We all have goals. We all have dreams.
So what separates the people who achieve their goals and realize their dreams from those who don’t?
Here’s what Will Smith — the Grammy Award winning, Oscar nominated actor, producer, and erstwhile rapper — says makes all the difference.
A dude screamed to me the other night, ‘Hey Will, I want to be an actor, man. I want to be an actor just like you.’
But I was just sitting here thinking, and it dawned on me, 99 percent of people say stuff like that are not willing to do what it takes to make their dreams come true. The Marines have a saying, ‘Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.’
At the center of bringing any dream into fruition is self discipline. Something as simple as food and eating is not about your body as much as it is your mind. It’s getting command of your mind to be able to choose actions that are in your own best interest.
Every day we are choosing shit that is not in our own best interest. So if the world is attacking you, if the world is trying to hold you down… you’re going to kick yourself in the balls? You’re going to stop yourself from getting what you dream?
Self discipline is the center of all material success. You cannot win the war against the world if you cannot win the war against your own mind.
Keep in mind self discipline is not something you either have, or don’t. While some people may be more self-disciplined than you, or some people may be better at resisting temptation than you… that’s not because they were born with some certain special something inside them.
Instead, they’ve found ways to store up their determination and willpower and use it when it really matters.
They appear to have exceptional self discipline not because they have more of it, but because they know how to use what self-discipline they do possess.
For example, they:
Eliminate choices whenever possible. We all have a limited amount of mental energy for exercising self-control. The more choices you have to make throughout the day, the harder it is to stay on course — and the easiest it is to give in to temptation.
And then you make decisions you know you shouldn’t make… but it feels too hard to help it.
That’s because you’ve run out of mental energy to make self-disciplined choice. And that’s why your goal is to make as few choices as possible.
One way is to use choice architecture: If you want to drink more water, keep several bottles on your desk. If you want to eat less sweets, keep ice cream out of your house. (Ice cream is my self-discipline Achilles heel.) If you want to spend more time on social media, turn off your phone and leave it in another room.
In short, make making the wrong choice physically difficult, not easy.
Do the tough stuff first. We all have greater mental energy — and therefore greater self-discipline — early in the day. In a study performed by the National Academy of Sciences, parole board judges were most likely to give a favorable ruling early in the morning; just before lunch, the odds of a favorable ruling dropped to almost zero.
Should judges’ decisions have been affected by a lack of mental energy? No — but they were. That’s why the best time to stay on course is to tackle the tough stuff early in the day.
Focus not just on doing, but on becoming. As I write in my book, The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win, the key is not to think about doing — the key is to think about becoming.
Becoming what happens when you put in the time and effort to gain a certain level of skill: In time, you become the thing that you’re trying to achieve.
Say you’re a manager of a department. At first you think about managing, but over time you think of yourself as a leader. Leading is no longer only something you do; leading is who you are. You’ve become a leader.
Or say you’re Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. At first you play a guitar, but in time music is who you are. You’ve become a musician.
Even though “becoming” is incredibly motivating, when you truly become a leader or an entrepreneur or a runner or a musician — or whatever you hope to be — you no longer need as much self-discipline.
You don’t have to find willpower to keep pushing forward; you do what you do because that’s who you are.
“Becoming” isn’t just your identity. It’s also the best self-discipline tool of all, because it’s based not on wishing and hoping and dreaming… but on reality.
A reality you created — for yourself.