Not every Ironmen Letter is a towering epistle soaring among those clouds saturated in wisdom that rain down on mere mortal men. No, not every one, ahem. Some are mundane, with feet on the ground, designed to cover territory that is hopefully familiar, but fundamental nonetheless and therefore worthy of repetition. Two such recent Letters covered Motivation and Objectives. And now as we approach that ever recurring starting gate of the New Year, honing your behaviors is today and will forever be a critical aspect on gaining traction in personal growth.

Ok, Time Out: Let me ask you to gauge your attitude right now as you read this. Are you getting through this Letter and moving on to the next item of the day? Or will you get FROM today’s message? Because what the heck are you doing? Let some messages into the inner sanctum where it hits home and creates resolve in you. Some messages should reach you and not be held at arm’s length. Let this be one.

All right, Time In: Presumably you are interested in creating a fantastic life. My discussion on Motivation two weeks ago gave 9 factors that generated positive energy in me that I could translate into motivation. Motivation towards what? Last week I discussed Vision and Objectives for next year.  The two combine to equate to an intellectual blueprint of my coming year. And when I was in my 30’s that would be the end of it. I would be motivated to write down my goals, but wouldn’t be disciplined enough to figure out how to act on them and thereby accomplish most of them. It took me many years of trying to learn the basics of my personality and behaviors before I could harness my motivation to gain traction on my more pernicious issues.

Some men are blessed with a default mode of action. I have many friends who are that way which is good for them. I am not that guy. My default mode is one of laziness. Not extreme laziness, but one of selfish “conservation of my energy”. So if I were given a choice of organizing my garage or reading a book, cha, not even close. But that base modality conflicts with my ego where I see myself as a man of consequence. Those two views don’t square, so I had to navigate that little thing we call “reality” and overcome some limiting behaviors.

I have no problem brushing my teeth twice a day. It’s part of my routine. If for some reason I miss a day, I don’t say, “Ah screw it. I’ll start again next year.” You don’t do that with routines. You do that with disciplines. Because routines are already inside your pattern where you are efficient and you move from one activity seamlessly to another. No doubt you have a morning routine and a nighttime one. You’ve probably got an eating routine, a driving routine, a toilet routine. Efficiency of habit. You don’t have to think about what comes next. That’s the key.

To make lasting change in your physical and personal life you must routinize the things you want to compound over a lifetime. You do that by structuring the habit you want to insert into your routine so that it fits easily into that efficiency mode. Let’s say you want to get in shape. The reason you haven’t done that in the past is lack of time and you weren’t experiencing negative consequences anyway. But now you’ve decided that it’s time to be intentional about your health. You decide that morning has the greatest shot at being consistent, so you plan to get up 30-60 minutes earlier and work out. Awesome! And, after doing it twice and you’re sore and it’s cold outside and the workout was just running a mile followed by pushups and situps, you decide to take a one day holiday because working out daily just isn’t “realistic”. Doing it every other day becomes a problem if you miss your workout day. Soon, the law of diminishing intentions kicks in and the idea of getting in shape remains just that, an idea. Motivation must be restored regularly during the time discipline is honing a habit. Let me say that again: Motivation is the energy to get going and must be restored regularly so that turning a discipline into a habit isn’t a vertical climb. Structuring how you’ll turn the habit into your routine by figuring out exactly what you’re going to do, what you’re going to need, what time you’ll need to wake up, and what time you’ll need to go to bed – are all the details of success.

Now, of course that example may not apply to you. It’s a template. Thus: Motivation is a positive energy. It needs a vision to become something. Your objectives are the plan to turn your motivation into reality. Discipline is the fortitude to stick with your decision long after the energy has dissipated. Habits are the patterns created by discipline that must be structured and thought out. And routines are those habits that are efficiently incorporated into your life.

One last thought – Nothing stands alone. All your behaviors – the disciplines, the habits, the routines – are part of the pattern of who you are. If you discipline one part of your life, it’ll affect the whole.

There. I saved you 15 years of struggle. You’re welcome.

To getting FROM the day,

Dave Marr

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