Author Archives: Burak Bilgin

About Burak Bilgin

Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons.

Your Definition of Toughness Doesn’t Serve You

What comes to your mind when you hear the word toughness? The stereotypical guy who wears leather jackets, rides a motorcycle, eats meat, and drinks beer? If that’s so, you define the word tough as “prone to violence.”

Needless to say, that definition won’t help you much in today’s society. If you think you’re tough, you’ll be aggressive toward others, even if you don’t get physical.

With that attitude, you might think you’re “getting things done,” but in reality, you’ll be alienating people, and from time to time, you’ll get in real trouble.

Both Ends of That Definition Is Problematic

You might think that you aren’t tough, because you’re a civilized person. In that case, you’ll be nice to everybody, all the time, no matter what they do, and no matter what the conditions are.

Both attitudes are inadequate in today’s society, and both stem from your definition of the word tough as “prone to violence.”

How are we going to solve this problem then? Yes, you’ve guessed it right. We’re going to adopt a different definition of the word tough.

Tough: to be able to endure hardship or pain.

That definition is much more useful in today’s society if you’re living in a Western democracy or in a society that resembles it. Now, what comes to your mind when you adopt that definition? A woman who gives birth to a child naturally comes to my mind.

The Virtues Included in Toughness

With that definition, you don’t need to be aggressive toward others, get into trouble, and alienate people to be tough.

That definition involves the perseverance to keep working toward your goals when the going gets tough. It entails having the self-discipline to stick to your commitments no matter how hard they become.

It requires cultivating the courage to face your scariest fears. All of that sounds more meaningful and useful to me than “being prone to violence.”

How to Develop Toughness

If we define toughness as “the ability to endure hardship or pain,” how can we develop it? No, you don’t need to become a masochist, but some fitness training might help. The first thing that comes to mind is weight training.

Weight training could improve your toughness, but in my experience, jogging works better. When lifting weights, the hard part is over after a few repetitions, and I can rest. With jogging, I’m subject to an extended period of demanding, low-intensity physical activity.

Lifting Weights vs. Jogging

When lifting weights, my body is in pain, but my mind enjoys the process. When I first started jogging, my body didn’t like it, but my mind hated it. It lacked the stimulation of lifting weights and induced unbearable boredom.

Nowadays, I’m getting used to jogging and even starting to enjoy the process. Perhaps, it works, and I’m getting tougher.

The Wim Hof Method

There’s another method I’m trying nowadays. That’s the Wim Hof Method. It’s a combination of a breathing method and cold showers.

You might think that I wouldn’t mind the breathing but hate the cold showers, but it’s the other way around.

After 45 seconds of deep breathing, my body gets used to the cold shower, and it’s like swimming in the sea. But that breathing feels so boring.

Find Your Own Practice

What I find uncomfortable and what you find uncomfortable can be different. The bottom line is to develop toughness, find something that you find uncomfortable and do it. In other words, love the pain.

1% Improvements

You don’t need to take the hardest challenge in your first attempt when developing toughness. All you have to do is to get out of your comfort zone 1% every day. Those 1% improvements add up over time.

For example, you don’t need to take a cold shower on your first attempt. At the end of your regular shower, turn the water as cold as you can endure, and spend one minute under it.

Turn the water colder every day until you reach the coldest position. When you reach that level, increase the duration by 15 seconds every day. Needless to say, don’t do cold showers if you have any health conditions to avoid fainting and injury.

Use Inversion

The second way of developing toughness is to use the inversion method. That is eliminating everything that weakens you. That might be an internet addiction, recreational drugs, including alcohol and coffee, or gaming addiction.

Cultivate Compassion

The third method is cultivating compassion. It’s hard to develop compassion toward a person when you’re immersed in anger.

It requires stepping into their shoes and looking at the world from their point of view. And it’s a rewarding skill in the real world.


If you define toughness as “being prone to violence,” you’ll either embrace it or discard it. Neither option is beneficial in the long run.

If you define toughness as “the ability to handle hardship and pain,” and work on cultivating it, you’ll increase your chances of success in the real world.

There are several ways of developing toughness, physical activity, eliminating the habits that weaken you, and cultivating compassion.

And don’t forget, it’s a process. You can develop world-class toughness by improving your self-discipline, courage, and perseverance by 1% every day.

A Simple Practice to Get Unstuck

We create our reality with the choices we make and the actions we take. Our choices and actions are determined by our thoughts and feelings. Most of our thoughts and feelings are repetitive.

Our emotions are saved in our unconscious mind, which plays them over and over, day after day. Our emotions trigger the same thoughts, which in turn reinforce the same emotions in our psyche.

As a result, we make the same choices and take the same actions, and create the same results in our lives. That’s the mechanism that keeps us stuck in our lives.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Anonymous

The Way to Get Unstuck Is Simple

When you look at the mechanism of staying stuck, getting unstuck is pretty obvious. Simply, change your habitual emotions, thoughts, choices, and actions.

You can use the letting go technique to change your habitual emotions.

To change your habitual thoughts, you need to determine the underlying mindset and replace it with an empowering mindset. The growth and abundance mindsets are examples of empowering mindsets.

I plan to write more about empowering and discouraging mindsets. If you’re interested in that topic, sign up to my email newsletter.

Changing Your Habitual Choices and Actions

The simple practice I’m going to share today is about changing your habitual choices and actions. In this practice, you ask yourself a question every day.

What did I do differently today?

It’s as simple as that. If you want to achieve different results, you need to do something different right? So, what was it that you do differently today? Nothing? Then, what will you do differently tomorrow?

Be Honest with Yourself

When you ask yourself this question, you have to be honest with yourself. You know on a deeper level that the following answers won’t cut it.

  • I scrolled down the Instagram feed instead of the Facebook feed.
  • I watched a different TV channel today.
  • I hung out with different people.

We’re looking for more drastic changes.

  • I read a book instead of scrolling social media feeds.
  • I spent quality time with my family instead of watching TV.
  • I took an evening class instead of hanging out with people.

Expect a Backlash from Your Psyche

If you do that, expect a backlash from your psyche. Your unconscious mind is used to your habitual patterns and will ask for the same experiences over and over, day after day. If you don’t give them to it, it’s going to wreak havoc.

To mitigate the side effects of the change, you can use the 1% improvements method. The 1% improvements method involves making small changes repeatedly over time.

Those changes accumulate and compound over time and create enormous transformations. If you improved your life 1% every day, you’d improve your life 38 times in a single year. So, don’t underestimate the 1% changes.

Take It to the Next Level

If you want to take this practice to the next level, commit to doing it every day for a year, and keep a log of the changes you made.

Do one thing differently every day for a year, and write it down as a single sentence in your log. You’ll see your life being transformed at the end of the year.


The way to getting unstuck is simple. You simply change your habitual emotions, thoughts, choices, and actions.

You can’t change all of that overnight unless you experience a dramatic breakthrough. But you can change them over time by making small improvements. Small, consistent improvements over time add up and result in great transformations.

You can change your emotions with the letting go technique. You can change your thoughts by becoming aware of the underlying mindset and adopting an empowering mindset.

And you can change your choices and actions by asking yourself a simple question every day.

“What did I do differently today?”

5 Steps to Accelerate the Accomplishment of Your Goals

Most of the time, we set having or doing goals.

Having Goals

  • I want to have a 5 bedroom home.
  • I want to have a car of this make and model.
  • I want to have a net worth of X dollars.

Doing Goals

  • I want to get an MBA.
  • I want to start a business.
  • I want to start a relationship.

What most of us don’t realize is that there’s a third category, being goals. Being goals are on a deeper level than the having and doing goals.

You might want to have a net worth of 10 million dollars. You might want to achieve that by building a business. But have you ever asked yourself who you have to be to achieve those goals? The answer to that question would be your being goal.

Three Levels of Goals

Whenever you set a having goal, also set doing goals if you haven’t done so. And whenever you set a doing goal, come up with a being goal underneath. Here’s an example.

  • Having Goal: I want to have a net worth of 10 million dollars.
  • Doing Goal: I want to start a business.
  • Being Goal: I want to become an entrepreneur.

The article Primal Leadership, the Hidden Driver of Great Performance by Daniel Goleman, et al. has a five-step process to achieve your being goals.

The article is also available in the book HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself, one of the top 12 personal development books that I recommend. The version in the book includes some extras such as the Idea in Brief, Idea in Practice, and other extra material.

Step 1: Who Do You Want to Be?

The first step in realizing your being goal is to define who you want to become. Imagine yourself you are already that person.

  • What do you see?
  • How do you feel?
  • What is your mindset?
  • How do you approach life?
  • How do you approach your day?

Step 2: Who Are You Now?

We need to know the differences between who you are now and who do you want to be in the future. To do that, answer the same questions for who you are now.

What are the differences between who you are now and who you want to be in the future?

Maybe you want to become an entrepreneur, and you think that an entrepreneur has a network of business partners. How many business partners do you have now?

Step 3: How Are You Going to Bridge the Gap?

It’s normal that there’s a gap between who you want to be and who you are. We need that gap to make progress. Now, ask yourself how you’re going to bridge the gap.

In the example above, the answer would be to build a network of business partners.

You’d probably come up with more than a single difference between your current and ideal self.

You need to come up with an action plan for each gap.

Step 4: How Do I Make Change Stick?

This step is especially important if you’re bridging the gap by cultivating a virtue or developing a personality trait.

Suppose that you’re an introvert and you’re cultivating extroversion. First, you become aware of your introversion. Second, you make a conscious effort to be an extrovert in certain situations, like networking events.

Your ultimate goal in learning is to get to the level of unconscious competence, the final one of the four levels of learning.

In the unconscious competence level, you’re behaving in the desired way automatically, without any conscious effort. Getting to that level requires repetition. A few successful tries won’t cut it.

Step 5: Who Can Help Me?

In this step, you can find a coach or mentor. You can also start or join a mastermind group. You can ask for feedback from your boss, peers, and subordinates.

If you ask for feedback, make sure you acknowledge that feedback and take it in. Don’t reject it or explain yourself. If people see that you don’t use their feedback, they will stop giving you feedback.


Setting having and doing goals is the first step to success. There’s a deeper level of setting goals that will accelerate your accomplishment of having and doing goals. That deeper level is the being goals.

You can set being goals by asking the question “who do I need to be to achieve my having and doing goals?”

Once you set your being goals, determine the details of your being goal, find out the differences between your ideal and current self, and come up with an action plan to bridge the gap between the two.

Don’t forget that you need repetition to get to the level of unconscious competence. Also, ask for help and feedback from the people around you.

Why You’re Stuck and How to Get Unstuck

In an interview on Impact Theory, Joe Dispenza explains the link between the thoughts in our mind and emotions in our body.

There’s a positive feedback loop between our thoughts and emotions. Our thoughts trigger emotions in our body, and our emotions cause thoughts in our mind.

For example, when you think a sad thought, you feel depressed. Those emotions trigger other sad thoughts, which in turn make you feel more depressed.

If you repeat that cycle enough times, it gets reinforced in your body and mind. A feeling turns into a mood. A mood turns into a temperament. And a temperament turns into a personality trait. Eventually, it becomes your identity.

Your Reality Is Influenced by Your Feelings and Thoughts

Feelings and thoughts influence the way you perceive the reality, the choices you make, and the actions you take. Your choices and actions have a great impact on your reality.

If you don’t pay attention to your thoughts and emotions, you’ll repeat the same thought and emotion patterns over and over because of the feedback loop.

As a result, you’ll keep perceiving the world the same way, make the same choices, and take the same actions. That’s the mechanism that keeps you stuck in a certain life situation.

“95% of who we are by the time we are 35 years old is a memorized set of behaviors, emotional reactions, unconscious habits, hardwired attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions that function like a computer program.” Joe Dispenza

How to Get Unstuck

The way to get unstuck is to perceive the world differently, make different choices, and take different actions than your default ones.

To do that, you need to change your thoughts and emotions. That’s a challenge because you have a default program in your body and mind.

That default program is producing the same thoughts and emotions over and over, day after day. To break that cycle, you have to make a conscious effort to be aware of your thoughts and emotions.

Letting Go of Dysfunctional Emotions

When you feel dysfunctional emotions, you need to stop your mind from creating thoughts that feed on those emotions. You don’t have power over your emotions, but you have control over your thoughts.

When a dysfunctional emotion hits, just sit with it without investing any mental energy to the thoughts that feed on that emotion.

Don’t act on that emotion. Don’t try to escape it or change it in any way. Let it be there. It will come, and it will go. This is called the letting go technique.

As you don’t react to that emotion, its intensity will gradually diminish, and the dysfunctional pattern will eventually disappear.

Install Positive Thoughts and Emotional Patterns

As you let go of dysfunctional thought and emotion patterns, you can install positive ones in place of them.

You can do that by visualizing positive outcomes and getting into the feeling of those outcomes. If you repeat that enough, you’ll change your thought and emotional imprints over time.

That will affect the way you perceive the world, the choices you make, and the actions you take. And as a result, you’ll get unstuck and change your life for the better.


Our reality is influenced by our choices and actions, which in turn are affected by our thoughts and feelings.

Most of our thoughts and feelings are repetitive patterns. That’s why we make the same choices and take the same actions day after day. That’s how we get stuck.

The way to get unstuck is to be aware of the dysfunctional thought and emotional patterns, let them go, and install positive thoughts and emotional patterns in their place.

The First Step to Productivity

Productivity is a popular but often misunderstood topic in business and personal development. Here’s a question for you before we start.

What does productivity mean to you? How do you define it?

Take a moment to reflect on this question and come up with an answer before you move on.

The Definition of Productivity

To me, productivity is the ratio of results to the resources used to create those results.

Maximizing my productivity means creating the most results with the least amount of resources. By resources, I mean time, money, energy, and anything I spend while working toward the results.

You might have a similar definition, and you might be satisfied with that definition. If you disagree with that definition and you have a different one, please let me know in the comments.

A Context Is Needed for Productivity

Productivity is an empty concept unless it is used in a meaningful context. That meaning comes from how well you define the results you’re aiming for.

You might aim for a bunch of papers with a dot on them. In that case, being productive would mean being efficient at placing a dot on a paper. But why would you do that in the first place?

You might be trying to improve your productivity, but did you define the results that you’re aiming for? If not, you might be optimizing your workflow to achieve nothing. You might as well put dots on papers.

Define the Results You’re Aiming For

The first step to improve your productivity is to define the results you’re aiming for.

What do you want to accomplish?

If you answer that question, then you can reflect on the related productivity question.

How can you accomplish it with fewer resources?

Let Go of the Inessentials

When I bought my first smartphone, I downloaded a bunch of apps to increase my productivity. After a while, I realized that my smartphone decreased my productivity instead of increasing it.

I was spending more time on “working” on the productivity apps compared to working toward my goals. As soon as I realized that, I quit using those apps and started to use only Evernote for that purpose.

Whenever you come up with an idea or whenever you come across a task, ask yourself the following question.

Does this idea or task serve the results that I’m aiming for?

If it doesn’t, it is inessential. Let it go. Or do it in your spare time for fun, because it isn’t a part of your work.

Letting go of the inessentials is one of the fundamentals of productivity.


Unless you define the results you’re aiming for, any effort spent on improving your productivity will be futile.

The Impact of Your Environment on Your Success

What comes to your mind when you think about success? For most of us, it’s working harder, longer, and smarter.

Sure you can improve your results through hard and smart work, but that’s just one factor in the formula of success. There are others factors such as environment and identity.

Creating the right environment will increase your productivity, effectiveness, and even your motivation. It will result in improved results.

Work from Home! Be Your Own Boss!

Those are the slogans many online marketers use to sell their make-money-online courses. The landing pages usually feature a woman in a bikini with a laptop on her lap “working” on the beach.

We all know that it’s impossible to work on a beach with a laptop due to the sun glare. And a laptop isn’t meant to be used on your lap because it gets hot.

Still, new people enter their emails and credit card information into those landing pages, year after year. How come?

Let’s Be Honest

Here are two scenarios.

  1. You work in an office. You wear serious clothes. You work from nine to five.
  2. You work at home. You wear PJs. You work whenever you feel like it.

In which scenario are you the most productive? In which scenario do you produce the most results?

You might prefer the second scenario over the first one, but you would agree that you’d be more productive and effective in the first scenario.

An office setting and serious clothes help you get into the mood of working. Your home and PJs make you feel resting and relaxing.

Home Office

Working from home has its advantages.

  • Avoiding the daily commute.
  • Flexible working hours.
  • Relaxed, comfortable environment.

However, that doesn’t mean working in your PJs, lying in your bed, with the daytime TV in the background. You need to have an environment that helps you focus and motivates you to do your best work.

Create an Environment for Success

How can you improve your working environment to increase your performance?

  • Is there any clutter on your desk and bookshelves that you can get rid of?
  • Can you get a better desk and office chair to improve your performance?
  • What are the distractions around you?
  • Do you need to switch off your phone or activate the “do not disturb” mode?
  • Can you clean up your computer desktop?
  • Is your desktop wallpaper distracting you?

My favorite work accessory is noise canceling headphones. I listen to relaxing classical music. And I drink a few cups of coffee and green tea throughout the day. All of that helps me focus on the task at hand.

You might think that these are just details, but a series of small adjustments in combination make a big difference. If you made a 1% improvement every day, you would improve your life 38 times in a single year.

Which 1% improvements can you make in your working environment?

Investing in Your Environment

Do you use the best tools that money can buy? Do you use the best computer, smartphone, and software that you can afford?

Which apps are on the home screen of your smartphone? Do they increase your productivity or do they distract you?

How close is your home to your work? In what kind of a neighborhood do you live? I know these are the decisions you cannot make overnight, but they are worth thinking about.

Some of these changes might sound like a lot of time, money, and effort to implement at the beginning, but think about the dividends they’ll pay over time. If you can save an hour every day, wouldn’t that make a big difference over your entire career?

Design Your Home for Success

High performance doesn’t depend only on your working environment. Your home is as important as your working environment.

Does a big TV dominate your living environment and is it switched on all the time? Is your home, clean, neat, and tidy?

Do you have a quality bed to rest properly? I even pay attention to the temperature and humidity of my bedroom. I realized this plays a huge role in how good I rest at night and how good I perform the next day.


Your environment has a big impact on your success. If you haven’t paid any attention to your environment before, it’s time to take a critical look at it and optimize it for focus, productivity, and success.

You don’t need to change everything at once. You can start by making a list and go over the list one by one over time.

Changing your environment might demand your effort, time, and money, but it will pay its dividends in higher performance and success over time.

Developing an Abundance Mindset

Imagine two villages. In the first village, everybody has equal income and equal wealth.

In the second village, one person makes 80% of the income and owns 80% of the wealth. The rest of the people make the 20% of the income and own the 20% of the wealth.

In which village would you like to live?

What if in the first village, the equal income barely covers the necessities of the people and their wealth is equal to zero?

What if in the second village, even the poorest person has a higher income and wealth than the people in the first village? Now, where would you like to live?

Have you thought about the possibility that you could be the person who makes the 80% of the income and owns 80% of the wealth in the second village, and accomplish that in a legal, moral, ethical way?

What happens when someone gets rich, for example, a pop singer breaks through and makes a few million dollars? Does that mean that the rest of the society got a few million dollars poorer?

The Scarcity Mindset Is Our Default Programming

Let’s admit it. Our default programming doesn’t like “inequality” and “other people getting rich.” That’s scarcity mindset and keeps us from achieving financial success.

The scarcity mindset doesn’t match the reality either. When somebody breaks through and makes a huge sum of money, the rest of the people don’t get poorer.

Whenever someone gets rich, the banking system creates an equal or greater amount of money and pumps it into the system. As a result, the society gets richer.

Whenever someone goes bankrupt, the banking system has to eliminate a portion of their former wealth from the system to prevent inflation. As a result, the society gets poorer.

That’s why we see the rich get richer and the quality of life of the rest of us improving parallel to that.

Is It That Simple?

I know that I’m simplifying things here and the reality is more complicated than that. I know that things like automation hurt some people. I know that the system isn’t 100% fair. Some people don’t pay their fair share of taxes. And so on.

I just want to show the difference between the abundance mindset and scarcity mindset. I also want to show that the abundance mindset is closer to the reality that we are living in.

Which mindset do you choose?

Creating a Reward System to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

Success in life comes after long stretches of plateaus and dips. If you want to achieve anything significant, you need to put a lot of effort into it without seeing any results for a long time. That doesn’t come naturally to us. Our default programming expects immediate results.

When we don’t get any results for a long time, we experience an extinction burst and give up. After a few failed projects, we fall prey to learned helpless, and we stop trying anything outside of our comfort zone.

We need to learn how to navigate those dips and plateaus without giving up so that we can reap the rewards at the end.

Create a Reward System

One way of going through long stretches of dry spells is by creating a reward system for yourself. By doing that, you’re keeping that primitive part of your brain that’s looking for immediate rewards busy, while focusing the executive part of your brain on your long-term goals.

Come up with simple rewards for different terms such as each day, week, month, quarter, year, and so on. My daily reward is the first coffee that I drink in the morning when I wake up. Believe it or not, that’s one of the greatest pleasures of my daily life.

Another one is walking back from the park after a jogging session on a sunny day. These rewards might look simple, but they keep me going in tough moments.

A weekly reward can be eating out once a week. A yearly reward can be going on a vacation.

Simple, Tangible Rewards that You Have Already Experienced

It’s crucial to get into the feeling of experiencing the reward in those tough moments. Therefore, tangible rewards that you have experienced before work best in this context.

The trick here is to memorize the good feelings those experiences trigger and to immerse yourself in those feelings whenever you feel like giving up. That gives you something to work toward in those difficult moments.

Financial Goals

Many people set financial goals, such as a net worth of 10 million dollars. Money in itself is a lousy motivator because it’s an abstract concept. You might feel motivated in the beginning, but after a while, those digits lose their meaning.

You need to come up with rewards other than some numbers in a database. Focus on what you’re going to do with that money instead of money itself.

Better yet, come up with a description of your ideal life and calculate how much money you need to realize that life. Then, set that amount as a goal. That way, you know what your financial goal means to you.

Different Types of Rewards

We have to make two distinctions among rewards.

  1. Rewards that you have experienced vs. rewards that you haven’t experienced yet.
  2. Rewards that are already within your reach vs. rewards that are outside of your reach.

Rewards that are within your reach that you have experienced seem to work better. You’ll have a hard time getting into the feeling of rewards that you haven’t experienced yet. If you can’t get into the feeling, that reward won’t motivate you.

Rewards that Are Outside of Your Reach

Similarly, you might have doubts about the rewards that are outside of your reach. As a result, you might not be motivated by something that you might or might not get in the future.

Cultivating faith and getting into the feeling of a reward that you haven’t experienced yet are two skills you need to develop to get motivated by such rewards.

Some people try to experience their reward on a small scale. For example, Tim Ferris recommends taking extended vacations as mini-retirements. You can also visit a car dealer and get into a luxury car to experience what it feels like. That way, you’ll have experienced those rewards on a small scale.

The Best Motivation

Of course, the best motivation is to enjoy the process and the work itself. Either do what you love or love what you do.

If you enjoy meeting new people and discussing with them, working as a salesperson might be ideal for you. If you enjoy solving complex problems, you’ll like working as an engineer.

If you have already made your career decision and don’t want to change it, think about how you can enjoy your work more.

Improving your working environment, getting better equipment, and adding some extras such as quality headphones can make you look forward to your next working session.


Our brains are wired for receiving immediate results for our efforts. Most significant goals are accomplished after long stretches of hard work without any results. We need the motivation to stick with our goals during those times when we don’t see any results.

Giving ourselves periodic rewards creates events that we look forward to when the going gets tough. Simple, tangible, and already experienced rewards work well in this context. If you can make the work its own reward, that’s even better.

Eliminate Bad Habits with a Simple Question

In the famous Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, toddlers were given a marshmallow. If they waited for fifteen minutes without eating the marshmallow, they would receive a second one.

Some of them couldn’t make it to the end of the fifteen minutes without eating the treat. Some of them could.

The success of the children in different life areas such as SAT scores and body-mass index was measured later in their lives.

Children who could wait for fifteen minutes were more successful in life compared to the children who couldn’t delay gratification.

The marshmallow experiment has a symbolic value. It’s easy to understand and remember. Its results are relevant to all of us. And it teaches an important lesson to all of us.

Self-control is the biggest predictor of success in life.

Are You Doomed If You Don’t Have Self-Control?

If you have poor self-control, you might feel bad. You might identify yourself with the children who gave in to their temptation and didn’t receive the second marshmallow.

The good news is that you can improve your self-control. All you have to do is to adopt the growth mindset and exercise your self-control muscles every day. You’ll build world-class self-control in a year even if you improve it 1% per day.

What Are Your Marshmallows?

At this moment, you might be facing several self-control challenges. You might be wasting time online. You might be consuming more calories than you burn. You might not be exercising at all. And so on.

Each of those habits might keep you from getting a reward in the future, success in your career, a healthy life, a fit body.

The trick here is to associate each habit with a reward in the future. Start with a list of behaviors that you want to eliminate and the reward that you would receive if you eliminated it.

  • Wasting time online vs. success in career.
  • Consuming more calories than I burn vs. a healthy life.
  • A sedentary lifestyle vs. a fit body.

You can either have the first now or the second later. You can’t have both.

When you have that list, focus on a single item at a time until you eliminate that behavior.

Contrast Questions

Every time you feel like indulging in the activity you want to eliminate, ask yourself the following question.

“Do I want to do this now, or do I want to achieve that in the future?”

I call this a contrast question. You need to adapt that question to your particular challenge. Here are some examples.

  • Do I want to waste time online now, or do I want to succeed in my career?
  • Do I want to eat these chips now, or do I want to have a healthy life?
  • Do I want to spend the afternoon watching TV, or do I want to have a fit body?

You have to focus on a single behavior at a time until you eliminate it.

Ask yourself your contrast question often until it comes up automatically in your mind every time you feel the temptation.

Consequence Questions

As an alternative, you can also come up with consequence questions.

  • Do I want to waste time online now, and get stuck in my career?
  • Do I want to eat these chips now, and stay fat for the rest of my life?
  • Do I want to spend the afternoon watching TV, and have poor health?

You need to come up with your own version of these questions and make sure they resonate with you at an emotional level.

Your contrast and consequence questions should cause psychological pain. To achieve that focus on the contrast between where you are vs. where you want to be.

You need to force yourself to a choice. Do you want to feel happy now or do you want to achieve success later?

Let that psychological pain motivate you so that you pass the unwanted behavior every time you ask the question to yourself.


Self-control is the best predictor of success, and you can develop your self-control. All you have to do is to improve 1% a day.

You can do that with the following steps.

  1. Make a list of the behaviors you want to eliminate or adopt.
  2. Associate each behavior with a future reward or consequence.
  3. Formulate each pair as a contrast or consequence question.
  4. Repeat the question to yourself every time you feel the temptation.
  5. Focus on a single behavior at a time, and don’t move to the next behavior before you eliminate or adopt one.

When you engage in your bad habits, you feel good at the moment but terrible afterward. To overcome that, you need to feel terrible at the moment of engaging in them as well. You can do that by formulating the questions in a way that they cause psychological pain.

Let go of the illusion of happiness now and achieve great success in the future!

Three Life Lessons I Learned from My Cardio Workouts

I do a light-moderate cardio workout three days a week, even though I hate it. Running or biking at the same tempo for 25 minutes bores the hell out of me. That’s one of the reasons I do it because it increases my mental toughness.

Many people associate lifting heavy weights in the gym with toughness. The other day, I saw someone wearing a t-shirt with the motto “Cardio is for pussies.” Such statements make me laugh because of their ignorance.

Personally, I enjoy lifting weights, even though I look like suffering. I like the intensity of it, and a set is over in 45 seconds at most. After that, I can enjoy the good feelings my biochemistry provides me with.

Contrary to lifting weights, cardio is like Chinese water torture. It’s low intensity, but persistent over a longer time, which drives me crazy.

I have respect for long distance runners. I know my 25 minutes of jogging is nothing next to their accomplishments, but I still learned some life lessons from my cardio workouts.

How Do I Deal with the Mental Challenge of Cardio Workouts?

For me, cardio is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. My mind looks for stimulation all the time, and lifting weights provides that stimulation; cardio, not so much.

When I first started cardio workouts, I realized that I had to let go of the constant chatter in my mind. That endless chatter was negative, and it was weakening my mind. I needed my mind to be strong to be able to finish my workout.

It Isn’t Over until You Cross the Finish Line

Just like my weightlifting workouts, I tried to remind myself how much of my workout was left. 1.5 laps left. 1 lap left. 1 kilometer left. Last 500 meters. And so on. That tactic backfired.

I realized a cardio session isn’t over unless you cross the finish line. Knowing how much of it is left doesn’t make the slightest difference.

The best approach is to switch off my mind and put one foot in front of the other until I cross the finish line.

That approach matches the entrepreneurial journey very much. You have a final goal, for example, an exit. And you do whatever you can, day after day, to get closer to that goal.

How much progress you made or how much progress you still have to make doesn’t matter as long as you haven’t reached your goal.

Cardio Is Like Meditation

Recently, I realized that cardio workouts are like meditation because I have to switch off my mind for 25 minutes. To maximize that effect, I stopped listening to audiobooks while jogging yesterday, and I felt much better afterward.

How to Deal with the Urges to Quit

There are times when I feel like I can’t make it until the finish line. In those moments, I remind myself of the good times I’ll experience later.

I dream about the pleasant walk back from the park after the session. I dream about the first coffee I’ll drink the next morning. Thinking about those rewards make me feel good and keep me going.


A cardio session resembles to the challenges that we experience in our lives. It’s a low intensity challenge you have to endure for a long time.

It requires mental toughness, and the biggest enemy of mental toughness is the constant negative chatter in our minds. We can let go of that weakening chatter in our minds with mindfulness.

If you’re in a really tough spot and feel like giving up, just motivate yourself with the eventual rewards you’ll receive when you succeed. Get into the feeling of them.

A cardio session, just like a challenging project, isn’t over until you cross the finish line. Until then, the only thing that matters is that you put one foot in front of the other until you accomplish your goal.