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Daniel LeMoine is a social entrepreneur, change-maker, and writer. Here he writes at the intersection of faith, work, & building a matterful career.

Filtering by Category: habit

How to Better Execute Against Your Goals & Actually Stick to Success Habits

Dan LeMoine

I was recently asked: How are you able to execute? In other words, How am I disciplined with sticking to things (habits, commitments, ambitions, etc.)

The short answer is to create leverage and decrease resistance.

I. Creating Leverage

I try to find ways to make myself do the things I should be doing (and to avoid the things which distract me). If I get leverage on something, it means I am applying force to get movement in the direction I want.

So I try to find ways — both implicitly (internally) or explicitly (externally) — to make sure I’m doing what I say I want to be doing, and to help create an environment of execution of my goals and ambitions.

a. External Leverage

For certain habits I need more explicit or external motivators to force myself to stick with things. I have someone else counting on me to deliver and execute in certain areas which keep me honest and true to doing the right things. For example, a few years ago my writing was sporadic at best. I wrote whenever I felt like it, whenever the “spirit moved me” to do so. It wasn’t until I took over the blog of a company I’m closely associated with, did my body of work really take off — my writing become tighter, clearer, and more consistent. The fact that the partners at this company expect a post published each week leverages me to shut up, sit down, and type.

We all have these external levers in some areas of our lives; we get up each morning for work whether we feel like it or not because there is someone (or many someones) who are counting on our input, leadership, and work, and because we need to provide for our families. We go to practice when we don’t feel like it because our teammates are expecting us to and because they’re going too. We go to the gym at 5:30a because our workout partner is there waiting on us.

What areas of your life (spiritually, physically, financially, professionally, relationally) could you build in some external leverage?

Maybe it’s finding a workout buddy, or an accountability partner who will ask you the hard questions no one else will. Maybe it’s finding a part-time or freelance opportunity in a desired industry where you’ll be expected to deliver — “forced" to produce work which will build your connections and body of work in preparation for a full blown career move.

b. Internal Leverage

For other things, or as our success habits begin to stick and become routine, our motivation shifts — at least in part — to more implicit internal motivation. 

This internal leverage is when we need less of an outside force to compel us to do the right things. We generally have a deeper understanding of why I must do a thing, or the success routine has become a full blown habit. 

I began lifting weights in middle school for sports. I have maintained a pretty consistent workout routine since then. Sports (mainly football and rugby) took up the majority of my athletic bandwidth until several years after college. These high school, collegiate, and mens athletic programs which I was a part of where great external motivators for staying fit. There was an expectation of athleticism which helped leverage me to get my butt in the gym. But somewhere along the way over the last 17 years I stopped needing that external lever as much.

Yet, while I’m no longer part of any official athletic program (no more external leverage), I still consistently hit the gym several times a week because I’ve conditioned myself to love it. I intrinsically know and feel the benefits (both short- and long-term) when I’m consistent with this habit. The leverage to get to the gym is much more internal.

We must also recognize that the need for external and internal leverage fluctuates and is not mutually exclusive. In some season, it seems like I need a workout partner to get myself out of bed at 5:30a, in other seasons I seem to have no problem making it happen from internal motivation. 

From my experience it’s a massively powerful spot when you’ve achieve both layers to help you execute against your goals and be successful in the things you want to achieve. Stoking the internal fire while also having someone else keeping you accountable to actively fanning the flame is when big momentum and movement begins to take place. 

After a while, once something becomes a habit, the external leverage (like a workout partner or hard deadline) is more of a safety measure and barometer rather than the primary source of leverage. That’s because once something becomes a habit, we’ve conditioned ourselves to automatically and implicitly motivate ourselves to do a thing.

II. Decreasing Resistance

a. Visual cues and line of sight.

The second aspect of execution which I’ve found highly valuable is decreasing resistance. It’s insane how keeping something out of sight does often keep it out of mind. For the morning routine, setting my gym clothes out the night before takes one more step out of the process between waking up at 5:30 and getting the gym. Putting my vitamins out on the counter instead of in the drawer help me to remember to take them.

b. Remove distraction.

I’ve also heard of writers who, in order to get right into writing at the onset of their day, make sure their word processing software is open when they turn on their computer in the morning. No email or social to distract, just right into putting thoughts on paper. 

Remove ambiguity by breaking down into bite-sized tasks

Clearly breaking down larger projects or goals in to small bite sized tasks helps remove ambiguity which is a form of subconscious resistance.

c. Schedule your intentions

Another way to decrease resistance as well is to give give it a time and place to live on your calendar. "If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t exist” as my friend Joshua says.

I’ve probably quoted James Clear on this countless times, but I’ll over communicate for the sake of driving the point home:

Research has shown that you are 2x to 3x more likely to stick with your habits if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”

Researchers found that people who filled out this sentence were 2x to 3x more likely to actually exercise compared to a control group who did not make plans for their future behavior. Psychologists call these specific plans “implementation intentions” because they state when, where, and how you intend to implement a particular behaviour. [1]

Where can you remove ambiguity, distraction or resistance in the different areas of your life?

Now, I don’t get it right all the time. There are moments where I don’t operate as I’ve intended for a multitude of reasons. These are just a few strategies I’ve used to help me execute and implement what I say I want to be doing to make progress in different areas of my life. I hope they help! 

[1] James Clear, "The Scientific Argument for Mastering One Thing at a Time" (



Structure and Discipline Equals True Freedom

Dan LeMoine

As Americans we idolize the fiercely independent-, pull yourself up by your bootstraps-, make your own way-type spirit and mentality. We love our freedom (even when we become slaves to it…but that’s a different conversation entirely).

Our natural reaction to imposed structure, routine, or authority is to resist it, to resent it, or to downright fight against it. It’s this culturally fuelledknee-jerk reaction which may be robbing us of our ability to achieve what we say we want to in work and life.

Each summer over the last several years, my wife and I have had a good amount of unstructured time during the summer which we've chosen to spend in the States with friends and family. We still have certain work responsibilities and deliverables, but these are much more fluid and doable from coffee shops, libraries, or home of family members. This gives us a ton of autonomy and freedom to do, really, whatever the heck we want.

We enter each summer with grandiose plans of hitting the gym, buying healthy food we don't often get in the D.R., spending time in the Word, catching up on sleep, putting energy into our friend/family relationships which may have atrophied slightly while living abroad, reading, resting, finally spending time on some personal passion project which may have been marginalized, and sticking to daily success habits (like this writing!).

And all of this “un-structure" leaves us no room for excuses for not executing against the things we say we want to do and be about. In theory, all of those above things should be easier to accomplish. 

Yet, unfortunately, the opposite generally occurs.

The diet slips. Workout routines go to h-e-double-hockey-sticks. The end of summer arrives and we realize we didn’t see any of the friends we dreamed of sharing time with. We let our quiet times with God get interrupted and shortened. And we too often end up longing for the routine and structure of home. 

This naturally happens without structure and the discipline of routine. This is because discipline and structure creates room for these things to flourish. And that’s true freedom.

I have a friend who has been extremely successful in his real estate business which affords him extreme flexibility in his time and finances. He told me recently, "I used to think that freedom was getting to do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it. But I ended up realizing that that is not freedom...I ended up being a slave to my emotions and passions." Wow.

It’s funny how a lack of to-dos, a lack of mission, a lack of routine and structure — the things we often resent or complain about — lead to a lack of discipline and thus a lack of freedom and a lack of accomplishing the things we say we want to achieve in our work and life. This fantasy of full-on autonomy with no accountability is toxic to productivity and purpose, building bulletproof habits, and building your body of work. Lack of structure sabotages success.

I’ve found that I am incredibly more creative and productive in all areas of my life when I have an appropriately full plate.

Regardless of whether you’re in a super full season, or a more unstructured season like our summers — taking a few minutes to set your daily/weekly intentions, outlining your game plan for executing on them, and scheduling your routine and habits, making sure to align them with your overall goals — is key to success. Without structure and intentional routine, we end up allowing ourselves to compromise and operate at a sub-optimal state.

Too often we hear about the athlete who retires, only to return a season later out of sheer boredom. Or the ambitious high-achiever working their whole lives for this loosely defined “retirement” only to have a feeling of purposelessness and loss of direction once they get their.

Having purpose in your days starts with structure and routine and discipline. We may say we want full un-fettered freedom and autonomy, yet deep down we all crave structure. Our independent American spirit is something we can harness for such good, but let’s not let our craving for freedom and autonomy rob us of doing what we ought, or from structuring our time and energy for optimal output in doing the work we were created for. 

Do you find yourself resenting structure or routine? Is there a way you can leverage structure and routine in your life to cultivate discipline and crush your goals? 



Calmness as a Competitive Advantage

Dan LeMoine

The more I grow and mature, and the more messy experiences I have in life (in relationships, work, marriage, faith, etc.) the more I’m convinced remaining calm and collected under confronting circumstances is a massive variable to success.

Unfortunately, the only real way to grow this is by pushing out of your comfort zone, leading up, taking responsibility, and otherwise putting yourself into situations where chaos, uncertainty, strife, harm, sabotage and/or mass panic by others is likely.

It’s the only way to build a true tolerance to these things and grow this muscle of calmness. Fortunately these things seem to be inevitable when trying to solve matterful problems in the world, so we don’t have to try to seek these things out — as change-makers they will find us.

People will oppose us, doubt us, or try to thwart us. Broken systems and bad habits work to undermine us. Those antibodies to change will resist and sandbag. Well intentioned fools will distract us. Critics will moan and tempt us to lose focus. But if we have sangfroid, we do not react emotionally; we remain calm and have clarity in our calling and direction. 

I think this is why I find ROMWOD stretching so valuable. Not only do I end the ‘workouts’ completely relaxed and feeling totally open, but during the sessions I’m actively growing my “calmness muscle” by focusing on taming my mind and my body despite being in uncomfortable positions. Trying to remain passive, control my breathing, and accept and embrace the otherwise confronting moves and deep breaths, helps me to not only train my range of motion but my mind as well, if ever so slightly. 

“When people panic, they make mistakes. They override systems. They disregard procedures, ignore rules. They deviate from the plan. They become unresponsive and stop thinking clearly. They just react—not to what they need to react to, but to the survival hormones that are coursing through their veins. 

Welcome to the source of most of our problems down here on Earth. Everything is planned down to the letter, then something goes wrong and the first thing we do is trade in our plan for a good ol’ emotional freak-out. Some of us almost crave sounding the alarm, because it’s easier than dealing with whatever is staring us in the face.”

— Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Calmness of mind must be trained.

Yet, this isn’t something we ever really train for. It seems our whole lives revolve around controlling and avoiding uncomfortable, chaotic, or hard situations. We rarely work to control the one thing we can fully control, our emotions. We have the choice to continually (re)focus our identity on who we are in Christ — fully safe, fully known, fully accepted as is, fully loved. Which, for me at least, does wonders in bringing perspective, defusings worry, and calming my anxieties in even the most dire of moments. But it's hard work to do this in the middle of a trying time or chaotic moment or when someone crosses you. It takes work. It takes practice. 

It's this very calmness and cool-headedness which seems to be a powerful advantage when those around us are losing it, freaking out, or being driven by in anxious, hurried, and irrational thoughts.

Next time we find ourselves in a tough spot, let’s pause, breath, and know that this is a perfect opportunity to flex and grow our calmness muscle.

How can you better prioritize self-awareness, controlling our emotions in order to stay calm under pressure?



7 Lessons Halfway Through 100 Days of Creating

Dan LeMoine

Around 50 days ago I started The 100 Day Project where I’ve been posting regularly an essay or article here daily and plan to continue doing so until I’ve hit 100…so, carry the one, I’m just over half way. The rationale behind this project is learning to show up, forging a habit of creating and to slay the perfectionism dragon. 

Being just over halfway there I thought I’d pause and reflect on lessons learned and what I’ll be doing differently since I’ve learned these things. I hope they can help you as you continue to build a body of matterful work you’re proud of.

7 Lessons Learned Consistently Showing Up:

Momentum is a mindset.

Momentum is a real thing...but not really. It’s a mindset. I can choose if I want to let a day off or a missed opportunity throw me for a loop and let me loose my mental edge and feeling of forward progress. I have a choice on whether I let a broken self commitment send me into a downward spiral or if I have a short memory and fuggedaboudit.

Space and time matter for doing matterful things.

I preach this lesson in my fundraising workshops and have written about it in The Fundraising Playbook — give your work, especially work that often gets marginalized, a space and time to breath on your calendar. 

The same principle holds true even more for creative habits like writing or working on your side hustle or developing a skill. These things areoh-so-easy to push off and never get your best attention. The difference between the amateur and the pro is that the pro shows up and shows up and shows up again. Give your thing time and space to on your calendar (preferably the same time each day) to help you show up.

My friend James Clear once told me (in an article on goals and doubling your chances of success):

Simply by writing down a plan that said exactly when and where they intended to exercise, the [study] participants [...] were much more likely to actually follow through [compared to those who did not write down their intentions]...

The researchers discovered that what pulls that desire out of you and turns it into real–world action isn’t your level of motivation, but rather your plan for implementation [...]

In fact, over 100 separate studies in a wide range of experimental situations have come to the same conclusion: people who explicitly state when and where their new behaviors are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals.

You're 2-3 times more likely to do a thing if you actually write down when and where you'll do it. I've found this to be true in this writing habit. When I preemptively write down in my calendar when I'll be writing and/or make a plan to do my writing in the morning and build it into my morning expectations and routine, I produce better, more consistent work.

Maximize time you do have. 

Even though space and time matter, there are just some weeks when finding time to write every day seems nearly impossible.

There have been times where I must maximize smaller chunks of time to structure my posts. While finding 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there to compose my thoughts or musings isn’t ideal, it is good practice at self discipline and the art of using your constraints to your advantage. By self-discipline I mean the discipline to get into the work quickly and cut to the chase clearly. When you have limited constraints (in this case limited time), it forces you to cut out the unnecessary and the fluffy. I don’t get to waste time looking for the perfect header picture or getting distracted on the internet while “doing research” for a post.

Things inevitably take longer than you think.

I suck at estimating how long I think something is going to take. I’m not sure if this is a human thing or just me, but every time I approach a post I have this idea that my thoughts will magically appear on the screen in a wonderful and effortless way and only take me a half hour.

In, like, 150 posts this has never been the case. Sometimes it takes me twice that long, usually 3 or 4 times that long.

Learning to reframe my expectations has been massively helpful. With appropriate expectations I can schedule accordingly so less late nights writing, and begin capturing post ideas and outlines throughout the day in Evernote. These have significantly cut down on my surprise when the genius seems to be taking longer than I think it should!

Writing and Publishing and Marketing aren’t the same thing.

One important part of The 100 Day Project is showing your work. Specifically, I’ve committed to not only writing every day but also publishing my writings publicly on this blog and sharing on Instagram each time I do. Oh yeah, and I’ve got an email newsletter which goes out about every week or so with relevant posts too.

I’ve learned that a heck of lot more goes into publishing and 'marketing' a post than just typing. Especially if I want my work to be seen and ideas to spread and connection to be made. 

For this daily habit it’s been difficult to write, format, find relevant license-free images, format for IG, write up IG caption, and post and share across platforms and email. For this project I’ll be doubling down on the habit of writing and have grown in my understanding in the time and energy necessary to truly be an effective content marketer. It takes a lot of stinking time. Plan accordingly.

I’m beginning to see where I hide.

Which is to say I am not more effective at mitigating this “hiding” to be more effective at shipping the work.

Once I can identify how/where I hide from "just shipping it" — that is, getting my work out to the world regardless of imperfection — the more effective I will be overall as a thought leader and communicator. Personally, where I tend to hide is in the formatting and the finding the right photos for posts and aesthetic things like that. I can say it’s attention to detail, but I really think it’s my subconscious hiding. In reality these things matter very little, but I tend to linger and obsess over them instead of getting my thoughts out there.

I’ve gotten much better at identifying when I’m doing this and I’ll even call it out: “Dan, quit hiding! Let’s goo!” 

Where I used to let a post sit in my “Work In Progress” notebook in Evernote, I’m finding that pushing through this perfectionism and getting my work out to the world is a muscle that needs to be exercised in order to grow. 

Editorial theme (will eventually) matter.

One of the last lessons I’m learning is that the theme and arch from post to post matter. This project, in large part, was structured to help me find my voice and identify certain themes to weave into my work going forward. Through this daily writing I’ve realized  that just writing whatever I want to, whatever is on my mind, whatever the spirit leads me to, results in less flow and continuity from post to post.  

Not that each post must be the same, but I’d like some intentional editorial focus week to week, month to month, year to year in the long run. I have yet to do anything to remedy this issue just yet, because the purpose of the 100 Day Project (for me) is to simply shut up, sit down, and type. It’s habit building. It’s putting in the reps. But I’m seeing the need and value of having a focused approach to what I publish. I recently put together an editorial calendar for our blog, social, and email communication at our nonprofit. After these 100 days, I will be building my own editorial calendar to make sure I’m effectively communicating with a continuity and clarity across all relevant platforms with a clear message.


Now, I'm sure there a plenty of more lessons that have and will be learned from building, but these are the one's that first came to mind. (Plus I only had like an hour before the Cavs' NBA Finals Game 7 to structure this - remember lesson 3 above :)) 

Thanks to those who’ve joined the newsletter, followed along on IG, and have been providing input and encouragement. I hope the insight you find here makes you a more courageous leader, more effective creator within your org, and challenges you to fully allow your faith to inform how you approach your everyday work.

Til tomorrow, stay gold.



What To Do When You Lack Discipline & Don't Follow Through

Dan LeMoine

About 50 day ago I set our to write everyday for 100 days. I knew when I set this goal that it was somewhat audacious. What I also did was mentally prepare myself to fail. 

And I have failed. (I RACK DISCIPRINE!)

Right now, it’s been 2 days since my last post. I have not upheld my commitment to myself and my readers (that’s you!) to post each and every day. 

In the past this falling off the bandwagon would have thrown me into a negative self-fulfilling prophesy — a downward spiral of guilt, shame, and disappointment of sorts — resulting in a complete halt of progress and momentum. 

We do this often...

We go months without posting to our blog solely because we hadn’t posted on it in a while. 
We stop working on that passion project or side hustle because we stopped working on it. (<—seriously, this is the rationale we use)
We lose momentum in our gym routine because we feel horrible about ourselves for not having gone all week. 
We don’t call that friend because we should’ve called like 6 months ago. 
We feel guilty about having one too many cinnamon rolls so we abandon our whole healthy eating regimen.

Sound ridiculous but I’m sure you’ve got some habit or area of your life where this happens either at work or at home.

So how do we mitigate this sabotage to our forward progress? How do we marshal on even if we’ve had a hiccup or stumble? 

The worst thing we can do, is allow our stumble to stall us. We have immense control over our own mindset and how we react and respond to our own short comings. And that is all this is—mindset.

From my experience as someone who once battled with feeling down about false starts and unfulfilled self-commitments, one of the most powerful tactics I’ve learned is to give myself permission to fail.

You may think that this gives me permission to not uphold my commitment, but the opposite is in fact true. It is actually a very strategic (and realistic) move. It gives a sense of freedom and liberation from the guilt and shame we often feel when we fail to uphold the high standards we hold ourselves to.  Look, life happens and we don’t always follow through with what we say we want to do or be about in our work. So we must plan accordingly and craft a bulletproof mindset around this truth.

With that liberation we know we can stop the downward spiral and get back on the horse. We can decide to not allow the mental momentum to come to a stop.

So when we fumble or stumble...

We know we can do what we can do.
We have grace with ourselves (and others).
Instead of excuses, we make appropriate accommodations to have a short memory and start again.
We take note of what and how we chose something else over "turning pro.”

So rather than let our oversight feed into a negative identity and sabotage our focus, we take stock of what needs to be in place to better prioritize our creative habit going forward. 

If we value building bodies of work we’re proud of we need to make the appropriate sacrifices. In a busy season, maybe it means waking up 25 minutes earlier to get your writing done before the day whisks you away. Maybe it means taking a 15 minute lunch instead of a 45. 

What’s worse than not following through on your creative habit or discipline? Letting one (or two) missteps tank your project or scuttle your initiative. C’mon we’re better than that.

The moral of the story is this: Don’t beat yourself up over your lack of discipline — don’t be so hard on yourself and certainly don’t let it stop you from moving ahead — that does more harm than good. Simply re-start (or re-re-start), keep you head down, and forge on.

Keep moving,



Note: It’s hard to talk about this without talking about priorities. It’s a given that my writing habit should take a back seat to my relationship with God or my wife. It’s a bit less of a given if my writing should continually take the back seat to wine and cigars with a close friend, a workout with some buddies, golf with my brother-in-law, sleeping in an extra half hour, birthday parties, or house guests.

At the end of the day having a clear view of our priorities will give us a framework to help clarify our decision making in these instances, but it’s still hard. The key is to feel less guilty about hitting the pause button or saying No, even to our work, from time to time for more important things (or sometimes less important things). We just got to keep grinding, there is no room for getting down about missing a day or two.



Maintain Your Creative Habit…Even When You Don’t Want To.

Dan LeMoine

Somedays you say enough is enough and hang the hat with a less than all-star performance.

Somedays you come home from work and all you do is start dinner with your wife and open a bottle of grape and try to sneak 15 minutes on the laptop to keep the habit going. 15 minutos, that's it. Because you love your wife. And wine. And your wife.

Somedays it’s 11:30p, you still haven't [insert your creative discipline here] and you’ve just committeed to doing a crossfit workout with your top dudes at 5:30a; you’ve committed to the process though, so you open that laptop. 

You shut up, sit down and type only for the mere purpose of staying in the habit by pulling on the tiniest thread you can find, even if just for a few minutes.  

It’s like the days when I’ve only got twenty minutes before the gym closes but I go anyway to stay in the rhythm of going. I don’t produce anything meaningful (and maybe a case could be made that it does more harm than good judging how my hammy is feeling right now after rushing a set of deadlifts without a warmup #Cmon! #You'reNot18NoMore!), but the habit was maintained. The momentum was kept. The mind was tricked into thinking: Yeah, I’m still in the routine. Nothing’s lost. We still got this. 

Or it's like when our kids hike the Caribbean's tallest peak. They inevitably end up dragging ass (to their credit they're lugging packs half their body weight on their backs). "Just keep moving," I say. "I don't care how slow you go, just don't stop. Keep the momentum going. It's so much harder to get moving again once you stop. Just keep cloggin'. "

When life gets in the way, when the more important “first things” must be kept from slipping into the margin, but you don’t want to lose your precious momentum, find the smallest thing you can do, the smallest ember to blow on, and keep the fire from going out. Know, that you can’t maintain and grow this fire with this minimal effort, but it’s enough to keep the ember alive until you recharge, reboot, or whatever else you need to give it the appropriate attention and resources to get that flame roaring again.

Here's to crushing it...tomorrow ;)