I am struggling today. If you’ve ever struggled to be consistent with something you care about, maybe my struggle will resonate with you too.
It has been 939 days since November 12, 2012. That’s the date when I first published an article on JamesClear.com and it’s almost 2 years and 7 months ago. During these 939 mostly glorious, sometimes frustrating days, I have written a new post every Monday and Thursday. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year.
But today? Well, today I am struggling. Today, I don’t feel like writing. Today, I don’t feel like sticking to the routine. Today, I don’t feel like I have any great ideas and I don’t feel like I have enough time to make the good ideas great. Today, I feel like giving up.
Research from the University of Pennsylvania has shown that grit is the characteristic linked most closely to success. I could use some grit today.
Here’s what I try to remind myself of when I feel like giving up…
Your Mind is a Suggestion Engine
Consider every thought you have as a suggestion, not an order. Right now, my mind is suggesting that I feel tired. It is suggesting that I give up. It is suggesting that I take an easier path.
If I pause for a moment, however, I can discover new suggestions. My mind is also suggesting that I will feel very good about accomplishing this work once it is done. It is suggesting that I will respect the identity I am building when I stick to the schedule. It is suggesting that I have the ability to finish this task, even when I don’t feel like.
Remember, none of these suggestions are orders. They are merely options. I have the power to choose which option I follow. 1
Discomfort Is Temporary
Relative to the time in your normal day or week, nearly any habit you perform is over quickly. Your workout will be finished in an hour or two. Your report will be typed to completion by tomorrow morning. This article will be finished in just a moment.
Life is easier now than it has ever been. 300 years ago, if you didn’t kill your own food and build your own house, you would die. Today, we whine about forgetting our iPhone charger.
Maintain perspective. Your life is good and your discomfort is temporary. Step into this moment of discomfort and let it strengthen you.
You Will Never Regret Good Work Once It is Done
Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” So often it seems that we want to work easily at work worth doing. We want our work to be helpful and respected, but we do not want to struggle through our work. We want our stomachs to be flat and our arms to be strong, but we do not want to grind through another workout. We want the final result, but not the failed attempts that precede it. We want the gold, but not the grind.
Anyone can want a gold medal. Few people want to train like an Olympian.
And yet, despite our resistance to it, I have never found myself feeling worse after the hard work was done. There have been days when it was damn hard to start, but it was always worth finishing. Sometimes, the simple act of showing up and having the courage to do the work, even in an average manner, is a victory worth celebrating.
This Is Life
Life is a constant balance between giving into the ease of distraction or overcoming the pain of discipline. It is not an exaggeration to say that our lives and our identities are defined in this delicate balance. What is life, if not the sum of a hundred thousand daily battles and tiny decisions to either gut it out or give it up?
This moment when you don’t feel like doing the work? This is not a moment to be thrown away. This is not a dress rehearsal. This moment is your life as much as any other moment. Spend it in a way that will make you proud.
Let the World Decide
So, what do I do when I feel like giving up? I show up.
Do I show up at my best? I doubt it. But my job isn’t to judge how good or how bad I am.
- The Beginner's Guide to Developing Stronger Willpower
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Since my brain is currently mush, I can’t remember where I originally heard the mind-as-suggestion-engine idea, but I can assure you it was someone smarter than I who came up with this idea.