Greetings Everyday Spy,
Today we start training our elite self-discipline!
In my last letter to you, we discussed the relationship between self-discipline and willpower.
We learned that 80% of people desire greater self-discipline, but that self-discipline is reliant on willpower. Without willpower – the ability to resist temptation – we cannot achieve self-discipline.
Imagine you are put in a room that smells like fresh baked cookies. You sit in that room with 12 strangers for 3 minutes before someone delivers a heaping plate of beautifully toasted chocolate chip cookies. You and the group share the plate, eating as many (or as few) cookies as you choose.
Then you are given a challenging geometry test – one designed for advanced engineers. How long will your willpower resist the temptation to give up on the test?
I don’t need cookies to know that you would stay focused for about 20 minutes.
This test has been conducted on children and adults using everything from marshmallows to radishes. And for the last 50 years, the conclusion has remained consistent:
Willpower is a limited resource.
Spies are surrounded by temptation.
Temptation drains your energy, your emotions, and your hope.
You too are surrounded by temptation every day.
At its core, CIA training is about resisting temptation.
The day you walk on to CIA’s covert field training facility, everything is taken from you.
You give up your phone, your ID, your personal items, even your wedding ring.
Self-help authors, life-coaches and metaphysical experts fill books (and bank accounts!) convincing people to buy their training programs.
The world gets confused between self-help and self-optimization. In that confusion, it is easy to mask ‘dependence’ as ‘independence’ and slap a price-tag on it.
Self-help targets those who doubt their abilities.
For this group of people, outside validation is so important that they are willing to pay for it. In 2018 they paid $11 billion. By 2022, it is estimated they will spend $15 billion annually.
In contrast, self-optimization is for those who are confident of their abilities.
This group of people does not need external validation to recognize their talents. They are outstanding performers that understand their capabilities and are hungry to challenge themselves.
You are an outstanding performer. You know it, and so do I.
You don’t need training… but you want it. Because you want to self-optimize.
And self-optimization requires self-discipline.
Self-discipline starts in the center of your brain, in a place called the ACC (anterior cingulate cortex).
This area of the brain is responsible for a wide range of cognitive functions, from emotional response to rational decision-making. But its most important function is impulse control.
The ACC is the part of your brain that keeps you from running rude drivers off the road; it keeps you from eating the entire bag of BBQ chips during a football game; it keeps you from yelling the same hurtful words at your teenager that they just yelled at you.
Your ACC controls your willpower.
Your brain can seem complicated, but it is really just another biological organ in your body.
Its functions are tied to biological needs.
Your brain works best when it is well nourished and well rested. The same is true for your ACC – one small part of your brain.
The most important factor in building a strong ACC is maintaining regular glucose levels.
Glucose is a simple sugar found in almost all natural foods. It is the most abundant carbohydrate on the planet and you can find it in everything from fruit to pasta.
We are lucky that glucose is abundant because it is the only energy source that fuels cognitive functions in the brain.
As long as your body has healthy glucose levels, your ACC (the source of your willpower) functions effectively. But if your glucose level drops, your ACC suffers.
Low glucose levels weaken your willpower and threaten your self-discipline.
Low blood sugar happens two different ways:
When the body has a drop in blood sugar, it reacts by releasing adrenaline (epinephrine) to sustain core physical functions. While the adrenaline can physically sustain the body between meals, it cannot sustain your cognitive functions. Only glucose can do that.
The result is a fully functional body, but a near total lack of willpower.
You will feel normal physically, but your temper is short, your memory fails you, and you struggle to make good decisions.
We all know this feeling. It’s the feeling of getting home after a long day at work. Or buying fast-food for dinner because traffic was a bear. Or skipping a workout because you just want a break.
The first step to gaining elite self-discipline is maintaining healthy glucose levels.
In medical terms, we want blood sugar levels between 80-130 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter).
In normal human terms, it means we need to eat regular meals and stay hydrated throughout the day.
Here is how elite operators use glucose levels to achieve elite self-discipline:
– Powerful Fruit –
Fruits are the cleanest, simplest, and most effective form of glucose. At this moment, thousands of special operators around the world are carrying a banana, an apple, or an orange in their ops bag.
Easy to pack, easy to digest, and naturally protected by its own skin/rind, a piece of fruit can sustain your ACC for 4-6 hours after consumption.
– Timing is Everything –
Your body needs time to digest food, break down complex sugars, and transfer the glucose into your bloodstream. This process takes 1-2 hours after your first bite. For field operators, we consume glucose-rich fruit 3 hours before our planned operational task.
As a dad and business owner, I schedule my afternoon fruit break between 2-3pm. This ensures my ACC is at full performance when I walk in the door after work and face the chaos of multiple children, cooking dinner, and shepherding the bedtime routine.
– The Water Advantage –
Efficient digestion and blood flow requires water. The body works best when it is hydrated. Unfortunately, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration limits glucose transfer to your bloodstream and makes it difficult to know when the glucose will hit your ACC.
Drinking water at the same time that you consume fruit helps ensure proper digestion and glucose transfer. A simple 8oz. glass of water along with a piece of fruit can boost your body’s digestion by nearly half.
Here is a ‘physical discipline’ challenge to prepare you for our next training session:
People think motivation comes before self-discipline. It doesn’t.
Physical discipline – like eating fruit and drinking water – leads to tangible results. Tangible results create motivation. And once you are motivated to keep going, the road to elite self-discipline gets faster and easier!
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.