Do you remember that time when you were trying to fix the front door and you just gave up?
Do you remember trying to clean under the stairs and saying “eff it already”?
How about that time you were going to do an extra rep and you just shut down the set?
We all do these things.
It makes us human.
You’re still a good person.
Sometimes giving up on something and moving on is necessary,
But there is one unfortunate thing that happens when you give up on a task…
You get better at giving up on tasks.
Through a complex series of events in the brain and body,
You strengthen a pattern every time you do it.
So, if you give up on things often,
You’ll get better at giving up.
But, to flip it around,
When you practice persistence,
You get better at sticking to things.
Did you once start a workout program and give up?
Did you once start a diet and it fizzled out?
Did you start eating more veggies and then revert back to your old ways?
Obviously, many things can help support you on your journey,
But, practicing not giving up helps you see those things through.
The Talent Code
“The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle is a book that explores the etiology of greatness.
As in what makes people great.
And believe it or not, it’s not innate ability,
Or picking the right parents.
It is a no-holds-barred,
Unadulterated commitment to your craft.
And doing that day-in and day-out until you become great.
Well, it turns out that the same thing that makes you great…
Can make you not so great.
It’s all about the nervous system.
In your body, you have trillions of neural pathways.
These neural pathways are nerve connection “super-highways” that connect thoughts to actions,
Thoughts to thoughts,
thoughts to emotions,
And even help form habits.
So, when you think about a movement and then perform the movement,
That neural pathway connects that thought to that movement.
And when you activate that pathway,
You get better at using that pathway.
It becomes “grooved” and the next time you use it,
You will be able to use it faster.
How about thoughts to thoughts?
You may think about something sad and that makes you want to eat.
Well, over time, that connection will “groove itself” and get better at connecting sadness to eating.
The more you use a neural pathway,
The better you get at using a neural pathway.
So, to apply this to quitting…
The more often you quit seemingly painless activities,
Like folding a shirt properly,
Or getting the right proportions in a recipe,
You get better at quitting.
And you train that ability to quit.
And then the next time you want to bear down a finish a set,
Your default pattern is to quit.
Or when you want to stick to your nutritional habits,
You deviate and eat ice cream.
The strengthening of these neural pathways happens via a process called myelination.
Myelination occurs when a neural pathway is wrapped in a fatty sheath called myelin.
The myelin continuously wraps itself over the neural pathway the more you use it.
This myelin increases the conduction speed of the neural pathway,
And thus, makes it easier to use the pathway each subsequent time.
And the unfortunate thing is that you can’t “un-myelinate” a neural pathway,
You need to find an alternate activity.
But before you get there, there are a few other things that need to happen.
How to quit the quitting habit
1. Start with notice and name
The first step in all change is awareness.
So, by reading this article you have brought awareness to the quitting habit.
Now, it’s on you to notice when you are quitting and name it.
For example, “oh yeah, I just tried to fix that door handle and just gave up. I am doing that quitting thing again.”
2. Where does quitting fit into your values, identity, and priorities?
Are you the type of person that gives up?
Are you the type of person that doesn’t see things through?
Is being a quitter part of your identity?
One of my personal worries is developing a “short-cut” mentality in my life.
I think that anything that is to be done,
Should be done properly.
So, anytime I have the choice to cut a corner by walking off the sidewalk, I choose to take the sidewalk…
It’s a small thing, but it confirms my identity that I am not a “corner-cutter”.
3. Use the 4S formula
We talked about how to change habits in our 4S article, but it’s worth mentioning again in the context of this post.
Quitting is easy the more you do it,
So use the 4S’s to not give up on your goals.
A habit formation structure is anything you surround yourself with that can make quitting quitting easier.
So, if you find yourself quitting your workouts or quitting your nutritional habits often, try the following:
i. Make your habit more manageable
A scaled-down nutritional habit that you can get done
ie. eating a breakfast with fruit, veggies and lean protein,
is better than a complex habit that you can’t get done
Ie. Eating lean protein, fruit, and veggies at every meal.
ii. Make your workout more manageable
Instead of a 60-minute scorcher, try a 20-minute walk.
Again, getting something done is better than getting overwhelmed and doing nothing at all.
iii. Just do the warm-up
This is a great trick to overcome inertia – just commit to the warm-up.
Once you complete the warm-up, you are free to move on with your life.
You’d be surprised how often you do the whole workout.
iv. Find accountability buddies that will keep you on track
You’re a product of the five people you hang out with the most,
So, find some fit people to keep you on track.
v. Hire a coach
This is the Almighty when it comes to getting stuff done.
Not only will a coach help you come up with the most effective strategy,
They will provide the accountability to get it done!
v. Throwing out all of your red-light foods in your kitchen and stocking up on green-light foods
If something is in your house, you’ll probably eat it.
So, put the right things in your house.
There may be nothing more powerful than re-structuring your environment when it comes to reaching your goals.
Systems are processes that allow for consistent, repeatable action on a task.
Habit formation systems you can use to quit quitting and start getting some traction on your fitness include:
A meal plan template
A workout template
Or a Sunday meal preparation system
If you find you’re quitting your workouts,
Or your nutritional habits,
Try scheduling time for these things.
Making appointments with yourself on your calendar to work out at 5 pm,
Go for a walk at noon,
And prepare your next day’s meals at 8:30 pm,
Are all first commitments.
These first commitments increase the likelihood that your workouts and habits won’t get lost in the busy-ness of your day.
Finally, you can stack the actions that you seem to be quitting on top of other actions.
If you always make your kid’s lunch the night before,
Prepare your meals at the same time.
If you always make coffee in the morning,
Stack on top of it the preparation of a high-performance shake.
Find new habits that you want to build and stack them on top of habits that have been myelinated from years of repetition.
This article is about more than just quitting quitting.
It’s about identifying when the quitting happens,
Noticing and naming it,
And then structuring your world to be conducive to building an alternative behaviour.
You can use these principles to quit many things:
Or chewing your nails.
But the important thing is to start.
You’re motivated to do something right now,
So take action.
What can you do in the next 24 hours to use the tactics and strategies in this article?
And then just go do it!