As 2016 comes to a close, you’re probably taking inventory on how you changed over the course of the last 365 days. Are you smarter? Happier? Fitter? Doing better with the ladies? When the only certainty in life is that we’re going to change—whether that change is good, bad, or ugly— the question only the brave are willing to ask of themselves is: are we getting better or worse?
Since you’re reading a blog on self-development, you’re probably one of those brave self-examiners, and so you don’t wait until the end of the year to ponder this essential life question. Like me, I’m guessing you chart personal growth day-to-day—maybe even an hour-to-hour. And so, that’s how I know that sometimes—when and if you’re being honest with yourself—you feel disappointed with your progress.
The only reason I know that is because I, too, sometimes feel disappointed in my progress. I know, shocking that someone who publicly and professionally gives advice on personal development is admitting to frustrations with his own development.
But it’s true.
And I’m not ashamed—or afraid—to admit it. I’m susceptible to distractions and disturbances that hold me back from transforming into a better version of myself. Like most people, I wake up with an unconscious checklist of what I SHOULD do throughout the day (so as to realize my fullest potential). While my ideal self would just go do all the things on that checklist for 12-14 unswerving hours, what happens in reality is a different story…
A Day in the Life of Rob
For me, a solid workday usually breaks down to something like this:
- 3-5 solid hours of highly productive work
- Another few hours of moderately productive work
- A couple hours in neutral/downtime
- And finally, (let’s be honest) an hour (maybe even a few hours) engaging in unproductive destructiveness
To put all that in more concrete terms, here’s a glimpse of what I did today as an example…
Things I want to DO/ACCOMPLISH:
- Wake up at 6am
- Run 10 miles
- Write a motivating blog post
- Make progress on the marketing for the updated 4 Elements of Game
- Get in the gym for leg day
- Read 60-90 minutes
- Work on the graphics for a non-dating book I’m publishing
- Practice drawing and guitar for 40 minutes
- Stay on top of my emails/client obligations
- Eat clean and healthy
- Organize my home office
- Run some odds and ends errands (e.g., haircut, dry cleaning, refill a CO2 tank)
- Set up and go on a date\
Things I wanted to AVOID:
- Wasting time on pointless bullshit (social media, getting sucked into a clickbait vortex, engaging in pointless conversations)
- Eating shitty/fattening food
- Nitpicking minor details as an avoidance strategy (e.g., arranging and rearranging stuff in my house)
- Overindulging in entertainment (e.g., listening to music, watching movies, reading garbage on the internet)
- Spending money on stuff I really don’t need
- Drinking alcohol without a purpose (such as a social event or date)
- A million other stupid/bad habits I’m always staving off
Now, here’s how my actual day has progressed in reality (thus far as it’s 3:34pm at the time of this writing):
- Woke up at 6am (highly productive)
- Fucked around for about 30 minutes to avoid going out in the cold to run (unproductive)
- Ran a slow 5 miles (moderately productive)
- Had a healthy protein shake when I got home (highly productive)
- Showered and listened to audiobooks/watched some Lynda courses (moderately productive since it was sort of a way to avoid doing real work)
- Binged on Cheerios out of the box and marshmallows (highly unproductive)
- Farted around my house for about 30 minutes (unproductive)
- Told myself I was going to a café to do work but then decided to do errands instead (neutral because it was somewhat productive that I was ticking off a few of my “to-dos” but I also know it wasn’t super productive since I was really just trying to avoid more challenging work)
- Ordered some bullshit off Amazon (unproductive)
- Started writing this blog (highly productive)
As I mentally map out the remainder of the day, I hope to:
- Get in another 5 miles on the treadmill (ideally while listening to an audiobook or watching a course)
- Get in the gym for a leg workout
- Work at least 90 minutes on marketing (I’ll even take 30 minutes at this point… I hate doing marketing haha)
- Get in a few graphics for my side project book
- Eat healthy for the rest of the day
- Organize my house a bit (but not overdo it whereby using it as an excuse to put off other work)
- Read for a bit
- Meet up with a babe later in the evening
Will I get all that done? Of course not. I’m human after all. However, I’ll get SOME of it done… and that’s more than I would have gotten done 6 months ago. While I don’t think my productivity is overly impressive, and I’m sure there are some real go-getters out there who are underwhelmed by how I spend my day, I’m proud of the direction I’m moving toward. I can honestly say I’m better than I was yesterday, which is better than I was a week ago, which is better still than I was last year.
Think Big Picture Changes, Think Lifestyle Changes
While day-to-day changes are microscopic, if you string together 365 of them, then you absolutely will effect a lifestyle change. Hell, string together 90 day-to-day changes—or 60—or even just a solid 30!—and your life will be better.
So with that, I’d like to explain and then share my philosophy and accompanying exercises that I credit for any—and all—of the positive change I’ve been able to make in my life. When I think back on what I did to transform my love life, I realize it’s the exact same principles needed to transform my life in general.
It’s actually just two principles: when I examine all the positive change in my life—literally every single positive thing I’ve ever done for myself—whether it was with women or just becoming a better man, it was all because of these two things:
- Believing that positive change was possible/attainable
- The mental strength/toughness to pursue the tasks necessary for that change
Indeed, every time I fell short of my goals, every time I regressed and allowed myself to behave unproductively or destructively (e.g., today’s embarrassing Cheerio/marshmallow incident), it was because 1.) I felt demoralized about my goal (even if only temporarily) and/or 2.) I lacked the mental toughness to stay committed to the tasks I needed to complete in order to move closer to my goal. Of these two tenets, it’s most often mental weakness that derails and breaks most men—myself included.
What do I mean by mental toughness? I mean this:
Actively prioritizing stress/pain ABOVE pleasure/comfort for potential (but not definite) long-term results rather than indulge in instant (and thus definite) gratification.
Let’s look at a concrete example: when I finish this section, I’m going to take a break from writing and will have a choice to make:
- On the one hand, there’s a delicious 6-pack of in my fridge (Firestone IPA! One of my favorite beers) and it’d be easy for me to rationalize I’m “rewarding” myself after a relatively productive day by gulping down some brews, collapsing on my comfy couch, and watching some Netflix (I’m really into “Black Mirror” right now). I know with 100% certainty that this will be pleasurable, gratifying, and I can have it right now.
- On the other hand, I know I’d know my entire lifestyle would benefit if I had a more toned, athletic, and healthy physique. If I decide to work out and/or run on the treadmill, I know the next 30-60 minutes will be spent in discomfort (the pain and stress of lactic acid, elevated cardio, ect.). While the workout is a step toward my fitness goal, it’s still just a small step. One workout doesn’t change anything nor does it guarantee long-term results. In fact, it might just be a waste of time/energy/willpower if I don’t stick to my exercise regiment for at least 30-90 days.
You can see why everyone chooses exercise in theory, but only a few actually do it in reality. To be blunt, it’s because most guys are mentally weak. And like a muscle, mental strength doesn’t come overnight. You need to work at it, day-by-day, hour-by-hour. You need to constantly prioritize your long-term vision of yourself over ever-present, always-consistent pleasures.
Here’s what I’ve found invaluable to developing my own mental toughness:
Long distance running—Way back over a decade ago, when I first decided to actively work on improving my “relations” with women, I didn’t have a lot going for me other than decent verbal skills and a background as a distance runner (I started freshmen year of high school and ran through college and in my adulthood).
Distance running was critical to my success.
When you make running a habit (not a chore or a punishment), you’re going to develop a stoic outlook that will help you in all aspects of your life because you’re training your mental toughness.
I’ve done other “tough guy” sports like Crossfit and Muay Thai but nothing compares to running when it comes to mental toughness. That’s because you control your tempo in running and that tempo is relentless. In other words, you can slow down or speed up, you can push yourself or you can dog it. It really comes down to how much you’re willing to push yourself.
And make no mistake: there’s no downtime or rounds or place to hide in running. Unless you stop (and, in that case, you’re not running anymore), you keep yourself at the threshold of discomfort and pain.
The lessons you learn at that threshold and the mental fortitude it affords you are (literally) life changing.
Cold showers—I know it sounds stupid but starting my morning with a cold shower serves as a chilly reminder that I control how I react and not vice versa. Think about it: what do mentally weak people do when they step into a cold shower? The scream how cold it is and jump out of the shower.
And, sure, every morning that’s my initial reaction, too. However, when I just accept the feeling of cold water washing over my body for a few seconds, it stops being terrible and I actually kind of like it (it’s also GREAT for your skin and hair!).
Isometric exercise—admittedly I need to get back into doing this, but stuff like planking or wall sits (anything where you hold a position until you drop) trains you to recognize, “Hey, I can do this for another second, another 5 seconds, another 10 seconds…”
By breaking your pain into manageable chunks, you’re equipping yourself to deal with harsh situations in the real world.
Waking up early—I was talking to Bobby Rio about this earlier, but waking up early is something almost every successful person I know does, yet is also really, really fucking hard! Pulling yourself out of bed—especially when you don’t have to—is grueling, but if you can do it—and especially if you make it habit—you’re strengthening your mental resolve every morning.
Organization—the older I get, the more OCD I get, as well. However, I also believe it explains a lot of my ongoing success. I really believe having an organized work space (as well as a groomed, organized appearance) is works from the outside-in. The less disharmony and clutter your brain has to process, the more you can focus your attention on productive, important things.
Eating extremely spicy peppers—again, I know this sounds absurd, but like a cold shower, eating something like a habanero pepper sucks at first but eventually the suckiness subsides. However, if you react like a little bitch, it only makes it worse. Think about the life lesson there for a moment…
Focused work/practice in 45-minute spurts—even when we say we’re going to do “work,” how disciplined are we at doing just one thing—especially when it’s something we know we NEED to do but it’s hard for us (e.g., my struggles with marketing). All too often, we say we’re going to work on that “thing” but end up checking Facebook or other unproductive distractions or (at best) we do other easier—but less important—tasks rather than doing what we know we REALLY should do (e.g., my decision to “run errands” rather than bunker down with my laptop and do real work).
Everyone struggles with this, I think, and the best solution myself and a lot of the people whose success I admire have found is setting a timer and forcing yourself to do ONLY THAT THING for a set amount of time. It can be 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or however long you want it to be (but be realistic, 5 minutes won’t accomplish much and anything more than an hour is probably too long to maintain focus).
Point is this: Whatever that “high productive” thing you should be doing is, just fucking do it (for a focused 30 minutes or so)!