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LeBron James: A Survivor’s Guide on Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

LeBron James: A Survivor’s Guide on Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

Now that LeBron James has returned to Cleveland, everyone expects the Cleveland Cavaliers to win an NBA championship.

That is, everyone except for LeBron James.

While the City of Cleveland and LeBron fans worldwide are hopeful of a championship this year, the man who would be most responsible, LeBron James, is all too aware of painful disappointments and tough losses.Like all top performers, LeBron knows that in order to win at the highest level, you need to overcome serious failures and adopt world-class mental frameworks to succeed after difficult losses.

It’s actually these very frameworks and lessons that he’s trying to provide for his teammates today so that they can win games. Fortunately for you, I’ve already distilled these extremely powerful lessons below so you don’t have to spend a full season battling with LeBron on the hardwood in order to learn them.

What can we learn from LeBron’s greatest mistakes and achievements along his journey becoming the most powerful athlete in the world?

In the stories below, I offer two remarkable strategies utilized by LeBron that we can apply to our own lives to turn imposing obstacles into amazing opportunities.

NOTE: These are specific, actionable techniques which can be adopted and used to your advantage immediately.

1. “The Decision”  Worst Marketing Move Ever or Best Decision of His Life?

As an unrestricted free agent after playing seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James and his business manager, Maverick Carter, founder of LRMR management firm and LeBron’s childhood friend, accepted an invitation to host his announcement on national television.

Broadcasted live on ESPN, over 13 million viewers from all over the world tuned into to hear where James would sign with in free agency. It was appropriately titled “The Decision.” And on July 8, 2010 at 9:28 pm, he made his announcement:

“I’m going to take my talents to South Beach…”

(Listen to the in-studio crowd reaction of shock as he makes his announcement)

And with that one sentence, LeBron James become the most hated athlete in America. Cleveland Cavaliers fans were the most outraged, even burning his jersey on national television.

It was the immediate reaction of fans who felt betrayed by their hometown star. Cleveland fans would later rank the departure of James second only to former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell’s decision to move entire franchise to Baltimore, after lying to the public stating that he wouldn’t.

Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley all weighed-in on The Decision, deriding the choice by LeBron James to team up with his “rivals” instead of chasing a championship without them. LeBron James became the villain of the NBA for the entire season that followed—jeered in every NBA arena he entered, except Miami’s.

According to ESPN Sports Poll data, in the season after The Decision, LeBron’s favorability plummeted from 15.6 % of respondents calling him their favorite player to only 10.4 %.

To make matters worse, the Heat lost in the NBA finals that year to the Dallas Mavericks. And, it seemed, everyone was pleased. LeBron’s favorability dropped even further to 9.4 % in the following season. This, for an athlete that wasn’t caught cheating at his sport, taking performance-enhancing drugs, caught in infidelity in his marriage, or in any trouble with law enforcement.

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So how does LeBron feel about The Decision now?

According to his recent interview in GQ magazine, LeBron  weighed in once more on The Decision.

“The best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “I needed it. It helped me grow as a man. As a professional, as a father. At the time, as a boyfriend. It helped me grow. Being confined, I spent my whole life in Akron, Ohio. For twenty-five years. Even though I played professionally in Cleveland, I still lived in Akron. Everything was comfortable. I knew everything, everybody knew me—everything was comfortable. I needed to become uncomfortable. Now I’ve seen everything on and off the floor this league has to offer”

Did you miss that?

His environment. His friends. His home. His acquaintances. His daily routine. The same drive to work every day. The same local support system that praised him every year. The same people he grew up with his entire life.

Everything promoted a sense of ease for him. Everything made him comfortable. What LeBron needed was to become uncomfortable. And that’s exactly what The Decision offered LeBron: an opportunity to become uncomfortable so that he could transform and evolve. As a result of the overwhelmingly negative attention LeBron received, he was forced to assume a different perspective because he was no longer able to be the LeBron James that everyone perceived him to be all his life—well-liked, jovial, and outgoing.

He was now cast as the villain.

At first he accepted the role of a villain. Playing to fans on-and-off the court, inciting further negative exchanges from the booing crowds, and avoiding members of the media and others after his games. But after he lost in the finals that season, James spent the next two weeks in a room mostly by himself, taking to almost no one. It was one of the lowest moments in his entire life.

“People who cannot suffer can never grow up, can ever discover who they are…” – James Baldwin

After time spent in reflection, he discovered that he was allowing others to dictate the way he approached the game. And it was affecting his entire life. So LeBron realized he had two options:

1. Allow his approach to constrict him and allow his critics’ reactions to contradict his true character

2. Alter his attitude to allow for more freedom of action by framing this experience as a positive and forever disregarding his critics

He decided to go back to the playing the game the way he knew how – with fun and full of joy. But one important thing changed – he no longer remained sensitive to what others had to say about him.

The Powerful Psychology Behind What Actually Took Place

LeBron employed a “reversal.” A reversal is overcoming the negative of a particular fear and flipping it on its head so that it can lead to a much stronger positive quality, such as self-reliance, patience, supreme self-confidence, and so forth.This is a powerful psychological concept used by leaders such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Steve Jobs, which has very practical application and real world effects.

To do it, LeBron reversed a seemingly bleak situation into an opportunity for complete freedom by mentally reframing his circumstances and manipulating his responses to them. This simple reversal gave him more power to control his own fate and more freedom of action—completely unencumbered by the opinions of detractors.

Here is the paradox of a reversal – you mentally transform a negative event into an opportunity or challenge, providing you with more internal power and motivation. As a result, you care less of what people think about you, paradoxically causing them to admire you more.

The negative publicity is then turned around.

NOTE: All circumstances can be converted and turned into opportunities.

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Psychologists sometimes refer the difficult experience that LeBron went through after The Decision as “adversarial growth” and “post-traumatic growth.” The struggle against some obstacle propels the individual to a new level of functioning. The extent of their struggle determines the extent of their growth. The obstacle becomes an advantage.

In LeBron’s situation, he learned that people were going to dislike him anyway, despite how he acted or didn’t act in accordance with their expectations. So he figured he would act as himself and live with the consequences since it wouldn’t alter public opinion anyway. Only winning, he felt, would do that. What LeBron had to do was overcome his fear of being uncomfortable.

Do you think this nightmarish experience prepared him for major decisions like deciding to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat earlier this year to return to Cleveland, despite outside opinion?

Absolutely!

He carried this critical lesson with him to create even more freedom of action and take further control of his fate in matters on-and-off the court, including his mega endorsement deals and his global icon plan.

Why This Is Important to You

Understanding and applying this simple psychological concept to your unique problems can make all the difference in turning a seemingly overwhelming failure into a complete success. To do so, you need to identify possibilities to employ reversals in similar areas of your own life.

We can accomplish this by noticing the opportunities to convert negative circumstances, such as not earning the raise we expected or being passed over for a promotion, and turning those into a powerful opportunities to create new opportunities for ourselves. These new circumstances become valuable occasions for us to make progress on our own goals despite objections from the outside.

The opportunities are all around us. We just need to adopt the proper mental frameworks to take advantage.

Lesson learned: You can turn your worst trials into your greatest triumphs through the power of reversal – overcoming the negative of a particular fear leads to a positive quality such as self-reliance, patience, or supreme self-confidence – and use the experience to your advantage by growing in proportion to your struggle to a new level of functioning through adversarial and post-traumatic growth.

2. How the Best Get Even Better – The Secret to World-Class Performance

LeBron James is arguably the most athletic player to ever play in the NBA. His speed, power, and agility is unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed in any player his size. In any sport, really. At 6 feet 8 inches tall, he simply shouldn’t be able to perform, with skill, the acts that he does.

In recent years, his current coach, Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra, donned LeBron with the moniker “NBA’s Swiss Army Knife” for his ability to guard every position on defense and play multiple roles offensively. But he didn’t always have this ability. LeBron identified the gaps in his ability and what his team required of him in order to win championships. And then he worked at it. Tirelessly.

According to an article on Grantland, Coach Spoelstra said:

“It took the ultimate failure in the Finals to view LeBron and our offense with a different lens. He was the most versatile player in the league. We had to figure out a way to use him in the most versatile of ways — in unconventional ways.

“Shortly after our loss to Dallas in the Finals, LeBron and I met. He mentioned that he was going to work on his game relentlessly during the offseason, and specifically on his post-up game. This absolutely made sense for us. We had to improve offensively, and one of the best ways would be to be able to play inside-out with a post-up attack.”

“I AM ALWAYS DOING THAT WHICH I CANNOT DO, IN ORDER THAT I MAY LEARN HOW TO DO IT.”
PABLO PICASSO

LeBron analyzed his team’s performance in the Finals to identify the gap between where their team was currently performing and the level they needed perform at in order to win a championship.

He found that their post play contributed the most inconsistency. In particular, their lack of a post presence on offense was causing them to shoot way too many low-efficiency jump shots, and it forced their guards to initiate offensive sets by dribbling the ball to create spacing and most of their scoring opportunities for the team.

LeBron immediately began working to make dramatic improvements in the area of post play by working out with one of the all-time greats to enhance his low-post game, Hakeem Olajuwon.

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(Tape of LeBron’s training sessions with Hakeem Olajuwon)

“The biggest thing isn’t how much you work on things, it’s ‘Can you work on something, then implement it into a game situation?’” James has said. “Can you bring what you’ve worked on so much and put it out on the floor with the finished product? I was happy that I was able to do that and make that transformation.”

Many people in the Heat organization state that LeBron’s development of his low-post game is what turned the Miami Heat from a runners-up into champions the following year.

“When he returned after the lockout, he was a totally different player,” said Spoelstra. “I don’t know if I’ve seen a player improve that much in a specific area in one off season. His improvement in that area alone transformed our offense to a championship level in 2012.”

His improvement in the post contributed to increased shot efficiency all over the floor. Take a look at the shot chart below comparing LeBron’s final year in Cleveland during the 2009-2010 season to his first year in Miami during the 2010-2011.

cleveland vs miami shot selection 1st year

    In his last year in Cleveland, LeBron took a lot of three point shots. For a player of his size and strength, he’s not utilizing his physical gifts most effectively when he’s shooting outside of the arc. Also, he took a lot of mid-range shots (low-efficiency) and some near the basket (high-efficiency). During hisis first year in Miami, LeBron better leveraged his physical gifts by taking more shots inside of the arc. He increased the volume of shots taken near the basket for a higher percentage of shots made and reduced the volume of three point shots taken.

    However, his Miami Heat team still lost in the Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. Now, let’s take a look at his shot chart the following season after LeBron worked with Hakeem Olajuwon to improve his post play.

    miami shot selection 2nd year

      For his second year in Miami, LeBron significantly reduced the volume of three point shots taken. There’s only one dot outside of the arc for this year. Additionally, he increased the volume of shots taken at the low block on the left side. This new concentration of shots taken on the floor represent an addition to LeBron’s game.

      This is where his work on the low post with Hakeem paid off. To make sense of these shot charts, let’s put these numbers in perspective. In LeBron’s rookie year, he shot 42 % from the field and 29 % from beyond the arc. In his second year in Miami those numbers rose to 53 % and 36 %, respectively.

      An impressive feat for anyone!

      And it turns out it was just what they needed to win his first championship. LeBron continued his improving efficiency rising to 56 % from the field and 41 from beyond the arc the following year. The best part of LeBron’s increased efficiency on offense is that the effect wasn’t limited to just LeBron; it affected everyone on the team.

      LeBron’s migration to the left block not only helped his scoring efficiency, it opened up space elsewhere for spot-up shooters like Ray Allen, Shane Battier, and Mike Miller who made big contributions in the Finals so that LeBron could win his second championship with Miami.

      “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together” – Vincent Van Gogh

      How Top Performers Become World-Class

      Here’s the thing – LeBron was already head-and-shoulders the best player in the world. Many analysts even questioned just exactly how LeBron could actually become any better. Where the vast majority of people get better for a while and level off, reaching the limit of their abilities where even years of additional work have not made them any better, LeBron made dramatic improvements in one off season that resulted in a world championship.

      How did he improve so dramatically in just one year, especially when many “experts” didn’t even think it would be possible for him to become any better? Well, the answer isn’t “by practicing.”

      Sorry, but LeBron wasn’t just practicing. That’s not how world class performers become better at their craft. He was practicing with a purpose. LeBron was practicing with the specific intention to improve his low post offensive ability. This practice with the specific intention is referred to as “deliberate practice.”

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      Deliberate practice requires that one identify certain sharply defined elements of performance that need to be improved, and then work intently on them. You may have heard this term before, but what you may not know is, exactly what is deliberate practice? According to Anders Ericsson, the psychologist who advanced the concept of deliberate practice, “the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.”

      The concept of deliberate practice is characterized by several elements. These elements can be divided into 5 criteria:

      1. Activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help
      2. It can be repeated a lot
      3. Feedback on results is continuously available
      4. It’s highly demanding mentally, whether it’s purely intellectual or heavily physical
      5. It isn’t much fun

      Let’s take a look at how the example I detailed above with LeBron stacks up to this criteria:

      Improve performance (low post offensive ability), often with a teacher’s help (Hall of Famer, Hakeem Olajuwon) 
      1. It can be repeated a lot (practiced shooting and low post positioning, twice a day for 5 days with Hakeem, then every day for the rest of the summer)
      2. Feedback is available (made shot vs missed shot; gaining low post position vs being pushed out of the paint) 
      3. Highly demanding mentally, whether it’s purely intellectual or heavily physical
      4. It isn’t much fun

      Think his exercises weren’t highly demanding mentally? Or worse – do you actually think it was fun? Read LeBron’s self-enforced punishment for not attaining his own shooting goals and you may think otherwise:

      “It’s a lot of work. It’s being in workouts, and not accomplishing your goal, and paying for it. So, if I get to a spot in a workout and want to make eight out of 10, if I don’t make eight of 10, then I run. I push myself to the point of exhaustion until I make that goal. So you build up that mentality that you got to make that shot and then use that in a game situation — it’s the ultimate feeling, when you’re able to work on something and implement it.”

      You can see how much feedback, detail, and intensity is interwoven throughout LeBron’s workout to make progress on his goal. And every element of the deliberate practice criteria is met in LeBron’s workout, ensuring that he’s getting better with every repetition.

      Now, let’s talk about how this applies to you.

      How This is Useful To You

      LeBron may not have known he was following the requirements for deliberate practice in his workouts. However, chances are, he knows EXACTLY what deliberate practice is, and he’s implemented it for years to become better at his craft. So have others like Kobe Bryant, Mozart, and Picasso. Have you?

      Well, chances are you didn’t know that researchers confirm that the top performers in every industry engage in and are committed to deliberate practice. It’s not merely that top performers are “putting in the hours.” No, it’s that top performers break down the skills that are required to become an expert and focus on improving those skill chunks during practice. You can start today to analyze the gaps in your performance relative to where you desire to perform. Then use the same criteria outlined above to ensure you’re following the necessary framework.

      Although it may not be fun, it will undoubtedly move you closer to your goal and, in the process, bring you closer to mastery over your chosen craft.

      Lesson Learned: You can adopt the same approach that top performers use to become world-class in their craft. Analyze the gaps between your current performance and what’s required to achieve mastery; break down the skills into specific skill chunks; and commit yourself to the process of deliberate practice to improve with each repetition during practice. over time, your commitment will bring you to mastery over your chosen craft.

      Conclusion

      There’s no question that LeBron wants to be the best basketball player ever.

      Michael Jordan fans are quick to rule out this possibility, but there’s no doubt that LeBron is putting in the practice and positioning himself the way he feels gives him the best opportunity. And while LeBron recently lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals as a member of the Miami Heat, he will again use the lessons conveyed above to learn what’s required of him to win another championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

      Being the best in any profession isn’t about being the most talented; it’s about adopting the mental frameworks and practice habits that the best use to become great. And by leveraging the power of reversals and committing to deliberate practice, you’re provided with elite strategies to turn obstacles into opportunities.

      Further Reading

      ‘The 50th Law’ by 50 Cent and Robert Greene discusses the powerful role of reversals, along with other strategies and tactics for success in life and work based upon a single principle – fear nothing. He utilizes several examples of leaders who have overcome adversity through understanding and practicing the 50th Law, including Napoleon Bonaparte, Malcolm X, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and more.

      ‘Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else’ by Geoffrey Colvin details the concept of deliberate practice. Backed by scientific research, it shares the secrets of extraordinary performance and shows how to apply these principles. The book features the stories of professionals who have achieved world-class greatness through deliberate practice, including Benjamin Franklin, Chris Rock, Jerry Rice, and others.

      ‘Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the process for Flow, a term used to describe the optimal experience of experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement in an activity. Bonus points if you made a connection between the requirements for deliberate practice and the process for Flow, except it not being much fun.

      Featured photo credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via i2.cdn.turner.com

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      Last Updated on October 16, 2019

      How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life

      How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life

      Is there a goal you want to accomplish, but you just can’t seem to follow through? Maybe you know exactly what you need to do, but just can’t seem to do it? Perhaps you’re frustrated because your lack of self-discipline is affecting your confidence, career trajectory, health, weight or relationships?

      If you’re ambitious and ready to take your life to the next level but just need a little more support in the follow-through, keep reading.

      What Is Self-Discipline?

      Self-discipline is defined as:

      “the ability to control yourself and to make yourself work hard or behave in a particular way without needing anyone else to tell you what to do.”

      It’s about self-control, self-regulation, willpower, resolve, determination and drive. It’s how you get yourself to do what needs to be done to move forward and excel in life.

      “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.” — Jim Rohn

        The Importance of Self-Discipline

        Fitness experts, success coaches, doctors and personal development gurus all stress the importance of self-discipline. It’s a critical factor whether you want to lose weight, eat better, exercise more, spend less, be more productive, procrastinate less, get promoted, be more positive, better manage emotions or improve relationships.

        Studies show that those with higher levels of self-control have “…higher self‐esteem, less binge eating and alcohol abuse, better relationships and interpersonal skills, and more optimal emotional responses.”[1] Others show that those with self-discipline are more content, satisfied and happy.

        As a coach, I see great people come up against challenges with self-discipline daily.

        Take Cameron for example. Cameron was overweight, suffering from health-related issues and desperate to get back into shape. She wanted to start walking and stretching daily but was having trouble following through. Her lack of discipline with exercise was spilling over into all areas of her life and she was feeling defeated.

        Or Stuart. Stuart was an artist with a part-time job to pay the bills. He wanted to spend at least three hours a day on his craft so he could build his portfolio and start making a living through his art. As motivated and excited as he seemed on the surface, he was finding it challenging to do so.

        Then there’s Arden. An entrepreneur who wanted to take her business to the next level. She was struggling to stay disciplined and follow through on the paperwork and operational tasks that needed to be done to keep her business going.

        I’ve been there too.

        I like to think of myself as a fairly disciplined person. I was raised by entrepreneurs who valued hard work and taught us to keep our commitments and follow-through. Since we were young, my grandfather, a successful CEO, instilled the principle of DWYSYWD in our entire family. Backwards or forwards, it means the same thing… Do What You Say You Will Do. I was a competitive athlete, and self-discipline was ingrained into my mindset and habits. I credit this trait for much of my success.

          But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the distractions, temptations and vices were all faced with daily. There have been times in my life when I, like my clients, have struggled to stay the course and follow-through. Take last month. An opportunity I was deeply excited about and had worked endlessly on for many months fell through. I was disappointed and found myself unmotivated and distracted.

          I work from home and normally able to stay hyper focused. However, I found myself sitting down to work only to be distracted – scrolling through social media, making another trip to the fridge, taking the dog for a hike or a ‘quick’ break to sit on the couch to watch TV.

          I knew what I needed to do, but was really struggling. So I tapped into my arsenal of strategies: the tried-and-true principles I’ve used with my clients and myself (including Cameron, Stuart and Arden).

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          How to Build and Maintain Self-Discipline

          Here are 10 strategies to build and maintain self-discipline:

          1. Get Motivated

          Ever notice when you’re excited about something, or have a significant or compelling goal you’re setting out to achieve, you don’t need discipline?

          Let’s say you have your wedding or high school reunion coming up and you want to lose weight to look great and fit into a killer dress. Waking up in the morning for a run and skipping dessert just got easier, didn’t it?

          Or let’s say your dream job just opened up at work. Getting to work early, staying late and keeping on task doesn’t seem so difficult anymore, does it?

          “Motivation” comes from the root word “motive.” It’s why you are doing something. The reason and underlying drive behind it. Leadership expert Simon Sinek talks about the power of why. Knowing your “why” provides a compelling intrinsic motivation. It fuels the fire and you’re much likely to stay focused.

          You can learn more about the power of why in his TedTalk video:

          Bottom Line: Tap into your WHY. What is your underlying reason, motivation or purpose to be disciplined?

          2. Remove Temptations

          Research has proven that our environment affects our choices. Take for example one study done at Cornell University.[2][3] The study found that:

          “Women who kept soft drinks on their counter weighed 24 to 26 pounds more than those who didn’t and those who kept a box of cereal on the counter weighed on average 20 more pounds than those who didn’t.”

          And those who kept fruit on their counter weighed an average of 13 pounds less!

          If you want to eat better, put the junk foods out of sight. Better yet, don’t bring them into the house, office, car or arms-length in the first place.

          If you want to finish that big project for work, secure a conference room, turn off instant messenger, close down notifications for social media and put your phone in the other room.

          If you work from home and are easily distracted, go somewhere to focus. Right now, I’m writing from a café down the street for this exact reason. I didn’t try to fight against the temptations in my environment; I just removed myself.

          Bottom Line: Your environment can be stronger than your willpower. Ensure it is conducive to the goals you’re trying to accomplish; don’t put yourself in situations that are tempting or distracting.

            3. Create a Goal, Challenge or Deadline

            Many years back, my husband was working on his first screenplay. It was a daunting task that he knew would take a lot of time. Many of his film school buddies were overwhelmed by this project and were having a hard time making progress. As was he. Until he created a compelling goal, challenge and deadline.

            His specific goal was to have the screenplay done by the end of the month. This was a huge challenge as it was a lot of work in a short period of time. He then created a deadline and sent out an email to all his friends and let them know we would be having a celebratory dinner and to mark their calendars. He upped the stakes by declaring that if he hadn’t finished his screenplay by the dinner date, he would buy everyone’s dinner. This was a big challenge, as we definitely didn’t have the money to pay for dinner for 15 of our closest friends!

            There’s a reason why every influencer or blogger out there has created a 5,10 or 30-day challenge. To support you! Just search “challenge’ for what you’re looking for and I’m sure you’ll be able to find something. I’ve seen people shift their entire lifestyle, eating habits and motivation by joining these challenges – and they’ve worked for me too!

            Bottom Line: Define your specific goal or vision, make it challenging, give yourself a deadline, and get moving.

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            4. Phone a Friend

            It’s always helpful to have an accountability partner. Why do you think so many people hire trainers to stay on top of their fitness goals, coaches to achieve their personal or professional goals, or join a club or group such as Weight Watchers?

            “When you are accountable to someone or a group of people for doing what you said you would do, you can easily get stuff done because you engage the power of social expectations.”[4]

            Bottom Line: Commit to someone other than yourself. Find a gym partner. Hire a coach to keep you on track and honest. Post commitments to social networks so you’re on the hook.

            5. Start Small

            How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

              Change is hard and our brains are wired to return to what feels comfortable and predictable. Therefore, big changes can be really hard. But if you start slow, you can build momentum without getting overwhelmed.

              If you want to start walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, start with five minutes a day. If you feel like continuing after five minutes, go for it! If you want to start eating better, identify one change you can make in your diet. Often when our mind thinks it’s going to be easy, it allows us to get started…and then you can use that momentum to keep going.

              Bottom Line: Get started. It doesn’t matter how small the action is as long as you’re going in the right direction. Small changes eventually lead to big results. Remember, action inspires further action and momentum creates more momentum.

              “They journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

              6. The Carrot or The Stick

              We’re all motivated in different ways. Are you compelled by the satisfaction of a reward or the risk of punishment? Or both?

                The Carrot. What reward can you give yourself for being disciplined?

                My daughter is eight and in third grade. She was struggling with doing homework and staying focused. We tried a forceful approach, which didn’t work. We tried to set challenges, like getting it done in 20 minutes. Nope. She was distracted and frustrated.

                However, she is highly motivated by rewards, so we created a ‘homework treasure box’. If she stays focused and does her homework every day for the entire week, she gets to pick a prize.

                Bingo. No more tears, no more late homework, no more fights. That treasure box has changed her attitude and her ability to stay disciplined. Phew.

                “Discipline = Freedom” — Jocko Willink

                The stick.

                Maybe you’re more motivated by the risk of not following through or staying disciplined? In my daughter’s case, this would have been taking away privileges (like playdates) if she didn’t do her homework. That would have completely backfired and thrown her into a tailspin. But for many, it can be very effective.

                For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, you might not be motivated by fitting into a smaller size of clothing, but you may be motivated by the risks of not losing the weight. Knowing that poor health can lead to heart disease, a potential heart attack and early death might be the spark that ignites your fire.

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                If this sounds like you, identify the worst-case scenario. If you don’t’ stay disciplined, what is the negative result in your life? Fear can be a powerful motivator.

                Bottom Line: Identify if you’re motivated by risk or reward and put it into place.

                7. Stop Going Against the Grain

                Perhaps you’re trying to be disciplined about something that simply doesn’t work for how you’re wired. For example, if you always wait until the last minute to study or complete that big project, why are you forcing yourself to try and get it done weeks in advance? You’re likely better off to just set aside time right before the deadline.

                Remember Arden? She was trying to force herself to do the paperwork and operational components of her business that she was not wired to do. Then, she was beating herself up for not staying disciplined which wasn’t productive or helpful.

                Once we took the pressure off that she wasn’t a failure by avoiding those tasks, she gave herself permission to hire someone to help her out. She then had the freedom to grow her business and make sales, which was her strength.

                If you’re finding it hard to stay disciplined, step back and see if it’s important that you do the thing you’re procrastinating on or finding hard to follow-through with. Maybe you can hire someone else who’s much better at it.

                Months behind on your accounting? Find someone to do the books. Years behind getting your family photos organized? Seek a company (or friend) that enjoys that kind of project. Drowning in piles of laundry? Drop it off at a laundry service or pay your kid to do it. Frustrated you don’t have the meal plan organized and dinner on the table every night? Find a meal planner app, order in or use a meal prep service.

                Bottom Line: Stop trying to do it all yourself especially when it’s like swimming upstream. Leverage the resources of others and don’t waste your self-discipline willpower on things that aren’t important to you or a good use of your time and talents.

                8. Create Habits and Rituals

                Performance Coach Jay Henderson talks about the power of creating habits and rituals:

                “Our subconscious is automated, so we only have 5% of our conscious mind to fight the subconscious habits we have built over months, years and, in some cases, a lifetime.

                In order to combat that subconscious, we must create new habits.

                For example, you want to start running but find yourself continuing to hit the snooze button. We have learned that the more specific we get, the more the mind helps us with motivation: drive, energy, enthusiasm, focus, optimism and creativity. Research shows that when a person takes the time to think through the “what, where and when” of a new task, they are 70% more likely to achieve.

                Creating hyper-specificity will do this for you. In the case of running in the morning, you can list out very specific steps to help you get up and moving.

                For example:

                • Step 1: Set the goal to get up and run at 6am.
                • Step 2: Lay out clothes the night before.
                • Step 3: Set an alarm and put it on the other side of the room. How many steps is it from the bed to the alarm?
                • Step 4: Determine to turn on the lights while walking to turn off the alarm. How many steps is it to the light and then to the alarm?
                • Step 5: Get in bed, turn off the TV, and go to sleep at 10pm with a mental vision of waking up energized to run.
                • Step 6: Walk the pre-determined number steps to the bathroom to splash water on my face.
                • Step 7: Walk the pre-determined steps to the clothes that were put out the night before, put them on and put on shoes.
                • Step 8: Walk to the kitchen.
                • Step 9: Drink a glass of water.
                • Step 11: Walk to the door using the number you’ve already counted.
                • Step 12: Warm up and start running.

                You get the point. This helps because you engage senses: mind, might and heart with clarity through specificity. Your mind, which wants to make you act like the picture you have of yourself, then delivers the energy, drive and motivation.

                Your chances of getting up and running will jump exponentially. This is because in your subconscious mind, where your habits are stored, there’s absolutely no question about what you want.

                Rituals are also important. A ritual is partly defined as a ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. You need this amount of specificity to overcome the force of habit. Focusing and using rituals can help you completely restructure habits and behaviors to achieve more powerfully.

                9. Put the Big Rocks in First

                Legendary time management expert and author Steven Covey first introduced this concept[5] in the 80’s and it’s just as relevant if not more so today. The idea is that if you do the most important things first, you won’t get distracted by all the little items that can end up mindlessly filling your day.

                In fact, studies have shown that willpower is a limited resource.[6]

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                ”A growing body of research shows that resisting repeated temptations takes a mental toll. Some experts liken willpower to a muscle that can get fatigued from overuse.”

                I’ve seen this challenge across many executives I’ve coached and known. Many of them are so bogged down in the day to day elements of their job and the urgent distractions (Squirrel!), they don’t have the time or mental energy to spend on strategy. Unless they block out time and are intentional about how they order their priorities, willpower – and results – are compromised.

                Bottom Line: Get started early in the day and do the most important things first before you run out of mental willpower, time and energy. Bonus, getting quick wins in early leads to motivation and momentum too.

                10. Be Nice to Yourself

                Change is hard. New habits are hard. Our minds are wired for familiarity and if you’re doing something new, part of you is going to be fighting against it. You are going to face setbacks and failures. Don’t allow obstacles to cause you to give up on your bigger vision or goal.

                I see this all too often. Case in point. When I was an intrinsic health coach, one of my clients made the goal to be active five days a week. When we talked a week after she made this commitment, she was feeling bad and down on herself. Why? She said she had worked out only three days that week and was frustrated she didn’t hit her goal.

                I asked her, “How many days did you work out the week before you set this goal?”

                “Zero,” she responded.

                “And how many the week before that? “

                “None.”

                “So, is working out three times this week really a failure?” I asked.

                “No, I guess not.” I guess not?! Not only is it not a failure, it’s a HUGE win!

                Unless you’re the most self-disciplined person in the world (in which case you probably aren’t reading this article), you’re going to hit the snooze button and miss a run. You’re going to choose chips over an apple. You’re going to lose your temper instead of keeping your cool. It’s going to happen. You must forgive yourself and move forward.

                Bottom Line: It’s a waste of mental energy to spend time worrying about mistakes and setbacks. You made a mistake, it’s over. It’s a lesson. Pick yourself up, acknowledge the lesson and move on. Celebrate your wins and successes, no matter how small.

                Final Thoughts

                You’re ambitious. You’re driven. You’re ready to reach your goals. They’ll always be a reason you can’t do something. And there’s always a reason you can. You get to choose.

                So before you scroll on to the next thing, consider this question:

                Where would a little more self-discipline have the greatest impact on your life or success?

                Then identify which of the strategies above will help you get started and stay focused and what you need to do.

                It only takes one strategy. One step. One change to move forward. You have the power to be more disciplined. You got this.

                More Tips on Success

                Featured photo credit: Thao Le Hoang via unsplash.com

                Reference

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