7 Mind Tricks You’ll Need When You Feel Like Giving Up

When you’re going through hell. Keep Going.
– Winston Churchill (Probably Not)

I’ve felt like quitting a lot recently. In the last few weeks I’ve went incognito multiple times to just escape to the cinema. I watched Risen and London Has Fallen.

I basically swapped one perceived torture for an actual real one.

Quitting good habits that I’ve worked on for months is a ridiculous option.

So I started to reach out to friends with a question: When you feel like quitting but manage to go on anyway, what is it you do in your head thingy?

What do you do to overcome the feeling that says just give up?

This was the most common “wisdom” I got back was that when you feel like quitting just break the challenge down to the smallest first step, and then do that.

I’ve told people this myself.  It sounds wise.

Just Start Small, Is Bullshit.

Here’s why:
SbGLVq8This graph of totally legit data that I made up shows that are two times when doing a thing is at it’s hardest.

1. When you’ve been doing thing for so long that you are so exhausted that you collapse in a ball of giving up.

2. Right at the very very very beginning when you do the very first part of thing.

It’s not running the marathon that is hard. It’s putting on the dam shoes.

So you are going to need some mental tricks in your toolkit to help you on those days when you have massive resistance to following through with your habit building.

(I’ll probably use the gym as my go to habit example from here on out)

The Slippery Slope

Never forget that momentum is a cruel mistress, she can turn on a dime with the smallest mistake.

Once you pop you can’t stop.

It’s why a recovering alcoholic doesn’t take just one sip.

It’s why I stay away from the Cheesecake factory.

The Slippery Slope is to remind yourself (through a little internal talk, or external, if that’s how you roll) that if you skip your session today then tomorrow it’ll be easier to skip it again and even harder to go.

The only way to always go to the gym is to always go.

“Chris, today if you skip the gym then tomorrow you’ll find it even harder to follow through and you’ll of set a precedent that allows you to skip with less guilt. It’ll be easier to skip! Then you’ll eat some cake, then you’ll start on the sugar, then you’ll fall so far back again that going to the gym will feel like such a big challenge that you might never go back. Then you’ll get fat and die young.” The consequences of skipping once are bigger than I thought. Let’s go.

That. Is a dramatic slippery slope. And it works.

The I Love Myself Mantra

Kamal Ravikant was lying in bed, close to death and ready to give up (his startup had exploded I think). Then he started telling himself: “I love myself. I love myself. I love myself.”

Fast forward a few years and he’s a billionaire with a full head of hair. Nah, jokes. But he seems healthy and happy.

It would seem that the I Love Myself Mantra is more difficult for many of us than it should be. Vocalising the words i love myself can feel in-congruent, awkward, false. This could also be a solely British trait. But it also has a power and I’ve been doing it.

Mantras work because they block out enemy number 1. That guy who appears most when you are close to quitting. You.

Repeating the mantra i love myself, on a loop, for minutes at a time, until you can’t stop hearing it like an earworm is a very effective way to block out the negative internal dialogue.

I’ve found that it works most effectively during treadmill runs and the 10th rep of a set. My internal dialogue loves to pop up with: oh, you’ve ran fo 30 minutes, I hate this, it’s boring, ugh my lungs burn, my legs hurt, I’ve done enough, let’s quit … yeah… quit.. let’s stop now.

Over-ride it with a constant mantra. i love myself, i love myself, i love myself.

Review Your Progress

“That which is measured improves.” – Pearson’s Law.

You’ve done awesome getting this far. Remember when you used to be fat? Yeah, that sucked.

Change is a slow process and we tend to forget just how far we’ve come. When you feel like quitting and need an injection of motivation, pull out the results you’ve been recording and review them.

But this is dependent on something: make sure you’re measuring.

Take photos of yourself.
Write down your workout.
Snap a photo of your meals.
Take screenshots of your early website designs.
Keep the first drawings you did.

Track. Track. Track. Then review the progress every so often to feel great and push yourself through any resistance that makes you feel like today was a good day to quit.

Reward Yourself Forward

I’ve talked about this before as a way to avoid self-sabotage. Instead of rewarding yourself with things that push you back: like, a slice of cake after the gym. Reward yourself forward – i.e if I beat my best time I’m going to buy some new running shoes.

New running shoes will make you even better at running and push you forward.

When you feel like quitting, set yourself a new reward that will entice you to get through the feeling of giving up.

Exaggerate Your Why

On a podcast with James Altucher, Charles Duhigg the author of The Power of Habit, talks about exaggerating your why so that a mundane task takes on monumental importance.

It works something like this.

I hate grading students papers. I don’t want to do it.
I want to be working on my research to cure cancer instead.

But wait. I grade papers so the university can run courses, so that students will pay money to be on those courses, so the university will have funds to pay me and fund my research, so that there is money for my cure for cancer research and I do that so that I can save lives.

∴ grading papers = saving lives.

Get American Corny

This might just be me. But when I need that extra boost I turn to the 80s greats. Tony Robbins will do. Throw on a Youtube clip of this man just being alive and I’m ready to walk through walls.

I say American Corny as a compliment. No one quite does pullyourselfupandgofuckingdoit like the Americans.

This video is a particular favourite of millions of people. Make it your alarm clock. Guaranteed to give you the tingles and leave you feeling like Bengal fucking tiger. Rawwwwr.


Do A Reality Check

There are people willingly working (somewhat, it’s debatable) in sweatshops to make money  to build better lives for themselves and their families.

Next time going to the gym feels like, yeah, you know… a little bit hard, have a reality check. Do a quick run through of lucky you were to win the generic lottery and be born with whatever advantages you have.

Quick run down for me: born in first world country, in a society with free health care and social security, to parents who were hard working, at a time when technology was getting super-cool and then given a computer with internet at age 11 AND then have been lucky enough to not die before 30.

Reality check.

My gym has 8 hot tubs, a climbing wall and free bananas for god’s sake. Who am I to not want to go?

ok, it’s gym time.

I guess Ride Along 2 will just have to wait.

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