June 17, 2023

Expose the Enemy & Break the Sticking Point (How to Not Quit)

Expose the Enemy & Break the Sticking Point (How to Not Quit)

91% of Americans admit to failing their new years resolutions.

When I heard this stat, I wasn't surprised.

We've all been there. You start doing something new, determined to stick to it, only to find yourself quitting.

It's right around the 1-2 week mark.

I know you've been there.

Something happens. Something changes, and we stop.

We make an excuse for why we stop. It's always something different. Something related to the specific habit we are trying to create.

For me it was the gym. I tried over and over to get in there with consistency.

My first attempt was at the age of 16.

It lasted a week.

I told myself it was because I didn't know how to use the machine — I felt like I wasn't getting a good return on my time.

My second attempt was 2 years later. I was going into college.

Now I was too busy to make time.

There were so many things that could go wrong. So many things that I had to get right for me to keep going.

A few years later, I realized exactly why this happened. I learned exactly why everything had to be perfect.


Other than the gym, there was another habit I struggled with.

I've mentioned flossing in a previous newsletter. The elusive habit that lots of people can't to nail down. I know I'm not alone.

I never flossed. Not until recently.

My fiancé was telling me to start. She did it every night. She told me "You talk about yourself being so disciplined, why don't you prove to me you can floss".

I didn't care much about developing that specific habit for the teeth benefits (stupid, I know) but the way she said it pissed me off.

She was challenging me. I wanted to prove to her I could do it for the sake of proving it. That was my only reason.

The first week it was so easy. We brushed our teeth at night and immediately flossed after.

Then day 6 happened.

With my fiancé in the other room, I brushed my teeth...

I looked at the floss and said "Nah I don't need to do that today".

It happened in a flash. It's hard to explain, but it felt like I wasn't the one who made the choice.

A split second decision made.

It felt like my brain was separate from me for that brief moment.

My fiancé came into the room and asked if I flossed. I said no. She asked why.

I had no excuse. No reason for not doing it, yet I still skipped.
That's when I had the epiphany.

Excuses

Unlike the gym, there is no valid excuse to not floss.
You can't say:

  • I don't know how to do it
  • It takes too long
  • I'm not feeling up to it today
  • I'm too tired

When my fiancé asked me why, I reflected a bit.

The fact that I didn't have an excuse pissed me off. I was angry with myself.

"You quit and you don't even have a reason why".

That was it.

I went back into the bathroom and flossed.

Epiphany

I wondered what would have happened if I had an excuse.

What if I actually had one? When she asked me that question I would've shared it.

She would've called it stupid but I wouldn't have cared.

I'd have convinced myself it was enough.

And I wouldn't have flossed.

We all know how that goes. Once we skip one day because of some questionable excuse it's the beginning of the end.

But I didn't have one, and that's the reason I got up and did it.

Finally I understood why the gym was so hard.

Your brain can come up with 20+ excuses that are valid enough to convince your body to skip.

I've spoken about how humans (like any other animals) will do whatever they can to preserve comfort. You can read more about it here.

Point is, change is a form of discomfort. We can tolerate it for a few days, but there's a point when your brain attempts to give up that change.

To crawl back into it's comfortable routine. The routine that doesn't contain the new habit.

To do this, it needs to come up with a reason to quit. It disgusts me how good your brain is at doing this.

It will cling to anything that creates minor inconvenience. Anything to get the body to revert and remove the new thing.

  • I'm too tired
  • I'm too sore
  • I'm feeling bad for myself
  • "Skipping one day is fine"
  • I don't have a perfect routine planned

You name it, you brain will use it as an excuse to not go. To not do the thing.

In fact, even if it can't come up with an excuse, you'll still want to quit.
This was flossing for me.

Exposure

There is good news. A habit like flossing exposes this phenomenon.

It made it beyond clear what was going on.

My subconscious brain looked for an excuse to convince my conscious mind to agree with it's decision to quit.

💡
Unfortunately, as we have seen in previous examples, it doesn't take much. Your subconscious brain is a master persuader. It just needs something.

When it couldn't find one that would work, it said "Fuck it, let's hope he doesn't notice".

And damn, it almost got me. If it wasn't for my fiancé asking me why I didn't floss, that little shit would have gotten away with it.

Too bad, I caught you this time.

And I'll never let you free.

Application

I exposed my brain.

I learned what it was doing (coming up with excuses to convince me of it's decision to quit) and why it was doing it (quitting because it's preserving comfort).

Once I learned what and why, I could conquer it.

💡
Don't underestimate the power of understanding things as a tool for overcoming them. Understanding them can allow you to reverse engineer it or expose it.

The gym made sense now. Those excuses I mentioned above were good enough to convince my conscious mind.

They did the trick. My subconscious brain was stacking wins.

But now I get it. I pay attention to when it tries its persuasion.

My mind has become fortified. Persuade me not. I won't let it.

So you don't know how to use the machines at the gym...

Subconscious brain says quit. Conscious mind says fuck you I'm gonna learn how to use them.

Absorb knowledge and squash the excuse.

Too tired? Don't care. It can't persuade me.

Drink some caffeine and squash the excuse.

Eventually there are no excuses left.

You've been breaking them for so long the behavior has already become habit. It is no longer discomfort to hit the gym. It is no longer change.

It is the new comfort.

Your subconscious mind stops fighting.

It lost, you won.

Now it's hard to NOT go to the gym.

Why? Because not going to the gym would be the change. Not going to the gym would be the discomfort, and your subconscious brain would make excuses TO go.

We flipped the script.

We leveraged that little shit and its games for our own good.

We've won.

Conclusion

If you've made it this far and you relate to the problem/are still experiencing it...

Start flossing.

If it's not flossing, find a similar habit that has no excuse to skip. This could be:

  • 10 minute walk
  • Making your bed
  • I can't think of any more lol.

There isn't a lot of them. You can find an excuse to not do almost anything. The master persuader doesn't need much.

The point is to find something that has the least amount of valid excuses.

Pick that habit, and stick to it. Don't do it for the tangible benefit. Do it for that moment when you try and quit.

That is the moment where you can break free.

Right when it happens, you must reflect. You must ask yourself why you are quitting... otherwise you'll let it win.

Make the same realization I did. Have the same epiphany.

Expose that little guy in there playing games. Bring him out in the light.

Leverage its mechanism in your favor instead.


Thank you for the 4 newcomers who have joined this newsletter.

I am most proud of this one so far, and they will only get better.

Excited to see your white smiles when we meet ;)

Take care.

- Jason