Motivation 009. Why You Quit (And How Not To)

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Motivation 009. Why You Quit (And How Not To)

Most people are embarrassed of being disciplined. It’s weird. People wonder why you’re not lazy, thoughtless animals like they are. If you’re out at a restaurant, they’ll nudge you “Have another drink!” But the quiet implication is: “What, do you have body image issues or something?” “There’s no harm in indulging once in a while.” “Fitness is like all things in life — it’s good in moderation.” Meanwhile, they continue their stagnant descent into a state of illness. Losing muscle mass. Gaining fat. A pound, half-a-pound every six months.

There’s a reason for this common social pressure to be unhealthy. If there is a consensus that fitness in the extreme is mentally unhealthy, then the group’s physically unhealthy habits acquire this glimmer of virtue. “Treat yo’self.” And all of a sudden, you become the weird one for going to the gym instead of the bar. You become the boner killer when you order a water instead of an IPA.

And that stigma — that embarrassment you feel pressuring you to participate in the group’s self-deceiving indulgence in illness under the moniker of moderation and mental health — that will kill you. And that’s the real truth of your ability to continue with your fitness commitment after you’ve lost a few pounds. After you’ve accomplished that fitness goal that everybody congratulates you for, will you continue out of a commitment to live? Or will you accept your participation trophy of social praise and return to your current weight?

Because here’s the truth: You are either extremely strict, or you’re losing muscle and gaining fat. Once you let the line break, you’re done. Once you have the mindset of, “I’m good at fitness! I don’t need to count calories,” or “I’m doing great! I can relax a little,” you have at that moment ceased to gain progress. You’ve taken your foot off the gas. You’ve caved. That small mental compromise is the difference between accomplishing your dream goal of being as strong and fast as you can possibly be (which is a real possibility) and being satisfied with a cheap consolation prize of pounds lost on the scale. There is no middle ground. There is no “relaxing” your fitness habits. There is either up or down; there is either pushing your death date back, or pulling it toward you.

When you are in your 60s, you will either be in great shape for 60, or terrible health. And your decision today, either to get started, or to keep going, or to double down on being strict with your diet and exercise, hangs on one decision: Will you participate with American culture in self-deception, or will you commit yourself to a mindset of extreme consistency? If you choose a middle ground -- if you choose moderation -- you are choosing self-deception. If you choose to cave into the coy smile and gentle nudge of your friend’s habitual self-deception, you will cave again tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day, and that mental compromise you’ve made will go unnoticed until you’re back where you started.

People quit their fitness commitments because they are satisfied to undervalue the small mental compromises that sabotage their fitness.

Notice it. Do it. No slack. No exceptions. No uncounted calories. No unstarted or unfinished workouts. Commit to your program for a certain duration of time. Complete the program for that duration, getting back up after any slip ups, calling them what they are, and moving on. Get up. Refocus. Shake off your sense of shame and failure. And commit to a next 30 days or 6 weeks or 12 weeks. Commit. Execute. Don’t look back. Don’t look up. Don’t like to the side. Don’t get bogged down in failure. Don’t try to see the finish line . Don’t take your cues from your friends.

Your choices are yours to make. Your goals are yours to set. And the consequences of compromise are yours to face, or to ignore. Who you choose to be today is who you will be in 6 months. So choose: Better, or worse?