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7 Critical Components of a Powerful Morning Routine 

morning

One of the most important habits of developing consistent high performance in your life is to put your self-esteem into your work habits rather than your production.

The reason is because we want our confidence tied to things that we can control rather than things we can’t.

Production often fluctuates up and down but our effort, work ethic, and intensity needs to always be consistent.

The decision to embrace this philosophy can be something that you demonstrate in the first few moments of every day.

I first learned the power of a morning routine from my time in college working in The Southwestern Advantage summer program.

They taught us to have and focus on a “mini-victories list” every single morning.

To this day, I follow a regimented routine every single morning that includes many of those original habits I developed selling door to door in the summer:

 

Gratitude – The very first thing I do when the alarm goes off is immediately start saying “thank you”. I thank God for as many specific blessings as I can possibly come up with in those first few moments. In addition to being a powerful way to start the day, it also keeps my mind from being occupied with negative thoughts about how tired I might be or what I have to do that day.

 

Scripture – For me it is a very intentional choice that the first input into my brain each day be scripture. Not email. Not Twitter. Not news. Scripture. Not only does it help charge my soul for the day, it is also an external representation of an internal decision to prioritize my spiritual walk and relationship with God above all else. After reading scripture I pray. It’s an important discipline. (Tip: Timothy Keller’s book Prayer taught me to focus on reading each individual word slowly and one at a time instead of speeding through sentences.)

 

Affirmations – Over the years I have amassed several lists of different affirmations. Some speak to the person I want to be, some speak to the company we want Southwestern Consulting to be, and some are very specific to reprogramming my brain about certain fears, current limiting beliefs that I have or new habits I’m focused on developing. I read those next.

Goals – I’ve always then spent a few minutes reviewing my short and long term goals. What has been very powerful for me in the last couple years is that I read my wife’s goals first. And when I know of them, I read specific goals of my business partners as well before I read mine. This is another discipline that I practice to try and cultivate more selflessness in my life. It’s important because I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that absent an intentional decision to think about other people, I unfortunately naturally default to thinking mostly of just myself.

Schedule – I spend a few moments reviewing my schedule and making sure I’m consciously aware of everything that is supposed to happen that day. A great piece of advice that I’ve been trying to practice that I learned from profiling a Multiplier for the Procrastinate on Purpose book is to “throw everything off my calendar and make it fight to earn its way back on.”

Exercise – This is another habit I learned directly from Southwestern, which is to do something physical first thing in the morning every single day! Even if it’s only a few push-ups, sit-ups, or weightless squats, it’s a major victory to do even some small physical activity. And you should never underestimate the power of consistency in your life; literally a few minutes of exercise every day does wonders for helping you maintain your physical state.

Vitamins – Taking vitamins and veggies is not something I particularly enjoy; but I do it every single day. Because staying healthy requires discipline and it’s a choice I want to consistently make first thing in the morning. My body is something I choose to protect and preserve and supplements are an important part of the routine. As mama always said “enjoying it isn’t a requirement of doing it.”

Making it through this entire list (including a 20 min workout routine) takes me about 45 minutes.

(In full disclosure, there is one other step to this routine that I’ve been doing the last couple years that I left out since it’s not ubiquitous to everyone: I also write 1 little inspirational social media post each day on Instagram that I also share to Facebook and Twitter. It takes about 7 minutes a day but I find that writing a little each day adds up tremendously over time. Those little thoughts often later get expanded into blog posts, which then many blog posts get put together to become a book, which is then made into keynotes, virtual trainings , and coaching modules.

Part of the power of this routine is programming your brain for success each day.

Another part of the power of this routine is preparing yourself to have a positive attitude each day.

But perhaps the most powerful part of this routine is that it helps you start “winning” right away.

Because all of these things are things that you can control.

And all of these things are mini-victories.

They are demonstrations of discipline that happen every morning.

They are resolutions that I will not let my life happen by accident but by design.

I will not be confused about where I’m going; I will be clear.

And I will not lose to the natural voices of fatigue, negativity, and distraction in my head; I will silence them.

This process helps remind me of how much I’ve been given, why my life counts, and who I am focused on serving.

You don’t have to follow this exact process, but I would highly recommend that you and your coach create some process – and that you follow it relentlessly.

Because success is never owned; it’s only rented – and the rent is due every day.

Why Cheat Days Never Work and How to Create Real Change

cheat-day

“Cheat days” don’t work.

Because “cheat days” fly directly in the face of what actually creates sustainable behavior change.

The concept of a “cheat day” is that you “reward” yourself for one day as the result of “depriving” yourself for all the other days.

But cheat days don’t reward you; they ruin you.

Not only is it just a waste to undo all of your progress you’ve made the rest of the time, the worst part is the thinking behind a cheat day is completely destructive.

You can’t create sustainable self discipline and behavioral change through the strategy of self-denial.

Self-denial doesn’t tackle the root of the problem.

Self-denial is convincing yourself to use willpower to give up something that you have convinced yourself that you really want.

There are 2 problems with that strategy:

  1. At some point your will power is likely to run out because you’ll be tired, or sick, or convince yourself that you’ve done something that makes you “deserve” the thing you’re trying to keep yourself from.
  2. As long as you’re convinced you really want it, you’re brain will constantly unconsciously be looking for ways for you to get it – even if you are consciously trying to avoid it.

So how do you create real, meaningful, sustainable and lasting behavior change?

It’s simple.

You don’t “deny” yourself.

You “re-program” yourself.

You have to convince yourself that you don’t really want it… now or ever.

You have to change the way you think about the thing that you currently want.

You have to literally form new neural pathways in your brain that tell you what to think (and feel) whenever you think about that thing.

The number one first step to doing that is to change your self talk about that thing.

You stop saying “if I’m good about not having ___ now, then I can indulge and have it later.”

You start saying “I don’t even like _____ because it has ______ and _____ negative affects on my life.”

You retrain your brain. You use what we at Southwestern would refer to as “Self-Talk.”

You keep repeating it over and over until one day you “actually” really don’t want the thing that you used to.

Similar to forming a new path in the wild woods, it’s hard and slow at first, but the more you work at it, the more clearly the path forms. Until one day the new path becomes so ingrained and automatic that you forget the old path was ever even there.

Is this hard? Yes.

Does this take work? Yes.

Does it require intention? Yes.

But so does exercising short term will power.

The only difference is that this is actually sustainable for the long run.

This strategy will actually change your life.

Because it starts by changing the way you think about a thing, but that then quickly adapts to influencing your actual physiological attraction to the thing.

The first time I said I no longer liked fast food, it seemed like a terrible thing to say! I didn’t believe it. I knew I was “lying” to myself.

But your brain is a funny thing in that it doesn’t believe what is true or false; your brain simply believes whatever you tell it most often.

So after you say it over and over again you eventually start to believe it. Until one day, your desire for that thing has truly disappeared.

That’s when everything changes.

Because you don’t have to “deny” yourself anything anymore. Because at that point you really don’t want it! You don’t spend any time thinking about having it. You don’t feel like you’re missing out on it. And you really, truly, are more aware of the negative impacts of the thing than you are about whatever short term part you used to like about it.

Plus, while it’s nearly impossible to deny yourself of something that you know you really want; it’s nearly inevitable that you’ll automatically stay away from things you really don’t want.

The thing doesn’t change. It’s your mindset about the thing that changes. And once your mind about the thing changes, you’ll see that your body’s response to the thing will also change.

And trying to temporarily increase your willpower will never be as effective as permanently changing your taste buds.

So don’t deny yourself and find yourself in a constant never ending battle to find willpower.

Instead, reprogram yourself to make a permanent and proactive change into becoming the person you truly want to deign yourself to be.

Change your thinking about something and you will change your life.

How to Let Go of Feeling “Busy”

busy

“I’m SO busy.”

You hear it all the time.

In fact we hear it so much, we should all just assume that everyone is that way and we can all stop saying it.

Because there is a maximum level of busy.

There are only 168 hours in a week, and if every single hour is planned and occupied, then you’ve reached the maximum level of busy.

However, there is no maximum capacity to your mental toughness.

There is no maximum capacity to your peace of mind.

There is no maximum capacity for your ability to handle stress.

Which means that the mental capacity of what you can handle should far exceed the physical and finite time constraints of what you have available in your calendar.

Multipliers seem to have figured out that carrying stress isn’t a necessary prerequisite of having success.

Anxiety isn’t an automatic byproduct of achievement.

And busy isn’t a mandatory requirement of building greatness.

You don’t have to be stressed.

You don’t have to feel anxiety.

You don’t have to feel busy.

Those are all choices that you allow yourself to make.

Those are all emotions that you allow yourself to feel.

But you are bigger than your problems.

You are tougher than your challenges.

And you are stronger than your challenges.

So you can let those feelings die because they aren’t serving you.

You can stop telling yourself that “you’re so busy” because it’s not new information to you that your calendar is full.

And you can stop telling everyone how busy you are so that maybe we all can stop this invisible competition about who has the most going on.

Instead, all of us can move on to getting things done powerfully, productively, and peacefully.

All the while knowing that if we’re working as hard as we can, doing the best we know how to do with what we’ve been given, then no one – including ourselves – can ask us to do anything more.

You’re Gossiping and You Don’t Even Know It

GOSSIPING

People say all the time “I never gossip” but unfortunately many of them are mistaken. 

They do participate in gossip, they just don’t realize it. 

Because we think of gossiping as “telling” secrets we’ve heard; but there’s more to it than that. 

To listen to gossip is to participate in gossip. 

Why?

Because when you listen to gossip you create a clearing and an environment for an emotional person to propagate their story. 

In other words you give a gossiper an audience. And that invites and encourages them to continue talking about whatever it is that they are talking about. 

Listening to gossip will at minimum make the person feel more validated and at most fan their flame to share even more. 

Because it’s hard to listen to gossip and not be agreeable and supportive of the person you’re listening to. It’s human nature to want to empathize with another person- especially when they’re frustrated or complaining. 

But by doing that you become an active member of the gossip crowd. You are advancing what is being said. 

So how do you know if what you are listening to is gossip?

Simple: Gossip is anything even remotely negative being said about a person who isn’t there. 

The moment someone you are talking to starts talking negative about another person you have immediately crossed into the gossip zone. 

And remember if you’re listening to gossip then you are participating in gossip. 

So how should you respond?

Also simple: You interrupt the person as quickly and politely yet firmly as possible and say “Hey, hopefully you don’t mind but I actually made a resolution this year that I would not talk negatively about or listen to negative talk about someone who isn’t in the room with me. I do want to support you and be a good friend though and the biggest thing I’ve learned that helps is to go talk directly with ________. I think that would probably help.”

This of course is simple but not easy. 

And yes you may lose some friends over this. And the ones you lose will probably be vocal about you being on your high horse because misery loves company and misery often gets angry when their company moves on and leaves them alone. 

But it’s the best thing you can do for yourself, the person who isn’t there, and the person who is frustrated. 

Because, as Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying: Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

The 3 Most Common Mistakes in Career Planning Decision Making

the-3-most-common-mistakes-in-career-planning-decision-making

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to deciding what our next career move is going to be.

Things like:

How much money will I make?

Will my job be safe and steady?

Is there opportunity for advancement?

Over the years I’ve begun to notice a theme and difference in those who end up both happy and successful and those who only get one or neither of the two.

The surprise?

It comes down strictly to how they evaluate their initial decision.

Most people’s top priority for determining their next career move typically includes things like: job security, money, opportunity for advancement and what skills will I learn.

It’s easy to understand why most people use those as their key criteria because they are somewhat black and white, logical, objective, measurable and therefore simpler to evaluate. Unfortunately, while those criteria aren’t “bad” necessarily, they typically are insignificant contributors to our joy and satisfaction in the long term.

So how do the happy, fulfilled and extraordinarily successful people make their decision differently?

They consider and ultimately let their deciding factors be things that are more intrinsic, human, emotional and admittedly obscure.

  1. Satisfaction over Security – For example, they would be more likely to value the enjoyment of the daily work over something like job security. Ultra performers always trust themselves rather than others for their sense of stability because they know that if they’re always willing to work hard then they’ll never have a hard time finding good work. And so they will default much more to caring about how enjoyable their daily work will be and how much it aligns with their natural skill sets and long term passions rather than just considering if they’ll get to keep their job. When it comes down to it, they will choose satisfaction over security every time.

  2. Purpose over Profit – They also will consider the impact they are making in the world much more valuable than the money they will potentially make. Because they know that while there are lots of ways to make money – and that if you get good enough at virtually anything you will make a lot of money – they know that dedicating 1/3 of their breathing life to doing something that makes a difference in the world will create much more sustainable meaning in their life than will money. If forced to choose between the two, a happy person will choose making a difference over making a dollar.

  3. People over Opportunity – Finally, and most important of all, people who become ultimately successful and happy seem to make a calculation that most people overlook entirely. Ultra performers weigh who they will be working with as much more valuable than what they will be doing or how it might advance their career. They know that the people they surround themselves with has a much stronger shaping effect on the success of their life than do their career checkpoints. They are always much more concerned with who they are becoming than they are with how their resume looks. Thus, their single biggest criteria and consideration is evaluating the other team members they will be around. And not just the top level leaders they might have access to, but who are the people they will actually be working with side by side on a daily basis. While it is their #1 deciding criteria, most interviewees never even ask about or know a single person they will end up working with on a daily basis. Meanwhile, Ultra performers always choose people over opportunity.

The biggest irony of all of this is that when you make a career decision based on satisfaction over security, purpose over profit, and people over opportunity, is that those people end up being the ones who make all the money, build all the influence and security, and end up with the biggest opportunities for advancement!

First who.

Then why.

Then what.

And let money be last as a bi-product of the others.

Choose wisely.

The Power of Personal Choice with Stephen Hanselman – Episode 168 of The Action Catalyst Podcast

personal choice

Stephen Hanselman began his career as a bookseller 30 years ago and refined his passion for publishing at Harvard Divinity School, where he served as director of the bookstore. After graduating Harvard in 1986 with a Master of Theological Studies degree, he founded Divinitas Books, a specialty chain and direct-mail operation. After selling his business in 1991, he joined HarperSanFrancisco. This began a 13-year tenure at HarperCollins in a variety of roles including marketing, sales, editorial, and from 1999-2005 as publisher of HarperSanFrancisco. From 2002 to 2005 Steve was group publisher responsible for HarperBusiness, HarperResource, and HSF. Stephen is a co-author of the book, The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Self-Mastery, Perseverance and Wisdom: Featuring New Translations of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus.

Show Highlights:

  • “Some things are in our control and others are not.” – Epictetus @SteveHanselman
  • Most of what we know about stoicism comes from the writings of the three figures found in this book. @SteveHanselman
  • Virtue is the source of happiness. @SteveHanselman
  • We cannot have our hope based on external things. @SteveHanselman
  • We have to focus on the things that are in our control, the decisions and choices that are ours alone to make.  @SteveHanselman
  • If you want to get good out of this life, you have to get it from yourself. @SteveHanselman
  • Stoic disciplines help us turn away from the false values we put on external things. @SteveHanselman
  • The pursuit of virtue makes us effective in our lives and brings joy in what we experience. @SteveHanselman
  • The 4 primary stoic virtues: self-control, courage, justice and wisdom. @SteveHanselman
  • When we work with others we have to see it their way. @SteveHanselman
  • We need to continually ask ourselves, ‘To what is my soul committed?’ @SteveHanselman
  • There is no virtue in things staying the same, and there is no evil in things changing. @SteveHanselman
  • Too often we give our time and energy to things we should just say ‘no’ to. @SteveHanselman
  • Inside of every circumstance, we always have a choice to how we will respond. @rory_vaden
  • Busy is not something that happens to you; It is something you allow. @rory_vaden

To find out more about Stephen, learn about Stoicism and get your copy of his book visit: Dailystoic.com

The Action Catalyst is a weekly podcast hosted by Rory Vaden of Southwestern Consulting every Wednesday. The show is regularly in the Top 25 of Business News Podcasts, has listeners from all around the world and shares “insights and inspiration to help you take action.” Each week Rory shares ideas on how to increase your self-discipline and make better use of your time to help you achieve your goals in life. He also interviews special expert guests and thought leaders. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!