks Day 220: On a Lack of Visio n Day 221: On Antimodels Day 222: On Your Depleting Willpower Day 223: On Clear Cues and Rewards Day 224: On Juggling Five Balls WEEK 33 Day 225: On Following Someone Else’s Plan Day 226: On Waiting to Be Saved Day 227: On Being Stuck in the Past Day 228: On Going Where Your Eyes Go Day 229: On the Opportunity in Chaos Day 230: On Laser-Focusing on Specific Aspects Day 231: On Minimizing What You Need WEEK 34 Day 232: On Going All In Day 233: On Obstacles as Filters Day 234: On Forgiving Day 235: On Looking Only One Day Ahead Day 236: On Being a Normal Chap Day 237: On Shifting Responsibility to Others Day 238: On Dividing Your Life into 10-Minute Unit s WEEK 35 Day 239: On Imagining the Process as a Litmus Test Day 240: On Separating Yourself From the Pain Day 241: On Enabling the Future Day 242: On Selectivity Day 243: On the Crime of Aiming Too Low Day 244: On the Fun in the Impossible Day 245: On Following or Leaving a Path WEEK 36 Day 246: On Learning the Big Ideas Day 247: On First-Order and Second-Order Consequences Day 248: On Reducing Your Targets Day 249: On Working Backwards Day 250: On Fluctuating Energy Day 251: On Relaxing While Working Day 252: On Getting Older WEEK 37 Day 253: On the Invisible Prison Bars Day 254: On Capitalizing on Your Talent s Day 255: On Self-Image Day 256: On Taking a Real Decision Day 257: On Being Impeccable With Your Word Day 258: On Helping, With No Strings Attached Day 259: On the Motivation to Get Up Early WEEK 38 Day 260: On Courage Day 261: On Giving Up the Last Word Day 262: On Fragility Caused by Comfort Day 263: On Thinking for Yourself Day 264: On Being Honest With Yourself About Your Feelings Day 265: On Transformation Taking Place Now Day 266: On Temptations and Your Decision What to Do About Them WEEK 39 Day 267: On Self-Monitoring Day 268: On Taking Ownership for Your Ideas Day 269: On Stretching Day 270: On Self-Reflection Day 271: On How to Use Book s Day 272: On Extinguishing Bad Habits Day 273: On Reprogramming Your Brain WEEK 40 Day 274: On Constant Movement Day 275: On Staying a Champion Day 276: On the Price of Personal Growth Day 277: On Making Things Convenient Day 278: On the Rent Axiom Day 279: On Learning With Age Day 280: On Seeing Your Troubles from the Proper Perspective WEEK 41 Day 281: On the Hardships Writing Your Life Story Day 282: On Analysis Paralysis Day 283: On Being Hungry Day 284: On Habits as Handcuffs Day 285: On Small Efforts at Self-Control Day 286: On Avoiding Problems Day 287: On Reducing Procrastination That Comes From Overwhelm WEEK 4 2 Day 288: On Routines and Relationships Day 289: On Accounting for Taxes Day 290: On Letting Go of the Old Person Day 291: On the How Instead of the Outcome Day 292: On Mental Resilience Day 293: On Cutting Your Losses Day 294: On the All-or-Nothing Mentality WEEK 43 Day 295: On Wandering Aimlessly Day 296: On Your Habitual Thoughts Day 297: On the Best Time to Work Day 298: On the Suffocating Mantras Day 299: On Generalizations Day 300: On Walking Day 301: On the Power of Rituals WEEK 44 Day 302: On Listening to Your Gut Day 303: On Buddha’s Counsel Day 304: On the Unsexy Reality of Work Day 305: On the Addiction to Electronics Day 306: On Ignoranc e Day 307: On Breaking Your Rules Day 308: On Not Having Money WEEK 45 Day 309: On the Matters of Right and Wrong Day 310: On Having Good Private Teachers Day 311: On Setting an Example Day 312: On Learning Without a Desire to Learn Day 313: On What You Demand From Life Day 314: On Neatness Day 315: On the Cost of Education and Ignorance WEEK 46 Day 316: On Doing What You Love Day 317: On Thinking You’re Able Day 318: On the Inconvenience of Change Day 319: On Learning From Refusal Day 320: On Change as a Cold Bath Day 321: On Being the Creator of Your Circumstances Day 322: On Subtraction WEEK 47 Day 323: On Prolonged Sittin g Day 324: On Ignoring the World When You’re Down Day 325: On Being the Child of Your Own Works Day 326: On Your Deeds Determining You Day 327: On the Biggest Person Standing in Your Way Day 328: On Anger Day 329: On a Change in Beliefs WEEK 48 Day 330: On Turning Back Right at the Very End Day 331: On Finding an Easier Way Day 332: On a Lack of Variety Day 333: On Happiness as a Duty Day 334: On Self-Criticism Day 335: On Wishing Day 336: On Remembering That Your Time Is Limited WEEK 49 Day 337: On a Coin Flip Day 338: On “I Don’t” vs. “I Can’t” Day 339: On Appreciating Your Body Day 340: On Better Learnin g Day 341: On When Not to Make Important Decisions Day 342: On Doing the Best You Can With What You Have Day 343: On Turning Intentions into Actions WEEK 50 Day 344: On the Desire for Safety Day 345: On Injecting Adventure in Your Routines Day 346: On Surpassing Yourself Day 347: On Enduring Your Tyrants Day 348: On Using Your Strength Day 349: On Managing Energy Day 350: On Doing Things Deliberately WEEK 51 Day 351: On Admitting You’re Struggling Day 352: On the Empowerment in Trade-Offs Day 353: On Glancing at Your Smartphone Day 354: On Focusing on the Good Things Day 355: On Luxuries Day 356: On Taking the Initiative Day 357: On the Rare Indulgenc e WEEK 52 Day 358: On Acting Differently From Others Day 359: On Treats vs. Rewards Day 360: On Self-Myofascial Release Day 361: On Smiling Day 362: On Professionalism Day 363: On Relying Upon Yourself Day 364: On Books, Part Two Day 365: On Sweeping the Floor Epilogue Download Another Book for Free Could You Help? About Martin Meadows Prologue Ouzouk woke up with the first rays of sunlight hitting his face. He scanned the interior of his dusty hut, constructed with twigs, mud and dry grass. He scratched his back, which, as always, had been bitten by insects over and over again throughout the night. Grateful that the night had passed without any danger to his family, he crawled out, careful not to make any sounds. It was a crisp and clear morning. He would have loved to take his family for a walk around the waterfall and play with his little son, but there was work to do. It had been five days since the tribe ate something more substantial than a fistful of berries. Unfazed by the bloodthirsty mosquitoes buzzing by, Ouzouk walked over to the fire pit and warmed his calloused hands. The light scent of wood smoke filled his nostrils. He rubbed his hands together, still feeling the painful absence of his index finger lost during that fateful hunt many moons ago. One by one, his fellow tribesmen crawled out of their huts and joined him at the fire. There was Dhizgab, his friend who was bitten by a snake and was left partly paralyzed on his left side. Gnokk limped along next, with his broken foot badly healed, and a part of his skull partly caved in after a stone thrown by an enemy tribesman hit him smack dab in the middle of his forehead. Rekknodd sauntered into the group next. So far, he was the luckiest of the band, with only a deep scar on his cheek, left from an attack by a tiger that had massacred a half of the tribe. Other men—some missing limbs, some having lost their entire families, some with even more horrible memories—joined the group. When the men were ready, they separated into two groups and ventured out to secure food for the tribe. They made it back to the camp in the early afternoon, forced to make a hasty retreat after spotting a leopard resting in the thick bushes. Yet again, they had failed to obtain food, but at least they were grateful that (unlike two moons ago) this time nobody had been hurt. With empty stomachs, the adults gathered around the fire pit while small children, supervised by teenagers armed with spears and bows, played by the creek a short distance from the camp. They reluctantly decided that the area could no longer support them. While clean water was plentiful and predators rare, food was becoming increasingly scarce and successful hunts were few and far between. The next day they would gather their belongings, put them on their backs, and walk for a long time until they would find another suitable place for a new temporary dwelling. Some would die along the way, some would get hurt, but such was life, Ouzouk thought to himself. A human being couldn’t ever stop struggling and fighting to survive each day. I can hear you thinking, “What a weird prologue to a book about self-discipline!” Bear with me, please… Our basic human nature hasn’t changed since the days of Ouzouk. While the vast majority of humans fortunately no longer have to live in constant discomfort and fear of death, we would still do well to possess even a fraction of mental toughness and self-discipline our ancestors had. In the modern world, it’s easy to live without even a modicum of self-discipline. Back then, nobody could avoid discomfort. It was a fact of life that one couldn’t thrive unless they ventured into the world, facing unknown risks and possible death in a quest for a better life. Today, most people are unable to wake up early without an alarm clock, and even then, it takes them thirty minutes just to crawl out of bed. Most would find it impossible to sleep on the bare floor, with insects crawling over them and biting their bodies the entire night. If they experienced just a slight ache, most would skip work and complain about how much pain they were in. Most wouldn’t be able to fast for an entire day, let alone go without food for five days in a row. Compared to our ancestors, we have it easy . Yet, or perhaps because of it, so many people struggle with self-discipline today. A great majority of them do nothing to fix that, and the ones who try are often met with ridicule. If you belong to the group that is trying to better themselves or wanting to do so, the book you’re now reading is for you. I wrote 365 Days With Self-Discipline with the intention of creating a daily companion to help you embrace self-discipline in your everyday life. As the author of several bestselling books about self-discipline and being a personal growth junkie myself, self-control is a topic close to my heart. I believe that if a person wants to reach their full potential, he or she can’t avoid discomfort. Doing things that might not be entirely pleasant is key to achieving long-term objectives. In the following pages, I’ll share with you one thought for each day of a year that is devoted to the topic of self-discipline, mental toughness, success, or self-improvement in general. The thoughts come from some of the world’s brightest minds: successful entrepreneurs, athletes, bestselling authors, researchers, performers, bloggers, and more. Since the entries are brief and get straight to the heart of the matter, you’ll be able to quickly find ongoing inspiration to continue working on your most important long-term goals and on becoming an ever better person. Due to the large number of days in a year, some themes will inevitably repeat, but I strove to address each subtopic from different perspectives. Please note that I have quoted various people from numerous sources, including books, articles, blogs, speeches, interviews, and more. By citing their words, I don’t necessarily endorse their works or their persona. (A note on quotes in the physical and ebook version of the book — whenever I could, I cited the source and included an endnote. Unfortunately, the exact source of a small number of quotes, particularly those by historic figures, was elusive to me. Whenever I couldn’t find the author — as is often the case with many inspirational quotes circulating around the Internet — instead of risking misattribution I wrote “Unknown.” ) Let’s turn the page and start with Day 1 and the most important thought that defines the difference between a self-disciplined person and a weak-willed one. WEEK 1 Day 1: On Living the Hard Way Life’s easy when you live it the hard way... and hard if you try to live it the easy way. —Dave Kekich 1 Self-discipline means living your life the hard way: resisting temptations and instant gratification, in order to receive bigger and better rewards in the future. It’s certainly easier to avoid all kinds of discomfort and indulge yourself whenever you want, but in the end, all that you get from that approach is fleeting pleasure now at the expense of your future, which otherwise could have been much better. Consider a weak-willed person who, when faced with a challenge, immediately opts out. How likely is this person to achieve anything substantial in life if their primary value is to feel comfortable? How is this person going to manage a crisis that they must face? Even a relatively insignificant problem can become an insurmountable obstacle for a person who’s been living a sheltered life and always avoided what’s difficult or disagreeable. Now contrast that with a person who voluntarily makes his or her life harder. They seek out and welcome challenges as opportunities to grow. Each self-imposed affliction strengthens them, so that fewer and fewer difficulties in life overwhelm them. Day by day, they immunize themselves against problems, precisely because they seek them out. When life deals them an unexpected blow, they’re ready to handle it because — thanks to living their lives the hard way — they’re always ready for hardships. Day 2: On Your Choice s Your choices are made in a moment, but their consequences will transcend a lifetime. —MJ DeMarco 2 Eat this greasy, high-calorie hamburger or prepare a healthy salad? Sleep in and barely get to work on time or wake up at 5 a.m. to work on your side business before going to work at your day job? Stop trying the moment you get rejected or swallow your pride and keep going, despite hearing “no” dozens of times? It takes only a moment to make the wrong choice and jeopardize your future. What feels like an insignificant decision today can have a great, lasting impact on your future. Each choice sets a precedent — and when you make the same wrong choice several times in a row, it becomes your standard modus operandi . While one hamburger every now and then isn’t likely to ruin your overall efforts to lose weight, underestimating the impact of repeatedly making the wrong choice can profoundly affect you over the course of the rest of your life. Each time you’re faced with a decision between exerting self-discipline and taking it easy, remind yourself that the choice you’re making today doesn’t affect the present moment alone. A momentary decision can (and often will) reverberate for many years or even decades into the future. Day 3: On Being a Human Willpower is what separates us from the animals. It’s the capacity to restrain our impulses, resist temptation — do what’s right and good for us in the long run, not what we want to do right now. It’s central, in fact, to civilization. —Roy Baumeister 3 Humans have the capacity to act against their urges in exchange for a better future. Unfortunately, many people live by the principle of “if it feels good, do it, and if it doesn’t, don’t do it.” Caving in to your temptations whenever you feel them emerge is like relinquishing your humanity, in a way. As an intelligent human being, you have an ability — and I daresay an obligation — to make decisions that are based on rational thinking, not on your instincts alone. Strive to be a better human and embrace your humanity by exercising your “willpower muscle,” instead of succumbing to your most primal (and least helpful for your long-term goals) part of the brain. Your most primal instincts may provide temporary comfort, but seldom are good for the long term, except when there is a direct threat to your survival. Day 4: On Creating System s I value self-discipline, but creating systems that make it next to impossible to misbehave is more reliable than self-control. —Tim Ferriss 4 A lot of people think that being self-disciplined means that you can sit in front of a delicious piece of cake and stare at it for hours without eating it. They think of resisting temptations as being like a knight defending his kingdom against the invader. If you go to seedy bars every week, your chances of getting punched in the face are higher than those of a person spending their evenings at home with a book. Likewise, the best way to protect yourself against temptations is to avoid them — and for that, plain old preparation is more valuable than self-control. Your chances of cheating on a diet are higher if you have forbidden foods at home. Removing them from your house — a simple act that requires little willpower, as long as you’re satiated while doing so — will protect you when you get hungry and the urge to gorge on them hits you like a ton of bricks. Your chances of sleeping in are lower if you set three different alarms and place them away from your bed. You’ll be less likely to waste time at work when you block the most distracting websites instead of relying on your willpower to stop you before loading those funny cat pictures. Prepare yourself for difficult situations by putting up roadblocks ahead of time, when your resolve isn’t being tested. Your self- control system will do some of the heavy lifting for you, leaving your reserves of self-discipline to be used for the unplanned situations, when they arise. Day 5: On Enslavement to Sel f Before complaining that you are a slave to another, be sure that you are not a slave to self. Look within; you will find there, perchance, slavish thoughts, slavish desires, and in your daily life and conduct slavish habits. Conquer these; cease to be a slave to self, and no man will have the power to enslave you. —James Allen 5 It’s easy to delegate the responsibility for our lives and choices to other people. It’s not your fault that you can’t stick to a diet — it’s because your friends constantly tempt you to grab something to eat with them. It’s not your fault that you can’t control your finances — it’s those evil corporations that spend millions on advertising and leave you powerless to change. It’s not that you lack willpower to exercise — people always want something from you and you never have the time to develop this healthy habit. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. While external circumstances can affect you, in the end, whether or not they control your life depends on you. Just like James Allen said, when you achieve self-mastery, no one (and no thing) will have the power to enslave you. The next time you blame an external factor for your lack of self-discipline, think again. Was it the person eating chocolate next to you who controlled what you put in your mouth, or was it you? Day 6: On Superhumans Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. —Steve Jobs 6 Despite an enormous selection of movies about superhumans, they don’t really exist. I know, it’s shocking news, right? Nobody — including the world’s biggest geniuses — was, is, or ever will be a superhuman, infinitely better in all aspects than the average mortal. It’s easy to forget this fact when you look at the accomplishments of the people who are changing the world around you. After all, they appear to be so perfect — extremely productive, intelligent, beautiful, creative, persistent, strong… and the list goes on. Behind the scenes, everyone struggles in some areas of their lives. I’m an author of several books about self-discipline, but it doesn’t mean that I never struggle with self-control. I deal with the same problems as every other person, and the only difference is that I’ve discovered how to handle some of them a bit more effectively. I’ve had my fair share of failures, found myself unable to resist some temptations, and I jeopardized some long-term goals because I succumbed to the allure of instant gratification . This is the human condition. People whom you consider to be extremely successful aren’t that different from you. Many of them in the past had less willpower than you exhibit now, and many of them might be more disciplined than you in one aspect, but less disciplined in another. Becoming a self-disciplined person is within everybody’s grasp. You don’t need to have won the genetic lottery or get introduced to a country club to develop self-control — and neither you nor anybody else will ever achieve permanent, flawless self-mastery over every aspect of life. Accept that and accept yourself, as well. Day 7: On Poverty and Self-Discipline A second line of research has shown that economic stress robs us of cognitive bandwidth. Worrying about bills, food or other problems, leaves less capacity to think ahead or to exert self-discipline. So, poverty imposes a mental tax. —Nicholas Kristof 7 Financial stress (or for that matter, all kinds of stress) diminishes your ability to delay gratification. Consequently, poor people find it harder to resist temptations. In the end, they get stuck in a vicious cycle — they can’t escape poverty because it imposes constant mental stress on them, which then leads them to making bad decisions — not only the financial ones, but also those relating to their health, relationships, and general future. Does it mean that if you’re struggling financially, you’re destined to have a bad life? Not necessarily. Taking personal responsibility and becoming conscious of the source of the problem can help you push ahead and overcome your circumstances. Launching one of my businesses put me in debt. It exerted immense daily stress on me. No matter what I was doing, there was always the thought in the back of my head that I had a debt to repay. In some months, I was so close to not meeting my obligations on time that I would have been forced to close up shop if it weren’t for some money I managed to make at the last minute . This experience has made me realize that no matter what they say about money not bringing happiness, at least several months’ worth of income kept as savings in the bank means the difference between a relatively stress-free life and the soul-crushing fear when you can’t cover an urgent, important expense. If you’re struggling with finances, make it one of your priorities to get out of debt as quickly as you can and build an emergency fund covering at least three to six months of basic living expenses. In addition to improving your financial health, it will dramatically reduce stress and strengthen your ability to delay gratification and make more optimal choices favoring your future. WEEK 2 Day 8: On Unessential Necessities Epicurus wanted to examine the things he thought he needed so he could determine which of them he could in fact live without. He realized that in many cases, we work hard to obtain something because we are convinced that we would be miserable without it. The problem is that we can live perfectly well without some of these things, but we won’t know which they are if we don’t try living without them. —William B. Irvine 8 Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus would have his hands full in modern times if he wanted to spread his philosophy. We live in the world in which you feel you deserve to have luxuries. In fact, they’re no longer considered luxuries but necessities because most people mistakenly think they can’t live without them. The problem with mistaking luxuries for necessities is that it’s impossible to develop powerful self-discipline if you need a lot just to function. How is a person who believes that they need to eat empty calories in the form of burgers, pizzas, or white bread supposed to lose weight? How likely is that an individual who thinks that it’s necessary to lease a new car every two years will exert enough self-discipline to save money and “deprive” himself or herself of what they consider a basic human need? Periodically try living without something that you consider a necessity. You’ll benefit in several ways . First, you’ll voluntarily put yourself in an uncomfortable situation that will help you expand your comfort zone and develop your mental resilience. Second, you’ll discover whether you really need this thing in your life — and if you find you don’t, it will provide food for thought as to how many other things in your life are in fact not as important as you thought they were. This can then help you eliminate the unessential from your life and free up additional resources to focus on what’s important. Finally, you will increase your ability to feel happy with less — including being happy in a situation when you’re deprived of something involuntarily. Day 9: On Your Future Self In four studies, participants interacted with realistic computer renderings of their future selves using immersive virtual reality hardware and interactive decision aids. In all cases, those who interacted with virtual future selves exhibited an increased tendency to accept later monetary rewards over immediate ones. —Hal E. Hershfield 9 Studies suggest that people who are aided with technology to imagine their future selves are more likely to delay gratification. In the case of the cited study, they’re more likely to save money for retirement. This shows that your self-discipline is largely affected by your ability to feel empathy toward your future self. If the vision of you ten, twenty, or thirty years from now isn’t particularly vivid, you’ll have a hard time denying yourself pleasure today so that the stranger in the future can benefit. For this reason, consider occasionally meditating on your future self. Ask yourself if today you’re grateful for the choices you made several years ago, or if you wish that in the past you had been more concerned about your future. Are the choices you’re making today choices that are only benefiting the present “you,” but don’t contribute to — or worse, jeopardize — your well-being in the future? The person you’ll become in ten years will most likely not be the same person you are today, but it will still be you — and it’s in your hands whether, ten years from now you’ll look back and feel glad you extended self-empathy well into the future, or find that you decided to be selfish and steal from your future for some fleeting pleasure today. Day 10: On Building Your Story Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe. —Stephen King 10 Writing a novel is a daunting task if you’ve never written one before. It’s hard to write even a single paragraph, let alone write two or three hundred pages that will capture the attention of the reader and keep them reading until the last page. What’s worse, after all this effort, you’ll probably realize that your novel, when compared to a widely-acclaimed bestselling novel, is only good for kindling. What you fail to see is that the author of that bestselling novel most likely has spent a decade or more mastering their craft. They started with words, which then became sentences, paragraphs, and eventually stories. Their first attempts — like those of everybody else — were unsuccessful. It took them hundreds of thousands of words’ worth of practice to finally write a masterpiece. Building self-discipline is similar to writing a novel. You might consider a disciplined person who always wakes up at four in the morning, is physically active every day, eats a healthy diet, is super productive, and is capable of balancing it all with their social life and family obligations as a superhuman. But in reality, this person, like the bestselling novelist, probably started with one simple change and kept building on top of it. Whenever you get discouraged, or feel tired by how far you still have to go to accomplish your goals, remind yourself that everybody who has built self-discipline had to go through the same process — starting with little changes which then turned into habits, which then led to big lifestyle changes and identity shifts, and eventually, into successes. Day 11: On Self-Discipline and Talent Self-discipline without talent can often achieve astounding results, whereas talent without self-discipline inevitably dooms itself to failure. —Sydney J. Harris 11 When you look at some of the most successful high-performers, it might be tempting to say that they were born this way. They’re talented, end of story. In fact, talent — while undeniably makes life easier — is but one part of the equation. I used to be a shy and fearful person. If you compared me, the awkward outsider, with the most successful guys at school, you could say they were born talented to be popular, liked and as alpha male as you could get, while I didn’t have such luck. However, my apparent misfortune turned out to be a source of strength because it provided a spark to introduce big changes in my life. By continuously pushing my comfort zone, I not only overcame social shyness and improved my communication skills, but also developed high self-confidence and overcame other fears in my life. I might not have been born with the talent to be a “people person” — I still prefer solitude to crowds — but with self-discipline and consistent work, I still achieved astounding results. Next time, before you complain that you don’t have a talent for something or weren’t “born this way,” remind yourself that self- discipline, in many situations, can more than make up for a lack of inborn traits. Day 12: On Calmness of Mind Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control. Its presence is an indication of ripened experience, and of a more than ordinary knowledge of the laws and operations of thought. —James Allen 12 If I asked you to show me a symbol of self-discipline, you might think of a Buddhist monk, capable of sitting still for hours on end with an empty mind and only a hint of a smile on his face, content simply to be . Such self-control feels like a superpower in today’s busy and fast-moving world, in which distractions lurk at every corner and buzz in every pocket. A person who’s capable of maintaining calmness of mind is a rare individual — but fortunately you can also become one, if you’re only willing to put in some effort. Implementing some kind of a meditative practice in your weekly schedule will not only help you increase your self-control and develop more patience, but also reduce your stress and make you feel happier. The most common practice to learn how to calm your mind is to meditate. However, meditation isn’t the only habit that puts you in a meditative state. The key to developing everyday calmness is focusing your attention on the present moment or on a single activity that you’re performing. Engaging in a high-focus sport like yoga, rock climbing, or boxing can be a good way to tap into this state — and so can be something as mundane as gardening, dancing, or knitting. The more often you put yourself in a meditative state, the calmer you’ll become in everyday situations. Cultivating calmness will lead to even more self-control, and that will lead to an ever-heightening ability to control your state of mind and prevent emotions from clouding your judgment. Day 13: On What You Want Now and What You Want Most Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most. —Unknown If you’re on a diet and decide to eat a piece of chocolate, you’re deciding that the instant fleeting pleasure is worth it more than your long-term goals. Obviously, one piece of chocolate doesn’t immediately translate to gaining weight, but it sets a precedent that (over the long term) does change your body in such a way that it reflects your preference for “what you want now,” not “what you want most.” Each time you make a choice that favors instant gratification, your behavior signals that you have weak motivators. If your “reasons why” were strong enough, you’d be less likely to go with what you want now . Imagine a straight line. On one end, there’s the satisfaction you get from what you want now , and on the other end, there’s the satisfaction you’ll get from what you want most . If the two ends are close to each other — meaning you only want what you want most a little bit more than what you want now — you’ll have a problem delaying gratification. If, on the other hand, the thing you want most is so much more rewarding than what you want now, you’ll have an easier time resisting the temptation . To achieve your long-term goals, make sure that the satisfaction you get from what you want most is always much stronger than the satisfaction you can get from what you want now. Day 14: On Long-Term Focus In order to succeed, you must have a long-term focus. Most of the challenges in our lives come from a short-term focus. —Tony Robbins 13 I spent several long years starting one business after another, deluding myself that it was possible to build a six-figure business in a few months. Each time I failed to reach this goal, I closed one business and started working on another. Sometimes I worked on two or three ideas at the same time, thinking that one of them would surely succeed. I would have saved myself a lot of time if I had realized that I had a short-term focus and this attitude had been the very reason why I couldn’t accomplish my goals. The moment I switched my mindset to that of being in it for the long haul, things started falling into place. When I look back at my other goals, I struggled in a similar way due to the same reason. In fitness, I wanted to build a well-defined physique as quickly as possible. I frequently reduced my daily caloric intake to levels that were impossible to maintain over the long term. In the end, I would have accomplished my goals more quickly by taking a more sustainable approach that would take me a year or two to reach my goal than fooling myself I could reach it in two or three months. In learning languages, I wanted to learn new words as quickly as possible and soon found myself discouraged from looking at even one more word. I wanted to learn a few dozen words a day, but in the end I would have accomplished more with a routine of learning just 5-10 words a day but maintained and used over years, not just weeks or months. Analyze your goals and how you approach them. Replace short-term-oriented behaviors with those that show that you’re in it for the long haul. Self-discipline isn’t limited to rejecting a cake or sticking to an exercise habit; you also need self-discipline to maintain a long-term focus in all of your endeavors. WEEK 3 Day 15: On Constant Improvement Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes. —Peter Drucker 14 Just like knowledge, you can’t take self-discipline for granted. Unfortunately, being a self-disciplined person isn’t a “one and done” kind of thing. Once you have learned how to live that way, you can still lose it if you don’t consistently strengthen it by setting new challenges and rejecting instant gratification in favor of bigger future rewards. Never assume that you’re “disciplined enough.” There’s always a new area in which you can improve your self-control and further expand your comfort zone. For example, regular exercise poses no challenge for my self-discipline. In order to strengthen it, I need to set bigger and bigger exercise-related challenges for myself. Instead of focusing on fitness, I can also find a new area in which my discipline is lacking (such as developing more patience when dealing with other people) and focus on improving it until it’s no longer a test for my resolve. Such consistent practice ensures that you’re at least maintaining your level of self-control, and ideally always getting better at it. Day 16: On Self-Relianc e A man then must stand erect, not be kept erect by others. —Marcus Aurelius 15 There’s no doubt that surrounding yourself with people who support your goals is helpful. It’s easier to exercise with a friend, diet along with your spouse, or belong to a community of frugal people. However, as Marcus Aurelius says, you need to beware of relying too much on others. If the only reason why you exercise is because you’re doing it with a friend, the moment they drop it, you’ll likely revert to the old ways, too. If you’re on a diet only because you want to lose weight to attract this beautiful friend of a friend, the moment you learn they’re in a relationship or aren’t interested in you, your self-control will be gone. If you’re productive at work only because you’re afraid of your boss, how likely will you be to exhibit productivity when they aren’t around? Your motivators should always start with you and your own resolve to make changes. External support can be valuable, but just like a person recovering from an injury isn’t fully recovered if they can’t stand without a crutch, you aren’t self-disciplined enough unless you can still stick to your resolutions even without the help of other people. Day 17: On Rising from the Ashes of Failure A setback has often cleared the way for greater prosperity. Many things have fallen only to rise to more exalted heights. —Seneca the Younger 16 No matter how self-disciplined you are, there’s no escaping the fact that sometimes you’ll stumble. Perhaps you’ll eat a piece of a cake instead of a salad. Maybe you’ll skip a workout out of laziness. It’s possible that when your efforts result in a failure, you’ll lose the self-discipline to continue and revert back to your old undesirable habits. It’s all par for the course, and the sooner you accept, it, the easier it will be to handle the setbacks once they occur. However, don’t consider your failures a useless waste of time and energy; a failure can often present new opportunities or lead to important realizations. I failed to learn how to play tennis despite putting considerable amount of time, energy, and money into it. However, this made me realize that I wanted to concentrate on rock climbing, and the failure with tennis cleared the way for dramatic improvements in my climbing performance. When discouraged, remember that all struggles present opportunities that, given enough time, you can convert into successes or lessons that will aid you in other areas of life. Day 18: On Higher Standard s Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself — and be lenient to everybody else. —Henry Ward Beecher 17 The only standards that should concern you are your own standards. If you act in accordance with the standards of the majority of people, you’ll be overweight, unfit, unhealthy, lazy, hating your job, not having enough time for your family, and in debt. I sometimes get flak for my goals. “You’re already slim. Why do you still watch your diet?” “Why do you save so much money? You should live it up!” “Can’t you live like a normal person, instead of waking up at 5 a.m. and going to sleep as early as 8 p.m.?” By the standards of the person criticizing me, I should have stopped improving myself a long time ago. According to my standards, the growth should never end. I always hold myself responsible for a higher standard, and this allows me to maintain success-friendly habits in my life and achieve even more success. If you allow yourself to have low standards, how are you supposed to ever achieve excellence? Exhibiting self-control is one of the most powerful demonstrations of having high standards; letting fleeting emotions and urges control your life — as most people do — is a sure-fire path to mediocrity. Day 19: On Fighting Well The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. —Pierre de Coubertin 18 Nobody will ever give you any grades for your level of self-discipline. There’s no finish line and there’s no podium for the winners. The only purpose of building self-discipline is to conquer yourself — your own urges, your own weaknesses, and your own self-sabotaging behaviors. It’s easy to forget this fact and assume that when you reach your goals you’re done. In fact, the moment you make your dreams come true isn’t the most important moment. It’s important, no doubt, but without the process leading to it, in itself it means little. The most important moments are the moments of struggle, when you’re striving to fight even when you can barely stand and the whole world is spinning around you. It’s this very act that proves your mettle and showers you with life-encompassing benefits, not the act of winning in itself. Whenever you find yourself frustrated that you’re still a long way from the finish line, remember that it’s right now, at this very moment, that you’re collecting the biggest rewards. It’s the struggle in itself that improves you and makes you a more successful person. Day 20: On Taking Small Step s We should discipline ourselves in small things, and from there progress to things of greater value. If you have a headache, practise not cursing. Don’t curse every time you have an earache. And I’m not saying that you can’t complain, only don’t complain with your whole being. —Epictetus 19 Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t build self-discipline overnight. If you’ve never been particularly disciplined, start small with easy challenges and then build on top of them. Epictetus suggests a simple exercise of not complaining when you feel unwell. To make the first step even easier, he says that you don’t even have to immediately stop complaining at all — just stop complaining “with your whole being.” Could you do it just for today? Once you successfully go one day without complaining with your whole being, how about two days? Three days? A week? A month? Could you then add other little challenges and consistently strengthen your willpower? Other simple practices you can implement to begin building more self-discipline include: - Resisting the temptation to yell in anger when another driver does something that irks you. - Eating just slightly less than you’d like to eat, like one square of a chocolate or one potato chip less. - Working for just one minute longer when you’re ready to call it a day . Work on several such little challenges and soon you’ll gain more self-control and be able to progress to bigger changes. Day 21: On the Importance of Habits Success is actually a short race — a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over. —Gary Keller 20 Habits are like magical powers. The moment they kick in, you no longer need more than perhaps a modicum of self-discipline every now and then to continue performing the same action on a regular basis. What originally was extremely difficult to do is now something you largely do automatically, with little thought or willpower. When something becomes a part of your routine, resistance drops to nearly zero. The challenging part is forming a new habit. Research suggests that it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days 21 to form a new habit, with 66 days being the average time (not 21 days, as the common knowledge goes). When working on your goals, remind yourself that it’s the first months that will be the hardest. Once the proper habits kick in, things will get easier. Remember that in the long term, only habits — and their subsequent permanent changes in lifestyle and identity— can ensure lasting success. Consequently, it’s key to think in terms of lifelong routines . As long as you’re jumping from one two-week diet to another instead of establishing new nutritional habits, you’re destined to regain weight. As long as you’re switching between different six-week workout programs to lose some weight — and not thinking of exercise as a permanent part of your weekly routine — sooner or later, you’ll revert to inactivity. Analyze your goals and assess whether your plans employ self-discipline to help you build a habit or if you’re using self-control as a means of temporarily sustaining an impermanent change. WEEK 4 Day 22: On Self-Discipline as Freedom Self-discipline is a form of freedom. Freedom from laziness and lethargy, freedom from the expectations and demands of others, freedom from weakness and fear or doubt. Self-discipline allows a pitcher to feel his individuality, his inner strength, his talent. He is master of, rather than a slave to, his thoughts and emotions. —H. A. Dorfman 22 Changing the way you think about self-discipline can help you become more self-disciplined. If you think about it in terms of deprivation and suffering, guess what! You’ll never find enjoyment in personal growth, and most likely will soon give up on your endeavors. On the other hand, a person who thinks of self-discipline as a form of freedom will welcome opportunities to practice his or her self-control. When facing temptations and fighting hard to not let them enslave you, remember that through letting go of them, you aren’t losing anything substantial; the freedom to be a master of your thoughts and emotions is ultimately worth more than any temporary gratification, of which you’re depriving yourself. Day 23: On Disciplined Education To read a newspaper is to refrain from reading something worthwhile. The natural laziness of the mind tempts one to eschew authors who demand a continuous effort of intelligence. The first discipline of education must therefore be to refuse resolutely to feed the mind with canned chatter. —Aleister Crowley 23 The way you get information can affect your self-discipline. By getting your news from just one source and blindly believing it, you run the risk of mental laziness. After all, why think about what the provided news really means or whether it’s even true in the first place? It’s the job of the newspaper or news site, isn’t it? Take advantage of the opportunity to improve your self-discipline by exposing yourself to other points of view and thinking for yourself. It takes work and questioning your beliefs is uncomfortable, which results in a great exercise for your self-discipline. Another risk lies in defaulting to easy entertainment or avoiding difficult topics. While there’s nothing wrong in reading easy books to relax, you miss out if you stay away from more demanding and complex works. Reading thought-provoking and/or long titles conditions your brain to eschew mental laziness. When a book provides an intellectual challenge and you keep going, you train yourself to stay with problems for as long as necessary to figure them out instead of giving up — and that’s a habit that will surely help you in other endeavors, too. Day 24: On Happiness Through Self-Discipline It is one of the strange ironies of this strange life that those who work the hardest, who subject themselves to the strictest discipline, who give up certain pleasurable things in order to achieve a goal, are the happiest. When you see 20 or 30 people line up for a distance race in some meet, don’t pity them, don’t feel sorry for them. Better envy them instead. —Bruce Hamilton For a person who has never tested their self-discipline over a long period of time, it’s hard to believe that giving up pleasure can lead to immense happiness. Most certainly, it doesn’t feel that way when you’re fighting against the craving for chocolate, compare exercise to torture, or feel sad that you have to set money aside and can’t spend it on this new cool gadget. However, in the long haul, based on my personal experience, subjecting yourself to a strict discipline does lead to a happier life — and it can be a powerful motivator in the moments of doubt. Let me explain why… Firstly, as we talked about in Day 1, living your life the hard way makes it easier. People who voluntarily expose themselves to challenges are more capable of handling unforeseen hardships. Moreover, giving up certain pleasures (such as unhealthy food and sitting all day in front of the TV) can lead to immense improvements in one’s well-being. Maintaining a healthy weight and beneficial nutritional habits doesn’t just lead to physical improvements; it also affects self-esteem, reduces the risk for depression, and improves your body image 24 . Giving up on pleasurable things (such as spending money without control) can also help you avoid crushing problems in the future. Today it might be inconvenient that you can’t spend your entire salary, but tomorrow your savings can save you from bankruptcy or pay for an urgent medical intervention. Lastly, self-discipline is in itself a manifestation of your higher being, and is connected with nobler strivings. A human being, reduced to its primal form, has little ability for self-control. Operating in “scarcity mode” and left to its own devices, your primal brain will stuff your body until you won’t be able to walk. It will make you cheat on your partner with every passing stranger. It will assume that every step outside the comfort zone is a danger, and so you’ll never grow. Exerting self-control is working against the dominance of your primal brain. You forego primal urges in order to reach bigger and more important goals or to cultivate values that are important to you. You can live your life in a way that is congruent with who you are as a deeply complex human being, not a mere animal with the ability to reason. This leads to experiencing a wide variety of experiences that life has to offer; many of them are immensely more gratifying than merely satisfying the most basic human needs. Day 25: On Starting Today Don’t wait for tomorrow to do something you can do today. —Spanish proverb Have you been pondering starting on a new goal but are still procrastinating on it? Come up with the easiest, simplest, and quickest action you can take today to initiate momentum. If you want to stop eating sugar, eliminate all chocolate bars from your house or choose one day a week during which you won’t eat sugar in any form. Take it from there, step by step. If you want to start exercising on a regular basis, do three push-ups and three squats now or any other super quick exercise. Tomorrow, do one more repetition. Find a more suitable workout once you establish the basic habit of some exercise — even if it’s just a few push-ups a day. If you want to start saving money, take just one dollar out of your wallet and put it in a jar. Yes, it won’t change anything today, but if you add one dollar for the next three months, you’ll have saved 100 bucks and established a habit of saving. There’s no excuse to not take any of those simple actions now and finally break the chain of procrastination. Don’t overthink it and don’t obsess over the future; take care of establishing a tiny habit today, and take it from there. Day 26: On the Long-Term Consequences of Your Choices Whenever you are presented with a choice, ask yourself which option you would prefer to have taken in ten years. —Erik D. Kennedy 25 Self-discipline is largely dependent on your ability to look into the future and imagine yourself not having taken the difficult choice today. If you paint the mental picture with enough detail, you won’t be able to bear the thought of letting the situation remain the same or getting worse. A simple exercise of asking yourself which option you would prefer to have taken in ten years can help you avoid succumbing to temptations. And let’s not fool ourselves — it probably won’t work every time, but even if it doesn’t work every time, at least it will make you pause sometimes . Let’s imagine that you’re torn between buying a new piece of furniture you don’t really need but like a lot, or saving that money for your retirement. In ten years, would you rather have a crumbling piece of furniture you rarely use or — thanks to the power of compounding — twice the amount you’re now pondering on spending? For this technique to work, you need to consider your failure to stick to your resolutions not as a once-off event, but a precedent that can ruin your long-term progress. Otherwise this technique won’t work. For example, if you’re on a diet and are tempted to eat this awesome chocolate chip cookie, if you tell yourself that it’s simply this one time, obviously in a ten-year timeframe it means nothing. And it’s true — one cookie eaten today won’t ruin your diet for the next decade. However, it’s not about eating this specific cookie. It’s about the precedent it sets and a possible pattern of cheating during a diet that might develop from making this decision. In ten years, would you prefer to have developed a habit of eating cookies while on a diet or established a habit of not eating cookies at all, or only on special occasions? Day 27: On Following the Wrong Path If something scares you in an excited way, (something that *gives* you energy) — that’s a good sign. BUT IF SOMETHING IS MAKING YOU MISERABLE AND DRAINING YOUR ENERGY, PLEASE STOP. Life is telling you that is not the path for you. —Derek Sivers 26 When you think about pursuing your goals, you might be tempted to think that the process will be long, arduous, and painful. While it’s good to assume that it won’t be a walk in the park, there’s a danger in equating the journey with being miserable. Self-discipline is powerful as long as you apply it to the goals you care about— the ones that, even when they are difficult to accomplish, energize you. If, as Derek Sivers points out, your goal is draining your energy, chances are it’s better to stop. For example, I was working on building a company in the Software as a Service industry. I know nothing about programming, and this business not only required some technical knowledge, but also relied heavily on phone sales — something I hate to the core. My goal to build a successful company was of immense importance to me, but the path I chose was making me so miserable that I hated waking up every morning. I could have pressed on, tapping into the deepest reservoirs of my willpower, but ultimately life was telling me that this path wasn’t for me; I made the right decision to cut my losses and sell the business. Day 28: On Living in Offensive Mode Life is an ongoing process of choosing between safety (out of fear and need for defense) and risk (for the sake of progress and growth): Make the growth choice a dozen times a day. —Abraham Maslow 27 If you’re reading this book, you’re most likely living in relative abundance, whether you agree with that perception or not. You have access to some kind of an electronical device for reading, which means you have some disposable income, which means you don’t live in extreme poverty. You also most likely don’t live in a native tribe somewhere in the jungle or in a small village in the warzone, where survival is a daily challenge. Consequently, you don’t have to live in defense. The negative consequences of your acts, when compared to people who aren’t as lucky as you, are in most cases negligible. You can afford to venture out into the world without the risk that the enemy tribe will kill you. You can risk launching a side business because even if it fails, you’ll still have a secure job and perhaps even some savings. You can go on a diet and temporarily restrict caloric intake — I assure you that you won’t starve to death. Analyze the decisions you’ve taken during the past week and ask yourself whether they were motivated by the need for defense and safety or by the prospect of progress and growth. Make sure that the great majority of your decisions favors some smart risk-taking instead of letting the fear stop you dead in your tracks. WEEK 5 Day 29: On Avoiding Effort There is just something wrong with getting up every day and moving through your existence with the least possible effort. If your expectations are always those of someone content to live without physical challenge, then when it comes time for mental, moral, or emotional challenge, you fail to meet it because you are out of practice. —Mark Rippetoe 28 I consider physical exercise a fundamental habit for every person who wants to build self-discipline and achieve their goals. Granted, not everyone has the health required for strenuous physical activity, but there’s always some kind of effort you can undertake to move your body in a beneficial way. In addition to obvious health benefits, physical activity provides another immense benefit: it’s an exercise in exposing yourself to effort and challenge for the sake of bettering yourself. As Mark Rippetoe states in the quote, living your life without physical challenges makes you rusty when it comes to dealing with other types of challenges — including mental, moral, or emotional challenges that sometimes require more strength than a fitness workout does. How often do you avoid effort when it would have been beneficial to face it? If you’re content to live an easy, effortless life, are you also content to live your life without ever realizing your full potential as a human being that has evolved to thrive in a challenging environment? Day 30: On Looking Like a Foo l You have to look like a fool while you’re looking for answers you don’t have. —Dan Waldschmidt 29 A frequently overlooked aspect of building self-discipline is the fact that if you want to rise above mediocrity, you need to be fine with the fact that you’ll undoubtedly make a fool of yourself every now and then. Perhaps you tell all of your friends that you’re going to build a business, but the business goes bankrupt and you lose all of your savings. Maybe you set a goal to harness the power of your self-discipline to learn public speaking (even though you’re terrified of standing in front of the crowds), and then deliver a less than stellar performance. This is normal — you have to fail your way to the success — but for many people, it’s a blow they can’t withstand. They might be so harmed by it that they’ll do anything to avoid future humiliation — including giving up on their goals. Failure, rejection, and humiliation are anything but pleasant. However, the ability to withstand it and keep going is one of the key differences between successful individuals and those who fail to make their dreams come true. As disagreeable as it can be, accept that occasionally looking like a fool as a part of the process of becoming a successful person. Fortunately, the more often you voluntarily expose yourself to rejection, humiliation or failure, the easier it will be to handle the feelings they generate. Day 31: On Being “Normal ” To be “normal” is the ideal aim for the unsuccessful, for all those who are still below the general level of adaptation. But for people of more than average ability, people who never found it difficult to gain successes and to accomplish their share of the world’s work — for them the moral compulsion to be nothing but normal signifies the bed of Procrustes — deadly and insupportable boredom, a hell of sterility and hopelessness. —Carl Jung 30 There’s nothing “normal” in building self-discipline. Most people avoid all kinds of discomfort and effort. They don’t want to experience personal growth because it interferes with them stuffing themselves with French fries, wasting countless hours in front of TV, spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need, lollygagging at work, and cutting corners whenever they can. If you want to join the minority of people who do possess self-control and strive to strengthen it even further, you’ll be considered weird. This means that you need to prepare yourself for potential ridicule, being frowned upon, and not being understood. It might be hard at first to face so much adversity when all you want to do is to improve yourself. To overcome this situation, get the following fact at the forefront of your mind: “normal” is the ideal for the mediocre, “exceptional” (or, in the words of the unsuccessful, “weird”) is the ideal for the high-achievers and trailblazers. Every time you feel out of sync with the rest of the world, remember that there are other people like you. During the challenging times, when’re you’re stumbling, remind yourself that even when you’re failing, you’re still forging your own path, something that the vast majority of people will never do. You can enjoy the fruits of your success in a way that they will never experience, and that’s why it’s worth it to be exceptional. Be exceptional. Day 32: On Cultivating Self-Discipline Like a Plant Virtue is not a mushroom, that springeth up of itself in one night when we are asleep, or regard it not; but a delicate plant, that groweth slowly and tenderly, needing much pains to cultivate it, much care to guard it, much time to mature it, in our untoward soil, in this world’s unkindly weather. —Isaac Barrow 31 If self-discipline were like a mushroom that springs up of itself without the need for a gardener, everybody would possess it. Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on how you look at it — it’s more like a plant that you need to constantly cultivate, or else it withers. Some people believe that one either possesses a “green thumb” or not — as if one person were born with an inborn talent to care for plants and another not. In reality, the person with the supposed green thumb is simply more attentive to their plants. They make sure their plants have everything they need to thrive and regularly check up on them to make sure they stay healthy. Think of self-discipline in the same way. You plant its seeds the moment you decide it’s time to stop coasting through life and prioritize long-term rewards over instant gratification. However, this moment is just the very beginning; as in the case of planting the seed for a new flowering plant, there’s a lot of time and energy you’ll still need to invest to make it bloom. If you want to have a beautiful plant, you can’t water it occasionally or move it from one place to another every other week. Ask yourself: what kind of a gardener am I for my own self-discipline? If your self-control were a plant, how would it look based on how you’ve been cultivating it the past years? Day 33: On Things You Can’t Rush The bearing of a child takes nine months, no matter how many women are assigned. —Fred Brooks 32 Patience and self-discipline are close cousins. If you want to reject instant gratification for the sake of accomplishing your long-term goals, it might take months or years before you receive your big compensation. Without patience, you’ll get nowhere. While sometimes you can force results to come more quickly — by pushing yourself harder and being as diligent as you can during the process— oftentimes things take time and there’s no way to rush them, no matter how many resources you apply. Like pregnancy, some things follow a natural schedule you can’t control. If you fail to identify which things cannot be rushed, you might misapply the power of self-discipline and instead of achieving them more quickly, fail to achieve them at all. For example, a body has a natural limit of how much body fat it can burn during a week without breaking down your muscle. If you try to rush the process by starving yourself, the most likely end result is an unplanned cheat week that will not only take you back to square one, but most likely add some additional body fat to your frame . Even with things that are difficult to measure, such as learning to control your mind so that you can eventually radiate optimism, you can’t force yourself to change overnight. Rewiring your brain takes time, and it doesn’t matter how much time you spend meditating or reading books about emotional control; a process that is so profound takes time. Generally speaking, if it has taken you years or decades to develop a negative trait, don’t expect that you can reverse it within weeks or months. Approach such undertakings with the belief that you’ll do your best, but that you won’t get discouraged or frustrated if the process is slow. It would be as futile as a woman complaining that pregnancy lasts nine months. Day 34: On Enlightenmen t Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. —A Zen saying, attributed to Xinxin Ming It’s tempting to believe that, after enough time passes, suddenly you’ll attain enlightenment and acquire permanent, unbreakable self-control. In reality, there’s no sudden awakening that will happen if you deny temptations for long enough. Just like today you’re consciously choosing to reject a chocolate bar so you can enjoy an attractive physique a year from now, a year from now you will still need to reject a chocolate bar to maintain the body you attained. There are no secret powers that self-disciplined people have somehow attained that give them magical powers to resist temptations. Despite having built a healthy, fit physique, I still fight — and sometimes fail — to overcome temptations. I still need to make sure my plates are full of satiating, healthy foods so that I don’t fill them later on with something less than healthy, yet again. I still need to monitor how much I eat and avoid places where I’m likely to overeat. I still do full-day fasts every now and then to practice self-control that is associated with hunger. No matter the challenge, I still mostly use the same strategies I’d been using prior to accomplishing my goals. The actions don’t change. What changes is the person performing them . For example, rejecting chocolate today may feel like the greatest punishment in the world. A year from now, rejecting chocolate is simply a fact of life: you want to stay in top shape, so you don’t stuff yourself with chocolate on a daily basis. It will still require self-control, but as long as you diligently exercise your willpower muscle, the temptation will most likely be easier to overcome. And in the end, that’s what building self-discipline gives you: an easier life, through voluntarily choosing to live it the hard way. Day 35: On the Value of Difficult y What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. —Thomas Paine 33 Easy successes may be pleasant, but if they’re the only successes you achieve, you’ll come to expect quick, effortless results. Then, when life hits you hard with a difficult challenge, you’ll lack the mental toughness to overcome it. Moreover, you’ll never appreciate the easy successes as much as the ones that required blood, sweat, and tears. Does it mean that you should reject easy successes and seek the most difficult ways to accomplish your goals? Of course not. However, you should make sure that you don’t deliberately avoid hardships. Resist the temptation to set your aims low. Scoring exclusively easy wins might feel good, but you’re limiting your potential that way. Over the long term, make sure that you always have at least one big, ambitious and demanding goal in life, as that’s where the power of self-discipline shines, where most personal growth happens, and which delivers the greatest feeling of having accomplished something worth doing. WEEK 6 Day 36: On Pushing Your Limits Step by Step That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I’d just run across the great state of Alabama. And that’s what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I’d gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I’d gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going. —Forrest Gump 34 There’s no law stating that if you want to build self-discipline, you need to immediately wake up at four in the morning, eat nothing but vegetables and fruits, work productively for 12 hours, seven days a week, and abstain from every pleasure, trying to mimic the life of a medieval ascetic. Setting aside the fact that most of these habits are not necessary to become self-disciplined, self-control isn’t built in one day. You’re building it step by step — starting from an easy challenge, and then building on top of it. Don’t feel anxious or guilty that you begin your exercise plan with a 5-minute walk or that you commence your new nutrition plan with a resolution that you’ll add one vegetable and subtract one candy bar a day. Try it, see what happens, and if it works out, set a bigger challenge. Nothing else is needed to begin the journey to a new you. Day 37: On Initial Resistance It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end. —Leonardo da Vinci 35 To avoid procrastination at work, I use a rule I like to call “the zero-second rule”: the moment I realize that I’m wasting my time to avoid work, I immediately stop whatever unproductive thing I’m doing and start working. If I let myself ponder whether I want to start working or not, my resistance will only grow, and soon, it will be so difficult to overcome that I may fail to accomplish anything productive for the rest of the day. This trick works because (like Leonardo da Vinci said) resistance is greatest at the beginning. Once you start performing an unpleasant task and gain some momentum, it’s easier to stick to the task than to give up and return to procrastination. Whenever you catch yourself putting off something unpleasant, act right away and deal with it now. The sooner you act, the sooner you’ll be done with it. For example, I always wash the cookware I used to cook my dinner before I eat my meal. This way I can eat my dinner without the unpleasant thought in the back of my mind that I’ll not only have to wash the dishes, but also the pots and pans I used for cooking. Small habits like that can help establish a habit of choosing to do the hard things now instead of letting all the hard tasks accumulate like a backlog at work. When you adopt this habit, you’ll greatly reduce the impact of procrastination on your life — and enjoy more tranquility to boot! Day 38: On Moderation as a Good Thing Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. What are the two? There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable. Avoiding both these extremes, the Tathagata has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana. —Gautama Buddha 36 When you set firm resolutions to improve yourself, you might be tempted to push your limits well outside of what you’re capable of doing. Ambitiousness is a virtue, but there’s danger involved in going from one extreme to another. If you’re currently struggling to be productive, don’t force yourself to work sixteen hours a day. If you’re struggling to control your appetite, don’t impose a week-long fast. If you can’t find it in you to choose the stairs over the elevator, don’t expect that you’ll maintain a workout plan that requires you to work out every single day. Find the middle path, stick to it for at least several weeks, and then, based on the results you get, decide whether you can further stretch your limits or require more time before advancing. As much as I believe in pushing your boundaries and exploring the extremes, you don’t need to put yourself through mortification to achieve good results. Subjecting yourself to extreme hardships has some merits, but over the long term it’s unsustainable, if not downright dangerous. Remember that there should be moderation in all things, including moderation itself. Sometimes a more extreme approach is needed for a short period of time, and sometimes it’s beneficial to set your goals lower. In whatever you do, seek to not spend too much time loafing around, but also make sure that your life hasn’t turned into the life of a self-flagellating ascetic. Day 39: On Moderation as a Bad Thing Sometimes moderation is a bad counselor. —Fausto Cercignani 37 In yesterday’s entry, we talked about moderation being a good thing. Today we’ll approach the topic from a different perspective. Some people use moderation as an excuse to not do their best, often mistaking mediocrity for moderation. “Let’s call it a day. I’ve already worked five minutes more than yesterday. You gotta stay in balance.” “Let’s stick with the same weight for the next five workouts, even though I can easily lift it. Moderation is key.” “I’ve already gone down two sizes. I guess I’m still a bit overweight, but let’s not forget that going to the extreme is a bad thing.” If you use moderation as an excuse not to push your limits, you’re mistaking moderation with mediocrity. If you’re trying to lift a weight that you can barely lift off the floor, some moderation will be good for you. If you’re lifting it like it’s a feather and telling yourself you’re still doing great because at least you’re exercising, you’re letting mediocrity limit your growth. Sticking to easy things that are well within your grasp isn’t moderation . Equating mediocrity with moderation largely comes down to having low standards. A person who thinks that exercising once a week is incredible because most of his friends only exercise with a TV remote will most likely stop challenging themselves well before it would be wise to remember about moderation. That’s not to say that you should compare yourself to other people; compare yourself to yourself from the past. If today (a year since you started to exercise) you’re still performing the same exercises with little to no improvement, perhaps you’ve confused moderation with self-congratulation. Moreover (as we’ve already covered when talking about moderation as a good thing), you should also apply moderation to moderation itself. It’s impossible to always follow the middle path. Sometimes you’ll zig and sometimes you’ll zag. One day might spend 12 hours working on an important project so that you can spend the entire next day with your family. There’s nothing unbalanced in it, as long as you move from an extreme in one thing (like work) to an extreme in another (like family), without staying too long in either one. Day 40: On Talking vs. Doing It is better to practice a little than talk a lot. —A Zen saying, attributed to Muso Soseki Announcing to all of your friends, family members, and colleagues that you’re going to change and going deep into details how you’re going to do it is useless at best and sabotaging at worst. Firstly, not everyone will be happy to hear that you want to improve yourself because it will make it painfully obvious that they’re lazy or don’t have as much courage as you do. Instead of support, you can receive criticism that might make you less likely to act upon your dreams. Secondly, research suggests that announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them. 38 By talking about your plans, you get the erroneous satisfaction that you’ve already taken action to change yourself and consequently, you’re less likely to take real action. If you want to tell your friends about your new goal, choose a person whom you know will support you. In addition, instead of telling them in a self-congratulatory way that you’re finally going to achieve your dreams, ask them to hold you accountable if you don’t honor your resolution. Day 41: On Arroganc e Receive wealth or prosperity without arrogance; and be ready to let it go. —Marcus Aurelius 39 Never take self-discipline for granted or assume that if you can control your urges, you’re now invincible. Humility plays an important role in helping you maintain self-control. An arrogant person will be more likely to unnecessarily test their willpower, which will eventually lead to their downfall. This happens because of the restraint bias — the tendency for people to overestimate how capable they are of controlling impulsive behaviors. Research shows that people who had an inflated belief in their self-control overexposed themselves to temptations, such as recovering smokers putting themselves in situations tempting them to smoke, which increased the risk of a relapse. 40 Assume that your self-discipline is like prosperity. It’s possible that it will stay with you for a long time, but it’s also possible that it will disappear. Consequently, you’ll work harder to keep it in your life. If it does go away when you make some mistakes, you’ll accept it with more tranquility and be more likely to regain it quickly. Day 42: On Diligent Practice You can know how to win through strategy with the long sword, but it cannot be clearly explained in writing. You must practise diligently in order to understand how to win. —Miyamoto Musashi 41 Reading hundreds of books, blog posts, articles, and watching countless videos on self-discipline isn’t going to automatically reprogram your brain so that one day you’ll wake up with the self-control of a samurai. The intention behind this book is to offer you quick, interesting tidbits related to self-discipline that you can easily act upon. No matter how detailed my writings are, you’ll always learn more by taking one little action than by reading ten of my books or re-reading the same book over and over again. For example, I can tell you that the greatest amount of willpower is needed during the first few minutes of an uncomfortable task, such as taking a cold shower. Once a couple of minutes pass, your body will adapt to the challenge and it gets easier to handle. But that’s just me talking. Go and actually take an ice-cold shower. Experience the wild emotions, start shivering, feel the overpowering temptation to turn on hot water, and wonder if you can last even a second longer, and then — two or three minutes later — feel your body start to relax, with the ice-cold water no longer feeling like the worst torture in the world. Then step out the shower feeling, elated that you managed to overcome your weakness of will . The next time you face an uncomfortable situation, tap into your real-world experience — not mere words read in a book — to realize that, just like with an ice-cold shower, you can adapt to this situation, as well. WEEK 7 Day 43: On Making Continuous Efforts Genius is often only the power of making continuous efforts. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it — so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience, would have achieved success. As the tide goes clear out, so it comes clear in. In business sometimes prospects may seem darkest when really they are on the turn. A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose. —Elbert Hubbard 42 I’m an avid rock climber. In rock climbing, particularly when climbing long routes, your forearms can get pumped to such an extent that you can no longer hold onto the rock. Climbers afraid of failing will often ask their belayer to take in the rope so that they can rest and try again with renewed strength. While this strategy is good for learning how to climb a difficult route, sometimes it costs a climber an on-sight (a clean ascent with no prior practice of the route) or a redpoint (completing a route without resting on the rope) because they give up too quickly, right after they start feeling overpowering discomfort . Even when you can barely hold onto the wall, often you can still perform one or two moves more — and those moves may be enough to upgrade your position to a rest stance where you can safely recharge and continue climbing without resting on the rope. It’s the same with many other areas of life. You believe that you can’t go on any longer, that your self-discipline has run out and it’s time to throw up your hands in defeat, while in reality, persisting just a little bit longer is all that separates you from success. The next time you feel like giving up, persuade yourself to push a little bit longer. Chances are, success is right around the corner. Day 44: On Optimis m Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope. —Helen Keller 43 A positive attitude is essential if you want to build self-discipline. What’s the point of denying yourself instant gratification if you don’t believe that you’ll get a greater compensation for it in the future? If you suffer from pessimism, realize that along with improving your self-control, you’ll need to improve your ability to see the world in brighter colors. Three easy steps you can take today to become more optimistic include: 1. Express gratitude for what you already have. If you can’t be happy with what you have today, you won’t be happy with what you have tomorrow. 2. Reframe negative events into opportunities and lessons. An event is bad for you only if you decide it is. Think of it as a lesson or an opportunity to change your life, in order to give it a positive meaning. 3. Surround yourself with positive input. If you only read fear-mongering news and hang out with pessimistic grumblers, you’ll have a hard time exhibiting optimism. Day 45: On Honest y I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man. —George Washington 44 For many people, one of the hardest challenges for their self-discipline is the resolution to stop lying. We constantly encounter opportunities to lie, wherever we go and whatever we do. It seems it’s even socially permissible to lie a little, whether by telling a white lie, making yourself look better on a resume, or tweaking your height, weight, and financial situation on online dating sites. As the old saying goes, honesty is the best policy — and it’s also one of the best ways to strengthen your character. It’s one thing to deny yourself a piece of cake, and it’s a completely different thing to tell the truth when you think it will make you look bad or threaten the relationship you have with someone. Yet, over the long-term, the truth always emerges — and if not, it still eats away at your conscience, so why postpone the discomfort you’ll eventually feel anyway? Vow to tell the truth no matter the circumstances (except for extreme situations, such as your life being in danger). Please note that being honest doesn’t mean that you need to share everything about yourself with other people. that Telling them, “I don’t feel like answering that question” (without giving any justifications — it’s your right to not explain any of your decisions) is a simple way to remain honest when a person asks you a question you’d normally answer with a lie. Day 46: On Looking Fear in the Face You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” (…) You must do the thing you think you cannot do. —Eleanor Roosevelt 45 Self-discipline is a lot like dealing with fear. When you face temptations, look them straight in the eye and send them packing, the next time they appear in your life, you’ll be able to say to yourself, “I managed to overcome them once. I can handle them this time as well.” The more times you successfully overcome the temptations, the easier it will be to handle them again. Regular practice will make you less susceptible to temptations and even more likely to ignore them, just like looking fear in the face will make you more likely to act in spite of it. Granted, it’s not that with enough experience, you’ll become unconditionally self-disciplined, just like you won’t one day stop being afraid of anything. Just remember that each situation that tests your resolve is another experience from which you can draw inspiration to overcome future challenging circumstances when they occur. Day 47: On the Folly of Loafing Around The loafer believes he is enjoying life, but sooner or later he must face disillusion. —Fausto Cercignani 46 Since self-discipline shines in the long term, and often doesn’t seem to provide any benefits in the short term, you may be tempted to believe that people who are loafing around have it better. While you’re watching your finances like a hawk, they spend money they don’t have and show off with all the new cool gadgets. While you’re eating a salad and washing it down with a cup of green tea, they’re eating a bag of delicious potato chips and gulping down sugary cans of Coke. While you feel like throwing up during your workout from trying to to squeeze out one more rep, they squeeze more mayo out of the bottle to put it on the French fries they gorge on while watching their favorite TV shows. It might seem they have it better, but sooner or later the person exposing himself or herself to discomfort for the sake of achieving their long-term goals will come out on top, while the people loafing around will get to feel the negative consequences of their laziness. Irresponsible spenders will realize they’re on the brink of bankruptcy. Potato chip addicts will be diagnosed with diabetes. The inactive TV fans will start taking hypertension medication . You, on the other hand, will look back at your past sacrifices and smile, happy that you’ve never succumbed to the temptation to take it easy and loaf around. Day 48: On the Deadening of the Soul Most of us dread the deadening of the body and will do anything to avoid it. About the deadening of the soul, however, we don’t care one iota. —Epictetus 47 It’s curious that millions of people all over the world spend countless amounts of money and time to improve their appearance through the use of cosmetics, plastic surgery, expensive clothes, supplements, and other treatments, but spend little to nothing on improving themselves on the inside. It’s more important to avoid wrinkles than to prevent negative habits from forming. It’s a better investment to fix your sagging cheeks than to learn how to exercise restraint in unnecessary spending. Nobody will comment or even notice your deterioration of mental toughness and a growing preference for complacency over growth, but everybody will praise you for your new clothes. $10 for a book that can change your life is too expensive. $100 for another pair of jeans is a screaming deal. Your spending habits — including spending in the monetary sense and the investment of energy or time — reveal your true priorities. How much do you spend on your external appearance, and how much do you expend on developing your inner world? Is the proportion healthy, or do you find it hard to justify spending for personal growth, but never fail to invest in your superficial appearance? Day 49: On Obeying Lusts Bad men obey their lusts as servants obey their masters. —Diogenes Laertius 48 A forbidden fruit is the sweetest. If it weren’t so pleasant to submit to your urges, nobody would ever struggle with self-discipline. However, notwithstanding how much pleasure it can bring, it’s important to see the temptation for what it is — your enemy on the path toward freedom. Obeying your lusts enslaves you, while rejecting them increases your freedom. The reward you’ll get for not succumbing to your temptations will more than make up for the price you pay today for missing out on the instant gratification. Self-disciplined people may appear to some as if they were the ones being enslaved. After all, they’re the ones whose lives are so limited: they don’t get to eat junk food, they follow a strict routine, deliberately expose themselves to discomfort, and reject what society considers the spice of life — gluttony, laziness, and engaging in other vices. What the critics fail to see is that, through the rejection of those temptations, the self-disciplined become the masters of their lives. They serve the goals chosen by themselves instead of fleeting, spontaneous temptations. They choose to forego temporary satisfactions for deeper, more lasting ones later on . In the meantime, in the long haul, the people who fail to control their urges — or rather, don’t even try to control them — fail to control their lives, manipulated by the temptations like a marionette. WEEK 8 Day 50: On Not Resting on Your Laurels I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next. —Steve Jobs 49 To be human is to grow, challenge yourself, and strive to always become better. It’s important to celebrate your triumphs, but dwelling on them for too long can lead to resting on your laurels and jeopardizing your future growth. After you’re done celebrating your success, figure out what your next challenge is. How can you take your life to an even higher level? For example, if you’ve successfully lost weight, now is a good time to gain some muscle or improve your nutritional habits. If you’ve put your financial life in order by building a small nest egg, it’s a good opportunity to take it one step further and work on achieving financial independence. Treat wonderful accomplishments as opportunities to accomplish even more wonderful things, and not as permission to become lazy. Day 51: On Taking Action, in Spite of Potential Criticism People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. —Unknown Some people don’t want to start exercising because they’re afraid that others will laugh at their inability to perform a pushup or run for more than sixty seconds without losing their breath. They might be afraid that their friends will talk behind their backs, taking bets when they’re going to fail. Thousands of people all over the world dream of entrepreneurship, but are afraid to take the first step because if their business fails, their ego will suffer too hard of a blow. Self-discipline isn’t only about forcing yourself to do things that are unpleasant for the sake of long-term goals. It’s also about resisting the temptation to stay mediocre in order to avoid criticism. True, staying in your comfort zone is safe and there’s little criticism you’ll encounter along the way. However, there’s a high price associated with this choice: you won’t ever get to change your current situation. Over the long term, how important is it really that some unintelligent meathead smirks at you at the gym when you’re struggling to complete a set of pushups? Is the momentary pain of that really greater than the pain of regret when you realize that another year has passed without you acting on your goals? Day 52: On Thinking for Yourself When I meet someone, I consider how normal their life is. I do this not because it’s a one hundred percent accurate heuristic on how much I’ll respect someone, but because it’s damn close. If you have a totally normal life, then there are only two possibilities: you’ve thought through every aspect of your life and miraculously agree with society on each one, or you don’t think at all. I try not to