Elite Self-Discipline (Part I)

Andrew Bustamante | July 29, 2019

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Greetings Everyday Spy,

You don’t know this, but I write to you everyday.

Some days I write before the sun comes up. Other days I write in the heat of a desert afternoon. And of course, many days I write to you after my wife and children have gone to bed.

I write to you because I believe that sharing my knowledge is important.

Life does a poor job of making important things convenient for us. Instead, it often seems like the most important things are also the least convenient.

Just like everyday life, covert operations have little room for convenience.

Security, timing, and operational coordination are our top priorities. And that means things happen when they must happen. Not when it’s comfortable, manageable, or agreeable.

I was working a case in 2012 where a high-value target was expected to travel to a high-end vacation resort in Southeast Asia. The resort was gorgeous; it had every convenience imaginable. Buried deep in tropical jungle, it was hours away from the nearest highway and only accessible by helicopter or prearranged private driver.

The mission was to intercept the target en-route to the resort, but the exact arrival date and time were uncertain. We had a 10 day window to work with… assuming the target showed up at all.

Covert activities don’t happen in luxurious settings. They happen in dark, dirty places where nobody wants to go and few dare to wander.

Needless to say, security and equipment limitations meant we couldn’t stage the intercept team at the resort itself. I’m sure James Bond would disagree. But we had to stay close – close and quiet.

About two kilometers upriver from the resort were three abandoned thatch huts. We decided to purchase the huts through a cut-out and use them as our staging ground. The native huts provided shelter from rain and unexpected onlookers, and also offered us rapid access to the river.

When things go according to plan, it is convenient. That is why things never go as planned…

Our 10 day window was coming to an end. The team was miserable – tired, sick, covered with bites from bugs we didn’t couldn’t recognize on sight. 

Nothing was working. Nothing was fun. Nothing was convenient. 

But we stayed. We stayed because the mission required us to stay. 

We stayed because we had self-discipline.

8 out of 10 people admit to wanting more self-discipline. 

Leading countries around the world are struggling with health, addiction, and anxiety because they lack self-discipline:

  • Americans eat 31% more pre-packaged food than fresh food, even though they don’t want to
  • Alcohol abuse in the US increased by 29.8% in 2018; 27% of Brits binge-drink beyond healthy limits; 4.4 million Canadians are considered at-risk for alcohol-related health issues
  • 20% of Australians report having depression and anxiety each year

EverydaySpy is committed to teaching elite operational techniques that solve everyday problems.

When I trained in the military, at CIA’s ‘Farm’, and in the foreign field, we always learned through experience. We learned step-by-step, in series. 

Known as ‘experiential learning,’ the goal is to make knowledge and behavior permanent by immediately applying the concepts you learn.

For those who applied the lessons, you saw powerful results. I know because you told me! 

It’s time to learn the secret that makes spies, special operators, and elite action units successful.

It’s time to learn elite self-discipline.

27% of people say they lack the self-discipline to achieve their personal and professional goals.

Self-discipline is misunderstood.

Some people think it’s a personality trait. Others think it is a learned skill. Neither is fully correct.

Self-discipline is the conscious practice of exercising subconscious ‘willpower.’ To understand self-discipline, we must first understand willpower.

Ready for some mental science?

Willpower is our ability to resist the things that tempt us.

It is a natural human cognitive skill and everyone is born with it. 

But even though we are all born with willpower, we do not have equal amounts of willpower as adults. Our willpower evolves and develops according to our experiences. 

Willpower is a limited resource. Once it is spent, we ‘lose’ our will. 

We all know what it looks like:

  • We resist the box of donuts when we arrive in the office at 8am, but break down and eat one at 2pm in the afternoon
  • We get excited over lunch-hour thinking about playing with our kids when we get home, but after we actually get home we just want to be left alone
  • We answer emails all day long – even from people we don’t like – but put-off emails from family and friends when the weekend arrives

These are examples of how our willpower gets spent. Those with more willpower can last longer, but we all feel ourselves running low by the end of each day.

The average person spends 4 hours a day resisting temptations and depleting their willpower. 

Whether you are a dieter resisting Boston Cream or a smoker trying to quit – resistance is taxing. The energy you spend exercising your will is real, just like the energy you spend walking or running. And like jogging or hiking, you will get tired and eventually run out of energy.

When you deplete your willpower, the pleasure and pain receptors in your brain become more sensitive.

First thing in the morning, your willpower reserves are full. You can resist unhealthy food, annoying people, and emotional spikes with ease.

But after a full day of work, your willpower is drained. 

That’s why radio commercials give you a headache on your commute home from work but not on your commute in to work – your pain receptors are more sensitive to noise/pitch when you run out of willpower.

It’s also why beer tastes best at 6pm after a hard day of work – your pleasure receptors are turned up from spent willpower.

Just like any other muscle, your willpower can be increased; it can recover, grow, and gain capacity/strength.

It just takes exercise.

And like growing muscles, the key to success is in recovery. If you let yourself run out of willpower, it cannot grow or increase. Instead, you have to exercise it wisely and give yourself space to recover your willpower before you deplete it.

The way to achieve self-discipline is by increasing your capacity for willpower.

Willpower allows you to resist temptation; to persevere; to endure discomfort, pain, and fear.

Resisting temptation allows you to make intentional decisions – the decisions you want to make instead of the decisions you ‘happen’ to make.

Self-discipline is the act of making the same decision consistently, without caving to discouragement, exhaustion, or temptation.

Until you increase your willpower, self-discipline cannot be achieved.

The average person doesn’t understand the difference between self-discipline and willpower. 

Elite operators do.

So do you.

Stay tuned – In my next article we will start exercising and increasing your willpower!

Godspeed, #EverydaySpy

Author: Andrew Bustamante, Founder of www.EverydaySpy.com. Andrew is a former covert CIA Intelligence officer, decorated US Air Force Combat Veteran, and respected Fortune 500 senior advisor. Learn more from Andrew on his Podcast (The Everyday Espionage Podcast) and by following @EverydaySpy on your favorite social media platform.

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