Sometimes, the habits driving success are visible, especially success in areas where others routinely struggle. But it’s easy to miss the underlying cause: successful people demand more of themselves than anyone else would require of them. They don’t need anyone to ask them, remind them, nudge them, coax them, or beg and plead with them to do the things they need to do. Instead, they generate their own demand, while exercising radical personal accountability.
What other people require of you may be an obligation, but no outside requirement will ever provide you the motivation or inspiration for what you want for yourself. This idea is often stated as “If you aren’t building your dream, you are building someone else’s.” Even if you’re not a business owner or entrepreneur, you still need to make your life your own.
Don’t Negotiate with Yourself
Making excuses is easier than setting goals and making plans— let alone doing the actual work that moves you closer to your goals! You can always find a reason to put off until tomorrow what you should do today. After all, you simply must stay up to date on whichever clickbait is dominating today’s news cycle, and anyway, who can really act until this global pandemic subsides?! But no matter how well-meaning your excuse, no matter how convincingly you rationalize the decision not to act, procrastination does nothing to help you succeed. Instead of making excuses, those who produce the results they want demand that they do the work.
Negotiating with yourself is a hard habit to break. You promise yourself you’ll exercise after work, so you can sleep a little longer in the morning. Sure, the extra half hour doesn’t do much to fill your sleep bank, but reality never gets in the way of a good excuse. The version of me that makes that promise—and all others like it—has great intentions, even if the only thing he does consistently is fail to keep his side of the bargain.
Don’t beat yourself up too much: everyone procrastinates from time to time. Yesterday, perhaps, you promised that tomorrow would be different—tomorrow, you would really work hard and get that important task done. But now today has come and gone and you haven’t lifted a finger to move your priorities forward. Being demanding of yourself means replacing negotiation with training: next time you start to promise yourself “tomorrow,” take the action you are avoiding immediately and without fail.
Why Disciplines Are Critical to Goal Achievement
Goals are critically important. You need dreams to chase and ambitions to pursue. I hope your goals and dreams and ambitions are so inspirational and aspirational that you leap out of bed in the morning, busting at the seams with the energy to bring them to life. But you may not quite be there yet. This is where disciplines take over, or as James Clear calls them, Atomic Habits. Disciplines are necessary to goals, since they prevent you from ever making an excuse or negotiating with yourself.
Your disciplines are what actually produce the results that lead to attaining your goals, realizing your ambition, and becoming all that you aspire to become. Think of it this way: if you put $100 a week in a savings account, after a year you would have $5,200 (plus a teeny, tiny amount of interest), whether or not that was your main goal. If you wake up and exercise for an hour each morning, you will get better health and energy, even if you really just want a beach body. Anything you do regularly and without fail will show up in your results.
The One Attribute All Successful People Share
Get hungry! You have to want. You have to desire. You have to allow yourself your dreams. You have to give yourself permission to make this life what you want, whether that’s more money, more knowledge, or making a greater contribution to the fields and causes you care about the most.
Hunger drives demand. It’s always inside you, always there, even if you only glance at it sideways, fearful of becoming the person who can bring what you want to life. And here’s the secret: becoming that person, the one who can manifest the things you want, is the very reason you were given a life. It starts by demanding more from yourself than anyone else could reasonably—or even unreasonably—demand of you.