The following is an excerpt from The Way of the SEAL, by Mark Divine, published by Readers Digest on December 26th and available for pre-order now.
Making a Habit of Excellence
Habits are the little actions we perform every moment, every day, in between the big actions that occur less frequently. Though many of these aren’t necessarily “bad habits,” they may not be “excellence habits” either. If you want to perform at the top 1% in your chosen arena, you must strive to habituate excellence.
When it comes to habits, the best approach isn’t to focus on eliminating unwanted behaviors, but to replace them with new habits and drown the old out. This is true of replacing a nasty habit like smoking with a healthy habit like exercise, and it’s just as true with replacing a character habit like laziness with a more useful one such as embracing the suck. Our habits define us: Solid character habits define a solid character. We can all grow through a disciplined approach to learning, training, and self-mastery. But we can grow even stronger by driving passionately toward our targets and facing hard challenges, never quitting when the going gets unfathomable. And, perhaps above all, we grow the most through quiet determination and perseverance, expressed through a commitment to doing today what others won’t.
Discipline is the spark that ignites the fire of a habit. Those fires must be lit daily, and discipline provides the original source energy. The word “discipline” literally means to be a disciple to a higher purpose. Developing the discipline to train hard every day means you become a disciple, not to the training itself, not just to looking good or stoking your ego, but to the higher purpose of developing yourself fully as a human being and as a leader. To return to the start of this chapter, discipline begins with training the mind to reject discomfort and embrace the suck.
This kind of discipline isn’t built or acquired overnight. It starts with baby steps. Just committing to a training regimen is a first step. Take things up a notch now by disciplining yourself to go the extra mile every day. Rather than just showing up and “doing your job,” seek to learn everything you can about what others do in your team or office, what other roles people play in your industry and how things work. Ask questions, look for learning opportunities such as trainings or even informal conversations, and read widely. If you don’t know something, make an effort to find out. If you know a little, try to learn a little more. Never “rest on your laurels.” Remember, when extraordinary efforts become commonplace, extraordinary results follow.
Whereas discipline activates a habit, drive is the fuel that provides the motivation behind your actions. A fiery passion drove Big Dave to improve on the SEAL’s diving programs. Something drives me to train others and to share these stories and practices with you. Drive is fueled by desire, belief, and expectation that we can achieve something extraordinary through our efforts. It feeds on discipline in that it becomes stronger as we commit ourselves at deeper levels to our pursuits.
How do we build drive? First, connect a major life interest to your purpose. Daily journaling can help ensure your purpose is in the forefront of your mind as you make decisions. “Does this action move me closer to or farther from my purpose?” is a good reflection question. Drive will help keep you front sight focused and moving toward your next target.
Drive provides a lifelong source of energy if focused on a passionate and worthy end. But be wary, because drive can have a dark side, too. When you’re driven solely by “me” reasons and you confuse determination with stubbornness, you can easily lose sight of the “we” in your life, leaving your coworkers, family, or other teams wondering what happened to that nice man or woman they used to know. The type of drive that powers elite operators is a “me plus we” drive. It means you’re driven to grow and learn new things in a way that benefits yourself and your team, and that is balanced with the needs of the organization. Big Dave was driven by his passion for diving excellence, but understood his labor of love meant nothing unless the team also benefited. Because of his drive, the SEALs gained new combat diving techniques and equipment, which helped them meet their maritime missions better.
If drive is the fuel that keeps you motivated, determination is the long view commitment to the goal. Big Dave was always the last out of the Team area every night. When everyone else is done for the day, the determined stay for an extra hour honing a skill, working on their gear, or studying something new. World-class performers aren’t always the most naturally talented at their craft. They are, however, the hardest working and most determined to be the best they can be at what they do.
To obtain the full version of The Way of the SEAL, please click here and get two free gifts when you pre-order on Amazon today!