25 Habits That Will Guarantee Your Mental Success

PMA Science of Habit

Blog Bonus: 25 Habits That Will Guarantee Your Mental Success

The ancient Stoics were fond of an expression: You make character your fate.

It means that character is deterministic, that who you are determines what you will be and do. Of course, if you choose to determine your character.

Self-discipline is one of those special things that is both predictive and deterministic if chosen. It both predicts that you will be a success, AND it makes whatever you are doing worthwhile. It is not a means to an end. It is not just something we value until we get something we think we might really value,

—this job title, that amount of money, winning the lottery, landing the most desirable job opportunity.

No.

Discipline, and self-discipline is the win.

When you are disciplined about your purposes…you win. When you are disciplined and believe in yourself…you win. When you know you have put your heart into something, you will succeed. When your self-worth is tied to things you can control (effort and a positive mental attitude, for example)…you win.

This is what I mean when I say, as I titled my book, PMA Science of Habit. Who we are, the standards we hold ourselves to, the things we do regularly—in the end, these are all better predictors of the trajectory of our lives than things like talent, resources, or anything else. So here, are some extra bonus keys that I should have included in my book: PMA Science of Habit : A Practical Guide to Self-Discipline and Mental Riches. Several of the following 25 habits weren’t included at the time I wrote my book. This is because I didn’t know much about stoicism, though these 25 habits will put you ahead on the most positive trajectory possible.

 

1. Attack dawn and sleep.
According to research conducted on most athletes at the gym, firefighters, and several business owners, the morning hours are the most productive. “Because in the morning, you are free” most of them said, and Dwayne Johnson talks on YouTube about how he attacks dawn because during early time, there was, “no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work out and be ready for the day.”

Sleep is also a very significant part of life to maintain a healthy body and mind. The majority of successful people tend to sleep early in order to maintain sound health or in order to have a very productive day the next day.

 

2. Journaling and Gratitude

Daily journaling for 3 – 5 minutes is the easiest thing you can do to start and end the day on a positive note.

Is the physical act of daily journal writing that impacts physical brain activity and function across a multitude of powerful dimensions within your mind.

Every successful person I have talked with, I have learned that they journal every morning and night. Either be a doctor, a person that trains very often at the gym, a business owner, or a person with a management position. They write down their ideas, their plans, their thoughts, their gratitudes and the most prominent example we have today are Meditations by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Why write a book no one would see? Why create a handbook if you are not planning to publish it?

“Because I needed it to keep me in my path.” -Marcus Aurelius

 

3. Reading opens the imagination.

Most people do not open or touch a book after they leave high school or college. The reading I’m talking about here is self-help, biographies, and psychology books for example. The government expects students to study in school in order to become employees rather than thinkers. That’s why most people don’t read after they graduate from school. And because of that, most people don’t really like to learn after so many hours of studying during their school years. The few people that read, is mostly because they have goals and want to pursue them. They might want to become leaders in their fields at work, want to be doctors, business owners, world champion athletes, -or just want to self-develop and grow mentally for example.

Due to their reading interests, Nikola Tesla and Leonardo DaVinci inventions came to mind. If they hadn’t read, we probably wouldn’t have today’s technologies. Consider alternate current in our homes, wireless communication, magnificent bridges, or the Mona Lisa and Elons Mulsk electric cars.

 

4. Quit being a slave. On an ordinary afternoon in 1949, the physicist Richard Feynman was rushing about his business when he felt a pull to have a drink. Not an intense craving by any means, but it was a disconcerting desire for alcohol. On the spot, Feynman gave up drinking right then and there. Nothing, he felt, should have that kind of power over him. At the core of the idea of self-mastery is an instinctive reaction against anything that masters us. We have to drop our unproductive habits. We have to quit being a slave—to cigarettes or soda, to likes on social media, to too much junk food, to unmotivational work, or your lust for power. The body, and mind can’t be in charge. Neither can the habit. We have to be the boss. For the same reason that “we have a body and mind”, and we can control to a certain point.

Napoleon Hill tells us in the book Think and Grow Rich that if you make up your mind to quit, you will win. That’s a tremendous attitude and habit. -just as Richard Feynman did.

 

5. Just be about the work.
Before he was a big time comedian, Hasan Minhaj was asked if he thought he was going to make it big. “I don’t like that question,” he said. “I fundamentally don’t like that question.” Because the question implies that doing comedy is a means to an end—the Netflix special, selling out the stadium, doing this, getting that. “No, no, no,” he said, “I get to do comedy…I won. It being predicated on doing X or being bigger than Y—no, no, no. To me, it has always been about the work. I’m on house money, full time.”

The words of Hasan Minhaj described above show how a positive mental mindset can work when one has a desire to dedicate oneself to the work.

 

6. Manage the load. “Absolute activity, of whatever kind,” Goethe said, “ultimately leads to bankruptcy.” No one is invincible. No one can carry on forever. We are all susceptible to what the American swimmer Simone Manuel has helped popularize: Overtraining Syndrome. Even iron eventually breaks, or wears out.

In writing some of my books, training, reading and holding a “common job” I have come to the conclusion that there have been several times when my body just ached and did not want to respond. The signs have told me that I need to rest and manage the load.

7. Do the challenging things first.
The poet and pacifist William Stafford put forth a daily rule: “Do the most difficult things first.” Don’t wait. Don’t tell yourself you’ll warm up to it. Don’t tell yourself you’ll get this other stuff out of the way and then…No. Do it now. Do it first. Get it over with.

Having to do the difficult things first can be unpleasant and challenging, but Elon Musk and Dwayne Johnson are known for persevering to achieve their goals.

8. The main thing should remain the main thing“I wish I knew how people do high quality and long sustained work and still keep all kinds of other lines going–social, economic, etc,” John Steinbeck once wrote in the middle of the long grind of a novel. The truth is, they don’t! It is impossible to be committed to anything–professionally or personally–without the discipline to say no to all those other superfluous things.

9. Make small progress each day.
One of the most helpful rules I’ve heard as a writer is that the way to write a book is by producing “two crappy pages a day.” It’s by carving out a small win each and every day—getting words on the page—that a book is put together. Hemingway once said that “the first draft of anything is crap,” and he’s right (I actually have lots of notes both in my journals and iPhone notes as a reminder to get inspiration at given times).

10. Be kind to yourself.

The Stoic philosopher Cleanthes was once walking through the streets of Athens when he came across a man berating himself for some failure. Seeing how upset he was, Cleanthes–normally one to mind his own business–could not help himself but to stop and say kindly, “Remember, you’re not talking to a bad man.” Discipline isn’t about beating yourself up. There’s a firmness involved, for sure. Ultimately, after a lifetime of study of Stoicism, this is how Seneca came to judge his own growth—“What progress have I made?” he wrote. “I have begun to be a friend to myself.” It is an act of self discipline to be kind towards oneself. To be a trustworthy friend. To make yourself better. To celebrate your progress, however small. That’s what friends do.

11. Bring distinction to everything you do. Plutarch tells us about a general and statesman in Greece named Epaminondas who, despite his brilliance on and off the battlefield, was appointed to an insultingly minor office in Thebes responsible for the city’s sewers. In fact, it was because of his brilliance that he was assigned the role. A number of jealous and fearful rivals thought it would effectively end his career. However, rather than reacting with fury or despair at his insignificance, Epaminondas embraced his newly acquired job with a full heart. According to him, the distinction of the office does not come to the man, but the man brings it to the man. With discipline and earnestness, Plutarch wrote, “he proceeded to transform that insignificant office into a great and respected honor, even though previously it had involved nothing more than overseeing the clearing of dung and the diverting of water from the streets.”

12. Practice.
The wonderfully curious economist Tyler Cowen has come to ask greats of various fields some version of the question: How do you practice your scales? What drills or exercises make you better at what you do? If a person wants to get better, wants to continue to develop and polish, they must know the answer to that question.

Jim Rhon said “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” And the only way to maintain positive habits is through practice.

13. Be harsh on yourself. “Take the cold bath bravely, ‘’ W.E.B Dubois wrote to his daughter. “Make yourself do unpleasant things so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.” By being stern with ourselves, it makes it less likely for others to be harsh on us. By being our own tyrant, we take away the power of tyrants over us.

The virtue of being strict on oneself doesn’t mean being negative, but rather being disciplined and postponing gratification for virtues.

14. Look at everything in a calm and mild light.

When things seemed to be at their peak, Abraham Lincoln always relied on mantras or tools to calm himself. During his presidency he often used methods such as:

“Some of the wisest of men have called anger a short madness: for it is equally devoid of self control, regardless of decorum, forgetful of kinship, obstinately engrossed in whatever it begins to do, deaf to reason and advice, excited by trifling causes, awkward at perceiving what is true and just, and very like a falling rock which breaks itself to pieces upon the very thing which it crushes.” -Seneca

And

“Whenever you get angry, Caesar, do not say or do anything before repeating to yourself the twenty-four letters of the alphabet.“

— Athenodorus

And wrote himself letters of his frustration. After drafting the letter, he read it, sealed it, and did not mail it. Instead, he just put it in his drawer.

After a few hours had passed, Lincoln came back to open up the drawer, take out the letter, and read it again. Most of the time, he found that his anger had abated. There was no need to send the letter, or to keep on being angry. The time in between writing the letter, and then reading it again cooled him down. In that way he could “attend to the matter with a clearer eye”.

15. Stay in the saddle. There is an old German word sitzfleisch which means basically sitting your butt in the chair and not getting up until the task is complete. Even as it feels numb, even as one by one, the people around you call it a day. Showing up yourself, day after day, until your back aches, your eyes water, and your limbs turn to mush. Many a brave conqueror in the days of horseback were called “Old Iron Ass” for their ability to stay in the saddle.

Napoleon Hill called it in PMA Science of Success “Definite of Purpose and Going The Extra Mile”. This means completing your main objective and performing above and beyond what you’re paid for. Even if you don’t get noticed at your current job, eventually your attitude will speak for you, and you will be noticed and appreciated.

16. Get back up when you fall.
It’s wonderfully fitting that in both the Zen tradition and the Bible, we have a version of the proverb about falling down seven times and rising up eight. Even the most self-disciplined of us will stumble. Marcus Aurelius said it was inevitable to be jarred by circumstances. However, the key was to get back the rhythm as quickly as possible, to come back to yourself, rather than giving in.

As Darren Hardy advises in The Compound Effect, ask yourself how long it will take for you to recover from a stressful situation: 20 days, 2 weeks, 2 days, 2 hours, or 20 seconds?

In other words, every human walking today felt a lot as a child and still does from time to time.

17. Find your comrades. The Spartan lawgiver Lycurgus introduced the common mess hall and required that all citizens eat together. It was difficult to eat more than your fair share, more than your healthy share, when you were surrounded by your comrades in battle.

Above all, be a comrade!

18. Be a tiny bit deaf. We have to develop the ability to ignore, to endure, to forget. Not just cruel provocations from jerks, but also unintentional slights and mistakes from people we love or respect. “It helps to be a bit deaf,” was the advice that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was given by her mother-in-law. It helped guide her through not just 56 years of marriage, but also a 27-year career on the court with colleagues she adored, but disagreed with on a regular basis.

Being a tiny bit deaf is more about looking for the good in every situation rather than feeding the ego as is a custom in today’s world.

19. Speak little.
Robert Greene puts it perfectly: “Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less.” They have the discipline and this discipline creates a powerful presence.

Zeno put it beautifully, “We have two ears and one mouth, therefore we should listen twice as much as we speak.”

It’s isn’t easy, though achievable!

20. Focus. Ludwig van Beethoven was known for drifting off in social conversations. Are you even listening to me, a friend once asked. Sorry, Beethoven replied, “I was just occupied with such a lovely, deep thought, I couldn’t bear to be disturbed.” They called this his raptus. His flow state. His place of deep work. His intense periods of concentration. The source of his musical greatness. We can all develop this skill. As Steve Jobs, speaking to his top designer Jonny Ive, would explain, “focus is not this thing you aspire to…or something you do on Monday. It’s something you do every minute.”

21. Slow down. There’s a difference between hustling (starting your own business, learning new skills, writing a book…) and hurrying. They like to say in the military that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. In ancient Rome, the phrase was festina lente. That is, to proceed slowly. Energy plus moderation. Measured exertion. Eagerness, but under control. Just as Ryan Holiday quotes the poet Juan Ramon Jimenez “Slowly,” “you do everything correctly.”

22. Be strict only with yourself. It was said that the true majesty of Marcus Aurelius was that his exactingness was directed only at himself. He found a way to work with flawed people, putting them to service for the good of the empire. He searched them for virtues which he celebrated, accepting their vices, which he knew were not under his control. Tolerant with others, he reminded himself, strict with yourself.

23. Get the simple things right. Dating back, perhaps to time immemorial, is the poem and proverb about a horse. “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost,” it begins. As a result of the shoe, the horse was lost. Due to the horse, the rider, and due to the rider, the message, and due to the message, the battle, and due to the battle, the kingdom. For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost. Because of poor discipline, everything was lost. Save yourself. Save the world. Get the simple things right.

24. Beware of perfectionism.

Don’t try to be a perfectionist, because you’ll never beat Mother Nature. As Churchill said, another way to spell “perfectionism” is p-a-r-a-l-y-s-i-s. Again, it’s okay to have high standards but all virtues become vices if taken too far. An obsession with getting it exactly right misses the forest for the trees–because ultimately the biggest miss of the target is failing to get your shot off.

25. Do your finest. In an interview with Admiral Hyman Rickover for a chance to join the nuclear submarine program, a young Jimmy Carter was asked how he ranked in his class at the Naval Academy. “59th in a class of 840 sir,” Carter replied with pride. Rickover followed up with, “Did you always do your best?” Carter began to instinctively answer that of course he always did his very best, but something inside of him caused him to pause and reconsider. “No, sir, I didn’t always do my best.” Rickover didn’t say anything and just looked at Carter for a long time. Then he stood up, asked one final question, “Why not?”, and walked out of the room.

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The Stoics believed that, in the end, it’s not about what we do, it’s about who we are when we do it. They believed that anything you do well is noble, no matter how humble or impressive, as long as it’s the right thing. That greatness is up to you—it’s what you bring to everything you do.

Temperance, as Cicero claimed, can be the fine polish on top of a prosperous life.

It’s not a palace or a throne that makes someone impressive, the Stoics would say, but kingly behavior that does. It’s discipline, self-control. He wasn’t after power or status, he said, but, “perfection of character: to live your last day, every day, without frenzy or sloth or pretense.” He was after becoming the most polished version of himself possible, putting a fine polish on top of everything he did, no matter how humble or impressive.

In Habits section, PMA Science of Success, 1928, Napoleon Hill said that even with 24 hours in a day, anyone can succeed in any pursuit they set their minds to by using the hours left over after work and before sleep. And after a closer examination, I have found out that it’s very true. That is how Peter Stordalen, and Kjell Inge Røkke – two Norwegian entrepreneurs – have built their emporiums among others.

The aim of PMA Science of Habit is to teach you how to harness the powers of self-discipline. The Stoics believed that we are all born to fulfill a meaningful destiny. The pursuit of everyone’s destiny can be achieved with self-discipline and self-control, even though not everyone’s destiny is the same. In PMA Science of Habit, you will learn how to fulfill yours.

Because we’d like to encourage you to master Self-Discipline right now, this blog was put together for you!

Cheers,

Jay

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