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By Benjamin Hardy
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi was completely right. When you don’t act in accordance with your values and goals, you’re internally-conflicted.
You know you should be doing something — whether that’s working on your project, being present with your loved ones, eating healthy, or a number of other things — and you knowingly act in contradictory ways.
Like me, you may justify your behaviors and convince yourself you’re on the path toward your dreams. But an honest look in the mirror would reveal that you’re deceiving yourself.
How close to your values and goals are your living?
How internally-conflicted are you?
I’m not above this.
- I find myself constantly checking Facebook and Twitter, knowing it keeps me from getting into flow.
- I’m addicted to my wife’s home-made bread with Nutella spread on it, knowing it keeps me from having ripped abs.
- I often go days without writing, knowing each day I don’t create may add months to my goals.
In all honesty, my behaviors often contradict my values and goals. Perfection shouldn’t be the objective. However, consistency and implementation of our values and goals creates substantial momentum and results.
There’s no way around it. If you want to be successful, you have to actsuccessful. As Aristotle has said, “You are what you repeatedly do.”
We Live Our Lives In 24 Hour Periods
We all have 24 hours each day. If your days aren’t solid, your life won’t be solid. Once you master your days, success is inevitable.
How was your day, today?
Look back on all the things you did today. Did you act like the person you wish to become?
If you repeated today every day for the next year, realistically, where would you end up?
If you are to really accomplish your goals and dreams, how much differently would your regular day need to be than today was?
In order to achieve your dreams, what does a “normal” day look like?
One of the best ways to consciously design your ideal life is to start with your ideal day. What does that actually look like?
What activities must happen daily for you to live exactly how you want to be living? You may have several things in the way of your ideal day right now, but are you getting closer?
Your ideal day should be based on your own view of “the good life.” You are the only one who can define happiness and success for yourself.
My ideal day includes the following activities:
- 7–8 hours of deep and healthy sleep.
- Conscious eating, which includes healthy and simple foods. And less than 300 calories of junk food. At least one meal each day is eaten with my wife and kids.
- 30–60 minutes of exercise.
- 15–30 minutes of prayer and meditation.
- 1–2 hours of engaged learning.
- 3–5 hours of undistracted writing (which doesn’t include email, unless I’m specifically reaching out to someone).
- 2+ undistracted hours playing with my kids (no smartphone).
- 1+ undistracted hours one-on-one with my wife (no smartphone).
It doesn’t matter which order these activities occur. No two days are exactly the same. If I did all of these activities, I’d still have over three hours of “in-between” time to check email, eat meals, drive, spontaneous service, be distracted, talk on the phone to a friend, and all the other things that pop-up.
Of course, my days don’t always reflect what I’ve detailed above. Probably half of my days look like that. The other half are a lesser version, filled with intermittent self-sabotage.
We are all in complete control of how we spend our time. If we don’t believe we are, we have an external locus of control (i.e., victim-mentality) and will remain so until we claim personal responsibility.
What does your ideal day look like?
How often do you live your ideal day?
If you were to consistently live your ideal day, where would you be in one year from now? Where would you be in five years?
Call To Action:
- Take a few minutes to imagine what your ideal day would look like.
- Make a list of the activities that would be in your ideal day.
- Start tracking how you currently spend your days. Once you start tracking your time and become conscious, you’ll be stunned how internally-conflicted you are.
This is all easier said than done. But it’s completely possible to live intentionally and congruently. It’s completely possible to replace bad habits with good habits. And it’s completely possible to become the person you want to be.
Motivation and Self-Regulation Theory
When your goals are specific, intrinsically motivating, and time-bound, you’ll keep going until you succeed.
If you’re lacking motivation, there’s a problem with your goals. Either you have the wrong goals, they aren’t specific enough, or the timeline isn’t definitive enough (see Parkinson’s Law).
Here’s how the right goals work on a psychological level:
According to research, self-regulation is the psychological process that detects inconsistency between our goals and our behaviors. It is the ignition of our motivational forces which helps us get from where we are to where we want to be.
Specifically, self-regulation works in three ways:
- Self-monitoring: determines how well we are currently performing.
- Self-evaluation: determines how well we are performing comparative to our goals.
- Self-reaction: determines how we think and feel comparative to our goals. When we feel dissatisfied with our performance, self-reaction pushes us to reallocate our motivation resources.
To ensure you not only achieve your goals, but radically exceed them, put substantially more effort in than seems needed. Most people underestimate the effort needed to achieve their goals.
Rather than expecting ideal circumstances, plan for the worst. Rather than underestimating how much time and effort something will take, overestimate those things.
Of course, achieving your goals isn’t that easy. If it was, everyone would be successful. People often fail to deal with self-regulatory problems while striving for their goals.
Loads of research has sought to determine: How do you keep people striving for a goal when they’re struggling to stay motivated?
The answer is what psychologists call implementation intentions, and it’s clearly seen among endurance athletes. When an ultramarathon runner sets out on an arduous run, they pre-determine the conditions in which they will quit (e.g., if I completely lose my vision, then I’ll stop).
If you don’t predetermine the conditions in which you’ll stop, you’ll quit pre-mature. According to Navy SEALS, most people stop at 40 percent of their actual capacity.
But implementation intention theory goes further.
Not only do you need to know the conditions in which you will quit, you also need to have planned goal-directed behaviors when you encounter opposing conditions.
My cousin, Jesse, is a great example of this. He was an avid smoker for over a decade, smoking several packs per day. Three years ago, he went cold-turkey.
Whenever he’s highly stressed or in some other way triggered to smoke a cigarette, he tells himself, “If I was a smoker, this is one of those times I would smoke.” Then, he continues on with his day.
When I get distracted — which is often — I pull out my journal and write my goals. This reignites my motivation and serves as my course-correction.
You can’t just want to succeed. You have to plan and prepare for the worst.
You will get derailed often. You need to prepare for those moments you’re not motivated. You do this by creating triggers that automatically reignite your motivation.
Call to action:
Consider the challenges you’ll encounter on the path to your goals (e.g., you’re at a party and your favorite desert is being served), what is your automated response going to be?
Imagine all the challenges you’ll encounter that you can think of. Create proactive responses to each. In this way, you’ll be prepared for war. And as Richard Marcinko has said, “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.”
When you encounter those challenges, actually implement your proactive response.
How was your day today?
What about yesterday?
Meredith Willson said it best: “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’ve collected a lot of empty yesterdays.” There is no tomorrow to remember if we don’t do something today.
How you spend each day is a clear indicator of who you are and who you will become.
It’s not enough to simply want a better future. You need to know what that future looks like, and start living that way today.
Winners act like winners before they start winning. If you’re not acting like a winner today, you won’t be a winner tomorrow.
If you resonated with this article, please sign up for Benjamin’s newsletter. When you do, you’ll get a free copy of my eBook, Slipstream Time Hacking. Also, if you’re interested, check out his new book, How to Consciously Design Your Ideal Life.
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Read this next:
- The Big Rocks Of Life: On Managing Your Energy, Not Your Time, And Deciding What Matters Most
- Unlocking The Power Of Uncertainty
- The Truth About Becoming Yourself