I have a confession to make… 

Years ago my friends started calling me “The World’s Most Disciplined Man.” I blame Ed O’Keefe, a really sharp businessman, and Bedros Keuilian. But here’s the thing…

…at heart, I am one of the laziest humans on the planet (and my parents would certainly have agreed during my teenage years).

Left to my own devices, I’d be happy lying on the couch stuffing my face with chocolate cake and watching reruns of the 1993 Superbowl on ESPN Classic. (“How ‘bout them Cowboys?!)  

But, in my early 20’s, I realized that I wanted to achieve greatness and serve others exponentially more than I wanted to eat chocolate cake for breakfast (and lunch…and dinner). 

Growing up on the farm, I watched my parents struggle every single day. My mom struggled with weight. My dad struggled with alcohol. And both of them struggled with money and marriage. 

I saw firsthand the inevitable pain that would have been inflicted on me if I kept up my wicked ways, and so I made the decision to upgrade my habits and become an “Operator” in life so that I could have a bigger impact and a better future. 

It wasn’t easy. But over the years I had to break down my behaviors and shed my old habits and patterns and so that I could build a new identity as one of the world’s most disciplined men. 

And today, I get to enjoy a 7-figure lifestyle because of this decision…traveling the world, networking with world class entrepreneurs, impacting millions, and living the life of my dreams. 

But here’s the crazy part… 

Nothing that I did was complicated. 

In fact, my transformation from “Lazy Craig” to “Operator Craig” came about because of nine simple principles I’m going to share with you today. 

1) Destroy Distractions, Toss Temptations

It is not daily increase, but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” ~Bruce Lee 

There is a fundamental misunderstanding shared by 90% of the population that discipline is all about what you do

That it’s forcing yourself to wake up early, hit the gym, work with laser focus for 9 hours a day, and still have the energy to moonlight and work on your side hustle. 

While this is true to an extent, it misses the most important part of what discipline means. 

Discipline is, more than anything, about what you do not do. 

It’s about avoiding the habits and behaviors that sabotage your success so you can make the right habits and behaviors automatic. 

And the first and most important way to build more discipline in your life is to identify and destroy your distractions and temptations. 

Think about it like this… 

If you set a goal to lose 20 lbs, the most important thing you can “do” is not eat processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition. 

You don’t have to eat kale and carrots for every meal. You simply need to avoid the 2,000 calorie appetizers at Applebee’s and large pizzas from Dominoes. 

When you toss the temptations–throwing out all of your processed foods and sugary treats–you give yourself no choice but to eat healthily.  

And this principle holds true in every other area of your life. 

If you want to increase your focus and productivity at work, start by eliminating the distractions and temptations standing in your way. 

Turn your phone off and put it in another room where you can’t easily reach it. Block social media on your computer. Heck, become a full blown Luddite and turn off the WiFi.

If you want to stop drinking, empty your liquor cabinet, say “no” to spending time with your hard-partying friends, and avoid environments where you’re likely to drink. 

Do whatever it takes to eliminate the distractions and temptations from your life and discipline will become 100X easier. 

2) Use Personal Rules to Make the Right Decisions Automatically 

“Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace.” ~ Mike Dikta 

I love vegans. 

The same goes for vegetarians, ketogenic dieters, and paleo buffs. 

Not because I personally adhere to any of these diets (I love rib-eye steak, sushi, and Quest bars – and chocolate cake – way too much for that). The reason I love them is because of their commitment to their personal rules. 

If you’re a vegan, you won’t eat meat or dairy…no matter what. 

It doesn’t matter how much your friends are pressuring you to bite into that burger or how fondly you remember trips to Chuck-E-Cheese as a kid. You have set personal rules and you follow them. Period. 

When you set personal rules that guide your life and decisions, everything becomes easier. Your habits and actions are automatic and you no longer have to think about whether you should or should not do something. 

For example, one of my personal rules is that I do not curse (swear), no matter what. 

It doesn’t matter how angry – or excited – I am, or if I’m surrounded with foul mouth friends, or even if I know that a perfectly placed F-bomb would punctuate a point in a presentation, I simply do not swear. 

Sticking to this commitment, even when no one is around, builds self-confidence and reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to accomplishing.

Once you have identified the habits and behaviors that don’t serve you (distractions and temptations), you must set personal rules and stick to them at all costs. 

For example, if you notice that every time you check email early in the morning, you start your day feeling distracted and frazzled, then set the rule that you don’t check email before noon. 

This will ensure that you aren’t wasting your most focused and productive hours in reaction mode. Instead, you’ll be able to proactively move through your “legacy work” early in the day and go into the afternoon having already completed your most important tasks.

Or, if you set the rule that you do not spend time on social media during work hours, you will save yourself from an endless stream of distractions thus saving 5-10 hours a week.

Identify the activities that must either be accomplished or avoided every day for you to achieve the life you want and make them your personal rules.

No if’s, and’s, or but’s.

3) Leverage Public Accountability and Make Discipline Automatic 

Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.” ~James Clear

Deciding upon your personal rules and is one thing.

Consistently (notice I didn’t say perfectly) sticking to them is another entirely.

It’s relatively easy to say, “I will wake up at 7 a.m. every day and go for a one-mile run”.

But dragging yourself out of bed, lacing up your shoes, and hitting the pavement when all you want to do is curl up under the sheets and sleep until noon… not so much.

Luckily, there’s a simple solution that will help you make your new habit changes all but automatic.

Public accountability.

For most people, it is much easier to break a promise or commitment that you’ve only made to yourself than it is to break a promise or commitment made to the people closest to you.

If you tell your best friends, mentors, and even your social media trolls that you are going to wake up at 5 a.m. every day and write a daily blog post, you’ll be far less tempted to hit that snooze button.

It’s more painful to face the public shame and humiliation of failing to live up to your new rules than it is to put your head down and take the actions you need to take.

For example, I’ve told millions of people (through my newsletters and videos) about my personal “no swearing” rule.

That way, if I ever slip back into my old habit of swearing like a sailor, I have people around me who will call me out and ensure that I remain in integrity with my values.

So this week, after you’ve created your new principles and personal rules, I challenge you to get accountable.

Whether you need to share a post on Facebook, hire a coach, or get an accountability partner, do something that forces you to be accountable to someone other than yourself.

Because when you are held accountable by someone, especially someone whom you deeply do not want to disappoint, success becomes almost automatic.

4) Success Loves Speed, Delay Kills Dreams 

If everything seems under control, you aren’t going fast enough.” ~Mario Andretti 

To develop the unstoppable discipline you need to achieve your big goals and dreams, you must understand the power of momentum. 

According to the first law of thermodynamics, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion, a body at rest tends to stay at rest.” 

And this law holds just as true in the realms of discipline and success as it does physics and cosmology. 

To become more disciplined and get into gear, you must move fast. 

By stacking small wins quickly and building momentum, you can transform your life and develop unstoppable discipline. 

Whatever it is that you know you need to do (or more likely, not do) start today. Don’t wait until tomorrow or even tonight. Start right now. 

No…I’m serious. 

Before you continue reading this, take 3 minutes and do something to help you build more discipline. 

Install an app that blocks your most distracting websites. 

Get up and lock your office door to prevent co-workers or family members from distracting you for the umpteenth time. 

Throw out your booze, pot, cigarettes, and candy. 

Do something right now to get the ball rolling. 

The simple truth is this…

Even though discipline is simple, it’s also hard. And the longer you delay taking action, the harder it gets. 

The more you wait, hesitate, and procrastinate, the more your negative habits and behaviors will take root in your life. 

So get into action now and build start the snowball effect of momentum that you need to succeed. 

5) Tap into The Power of Anchor Routines 

If you have ever struggled with insomnia and gone to a sleep doctor, then you know that one of the first things they will instruct you to do is to remove all electronics from your bedroom and reserve it for sleep and sex…and nothing else. 

The reason for this prescription is simple. 

The entire operating system of your brain is built on one simple principle: Association. 

When you do work or watch TV or play video games from your bed, your brain builds the association that “going to bed bed = time to work, watch TV, and play video games.” 

However, when the only thing that you do in your bedroom is to sleep or get “nookie”, your brain develops the association that “going to bed = sleep”, making it much easier for you to doze off quickly. 

If you want to be more disciplined, productive, and effective, you must tap into this power of association by using what I call “Anchor routines”. 

Or routines that signal to your brain, “Hey! It’s time to work/exercise/relax etc.” 

For example, Stephen King, the prolific horror novelist has followed the exact same pre-writing routine for the past 30 years. 

He sits down to write at the same desk, drinks the same brand of tea (typically from the same mug), has his papers arranged in the same way, and writes at the same time every day. 

And this routine has created a powerful association that allows him to get into a hyper-productive state of flow, on command. 

To make discipline more automatic, you must create powerful anchors in the areas of your life where you struggle the most. 

For example, when you sit down to write, you might listen to the same song on repeat (like I do), or wear the same pair of sweatpants and walk around your desk (like legendary copywriter John Carlton). 

It might seem silly, but these anchors will have a profound impact on your life and productivity and make it 10X easier to do what you need to do when you need to do it. 

It might take a few months of trial and error, but once you have these routines in place, they will change your life forever. 

6) Plant the Right Thoughts

“Your mind is like a garden, plant good things.” ~Alwyn Cosgrove 

Your thoughts, for better or worse, control your results. 

The way that you see yourself determines the way you act and, to become more disciplined and build more empowering habits, you must start by changing your thoughts. 

And one of the fastest ways to change your thoughts and create a new self-image is through regularly practicing strategic visualization. 

Listen… 

Most people get visualization all wrong. They focus on the outcomes they want to achieve instead of the processes they must follow to achieve them. 

I hate to break it to you, but the world doesn’t work that way. 

Visualizing your dream car won’t magically transform your beat-up Honda Civic into a new Ferrari 480 Italia

However, by intentionally visualizing the processes required to achieve the results you desire (and then visualizing the results themselves), you can begin to rewire your brain and “teach” yourself to be disciplined before you actually need to be disciplined. 

In fact, David Goggins, who is actually the world’s most disciplined man largely credits his success in the SEAL teams (and later in life as an entrepreneur) to his regular visualization practice. 

My friend Sharran Srivatsaa, the “10X man” who grew Teles Properties from $350 million to $3.5 billion in 5 years also claims that much of his success was due to his nightly visualization. 

To get started, I recommend that you do your visualization practice at the end of the day (when your brain will have an easier time focusing and won’t get distracted by the 2 million things on your to-do list). 

Sit down in a comfortable position, play some relaxing music, and set a timer for 10-15 minutes. 

Then, start to think about the following day. Imagine yourself springing out of bed before your alarm, attacking your most important tasks, and saying “no” to distractions and temptations at every turn. Visualize the exact steps you need to take to make the following day your perfect day. 

Once you have a clear picture of who you want to be and how you want your day to go, imagine how it will feel to have a day like the one you just imagined. 

What will it feel like to come home from work early because you completed all of your most important tasks by 3 pm. What will it feel like to dominate your workout and break new personal records in the gym? What will it feel like to show up completely present and fully charged with your family and friends because you know that you gave your all that day? 

The more vivid and emotionally charged your visualization practice, the more effective it will be. 

I promise, if you will do this for a week, you will be amazed by how profoundly this practice impacts your life. 

7) Use Goal Setting the RIGHT Way 

Most people go about setting goals the wrong way. 

They spend all of their time, energy, and attention focusing on what they want without ever taking the time to consider how they are going to get there. 

And if your goal is to be more disciplined, you must have a clear plan for exactly what this looks like and how you’re going to make it a reality. 

In the same way that SEAL Teams have a single mission objective and then execute that mission by following a sequential series of action steps–jumping out of a helicopter, kicking in a door, or providing cover fire–you must break down your big vision into small actions that can be executed daily, weekly, and monthly.

The process to do this is simple.

Download my free 90-Day Professional Success Blueprint to Complete This Process By Clicking Here ⇒ https://www.earlytorise.com/90-day-blueprint/

First, after looking at your vision, ask yourself “What is the most important thing I can accomplish in the next 90-days to achieve this?”

My vision for 2019 is to help 1,000 entrepreneurs double their income while working ten fewer hours each week.

To do this, I need to close 250 new clients every 90-days, 20 clients a week, or roughly three clients a day.

And so, using the planner I gave you above, I sit down at the beginning of each quarter to strategically plan out what must be accomplished and by when to achieve my goal.

Here’s a quick video to walk you through the process and show you how to implement strategic goal setting into your life. 

As simple as this may seem, few entrepreneurs take the time to sit down and develop this clarity of focus–and their results reflect this decision.

Listen, no matter how well you plan or how hard you work, you cannot control the external world. You cannot guarantee success.

But without a clear and strategic plan for each day, week, month, quarter, and year, you all but guarantee failure.   

By creating clear metrics, daily, weekly, and monthly missions, and turning success into a numbers-based game, you will gamify discipline and make it easier and more automatic. 

8) Commit to Ruthless Self Reflection and Course Correction 

Of all the skills and traits required to build discipline and become an operator, none is more important than the skill of radical self-awareness through ruthless self-reflection. 

All too often, people go through their day to day lives on autopilot. They engage in the same negative behaviors without ever stopping to consider the cost of these behaviors. 

To build more discipline and achieve your big goals and dreams, you must break out of these patterns through ruthless self-reflection. 

When your workday is done, spend 15-minutes reflecting on your day. 

What went well? What didn’t? What specific habits and tendencies threw you off course? 

For example, this morning, I got sidetracked from my schedule because I decided to check Instagram a few (dozen) times to see how one of my latest videos performed. 

I only needed to check Instagram twice, but instead, I allowed myself to get sucked down the social media rabbit hole and waste 30 minutes of productive time. 

This delayed my workout, my lunch, and my writing. 

However, because I have developed the habit of ruthless self reflection and course correction, I recognized this pattern only a few hours after it derailed my day. And now, I am going to set personal rules and boundaries around when and why I can check my Instagram. 

By regularly engaging in this practice of self-reflection, you’ll be able to identify the blind spots that you don’t realize are holding you back from the success you desire. 

You might notice that you drank too much coffee and the caffeine jitters prevented you from performing at your best. And you can then decide to set boundaries around how much caffeine you can consume to prevent it from happening again. 

Or maybe you noticed that your spouse distracted you nearly a dozen times during your most important deep work slot and tomorrow, you can wake up earlier to avoid those distractions. 

Ruthless self reflection allows for rapid course correction and will help you eliminate bad behaviors and negative habits before they become a real problem in your life. 

9) Change Your Identity to Change Your Life 

My friend Zander Fryer has a saying, “The most important words in the world are the words that follow the phrase, ‘I am’” 

Because the simple truth is that your identity…who you believe yourself to be is responsible for everything that you get (or don’t get) out of life. 

If you believe that you are the type of person who works hard, develops discipline, and does good in the world…you’ll do it. 

If you believe the label lies that you are an introvert, pothead, alcoholic, always late, can never lose weight, or failure…you’ll act in accordance with those labels. 

And one of the most powerful ways to become more disciplined is to commit to changing your identity. To changing the words that follow the phrase, “I am.” 

This process starts by identifying the cornerstone negative behaviors that are sabotaging your identity and then eradicating them from your life. 

For example, you cannot develop the identity of being an elite athlete if you smoke two packs a day and binge drink every weekend. 

These behaviors are incongruent with the identity you want to create and, no matter how hard you try, you cannot develop the identity you desire with these habits holding you back. 

So ask yourself right now…”What are the negative habits that are sabotaging my identity and preventing me from becoming the person I want to be?” 

Are you… 

  • Smoking too much pot 
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Watching too much porn
  • Cheating on your spouse 
  • Hitting the snooze button three times 
  • Watching 4 hours of TV a day 

Take some time right now to identify the habits that are holding you back and then follow the steps I shared above–setting personal rules, getting radical accountability, visualizing, creating positive anchors to replace your bad habits–to eradicate them from your life. 

When you change your identity, you change your life. 

And to become a disciplined operator, you must eliminate your “anti-operator” habits and commit to a new way of being. 

Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift to high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com

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