There’s been a bit of growing since then. It’s said “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” Unfortunately, the internet has records of when I didn’t know, so this post is meant to revisit that old article and shine a new, more sober light on it. It is now less about quitting in the gym, and more about quitting in general.
1. Treating new behaviors like sprints, and not marathons
It’s not unlikely meeting a new prospective client who has a goal in mind, with high hopes of success in limited time. This is admirable, because having a tangible goal set for the not-too-distant future means a lot of priority can be devoted to that goal. It can lead to a more rapid success than previously expected, too.
Unfortunately, we’re wired in such a way that by using this “sprint to the finish” mentality, we clash with our natural “instant gratification” need. Not only will sprinting to the finish be exhausting mentally and physically, it also doesn’t lend well to our needing that gratification to substantiate our efforts.
For example; when I get to pick my daughter up from daycare early on Fridays, I forget that she’ll pretty much need me for the rest of my life. So when I rinse-and-repeat the same things that she needs (eat, play, poop, sleep) I end up leading by checklist thinking it’ll be done after the first round. But it’s not, and this “sprint” mentality lends itself to my frustration; why can’t babies just follow rules? And not need me to wipe their butts for the next 18 years?
The aforementioned qualities can be a detriment to anything we want to try; learning guitar, learning photography, trying new skills. It takes a long time to build new habits and learn things that are difficult, so maybe pulling off the throttle a little will keep you fresher for the long haul.
2. Punishment vs. Reward
The previous article called you a liar for your behaviors and perhaps you’re not. I don’t know you so maybe you are. But I can say that it’s also very natural for people to keep themselves on a leash so they can run wild when the collar’s off. I’m not sure your Dom would appreciate that though (and my friends tell me I try too hard to be funny).
What this means is, let’s say you convince yourself that you’ll exercise in the morning so you’ll feel better about letting loose with your coworkers after work. This reward system is constructive, but also leads you to being the guy at the office who everyone knows downs a couple Jagerbombs at 5:30 pm on a Wednesday night and needs to Uber home. Unfortunately, this reward system led you into an indirect punishment system. By doing a good thing for yourself so you will “allow” yourself to do something you enjoy, the initial good thing (going to the gym in the morning) will eventually feel like a punishment. This can only be successful but for so long.
A better solution is to shift the system to a reward-reward scenario; I will work-out in the morning so that I won’t miss exercising tonight since I’ll be crawling out of the bar. See? This time you aren’t punishing yourself for doing what you really want to do—and that’s sing showtunes with your coworkers.
3. Doing things for other people—it’s not what you think
Humans are inherently selfish. Hold on, not in the “I will eat this sandwich in front of a poor person,” way, but more in a “I’d rather not get out of bed to pick my friend up from the bar” way.
This means if your motivations for doing things are based off other people’s feelings, it will start with good intentions but perhaps lead to eventual failure. Take our drunk friend:
We decide to stay up a little later, maybe catch up on our Netflix shows or read that book we started 4 months ago, so that when we get the eventual call, we’ll be ready to answer. It starts great; you finish 7 seasons of The Office, two books, and now you’ve picked up a hobby of cooking yourself dinner from Ironchef. Eventually, work gets exhausting, this new hobby is costing you more money, makes you feel like a retiree, and maybe you just want to go to bed like a normal person. Despite your initial success, you’re now the guy who doesn’t want to pick his drunk friend up, isn’t cooking or reading anymore, and feels like a lazy bum that can quote The Office forward and back.
Many people choose to do things for other people; exercising to look better for your spouse, learning to cook for your kids, learning guitar to impress your high school crush—if we start with this motivation, great. Eventually, we’ll need to be motivated for ourselves. If I want to watch 7 seasons of The Office, I want to do it for me.
4. It can really suck
Before, I wrote about how fitness can really suck. Instead, I’ll say quitting can really suck.
If we set ourselves up for failure from the onset, quitting is the nasty cherry on top. Not only did we not enjoy the initial process, but then we doubled down on disappointment (I got a B.A. just to use that alliteration) without meeting the expectations we set for ourselves.
If I want to write a book, I can’t sit down after work, binge write, and lose sleep because I feel I have to finish it. I should want to write it and develop a process where I write a page every evening. That way, before I know it a book’s been written. It felt natural, not forced.
If we force ourselves too much to accomplish large goals, fast, we face burnout and increased chances of failure. If we use negative reinforcement to establish a good behavior, we’ll lose sight of how that behavior benefits us. If we adopt these behaviors for someone else, they’ll be artificial at best. And if we choose to lengthen our time-frames to alleviate some discomfort, we can avoid the suckiness of failure later, and perhaps we’ll be better off for it.