Fight the Quitter-Instinct
3 min read

Fight the Quitter-Instinct

What do you do when you think you should rest?

I used to always rest right that day.

If I felt a little dizzy, I gave myself permission to stop working on projects or to stop working out and rested for a day. Normally, on the following day, I felt fine and I applauded myself for taking a rest so early and thus avoiding falling ill or risking injury.

The Quitter-Instinct

This changed after I listened to Jocko Willink’s “Quitter Instinct”-Video on YouTube. His main point is this: if you quit, quit for a proper reason, not out of instinct, or because whatever you do is uncomfortable.

I’ve tried this a while back during my 100 days of consecutive workouts and very recently when I caught a cold.

Before I went running a while back, I used to start walking fairly soon. I didn’t want to overextend myself. I didn’t want to risk injury. When I felt like I didn’t want to give 100% anymore, I took it easy.

When I started to get after it I made a conscious effort to override this feeling but to keep continuously evaluating if I truly hit my limits or if I just wanted to quit because stretching myself further felt uncomfortable. I realized I didn’t know the difference between feeling uncomfortable but able to endure that feeling and truly reaching my limits. I had quit too early too often to get a feeling for when I hit my true limits.

The same was true when I felt sick. My mum always treated me nicely: when I felt sick I was allowed to stay home. I took advantage of that occasionally and more often than not simply stayed home just feeling like I maybe could get sick, instead of actually needing the rest.

Taking a break is the one thing I put off until tomorrow.
-Jocko Willink[1]

Illness as an Excuse

Jordan Peterson hammered this point home from a psychological perspective in a video with Lewis Homes[2] which resonated strongly with me. Telling the story of the struggles that his daughter faced in having multiple really severe injuries and illnesses he told her one day: “Do not use your illness as an excuse. As soon as you do that, you can’t tell the difference between the illness and your character. So don’t let it turn you into a victim, even though it’s obviously a catastrophe.”

I’ve used my illnesses as excuses. I’ve also used being uncomfortable as an excuse to not push myself a bit further. I’ve used those excuses to stay comfortable and to avoid the pain of growth.

While I still fall for them every now and then I try not to anymore.

Because you know what?

Most of the time those excuses are just weakness, especially if you’ve acted upon them often enough. You can lose the ability to differentiate between your comfort zone and your actual limits.

Don’t give in to the immediate gratification that is whispering in your ear.“
-Jocko Willink[3]

Tomorrow, not Today

Now, when my first instinct is to quit or when I think I caught a cold, I don’t immediately take the day off. I have a simple rule of thumb, borrowed from Jocko Willink: “Don’t take today off, take tomorrow off.”

So, when I feel like I need rest and I’m not inflicted with severe pain, I postpone my rest for a day.

Low and behold, about 80% of the time when I wake up the next day I am ready to get after it. The feeling to rest was my weakness tingling in my ear.

Sometimes, I truly need rest. In that case, I’ll make it my priority. I caught a cold a few days back and I pushed through it for two days. Then on the third day, I felt really bad and I took the day off completely. I slept an ungodly amount and thus rested enough to get after it the next day.

So, if you’re not feeling it here’s the rule of thumb:

Don’t take today off. Wait until tomorrow.

Meanwhile? Get after it.

Stay on the path.

  1. Jocko Willink, Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual, p ?. ↩︎

  2. Sadly this video has since been taken down. ↩︎

  3. Jocko Willink, Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual, p ?. ↩︎

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