Our habits create our level of productivity and become our drive to success. Today, Penny Zenker talks with Dan LeFave, the “No Excuse” Shortcut to Success Coach and a mindset engineer. Along with creating new habits and identity, Dan shares how you can transform your life and even saving time by becoming more productive and getting inside the habit gap. Don’t miss this episode to discover the strategies and tools he uses for creating new patterns of habit and identity that drive anyone to succeed.
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Creating New Patterns Of Habits And Identity With Dan LeFave
I am here to discuss some important things about how you can invest your time in a better way and look at the habits. We’re going to get inside the habit because it’s those habits that create our level of productivity that drive our success. We have a habit expert with us. Dan LeFave is here and he is the “No Excuse” shortcut to success coach and mindset engineer. Since 2012, he’s helped entrepreneurs to cut the time that it takes to succeed and to reach their goals in half the time and boost their productivity at that time. He’s been featured in national publications, including business magazine and Success Profiles Magazine and interviewed on radio shows and podcasts from New York to the UK. Dan, welcome to the show.
It’s great to be here, Penny. Thank you.
Dan, the habit guy. We all have habits. The question is, if we’ve been having a habit that we’ve been engaging in year after year, maybe it’s a habit we’ve had for 10, 20 years, how do we change a habit like that?
The first thing is that we have to recognize that there’s something that we’re doing that is uncomfortable. We might not call it a habit. If we see the same thing over and over again, that is a clear indication that we are repeating some pattern and it’s a habit.
Anything that we repeat is a habit.
In your videos and interviews, we are habit bearing creatures. We can’t help ourselves. We start doing something and then it becomes natural. Commuting is a habit and we do it.
Not only that, but you know what’s funny? It made me think of this. We sit in the same seat too. If you get on a bus, you get on the train, or if we’re on a classroom, we sit in the same seat. We are creatures of habit.
Do you know what it comes down to? It’s comfort. The interesting thing we’re having in this conversation which is, many people are uncomfortable. They’re locked in their houses. They can’t get out of there. There’s so much of this discomfort, which is what we need. Habit is all about comfort. It’s what’s familiar. Also, know this, our habits are based on what we know what’s relevant and that’s our past. We do what’s familiar because then we can predict our future. We know how we’re going to feel if we sit in that same spot and we do the same thing over and over again. We know it’s predictable. It’s comfortable. I see it all the time. My wife does yoga and people come in to do yoga at our house. You always see somebody showing up early, why? They want the spot. Familiar, comfortable, they’re in the corner and nobody’s going to crowd them.
In my work with Tony Robbins, he talks about that we have these seven human needs and one of them is certainty. It gives us certainty to know that we’ve got that spot or that we can estimate what’s going to happen in the future.
One day something happens and we’re like, “That didn’t feel good.” I had an awakening where it took me on the path to where I am, which was, my wife is having a second child. I was working for an organization that allowed parental leave. In fact, our first child was born and I didn’t even know about the parental leave. I took two weeks’ vacation and worked the whole time. That was a habit. I was often on my computer. That second child, I was talking with the HR department and I found that they’ll give me 36 weeks with almost 100% pay and I was like, “Don’t say anything more.” I took it. At the tail end of that 36 weeks, did I ever have an awakening? In fact, I emailed the HR and I was like, “I have some vacation. I’m going to top it off, so I don’t have to come back until the New Year.” It was eating at me and I was like, “I’m commuting three hours. I’m away from my family.” That’s not a good investment.
It caused something to awaken inside of me and that’s where I started asking friends and my friends were, “What do you want?” I said, “I don’t know. I want to be inspired and be with my family.” They said, “We’ll pray for that.” I did and then that led me on a path of meeting people like Dave Blanchard of Og Mandino organization and Bob Proctor, hiring him to coach me. A whole string of events because I said, “I don’t want to do that anymore.” In fact, I went to another job because my vibration said, “I’m not happy.” I got recruited. I went over there. They paid me a lot more money and it’s fantastic. Within three weeks, that probationary period, they invited me to the boardroom and said, “It’s not working.” I knew and I felt it, but I didn’t know and I admit it. Anyway, I went home and I turned my life around. That was a real awakening because I was like, “Three hours a day of my life everyday times five days a week, it’s fifteen hours a week away from my family, that’s not for me.”
Think about how many hours, that is a year. That’s a job in itself.
That’s what I’m talking about. If we recognize our habits and especially if something irritates us or bothers us, we have to take note of it. I always say that thoughts become entangled as they pass through your lips and over fingertips. That’s why I suggest writing things down. When something’s not going, write it down. Sometimes you might take that marker, hold it and carve it out on the whiteboard or your dry erase marker. Don’t use permanent. Get those thoughts out, because once you get them out and you look at them, it’s like a little mind map and it’s like, “This is going on. I don’t like this. This is not working out. This is feeling uncomfortable.” That’s an awakening right there. It’s like, “That’s a habit or a practice I’m doing that isn’t working and I have to do something different.”
How do we do that? How do we identify the habits that aren’t working for us and the habits that are because some habits are good and we want to continue those habits because they’re supporting us and others aren’t? How do we define the difference?
You have to get irritated and agitated enough to change a habit. Click To Tweet It comes down to how we feel. We have to be aware of how we feel and not everybody is quite tuned into that. You have to be aware that when something happens and it might not be during. I think of it like this, you don’t tell an alcoholic, “You’ve been drinking.” They’re like, “I’m not drunk.” Sometimes you have to go through the emotional reaction that you might have because you’re repeating a habit. Afterwards, you have the revelation and you’re like, “Okay, wait.” I suggest you journal it. Write down how are you feeling, what the thoughts were, and then that helps you pivot. You need that pivoting. If you don’t have a pivot or some rude awakening like my father, he goes in the hospital to take out his gallbladder and they say, “You got to quit smoking. You’re going to kill yourself.” Cold turkey, he quit. Why? Because the doctor gave him that bit of evidence that said, “You got to change.” If we see the evidence ourselves, then we have to do something about it. We can’t say, “That’s happened again and I’ve seen it many times. I feel horrible.”
It’s not only how we feel because a lot of people who smoke don’t want to quit smoking. You said evidence-based. I call it, we have to get in relationship with our results and I think that’s what you’re saying. It’s how do we feel but also, how do we feel about the results that we’re getting? My kids would tell you that playing video games all day feels good. If it’s at the impact of something else, if you take a look at the cost and the cost is your grades declining or not having friends to engage with or something, for them. For us as adults, are we getting the results that we’re looking for? That’s what shook you up. You were noticing that you were away from your family and it’s that result that shook you, that evidence that you were spending more time away from home.
Also, I projected into the future and then I started thinking to myself, “Where’s this going to lead to? Am I going to grow up with my children? Are they going to value me as a father?” I started asking these deep questions as I start getting noes and irritated. That’s the whole point. You have to get irritated and agitated enough to change a habit. Nobody creates a New Year’s resolution and then hits the gym, hardly anybody does that. In fact, I used to teach spinning at the gym for twelve years. I would be in people’s face. I would sit there on a spin bike and I would say, “I bet you will not be here in three months.” I had to be that way because I saw it time and time again when people come in. I couldn’t say, “Keep it going.” It’s like, “I bet you won’t be here.”
It’s that challenge and that push. What you’re saying is that it’s what is costing you and you looked into the future. For everybody who’s reading who thinks that there’s a habit that they might think that it’s not serving them, look into the future and see what it’s costing you. See if you can afford or if that’s what you want for your life to take on those costs. You’re right. That usually creates that energy that says, “Not another day. I have to change this now.”
The words that usually come out is, “It’s enough,” or “I’ve had enough.” As soon as you’ve had enough, then guess what, that’s enough of a push to get you moving and then you have to find the thing that pulls you. I found the thing that was pulling me, being inspired to be with my family. The push was commuting and investing my time and energy and getting to a space where I didn’t even need to be. I could do it remotely. It takes that little edge, that little nudge and as soon as that happens, then you start to pivot. You’re going to have to grasp onto something. That’s where people grab on to, a personal trainer or a coach like you and I or somebody that can show them the path that says, “I’ve been here before. I’ve done this before. You could come with me and I’ll take you along.”
That’s why it’s a shortcut to success. You know the path to guide them down and that way, you can get them down the path faster.
I don’t study everything about psychology but the special thing that I focus on is, I find out how quick people are willing to move and then I subtly make adjustments because my interpretation is that beliefs are strongly rooted. I can’t tell somebody, “This is what I do. You do it.” I have to make them suddenly understand something and then maybe get a vision or a fantasy of what that looks like. Also, plant a little seed, get them doing a little step at a time. One of my clients, Brad, he wanted to break $1 million in his business. He also wanted to get his health where it needed to be. He took 36 pounds off as a result of rearranging mental furniture and that was unexpected but amazing.
That’s the path to success, shifting those beliefs and getting into action. Let me ask you, in habits and as they relate to productivity, what’s your definition of productivity and why?
My definition of productivity is how much free time I have with my family. That’s for me because I have young children under twelve. I have three boys. I measure it based on how much free time I get to spare with them or to enjoy with them. I measure that daily. I write that in my journal and daily basis or track it so that I can look back on it and connect the dots and say, “It’s a great day.” Why? “We took a walk in nature. We played some cards at noontime. We played cards later,” whatever the case may be. That’s my definition because family is important to me.
You’re intentional about creating what’s important to you.
Yes, and blocking time off. My noontime is a combination of meditation. It’s something for me, but then some game time with my family. We’re doing walks because it was nice out and they can get on their skateboards and so on. That’s the thing, doing something they enjoy so they can reflect back. There’s something I teach in my book, which is all about reverse engineering your life, which is all about how do I want to be remembered by my family, my children, my loved ones? If I could create little memories each and every day, that’s going to compound and become a big memory one day and I know that. It’s the incremental moment by moment things that I focus my attention on.
I was at the funeral gathering for a friend of mine’s father. What struck me about what everyone said, people went around the room to share a memory of him. That was clear and motivating. They all talked about the level of presence that he had with each and every one of them and how they felt that when they were together, they were the only ones in the world. He made them feel special because of the presence that he gave them. It shook me in it and it shook my boyfriend up to think about, “What is it that we’re creating? How will we be remembered? Are we intentional about that?” That is an important and valuable question to ask before it’s too late. We can set forth how we want to be remembered and how we want to show up but we must be intentional about it because there are many distractions everywhere.
To that point, it’s about what we value and what we identify it with. I identify with what I call the five F’s, which are faith, family, friends, fitness, and finances in that order. I make faith, family, friends, fitness and then finances important. I don’t make finances the engine of my train. I make sure that those are the part is for me and my identity. I know what my identity is because I focus my attention on it and I intentionally live my life. It cost me 2.5 hours a morning to do that.
It’s an investment. It’s not a cost.
Some people may think it’s a cost. It is an investment but also, I own my morning, I own my day, I own my life and that’s how I approach it.
There are a lot of entrepreneurs who are reading and a lot of people like yourself that were in this habit of going to work and spending a lot of time and traveling. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that if the person is loving their job and doing what it is. If they feel a slave to finance, finance makes all the decisions for them. I know a lot of people feel that way and especially with the stress of small businesses with the shutdown of the Coronavirus and everything. People are even more stressed around what’s happening with finances. What advice would you share with people on how to deal with that?
The key is, it’s the moment by moment choices that we make and how we invest our time. I’ve heard you say it in your TEDx Talk where you talked about. We’re habitual beings. It’s a question of, what are we doing with our thoughts? I would say, at least get your morning under control. That’s a minimum. When I say that, it doesn’t have to be what I do. I do 2.5 hours of practicing and that’s reading, writing, setting intentions, physical exercise, walks in nature, yoga, and breathing. It’s taken me years to get to that. I would say, at least own your morning. Take the time out to get yourself physically, mentally, emotionally prepared for your day.
We must be intentional about how we want to be remembered because there are distractions everywhere. Click To Tweet There are many practices and books out there. The Miracle Morning is a great one by Hal Elrod. Do something that maybe is 15, 20 minutes at first and then maybe it’ll grow. At first, you want to do something that’s physical. Get yourself prepared mentally for your day. I even suggest preparing for your day in advance. Set three intentions the day before because overnight when we shut our conscious mind down, our subconscious mind percolates and marinates over what we set our intentions on. We’ll dream about it and maybe wake up with some solutions or ideas. The day before, set some intentions. The day you wake up, look at them. Think about what that is.
Maybe write some ideas around about that, that you’ve dreamt about or thought about or woke up with and then do something. Always have water as soon as you wake up. We dehydrate while we’re sleeping. I have this bottle. It’s ready for the morning. I have that bottle full. First thing, I don’t guzzle it. I drink it. I have a gratitude journal and I have another journal. It’s a bunch of things that I’ve practiced over the years. Also, in the morning practice, you should find some time to be grateful. Think of the things you appreciate and are grateful for. When you appreciate things, it draws things towards you because you’re appreciating them. If you don’t appreciate your pet and then they run away from you.
What you’re saying about win the morning, win the day is critical because we set the tone in the morning. Everybody who’s reading, I want you to think about it. If you’re the person who hits the snooze button first thing in the morning, what’s the first energy that you’re creating around your discipline about what you want to create? Start your day in thought, in action, and in intention. If you set the alarm for a time, wake up at that time. If that’s fifteen minutes later than when your alarm normally goes off, then set it for fifteen minutes later. I like your idea of setting three things to be intentional about, include gratitude and anything that sets your mind up for the energy that you want to create that day.
Get your focus because otherwise, the world is going to be whirling around us and things are going to come. We will be in reaction mode because that’s what happens when things come at us, we respond and solve problems naturally.
I’m sure everybody can appreciate that, all day firefighting.
Instead, set your day up for success and own it. Own your morning and your day. As you go throughout your day and you realize the things that you intended to do start happening and that’s where I say look for the evidence. You then see the evidence and then you’re like, “That’s relevance.” Once we have relevance, that’s a memory. Next time we go to do something, we won’t be nearly as frightened about it or holding back, we’ll say, “I’ve done this before. It felt good. It might work again. I’ll do it.” It’s like running a marathon. I started off with 5, 10, 20 kilometers.
It builds. That’s the traction that it creates. I remember you saying that you’ve got a free gift for everybody. What is that gift and where can they get it?
It is some work that I’ve done on and researched about 7 Time-Saving Secrets. I found these to be the best. They’re about how you can get a little more control or leverage over your time in your day because it’s a moment by moment choices. If we’re 70,000, 80,000 thoughts a day and habits, we’re not getting inside of a habit yet, we’re repeating these habits over and over again. The 7 Time-Saving Secrets is at DanLeFave.com/savetimenow. You can grab that for free. It’s an awesome tool. It’s a report. It gives you everything in it. If you put one thing into practice, I guarantee it’s going to change your life. These are things that I’ve pulled out of the internet or I’ve read off some books. I researched, tested them. I’m in my own little lab here. I do experiments all the time. I’ll test it for months on end. I’m unique that way or weird.
You’re passionate about it. You got to get inside it. That’s your thing. Get inside the habit, understand it from the inside out.
A simple solution as to how you can save time and get inside the habit gap because people are like, “When am I going to create new habits?” I say to my clients, “Do you go to the bathroom?” A rhetorical question. They’re like, “I do.” I’m like, “Good. You must go 10, 15 times a day possibly.” “Do you have a dry erase marker?” “Yes.” “Let’s go in the bathroom. Let’s write some words on that bathroom mirror that matter to you.” I use an affirmation that relates and probably needs to solve or something. That’s getting inside the habit cap. Sooner or later, they’ll be like me. They have whole phrases and statements that they can say to themselves that become a pathway in their mind. That’s neural pathways. We have to pave them.
I say to my kids, “You see that path there where the rabbit’s going? It wasn’t like that before, but it is.” That’s how it is in your mind once you keep paving over it with thoughts and words that matter. Simple things, sometimes it’s, “I love myself. I like myself. I believe in myself. I trust myself. I trust in perfect timing.” Little statements like that because nobody’s going to say those to us. Give ourselves that little edge by giving ourselves the thoughts that are paving pathways that we can travel on later on in our life. Those would be our new habits and then we’ll enjoy them. We’ll say, “This is fantastic. I do love my life and I love myself and everything in it.”
Those are fundamental statements that drive us and getting inside what we value and making it into practice.
It might even create new identities for ourselves. Our identities are based on our past, but that’s a predictable future. How do you create a new identity? You start crafting one. Some people are open-minded. Some of my clients, I say to them, “Lady Gaga created a character for herself. Bono created one.” How many people do you know in the world that created characters? I said, “If you’re open about it, let’s create a character for you and let’s become that character.” Sometimes that works.
You said you like to find new things that help you to save time and be smarter, work smarter. What are the go-to apps that you use that you think, “These are the things that if my computer were wiped and I had to reinstall everything, these are the apps that I would I would install?”
There are definitely two of them. One that I use for creating new habits and for measuring how things are going in my life is called HabitBull. You can create five habits in there without paying a dime. That’s a nice bonus. If you go over, pay the $20. It’s awesome because it has a nice little calendar on it where you either push it and it’s green or you hit it a second time and it’s red. It’s an easy way to measure. The other one is Todoist. It’s an awesome app that I use because I plug in my intentions and my goals for the day and I have it linked to my calendar. It automatically blocks off time. I do it the day before. Nobody can block off time or ask me for that time. Todoist is awesome for that. It’s also project-oriented. I can manage my project, my tasks, and track my performance. Those are two that I would use because they’re shortcuts for me.
Is there any other shortcut that you use, whether it’s a mental shortcut or something like that, that you feel is a driver for your success?
I ask myself effective questions. Nobody thinks about that too often, but I have many. Asking the questions, “Who am I? What do I want? What do I know? What do I need to know? What are the opportunities I have for me?” They turn on what’s called the reticular activating system and it’s going to seek out and solve the problem. That’s what we are. We’re heat-seeking, problem-solving mechanisms. Unfortunately, that’s our makeup. Asking those questions every morning, you don’t have to ask all them. If you ask, those are good enough.
If you like the other ones and if you even want to go deeper, you can say, “What simple steps can I take to achieve the goals in my life?” As soon as you start asking those questions, it gets your mind tuned in and turned on and looking for the opportunities to solve this. Most people don’t do it. Effective questions are not asked. A book that came out by Mark Victor Hansen, Ask!. A friend of mine interviewed him. There’s a great book called The Aladdin Factor, which is all about asking and that’s Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, it’s the same thing. I’ve read that book multitudes of times because they plugged it into my head. Asking effective questions tunes us into what we want and get to pivoting and moving in that direction.
Set your day up for success and own it. Click To Tweet It shifts our focus. It gives us a director and helps us to hone in on it. Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes of it coming up with the right question.” Having the right question and not necessarily the right answer, it’s about getting that right question because that’s going to help you to move forward and solve that problem and create that direction. I believe in that. I have certain questions that drive me. Another Tony Robbins thing that I remember when I was working with Tony was, we all have a primary question. One question that when we dig down deep, that’s one question that we always ask that drives ourselves. Once we get clear on what that question is, we can see if it’s serving us or if it’s limiting us and then we can look to move and switch that question, identity shifting in a way. The questions are huge.
When we start asking questions, we tune into the solutions. We end up causing our change by nature. We have to do it and do it a little bit every day. Deepak Chopra was the one who planted in my mind, “Who am I? What do I want?” He said, “Ask two questions every day.”
Reinforce who you are and who you want to be and what you want. That’s perfect.
As you dial in and you become this other version of yourself and I call it a better version of myself. That’s a question I ask, “What can I do to become a better version of myself?” If I didn’t do anything, maybe it’s some other day. At least I can say, “I did something.” Playing games with my family, that was something. Taking a walk, that’s something and I journal about it. It doesn’t cost me a paragraph. It cost me two minutes. It’s little. I’m creating my biography and my journals so that I can look back one day and say, “Those are little incremental things that I did.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said that eventually, we wake up to a banquet of consequences. Most people don’t think about that. I think about our mind is being a GPS and our thought is compounding. We better do something with that potential. Einstein said, “The same mind that caused the problem can’t solve it.” We have to be looking at things differently and from a different angle. Bob Proctor even taught that, he said, “Walk around the table. Put that piece of paper, that problem, in the center of the table and walk around to the left side and ask, ‘What do I do from here?’”
It’s like when you look out a window, “What do I see?” Each angle that you look out the window, your view, you see something else. One side, you might see a tree. On the other side, you might see a part of a car. You’re going to see something different every time you look at it from a different perspective.
Next thing you know, we start seeing solutions and evidence. We get relevance, more courage and more confidence. We step forward and we create new patterns of habits and new identity if that’s what we want. We go through our lives and when we get to the end of it, we realize, “I did leave a legacy. I did some great things.” People in hospice, there are five things that people regret and one of them was they didn’t take risks and do the things they love with their loved ones. That’s number one.
Is there any last thing that you want to share with the audience?
It’s getting inside the habit gap. People don’t realize that they have time. That time is when you’re driving, when you’re getting groceries, when you’re in the bathroom. Tony Robbins calls it no time. We have all sorts of no time, but we don’t realize that there’s no time and we don’t use it. We have to use it. Bring your headphones with you or whatever it might be. As I’m working, if I’m not talking to anybody, I plug in affirmations and things all the time. My subconscious is listening. I don’t have to focus on it.
Your conscious mind might block it out, but your unconscious mind is listening.
It’s eavesdropping, listening in. I give it little bits of information every day and next thing you know, I’m realizing something new. I can’t tell why, but I can usually attribute it to something I did.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your ideas. Tell people where they can go to pick up your free gift.
It’s DanLeFave.com/savetimenow. Honestly, we need to get control of our time. We know we have it, we need to take the initiative and do something.
That’s why this show is called Take Back Time. Thank you all for being here. We’ll see you in the next episode.
- Dan LeFave
- Og Mandino
- The Miracle Morning
- The Aladdin Factor
- Deepak Chopra
About Dan LeFave
Dan LeFave is the “No Excuse” Shortcut to Success Coach and mindset engineer. Since 2012, he has helped entrepreneurs cut the time it takes to succeed and reach their goals in half and boost their productivity. He’s been featured in national publications including Business Magazine and Success Profiles Magazine, and interviewed on radio shows and podcasts from New York to the UK.
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