In Andy McNab's bestseller Bravo Two Zero, a book about a famous British SAS mission in Iraq, the commandos use the term "hard routine" to describe their mindset, focus, and seriousness when at work. When they step into an actual mission, crossing the line of departure, they say that they go on the "hard routine." From that moment on, the rules are strict, the focus is singular, and all available resources are brought to bear with an intensity that is necessary for success. When they're on the hard routine, there is no room for selfishness, indulgence, compromise, or distraction.
This principle is required in special operations missions, where toughness, determination, and discipline are required for success and, often, survival. But there is a lesson here that applies to all of us, even in less dire circumstances. This lesson involves a principle, or a group of principles, that are as relevant to the workaday stiff as to the tactical operator--to ordinary people who fall anywhere along the spectrum of full engagement in life. The principles of the hard routine are broadly applicable, and, for the type of person who is willing to engage them, can be a powerful catalytic agent for change of all sorts. But what, precisely, is it? The hard routine is primarily an exercise in mental toughness.
As such, it is vital to grasp the component of psychology that permeates the hard routine. In any rigorous endeavor, the bedrock for success lies in the mindset of the individual. I am reminded of the story popular in the business world about burning boats. Alexander the Great, when he sailed into Asia, disembarked his infantry and then set his entire navy ablaze in the harbor. The only way home meant a march across land and through the enemy: victory or death. Total commitment. A potent psychological shift occurs when the possibility of giving up disintegrates into ashes. The hard routine grants the willing participant entry into a hard sanctum located in a lucid place of the mind, free of the "soft" psychological distractions and habits that can hinder sustained changes in action. In short, it boils down to denial of self-indulgence.
The principles of setting up a hard routine are simple. Following them is too, but it takes total commitment.