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May 13, 2024

The Discipline of Disruption: Mastering Daily Choices

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If you’re too tired to read, you can listen to this on Apple or Spotify.

Today’s post is about the power of conscious decision-making and turning every moment into an opportunity for growth and achievement.

Mindset alone is futile without action. You can have a “can-do” attitude and try to manifest great things, but it’s action that creates outcomes and results. So, how can we disrupt our minds so that we act on the things that will move us closer to our goal?

Let’s begin with what everyone tells us. We are bombarded with ideas about “owning your morning,” by which a specific ritual of meditation, stillness, cold plunging, reading, exercise, etc, are the necessary ingredients to becoming successful.

First, defining success is essential because it means different things to different people. I was listening to the goddess Oprah Winfrey talk about achieving goals and setting resolutions, and she said you can only do that when you ask yourself one question: What do I really want?

A different way to ask the same question: Your entire life will change the moment you  _______.[i]

If you can’t answer this simple question, you will keep running, jogging, or crawling only to find that you are on a stationary treadmill and have gone nowhere. Knowing what you want allows you to better align your actions to achieve your goals.

People swear that if you own your morning, you own your day. I know people who hit the snooze button 12 times and don’t make their bed, and they are still very successful people. I concede to that. But I’m here to double down on the notion that specific disciplined actions will allow you to own the day.

When Admiral William H. McRaven said, “Make your bed,” in his famous commencement speech at the University of Texas in 2014, he emphasized the importance of starting your day with a completed task. McRaven explained that by making your bed every morning, you accomplish the first task of the day, giving you a small sense of pride and encouraging you to do another task and then another.

The video went viral, and people poked fun at the notion that making their bed could somehow alter the trajectory of their lives. At face value, it sounds absurd, but the General attempted to convey something complex. What he’s saying is that achievement is built in moments. Moments build the day, and your days make up a life.

Here’s what I mean by this: when that alarm goes off, we want most to stay under the warm covers and delay the grind for as long as possible. This is your first decision of the day, and you are confronted with action versus inaction.

In his famous book, Meditations, Marcus Aurelius said:

“In the morning when you rise unwillingly, let this thought be present: I am resisting the work of a human being. Why am I dissatisfied with doing the things for which I was brought into this world? Or am I made to lie in my bed and keep myself warm? This is more pleasant, but do you exist for pleasure or for action?”

I love this excerpt from Aurelius because he is grappling with himself. After all, this is his diary entry, and he’s literally talking himself into getting up in the morning and being grateful that he gets to do what he does — philosophying [I made up that job title]. The great thinkers of our time, like Aurelius, weren’t privy to social science. But now we know the science attributed to these actions from research in psychology.

Aurelius understood that getting out of bed was hard (and they probably didn’t even have high thread count sheets and pillow-top mattresses back then), but he concluded that he had to win the war within himself and do it anyway. It’s easy to lose the day’s first battle and fall into a deficit. You hit snooze until the last possible moment. Now you’re in a rush. Hurrying causes panic because there is no buffer of time built in should something go wrong. And let’s be honest, when we are rushing, things tend to break bad. You’ve spent your morning stressed about running late, which puts you in a foul mood, and that sets the tone for the day.

When you lose the morning, you lose your day. And when you consistently lose the day, you lose your life.

He went on to say, “How easy it is to repel and wipe away every impression that is troublesome or unsuitable in tranquility.” In other words, he’d rather stay comfortable.

I was listening to happiness expert Arthur Brooks talk about the notion of discipline. He says that the contrarian viewpoint is, “If these morning routines are so good for us, why is it so difficult?” He answers the question in a very simplistic way. Humans are animals, and we must fight the animal brain because that part of us wants to stay in bed. After all, it’s safe there. Going beyond the animal brain is an act of higher consciousness because it is a battle within yourself.

I cohost another podcast called the “Hollow Bunny Leadership Podcast,” and we had a guest who was an expert in cold plunging. My cohost, our producer, and I decided to try this cold plunging to see what all the hype was about. As it turns out, I don’t feel physically different after the cold plunge in the morning. But mentally, it has changed everything for me.

Here’s why: The moment of discomfort when submerging in that water is painful. It is literally the last thing I want to do because it is so uncomfortable. I have a ritual chant as I’m getting into the water: “Don’t think; just go.”

When discussing the effects, Producer Ted said something that might be the key to unlocking discipline. Ted cold-plunges at 6 a.m., and he said he gets through it by convincing himself that 6:15 a.m. Ted is a better version of himself. I love this because he was able to assign words to describe how I think about what I will feel after I do this uncomfortable thing, and that helps me get it done.

This very first action of the day sets me up for a battle against myself. Knowing that I can conquer this with some mental toughness provides me with the mindset to overcome the other hardships that will inevitably unfold throughout the day. So, these morning rituals have nothing to do with the act itself but the mental capacity to meet a moment of discomfort and conquer myself—me versus me. Simply put, my friends, this is Discipline.

I stumbled across a video on Instagram that put Discipline in complete focus for me. The guy said:

“Discipline is so important, but no one tells you why. Discipline is the strongest form of self-love. It’s ignoring something you want right now for something better later. Discipline reveals the commitment you have to your dreams – especially on days you don’t want to. The future you is depending on the current you to keep the promises you made to yourself yesterday.” [ii]

This is what Ted was saying about the version of himself that is better after he cold plunges. To be able to call upon a moment and determine that your future self will benefit from your action [doing something or not doing something] is the most extraordinary power over yourself.

The things that hold us back are US; the only way we can become our own disruptors is by conquering ourselves. You are standing in the way of what you want by not leaning into the discomfort—the grind—to get there.

Dr. Andrew Huberman gave a great example of the science behind high performance. There is a chain response that follows this path: sensation > perception > feeling/emotion > action.

Let’s use early morning exercise as an example of applying this system. I hear many people say they don’t have time to work out in the morning. [Tough love moment: this is a lie you tell yourself. You do have time, but it requires that you get up much earlier to do it.]

Here’s how it goes.

    1. Sensation: Your alarm goes off early in the morning. The room is cool, and the bed is warm and comfortable, and it’s still dark outside. The immediate sensation is one of physical comfort and warmth.
    2. Perception: You perceive the sound of the alarm and the comfort of your bed as an interruption to your rest. This perception might initially create a sense of annoyance or reluctance because you are being pulledaway from the comfort.
    3. Feeling/Emotion: These perceptions trigger feelings ofirritation or dread at the thought of leaving your warm bed to face the cold air and physical exertion. You might feel tempted to hit snooze, driven by the desire to maintain the current state ofcomfort.
    4. Action: Despite the initial reluctance, you remember your commitment to health and how energized you feel after exercising. You decide to push through the discomfort, get out of bed, and get moving.

 

This example illustrates how our initial sensations and perceptions can lead to emotions that either motivate or deter us from taking action. By understanding this chain, you can consciously choose to focus on the positive outcomes (like feeling healthier and more energized), which can help shift your perceptions and emotions toward taking positive actions, even when initial sensations are uncomfortable. When you can focus on how your future self will feel after you’ve completed your workout, it can pull you through the hardest part – getting up and going.

This isn’t about cold-plunging or your exercise routine. It really doesn’t matter which actions you choose if you are winning the battle against yourself from moment to moment. If you want to write that book but keep putting it off, your morning routine might look like committing to writing 600 words no matter what. If you are building a business, you should be committing to hours of focused work. If you are looking for love, you should be showing up in the world and interacting with humans in the flesh instead of binge-watching television or playing video games. Read last week’s post on human connection if this is where you are stuck. 

Once you know what you want, I am doubling down on having a morning routine that is uncomfortable starting with getting your a$$ out of your warm bed. When you overcome your need to stay comfortable, you have succeeded in your first battle of the day – the battle within yourself. Follow it with making your bed. As the General said, you’ve now crossed the first thing off your to-do list, which sets you on a trajectory for getting more done. Don’t touch your phone or turn on the news in the morning. You will fall into the endless loop of information and negativity coming at you, so cut it out unless that content brings you closer to achieving your goals.

As you move through your day, remind yourself what you are working towards and be conscious of how you spend your time and energy. Is what you are doing moving you closer or further away from what you want?

We need to make only one decision about how we meet each moment. Life asks us a very specific question each time. How do you answer it? It’s ignoring something you want right now for something better later. 

If you don’t know where to begin, start here:

  1. What Do You Want? Before anything else, spend some time reflecting on what you want in life. “My entire life will change the moment I ____.” This is the single most important question to answer, and you can pursue more than one thing at a time. When you figure this out, create reminders for yourself everywhere. Write it on your mirror, stick post-it notes where you can see them, and tattoo it on your body <smile>. Whatever it takes to nudge you to make decisions that get you closer to the goal.
  2. Design Your Routine: Create a routine that challenges you and is achievable. Preferably a morning routine because committing to doing hard stuff right away is better because we know how days can get away from us.Choose actions that make you mentally stronger so you can do what you need to do. Stick with it. The key is consistency.
  3. Daily Discomfort Practice: Introduce a daily practice of discomfort. This could be a cold shower, a challenging workout, or tackling your least favorite task first thing in the morning. Use this practice to strengthen your mental resilience.
  4. Morning Meditation on Intentions: Start your day with a five-minute meditation focusing on your intentions for the day. Reflect on the actions you will take to move closer to your goals and consider the obstacles you might face.
  5. Digital Detox Morning: For the first hour after you wake up, commit to not touching your phone or any other digital device. Use this time to focus entirely on your morning routine and set a positive tone for the day.
  6. Journaling: Keep a morning journal where you note your thoughts, feelings, and the outcomes of your routine.This will help you track your progress and adjust as needed to align your actions with your goals.
  7. Educational Moments: Dedicate part of your day to learning something new that aligns with your goals. Whether you read a book, listen to a podcast, or watch an educational video, make sure it contributes to your personal or professional growth.
  8. Accountability Partner: Pair up with a friend or colleague who is also looking to improve their routine. Check in with each other daily to ensure you both stick to your commitments.
  9. Weekly Review: Review your routine at the end of each week. Assess what worked, what didn’t, and what you can improve. Celebrate your successes and set goals for the coming week.
  10. Visualization Techniques: Practice visualization every morning. Visualize your day going well, achieving your tasks, and how you’ll handle challenges. This can boost your confidence and help you maintain a positive mindset throughout the day. When you’ve come up with the answer to what you really want, close your eyes and see yourself getting it. Seeing your achievement will push you when you don’t feel like doing the work to get there. It’s a powerful motivator.

 

In every moment of our lives, life poses a very specific question, demanding a decision on how we choose to meet that moment. It’s a call to action that requires a response tailored to the immediate circumstances. As we navigate through each day, the choices we make in response to these questions shape our journey, influencing our own well-being and the lives of those around us. In recognizing this, we empower ourselves to respond consciously and thoughtfully. Therefore, as you face the unique challenges and opportunities of your day, remember that the decision of how to meet each moment is yours—and it can redefine everything.

If you still think this is about a morning routine, you’ve missed the point entirely. It’s about doing the shit you don’t want to do to make you mentally stronger to face life. It’s about deciding who you want to be – a slug who never does anything challenging or uncomfortable or a person who understands that to achieve what you want in life, you have to DISRUPT your default animal brain that pulls you to comfort over achievement.

Yes, it’s hard. Being miserable is harder.

Life is built by the day.

Wins are built through action.

Own the day you own your life. 

Until next time, remember to make each moment count and keep disrupting for success. Onward and upward, my fellow disrupters.

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[i] Credit: Sahill Bloom https://twitter.com/SahilBloom/status/1784195853923860916

[ii] I attempted to find the author of that entire quote to give credit, but I only found one part of it. Kierra CT Banks is attributed to saying, “Discipline is the strongest form of self-love.”

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