The Undisciplined Top 5 Ways of Building Self-Discipline

It is my dirty little secret that I’m not disciplined.

I haven’t been a disciplined person and it doesn’t come easily for me.

Rather, for most of my life I’ve kind of fought with discipline. Discipline, for me, becomes at odds with freedom and autonomy. It goes against my messy nature. The natural go with the flow that I have in me that is pushed down by my knowledge that you can’t just go with the flow in the lackadaisical way and actually get to where you want to go.

I wasn’t raised with much discipline. Plenty of punishment very little discipline. So, it doesn’t come naturally to me.

Being half way through my life it would be silly to bring this all up in a effort to place any sort of blame on my parents. I don’t. While I may not have come from or raised in an environment that provided me a positive example of discipline – it’s my life and my responsibility to grow in skill in the areas that I find important.

What I’ve come to realize is that discipline doesn’t have to be at odds with freedom and autonomy when they are a choice. When being disciplined about a subject leads to a positive habit. When it leads to meeting a goal I’ve set for myself.

It is because of freedom that I can choose to be disciplined about something important to me. And through that discipline I can gain freedom of time and choice in other aspects of my life. It is a skill to be wielded as I choose and not a personality trait to covet and give self talk to that I’m just not good at.

When you get up close and personal with my work you see that it is quite messy. I employ certain process and organizational methods that allow for work to get done that has the same appearance as being disciplined. I’m constantly working to improve and adjust my habits to better serve my goals. Because I know I have to put that energy into those habits in order to get done what needs to be done.

This is something, given what I do, that I shouldn’t talk about. Being self-disciplined is an important trait that we look for in others. It is one certainly that I look up to and admire when I see it. And as a coach and leader it almost seems foolish to admit.

And it is wrong of me to say that I have no self discipline. My life would be a right old mess if I couldn’t ever buckle down and overcome. And there is a certain aspect of discipline that I have grown a great deal of skill in.

Yet, I know this one isn’t a natural personality trait for me and it is one that seemingly everyone talks like they have it down. Especially those that are leaders or who practice personal development.

Take it from me -someone who has had a lifetime struggle with discipline and works regularly to build this skill – it isn’t easy but it is worth it. And I if I can do it, well, probably anyone can do it.

Here are my top five ways to overcome those impulses, feelings, and overindulgence that continually get in the way of accomplishment.

Remove temptations

Limit access to what is tempting you. Remove whatever it is from being around you. This may not be an all time solution, but especially in the beginning remove those temptations.  It may be tough to say no when it is right in front of you. So reduce the need to dig deep and tough it out. If those temptations are around you, it is so much easier with access to slip when your resolve bends.

Don’t wait for it to feel right or to get in the mood

Our feelings are fickle. They want to protect us from feeling bad. And that protection in fact can lead to a cycle where that protection method makes us feel worse. When we are trying to do something new, or something we don’t like to do, our feelings get in the way. They are trying to protect us from something that could harm us. If you wait for the mood on something that you may say you want to do, but really just want the results from doing the thing, you feelings may be getting in the way. The first step is to remove the self talk of ‘not feeling in the mood’ to do something.

Forget motivation

It’s important to know your motivations and to use them as the reason for action. The why you want to do the thing is important. While, on the other hand, waiting to be motivated is a bad move. It’s very close to waiting to get in the mood. Waiting for an external source to give you an internal feeling that makes it easier to take action – that definitely isn’t taking responsibility for your actions or in this case, inaction.

Plan for action

Limit your planning time. Thinking and planning is vital to success but don’t let it get in the way. Your plan needs to support quick action. Something that can be done today to get things going. Too many times, we plan and plan, and don’t build real sustainable action into the plan. Remove barriers to action and get on with it.

Keep it simple

This is always good advice. I should probably stick on everyone of my top 5 lists. Simplicity is genius. The world is complicated enough. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be to take action and stick with a thing. Find the easiest way to keep up with whatever you are trying to be more disciplined about.

As an example, for me, I like to use my calendar. It tells me everything that I need to know. I’m very disciplined about following my calendar, so I know that any new thing I’m trying to make happen and that requires discipline means that it probably has to either be incorporated into my calendar or not be at odds with my calendar.

  • If my Top 5 Ways of Building Self-Discipline don’t do it for you, here is a good article by Deep Patel writing for

  • Along with Self-Discipline – Self Management is a great trait to have especially in our WFH world or if you ever want to lead others, first you have to lead yourself.

  • Will is one of my favorites to listen to talk about self-discipline. Great way to start the First Monday of the New Year.

SELF DISCIPLINE – Best Motivational Speech Video (Featuring Will Smith)

Bored Brains Don’t Develop

Companies are spending a lot of money on learning and development. Jamming content down everyone’s throat. Getting excited about new systems and programs. There is always a new book to read, a new program to introduce, a new way of doing things to get certified in.

Yet, for all the money spent and effort put in to yearly development plans most employees look skeptically at all of this.

Most view development as something to be done when trying to get promoted, and even then it is more about appearances and networking then on truly making lasting change or building new skills.

We have to change the conversation. We have to adjust the plans and systems. We have to quit chasing the latest and greatest books that are rehashing the same content with a different wrapper.

There is an opportunity here to really dig deep and start making some lasting change for each of us. And part of that comes with reframing how we look at personal and professional development and our own growth as human beings.

Part of this comes with how we must adjust our relationship with our jobs and careers. For most of us, gone are the days of a lifelong career. And certainly, for most, the days of a lifelong job have clearly passed us by. Many companies and leaders are lying to themselves about employee retention. The best and most talented are not staying in the same role, the same job for years on end.

This is a generality. Sure there are some that will stay because their life circumstances at the moment make it so that they need to coast right now and so they stay put. There are those who are feeling less than, in their career and are settling for the job they have, for right now. Some have golden handcuffs and won’t leave while their pay is so high, waiting to be vested in those stock options, or they have so many weeks of vacation that they can’t think of leaving…right now.

The best and the brightest have an expiration date on their retention. It is reset when they are given a new challenge, a new position, or anything that adds to their skills set and their brand. 

It is important to have a firm understanding of this as we look to change the way we think of development. Learning new things should be fun. It is in the play that we don’t notice the learning. It is in the play that we find enjoyment. And it is in the enjoyment that it allows our brains to soak up information and to do so for longer.

Bored brains, no matter how “motivated” will never be able to soak up the learning needed, especially as we get older, to put that learning into use and become experience.

Self fulfillment and reaching full potential as a human being takes reaching deeply into who we are and growing from what we were to what we can be. We have the potential to be more than what we are. To grow.

And it is time we bring back fun and make it a part of our learning, there is no reason adults can’t have fun. Our brains will thank us for it.

Don’t Short Change Yourself – It Takes Vision For Self Development

If you don’t have a plan for your development then you are short changing your growth.

Now, let’s forget all those company IDP, PDP plans that are boring, overly bureaucratic, and almost always miss the point. It’s important to have a process but the process is about having a repeatable method for success – not a hoop to jump through that doesn’t seem like it has anything really to do with your desires and success.

This is about you, as a person, as an individual.

And the first step in managing your own development is to have vision. If you can’t see where you are trying to get or how you want to show up differently – you are destined for stagnation and frustration.

Your personal vision of where you want to be will ground you as you work on your self development. Having a clear idea of where you want to be in a few months or years provides something tangible to reach for. It provides the foundation when you are struggling and the going gets rough. It makes it clearer to know what you are working towards both for yourself and articulating this to others.

This is an important step and one that should not be skipped when coming up with a plan for your personal development.

I know this one is tough for a lot of people. It is far easier to just jump in and make bold statements of what you plan on doing. And then jump in and start doing the work. The problem is that for most people, that don’t work. If you don’t have a process. If you don’t do something different than you’ve been doing. If you don’t make something that you can use to remind yourself and hold yourself accountable, then it is just words, dreams, and fantasies. Well intentioned fantasies, but nonetheless you were never really serious about making change and growing.

Work on that personal vision.

Reflect on your values.

This is part of coming up with your personal vision and being able to turn it into a statement. If you don’t know what you stand for, what is important to you, which things are important enough to stand on a mountain and die for – then all the plans, ambition, desire to make change and improvement in your life and in your skills won’t really stand a chance at actually happening.

You may add some technical skills but you’ll never make any lasting change in how you approach life or the way you show up in your work if you don’t put in the work. When you know what you stand for – this becomes a great crucible for making decisions, especially when the times get tough. And let’s be real, any true development can only come from those tough moments. This is where we are pushed to our limits, push our boundaries, and make something new and special happen within ourselves.

  • Write out where you want to be and by when.
  • Why do you want to do this? And what are you willing to sacrifice to make it happen?
  • What needs to change in you to make it happen? What skill are you lacking? What is the gap?
  • How will you make use of your strengths to fill that gap?

Our strengths are a wonderful place to start. Leverage what you do well first. Sure you have things you suck at and they probably have something to do with that gap. But all too often we go to the negative without first looking at our strengths and what we bring to the table. Learning to first make use of those strengths to fill those gaps will multiply your efforts at hitting those goals. That may not be enough. But start with the strengths first.

Once you have this, then you can get to work on developing the plan.

Here are something that I’m following right now and I thought I’d share because you may find interesting.

  • ‘Never be the same’: How Slack’s CEO sees the future of work

  • Revisiting some of my old posts for some inspiration and wisdom.

  • Talking out both sides of my mouth. The ways in which we are looking at careers are changing. The traditional model of career planning needs to be thrown out the window.

Say goodbye to career planning: Tim Clark at TEDxPlainpalais


I Can Do Better In 2021

Fourteen days ago I declared my own personal New Years. Even if the calendar didn’t agree I mentally and emotionally moved into 2021.

I began in earnest to do all the things that one does to start anew. Remove the clutter that had built up over the last year. Take care of some projects that I’d let languish. Take stock of the good and the bad in the year of the Rat and what I could bring forward into the year of the Ox. Look over my plans and see what would be best to make happen in this year.

Most of all it felt good to start a bit fresh. To blow off the stink of this monumental year. Undoubtedly, there will be plenty of trials and tribulations in this year as well. Some numbers changing on the calendar isn’t going to instantly change the world.

It can, however, change our outlook.

Many people were blindsided by the events of 2020. The pandemic grabbed ahold and didn’t let go. Survival mode became the name of the game. And most hunkered down and waited for this to pass.

The difference now is that we are coming out the other side. We’ve already endured. We know what to expect. And while things could get worse in some ways over the next few months – we are more resilient than we were a year ago. Many of the people I speak to in my coaching sessions don’t even fully realize it, but they are stronger than they were a year ago. More battered and bruised perhaps. But ultimately they are better equipped to handle what comes their way next.

Now, as I sit on this first day of the new year and the calendar has finally caught up to what I had already self proclaimed, I am optimistic. I feel a sense of responsibility to stand tall and not be a victim to circumstance.

As a child who grew up poor, on the outskirts of society, who was misunderstood and made fun of, I resolved myself to not let the outside world tell me who I could be and to not let the hand I was dealt dictate how I would show up in the world. It is a lesson that took a lifetime to understand and one that still has a great deal of relevance for me now.

The world won’t change immediately because of a switch on the calendar.

We can approach each day as one that is building on the last, where each day we learn more, invest in our personal development, help and be there for others, and continually adjust how we look at each day. Seeing each day from a lens of each day being better than the last because we are choosing to show up better than the last.

I’ll do my part. I’m going to show up every day.

Doesn’t matter if each day isn’t the best. Doesn’t matter if some of those days are going to really suck. What matters is that I’m going to suit up, do my best, and try to help as best as I can, as many as I can.

We will fight the good fight with positivity, respect for others, and show up with civility in order to accomplish more and build a better future for all those who come next.

Are you with me?

This is our time. We can do better. We will do better. And we need more voices in the room. Not yelling and screaming. But voices that want to listen as much as they want to be heard.

I for one am going to give it my all. 

Let your voice sing in this new year. And we can do something amazing together.

Get Cracking, Time to Launch Yourself Into 2021

Jump to it.

There is no time to waste. There is no promise of tomorrow. So, why not do what needs to be done, now?

Get cracking.

2020 is over. Don’t carry it. Feel what needs to be felt. Get help if you are dealing with trauma or mental health issues. Take the moment to reflect on the year, but don’t live it. You’ve already done that once.

Get off to a running start and give yourself a head start. There is still a couple of days till the official start of 2021. (I myself started the new year 12 days ago, but that is just me.) Use this time to start your self motivated journey.

Time to get this party started.

We each need to get going, get rolling, and get on with it if we want to make this year what we want of it. We can control, the controllable, and jump start our year and own outlook by concentrating on the only real controllable, ourselves.

This can be the greatest moment of your life. The moment that you push off all the dirt, pull our feet out of the mud, and start our journey.

Sure we can sit back and wait to see what happens. We can let others have control over what happens next. We can be passive. We can be scared of action. Letting that feeling of helplessness overtake us. —

Or we can kick start our own lives, take ownership of our own actions and how we view our world, and get moving.

I’d much rather set in motion my own plan, even knowing it could fail. But it will be mine. I’m the one who buckled down, put my shoulder into it, and made something happen. It’s far more energizing to activate what I want to see, to be on the initiative.

So let’s crank it up.

You can power up 2021, set it ablaze. It just takes setting your plan into motion, getting that little spark today that touches off growing fire inside you that propels you to Get Off Your Ass and get triggered to make this your time.

This is your time. If you need any help along as you ignite your year with your passion, determination, and action – don’t hesitate to reach out.

I will continue to provide resources to use throughout the year, share my journey as a development geek, and celebrate our successes together as we reach for the stars each day.

Say goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021

Breaking Benjamin – Angels Fall (Official Lyric Video)


Fitness and health are important to our overall goals to getting the most out of life. Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic, Fitness program : Five Steps to get Started

And if you are looking for less motivation and more substance here are the 5 Steps On The Path To Action

J. Marcus Ross

Set The Table In Preparation For Inspiration

You probably don’t feel like it right now. Perhaps you are drained from the year you’ve endured. Maybe you don’t feel like there is any end in sight. Or are you wanting to be inspired? Looking to make a go of it, but don’t know where to start?

No matter where you are starting from, if you are ready to make some changes you can own 2021 for your own. Before you start making plans, check within first.

Motivation. I find motivation to be sore substitute for inspiration. It serves a purpose when you need a little extra kick and are having difficulty finding your own inspiration. It’s important we start with inspiration. That we develop our ability to set the table in preparation for inspiration.

Inspiration comes from within. Now that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do externally to make more fertile ground for inspiration to take root. Here are a few of my favorite, simple and effective.

Change your environment. Go for a walk. A hike. Sit near a tree and watch the birds. Okay, it’s a bit cold for that right now. But a brisk cool walk will do you a world of good. Don’t try and be inspired. Just walk. And keep walking until you start to feel your thoughts change from the same old ones you’ve been having for days to a fresher perspective. Stick with it. It will happen. And you are on the road to inspiration then.

Expand the mind – This means many different things to me. Reading is a great way to expand the mind. If you aren’t into reading you are missing out on a fantastic way to reorganize your mind and learn new things. Watching educational videos or documentaries new and interesting subject on YouTube can also do the trick. Writing is another fantastic way to expand your thinking and to explore your own mind.

Listen to music. Music is a great way to fuel inspiration. Some people can be inspired no matter the type of music they are listening to. I use different types depending on what I’m going for. It’s a great primer that starts to tell my mind, okay, we are going on a journey, we don’t know for sure where we are going, but follow the rhythm. If you don’t know where to start, go with classical music. It’s the most accessible and produces the best reproduceable results.

Meditate. Hello, I’d like to introduce you, to you. This one takes the most practice. It’s the most deceptively simple. Sitting and letting your mind be – and accepting what comes – isn’t always easy. Even with a modicum of practice you can find great results here. In our modern world we fight our brains, try and force our thinking into what should be, what we and society wants us to think and feel. Meditation is a moment to just be. And that, for most of us, takes some practice.

Prepare yourself mentally for inspiration. That is really what all of these activities do and the trick is to find the ones that work for you. The idea is to change your thinking, prime your mind for allowing new ideas that lead to a better future for yourself. Part of that thinking is adjusting to where you are thinking about the ‘what if’s’ for your life, not the list of ‘I can’t’ that circles your mind endlessly.

Prime yourself for inspiration, get to know your why, your purpose and then you can set your sights through self motivation to achieving those goals, knocking out those plans, and owning 2021.

Ready, Set, Own it.

If this inspired you to want to take inspiration to the next level and are a fellow self development geek like me, then geek out with this video on the science of inspiration.

The Research-Backed Secrets to Getting Inspired


Ready to go from inspiration to action. Here is a little something to take your first step.

James Marcus Ross

My go to for getting the blood pumping and getting started with cranking out the amazing. I dare you to try and not go after it.

The Black Eyed Peas – Let’s Get It Started (Official Music Video)

Ready, Set, Go after it.

Plan Your Way to A Better 2021

Only a four days to go until 2021. 1-2-3-4. That is it.

I get so excited at this time of year counting down the days. No matter how arbitrary calendars and years are, they provide something to measure against. It provides some sense of context and reference. And for me, even knowing all of that, it feels good to start and finish things. 

There is just something about fresh starts and beginnings that get me pumped.

I love reflecting a bit on the past year and then using what I learned to make a plan for the new year. There is something about taking a blank sheet of paper and filling it up with ideas. Putting all those hopes and dreams into plans, and breaking it down into smaller chunks of action. Looking at that calendar and sticking in those mileposts on what needs to be done by when.

 –For a messy person like me, this activity provides structure where there would be none. Provides a way to measure accomplishment. To push and strive to get something important done.

This year is all the more sweeter.

It’s the year that seemingly everyone is happy to say goodbye and toss into the waste bin of history. I started 2020 with such hope and excitement. Even as the pandemic struck I made plans and looked for ways to make the most of the time and the adjustments to the world. And while, I did accomplish a lot with my year and there is a lot to be proud of, it all feels some how stained and lackluster.

Perhaps it is because I packed on the Covid-19 twenty. I didn’t keep up some of the daily activities that I had planned. I found myself a bit adrift at times this year. Could be any of these things. It has been a hell of a year and yet I have so much to be thankful for. There are so many people who have been dealt a far worse hand, far, far worse than I have experienced this year.

And so, I do only what I know to do, which is to give back. To share in some small way with others a bit of my journey and what I learn along the way. If this act can in some small way help another person – then I can go to bed each night having fulfilled purpose.

Much of what I put together at the beginning of the year in 2020 was useful throughout the year. Some adjustments were made along the way, but overall I kept the general theme. Because that theme was rooted in my own personal development and my purpose, it meant that even as the year threw a huge curveball, much of what I’d already planned only needed a little adjustment along the way.

This isn’t to say that it was easy. Not at all.

It does however, illustrate the importance of planning and making plans based on core values and purpose. When decisions are rooted in such things they provide a lovely foundation that keeps everything straight even as the world shakes all around you.

There is a lot of promise and hope in 2021. This is the year where each month will be better than the last. There will be barriers and road blocks along the way. What matters is what we do with that time, how we overcome those challenges, and how we better ourselves and those around us.

Set yourself up for luck and have a wonderful 4 days of planning.


As you prepare for the new year and to hit the ground running, well maybe after this year we’ve all had, maybe moving at all is good. It’s important to remember, similar to how we need to organize our physical spaces to be more productive and to reduce stress, our digital world needs maintenance as well.

Remove the clutter – this is not just about stuff. Declutter your life.


For those like me, who have packed on the Covid-19 twenty, check out this Mayo Clinic article

Time for 2021 : Let’s go ahead and start the countdown already

Here we go. There are 20 days left in 2020 and most of us are all too ready to bring this one to a close.

We’ve all struggled in this year one way or another. It isn’t something we should compare. But we should be empathetic to others plight and circumstances.

How do we acknowledge the pain and difficulty – while not letting it pull us down? How do we turn our sights to reflecting on the positive from this year. The things we have learned. While we may be more bruised and bent then we have been in the past, how do we recognize how we can and have emerged stronger and more resilient?

I don’t know if I have answers for the masses of people that are out there. I don’t think there is a one fits all solution. I do know that for myself I have to turn to the positive. I have to have to look to the future optimistically. We cannot allow the darkness to take hold, take root, and take control of how we think and feel about what comes next. We must acknowledge it  and not pretend that it doesn’t exist. But it doesn’t have to have power over us.

There are things in this year that I’m excited about. There was plenty of good. Lots to be happy about. –And I could list lots of things that were challenging, depressing, and down right sickening. I am fortunate that we didn’t have even more terrible things happen in our circle, as I know others have had to endure. For that I am blessed.

I did, as much as possible, make a choice this year to not let the bad times, tear me down. It doesn’t always work out that just because I want a thing, that it comes true. For me, though, this was a kind of mantra. I could feel the pull of the water against me threatening to pull me under. There were days I didn’t want to do anything. I’ve let so many days go by of not reaching out to friends and loved ones. As much of an introvert I am, this has still been very difficult to not have the contact with those I care about. To not travel and see the people I care about, to visit new places, to take pictures, and have new experiences that only travel can provide.

I held to this choice and when I found myself flailing – I worked through it. I found new ways and brought back some old ones that helped me along the way.

It hasn’t been easy.

But there is still good to be remembered out of 2020. Reflect. Look for the good.

And use the next 20 days to set yourself up for a rockin’ New Year.

Our Distraction Loop

Football is back. American professional football. The NFL.

Whether you love the sport (nearly 26 million people watched the Buccaneers loss against the Saints), hate the sport, or can only think of football as being a spherical ball being kicked around on a field by nearly 250 million players in over 200 countries and is mostly clearly the world’s most popular sport – makes not one bit of difference this week.

Because one thing is clear, the world is a better place when we have sports around to distract people.

And this year, we need that distraction more than ever.

This has been quite a year. You don’t need me to tell you.

You’ve probably felt every bit of it.

And even if you’ve weathered the storm – you’ve certainly seen it in the faces of your family, loved ones, friends and neighbors (only on Zoom of course). You can see it in the eyes of those haggard faces hidden behind their face masks while you are out at Home Depot loading up for those improvement projects. 2020 has been a doozy of a year and we are all more than ready for it to be over.

Sure, there is plenty of criticism that sports are a form of mass distraction. Just one of many forms of entertainment made into big business to keep the masses from paying too much attention to those in power. Not to mention that many that are in power are connected and are the owners of much of the world’s entertainment. This has been a common tool since the days of bread and circuses that the Roman Empire used so well to keep the mob from getting too interested in the decisions of the elite.

In a year, such as this, where there is a political contest being waged in the US – the NFL will still undoubtedly pull in more viewers for the Packers Saints match up on Sun, 9/27 or even the Chiefs Ravens game on Monday 9/28 – than Trump and Biden will pull in the next night when they match up for the Presidential Debate. I’m not sure that I can draw any conclusions from this. It should make us take notice.

We have so many different forms of entertainment that can be used to dull our senses, distract, and entertain us. I don’t begrudge any of us that need, especially in a year like this. In moderation this makes complete sense and isn’t dangerous.

As with many things, moderation is key. If we keep taking pain meds to numb ourselves rather than treat the source of our issue – we will find the need to take an ever increasing amount of meds to continue to do the job. We may find ourselves regularly binge watching Netflix and You Tube videos rather than develop a positive behavior that can help us through the malaise.

Our top searches this week on Google, almost, all revolve around entertainment. From Big Ten Football, the Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson movie “The Devil All the Time”, to the Clippers, Celtics, Mandalorian’ Season 2, and iOS 14 release date – nearly all our top searches involve entertainment. All of it a distraction.

There are some glimmers of hope with Sally Hurricane, Bill Gates, and look, Breonna Taylor is popping up in second place for today’s search terms, tied with Maya Moore getting married to the man she helped free from prison. – Some big and important issues to be sure, as long as we are searching for information and entertainment in the guise of information.

I’m all for entertainment. I’ll definitely catch some of my Packers games this year. I can use some distraction. Can’t we all.

I’m just hoping and praying that we are all spending a bit more time on learning, growing as people, helping others, and all around doing good than we are on our entertainment binges and searches. The world is a rich and amazing place and there is plenty for us humans to be doing with our time aside from being distracted. We need our fun. I love to have fun. Let’s just make sure it doesn’t get in the way of the important work that needs to be done first.

Do you find yourself Stuck in the Anxiety-Distraction Feedback Loop – Here is a YouTube Video from the Ken Coleman show – you may find interesting.  Do You Feel Stuck in the Anxiety-Distraction Feedback Loop?


Check out a quick read from Jennifer Anders, PsyD. On Moving Beyond the Anxiety and Perfectionism Feedback Loop.

How Do We Keep Going, When We Are Programmed to Stop

We spend a lot of time asking how to get started. How to begin action. To make something happen. Build a business. Get a new job. Change our lives.

We don’t really ask how do we keep going?

There is this idea that if you want it bad enough – you’ll keep going.

There is this thought that with enough determination and grit – you’ll keep going.

We believe that if you are really ambitious, then you’ll make it happen and be successful.

To be successful you must have discipline and without it you’ll always be right wherever you are.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

So, when we fail to keep going we run backwards and look at our goals, our ambitions, our grit and try to solve for one of those things, the next time we go and take a stab at something. Once we’ve overcome our concern over the last failure, the energy to do something builds within us, and then off to the race, we make another huge push.

And still, at some point our momentum wanes, we run into a road block and we come to a crashing and abrupt stop. Then we hit ourselves over the head with the gnarly hammer of discipline and failure, whacking over and over again. Before our skulls are completely bashed in, we add in a bit of self-flagellation by lashing our backs as a gentle reminder of our inadequacies. And all of these lessons stick with us.

Photo by Pixabay on

Enduring our own self prescribed pain we ask why we are not strong enough, disciplined enough, why we don’t have enough willpower to over come and to keep going.

It turns out, we’ve been missing the point. All of those words are nice. Ambition. Determination. Grit. Discipline. Willpower.

And, if you either naturally or through experience have developed them over other strengths then you are in a pretty good place for starting and continuing. On their own, they are not a automatic recipe for success. But you do have a pretty good head start on those that don’t.

What we are learning is that we’ve been missing the point all along. We’ve been conditioned to do exactly as we are doing. There is a very natural response that has developed and we find ourselves on one side of the equation.

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We operate out of habits. As much as 40-45% of our day is spent automatically doing things. One thing leads to another, that leads to another. This mechanism is there to protect us. They are formed through a series of responses to either real or perceived pain or pleasure. Alive is the goal. Safe is the name of the game.

Doing something new can be painful. It is unknown. The outcome is not clear. You can’t be certain that you will have the desired outcome. We are operating out of fear. And the chasm between our desired reality or outcome, and where we are at begins to seem insurmountable.

The safe land is what you’ve always done. This isn’t a conscious choice but a natural response to protect you.

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There are lots of tips and tricks to get you started. But if you are relying on sheer force of will and the energy and drive to keep moving forward – then you have a monstrous mountain in front of you. Made all the worse by stories of others who have pushed through and made it happen. Those 1% of people that make things happen through seemingly superhuman feats or ones that we feel have just been dealt a good hand. Combined with the stories of all who fail and our own painful beats we and life give us when we fail at something new, it can seem that we are destined to fail.

We need to hack the system we have so that with the least amount of energy, with the least amount of willpower, we are able to keep our forward momentum.

In order to do that first we have to get good at hacking our habits.

One of the major issues with habits and why we fail with these very difficult changes we are trying to make in our lives, is that we are trying to eat the whole buffet in one bite. Breaking things down into their component pieces, into manageable bites is the best way to go. It seems so logical, and yet we do not do this.

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Breaking things down into manageable snacks not only makes it easier to digest, it also allows us to build up positive rewards along the way. This way, we are not working for some large goal that we have to delay all gratification for until some seemingly super distant future.

The good news is that willpower can be increased. Grit can be increased. It turns out that our ability to practice these things through adjusting our habits make the biggest difference.

It turns out those who have the best self control and willpower, don’t actually use it. They structure their lives in ways that circumvent the need to put their self control to the test. 

You don’t have to love the activity. Maybe you don’t like exercising. One step would be to make it not be about the activity. Make it be about the result. You want to be able to get up with out feeling winded. Now, work on loving the process. How do you change and adjust your habit so that you get up and get moving? What is your reward for getting up and getting moving? And no, it probably shouldn’t reward your one mile walk with a Boston Cream doughnut.

Love the process. Love the result. Give yourself little rewards. Enjoy the little successes. Those little successes will mount up and magnify as you progress. Fall in love with that progress.

Need a bit more on habits, check out this video The Power of Habit : Charles Duhigg @ TedxTeachersCollege

For a great read on grit and perseverance check out Angela Duckworth book, Grit : The Power of Passion and Perseverance

And now for some shameless self promotion, check out my LinkedIn article Relentless Action – Never Give Up, Never Surrender

And while you are reading, here is something I’m listening to Fearless Motivation  – Never Give Up. This is from composer Walter Bergmann and you can follow him on his YouTube channel.