Earlier this year, I made a huge decision.

Shortly after moving into my new apartment 27 stories up in downtown Toronto, I thought it was a good time to adopt a new puppy, Daisy, a yellow lab.

If you haven’t seen her on one of my Instagram stories or YouTube videos, you can click here to see her Instagram page – and no, I don’t run the account…it would have way more followers if I did 😉

Now, despite the fact that she’s only a six month old puppy, I’ve discovered that Daisy has an immense amount of wisdom to share.

Like my first pup, Bally the Dog, Daisy has been one of my greatest mentors (not to mention my favorite meditation buddy).

And today, I’m going to share the five most powerful lessons I’ve learned from my fluffy little princess that will help you become healthier, wealthier, and wiser in 2019.

1. You Must Know What You Want and Build Your Purpose

My friend Bedros Keuilian has a German Shepard named cookie.

And every morning at 5:05 am, Bedros takes Cookie outside and spends 15 minutes playing fetch with her. And the reason he does this is simple…

Before Bedros started this ritual, Cookie had the frustrating habits of digging holes everywhere.

He couldn’t figure out what to do or how to handle it until one day, he hired a dog trainer who told him, “German Shepherds like Cookie need a purpose…if they don’t have something to catch, or protect, or pursue, they’ll go crazy and start digging holes – making your life a living hell.”

And my “Tomboy Princess” Daisy is the exact same way

Although she isn’t much of a digger (which probably wouldn’t go too well in the concrete jungle of Toronto anyways), Daisy loves to wrestle with other dogs at the park.

And, if she doesn’t spend at least an hour each day taking down the biggest dogs at the park and running around the park like the wild animal she is, then I’d never get any work done (since she spends all day at my side).

If she’s not tired and passed out beside me from playing, then she’ll start acting out inside in order to get the attention she craves. She’ll whimper, she’ll crawl under my chair, she’ll steal a shoe and run into the living room, or she’ll even start chewing the walls… whatever it takes to get my attention and get her way.

People are the exact same way.

Although we might not literally dig holes or scratch up furniture, our behavior can be even more destructive.

Whether it’s drinking too much, getting high, binge-watching every Netflix show under the sun, cheating on a spouse, buying unnecessary items from Amazon or e-bay at midnight (hey listen, we’ve all been there), a lack of purpose affects everything in your life – and can destroy everything too.

Without a purpose, you have no reason to hold yourself to a higher standard, pursue growth, and drive change in your life. However, the solution is simple.

Look at your life right now and ask yourself two questions:

  1. Where am I digging holes in my life?
  2. How can I replace my destructive behavior with purposeful behavior?

As you answer these two questions for yourself, it’s important to remember that your purpose is not (as some gurus suggest) one concrete thing or achievement.

So many people get caught in the trap of thinking that they have one single purpose or a single definite thing they must do with their lives.

But the truth is, it’s a part of a greater overarching vision for your life.  

And until you get clear on that vision and determine exactly what you want your life to look like in your health, relationships, business, hobbies, and finances, you will never be able to find your immediate or future purpose.

Today, I want to challenge you to take some time crafting your life vision. Sit down in a quiet place and think deeply about how you want your life to look over the next 5, 10, 15, or 20 years.

Create a crystal clear picture of the life you want to live and then use that to reverse engineer your purpose right now.

In the same way that Cookie’s only focus is the ball that’s being thrown right now and Daisy’s only focus is the dog she’s wrestling right now, realize that you have a purpose right now even if it’s different from the purpose you’ll have a year from now.

As you look at your life vision, your purpose right now could be something as simple as “Get out of debt” or “Launch my own business”. Or it could be something as grandiose as “Scale my company to $5 million” or “Marry the person of my dreams.”

Whatever it is, identify it, write it down, and go after it with everything you’ve got.

2. Create Incentives to Succeed

As much as I love Daisy, I have to be honest…

She is a little monster – chewing, biting, raising hell, reigning terror, eating children.

Ok, maybe she hasn’t resorted to that yet, but I have caught her eyeing a few of the toddlers in the elevators when she hasn’t eaten dinner.

She will chew on almost anything, and living downtown the big city offers plenty of “prizes” hidden on the sidewalks. Especially early in the morning after people have thrown post-bar fast food wrappers and leftovers on the ground.

Daisy takes every opportunity she can to get into trouble.

To help control her animalistic desires, I hired a dog trainer I call Dan, Dan, the Meatball Man.

I gave him that name because Dan literally shows up to our training sessions with a pocket full of meatballs. (And yes, his jeans are as much of a disgusting mess as you’re imagining.)

But here’s the thing…

Dan doesn’t train Daisy by giving her a whole meatball. Nor does he use archaic techniques like smacking her with a stick.

Instead, Dan gently corrects Daisy when she misbehaves and gives her a tiny pinch of a meatball when she obeys his commands.

What is interesting about Dan’s training style is how perfectly it correlates with human behavior.

All too often, we emotionally abuse ourselves for minor transgressions while allowing major accomplishments to go unrewarded.

If we screw up a task at work, we give ourselves a smack down bigger than Dwayne Johnson’s biceps, calling ourselves all sorts of names and thinking that we’re worthless.

However, when we accomplish our goals and show up as the person we need to be, our success goes unrewarded and we immediately re-calibrate to hit our next target.

The result is a generation of entrepreneurs who are burned out and depressed because they have never allowed themselves to enjoy the rewards of their success.

But today, this changes.

My challenge for you is to think about a meaningful goal in your life.

Maybe it’s a specific income target, or a certain bodyweight, or a dream client you want to land. Whatever it is, write it down. Now, once you’ve considered the goal, ask yourself this question:

What is a meaningful incentive with which I can reward myself when I achieve this?”  

Would you take that trip to Malibu? Buy that luxury watch you’ve been eyeing? Go out to an expensive restaurant with your significant other?

Again, write it down.

Now, I want you to think smaller (not something I normally recommend). Think about a small goal you have for today.

Now ask yourself, “What is a small incentive I can give to myself for completing this task?”

Would you treat yourself to your favorite dessert? Take an evening walk through your park? Simply sit on the couch and read a great book while listening to music?

When you have the right incentives in place, success becomes easier.

You start to refill your cup after emptying it into your work and you will find that your energy, motivation, and satisfaction start replacing the burnout and overwhelm you currently feel.

Try this today and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

3. Remember: Environment is Everything

A few months ago, I had a major *face palm* moment.

Somehow, throughout the process of adopting Daisy, I forgot that I now I live on the 27th floor in the middle of a concrete jungle…

…And the nearest patch of grass is almost three blocks away (roughly 3 miles in puppy distance).

Whoops.

Fortunately we weathered the puppy storm of her first two weeks with me, and along the way, I discovered a fantastic company that ships patches of real grass to put on your balcony so that you can avoid spending 80% of your day taking your pup to the bathroom.

As simple as the product was, it had a profound impact on both of our schedules and ability to be effective.

And, it illustrates an important point.

Environment is everything.

When I first adopted Daisy, my environment was not set up for effectively raising and training a new puppy.

And it made it challenging for me to do the work necessary to grow my business and make the time I needed to rest and recharge. However, with some careful planning and preparation, I was able to overcome this challenge and create an environment that kept Daisy happy and kept me productive.

In your life, environment, both local and global, plays the same role.

Your local environment (i.e. your office) determines the quality and productivity of your day-to-day activities.

If you have a distraction free office space completely optimized to facilitate flow states and keep you on track, success becomes easier.

You’ll have fewer obstacles in your path and won’t waste time trying to overcome the inertia of a distracting environment.

Your global environment–the people with whom you surround yourself, the events you attend, and the information you consume–is just as important, if not more so.

You become who you surround yourself with.

If you aren’t surrounding yourself with millionaires, whether through your network, coaching, events, or even virtually…you stand no chance of hitting your first 7-figures.

If you aren’t surrounding yourself with fit, happy, and health conscious people…you have no chance of creating the body and lifestyle you desire.

If you aren’t spending time with loving and respectful couples, your chances of having a happy and respect filled relationship yourself dwindle down to zero.

Whether you have to fly across the country to attend my 3rd annual Perfect Life Retreat event (be sure to block off November 8-9th to join me in beautiful San Diego, California), hold a garage sale to pay for coaching, or simply get in your car and drive yourself to a local investors meetup.

Do WHATEVER it takes to surround yourself with people who think big and act bigger.

Levelling up your network is the closest thing to a ‘success shortcut’ you’ll ever find.

So do what it takes to get the right people in your life and watch your life and business explode

4. Wake Up Your Inner Stoic and Take the Outside Perspective

A few weeks ago, Daisy was attacked by another dog at the park.

The other dog, a large husky type, came out of nowhere and, before I knew what was happening, Daisy had a nasty cut under her eye and needed a visit to the vet for stitches.

When it first happened, I was confused, and then angry.

I wanted to blame the irresponsible dog owner.

But there was nothing to be gained by acting like a petulant child.

I remembered a quote from Epictetus.

“…When another man’s slave has broken the wine-cup we are very ready to say at once, ‘Such things must happen’. Know then that when your own cup is broken, you ought to behave in the same way as when your neighbour’s was broken. Apply the same principle to higher matters. Is another’s child or wife dead? Not one of us but would say, ‘Such is the lot of man’; but when one’s own dies, straightway one cries, ‘Alas! miserable am I’. But we ought to remember what our feelings are when we hear it of another.”

This is a fancy way of saying that, whenever something bad happens, react to the situation as you would react if it had happened to someone else.

Us humans all have this annoying trick of becoming overly emotional about the happenings of our own life.

Because things are happening to us, we struggle to maintain an objective and level-headed perspective and allow our emotions to cloud our judgement and lead us into stupid decisions.

But this doesn’t serve us.

As I thought about what had happened to Daisy, I realized it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Yes, she had to have stitches, and yes I felt bad that my pup had to endure the aggravation of wearing the “plastic cone of shame” for the next week, and wouldn’t be able to go to the dog park and play.

But it could have been a lot worse.

She didn’t suffer any permanent damage.

And fortunately the thousand-dollar vet bill wasn’t going to make me homeless (it just motivated me to do an extra Instagram video to generate some cash).

So while the situation was frustrating, there was nothing that could be done about it and there was no sense in allowing it to control my mood.

The “bad” things that happen to you should be treated the same way.

Whenever you have a personal, professional, or social failure…whenever the boss yells at your or your spouse loses their temper or your business starts bleeding profits…step back and take the outside perspective.

Ask yourself, “What would I say to an acquaintance or coaching client in the same situation?”

Because that is the answer that you need.

5. Get Into a Routine

If you’ve ever worked with a dog trainer, then you know that one of the most important things you can do for the well-being of your furry companion (not to mention your sanity) is to get your dog into a routine every single day.

You wake up with them at the same time every day. Feed them at the same time. Walk them at the same time. And play with them at the same time everyday.

When you do this, your dog starts to learn what to expect each day and behavioral problems start to become easier to manage.

Humans are the same way.

Despite our desire for novelty and new experiences, there’s a quiet power in having a few proven and consistent routines each and every day.

For example, Dr. Jordan Peterson wrote in his book 12 Rules for Life that one of the first things he will have depressed and anxious patients do is to begin waking up at the exact same time every single day.

Nutrition coaches and fitness experts often encourage their clients to eat the same meals at the same times each day so they’ll have greater energy levels and consistent blood sugar throughout the day.

Business and life coaches know the power of having a set morning and “pre game” routine to help you get into a powerful emotional state and tap into greater levels of flow.

Routines, whether we like it or not, are one of the foundational building blocks of a successful life.

They ground us and help us control the chaos of our lives instead of simply reacting to it in a frenzied panic.

And this week, I challenge you to consider the areas of life where you need the structure and discipline of a proven routine to succeed.

Do you need to create a simple morning routine so that you can get to work on time and dominate your biggest objective before noon?

Do you need to improve your fitness routine to ensure that you’re staying in shape and investing in your health and longevity?

Or maybe you need to schedule a weekly date night to prevent the challenges of entrepreneurial life from stealing the love and intimacy from your relationship?

Whatever it is, I want you to identify only one routine you’re committed to creating and then get radical accountability from someone you deeply admire. It can be a coach, a mentor, or a friend, but it must be someone who cares for you and whom you deeply do not want to disappoint.

If you will do this, I promise you will be amazed by how quickly and profoundly your life will change.

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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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