Learn to stop bad habits by overcoming your moments of discomfort.
“Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.” — Hal Elrod
With the year of 2021 almost behind us, there are probably a number of people who are kicking themselves right now because they, yet again, did not live up to their new year’s resolutions made this time a year ago.
According to a study done by Strava, a social network for athletes, of a group of 31.5 million users, most of them gave up on their new fitness goals by the second week in January.
If you made it past that, then good for you, as it means you’re in the minority. It still doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet, however, as up to 80% of people end up giving up their New Year’s resolution by the second week in February.
If you then make it into this smaller minority, great for you, but that doesn’t mean it is smooth sailing from here, as it has been estimated that less than 8% of all people actually keep their resolutions each year.
Don’t despair, however, if you are a part of the 80% or fell into that remaining 12% because I have something that I think can help in 2022.
There’s a simple technique that I discovered a little under three years ago that you can start implementing immediately to give you a much better chance of making and committing to any change that you want to create for your future.
I was reminded of this technique as I was doing goal planning last week for next year and realized it has been one of the greatest discoveries and techniques I’ve implemented that has led to a number of recent accomplishments in my life.
I discovered this specific technique after years of living what I considered a life of successful underachievement.
What this meant was that by comparison to others I was doing well in regards to my personal and professional goals.
I was making a decent salary, in better than average shape, and living an overall enjoyable life.
The problem with this, however, was that regardless of how others saw me in relation to what I was achieving, I still felt that it was not up to par with the goals that I had set for myself.
I was able to achieve some goals, while not being able to quite get over the hump of some others.
I would hit a goal at work, but it would take longer than I desired or not quite be at the level for which I thought I was capable. I would hit a fitness goal, but it would not be at the level that I felt would separate me from the average person.
Of course, these constant underachievements had to do with my daily habits and what I was and wasn’t during versus anything else outside of me.
Completely believing in Socrates’ statement, “The unexamined life isn’t worth living,” I’ve consistently tried to self-analyze and diagnose why I was able to be successful at some habits while others seem to always pull me back in at the end of the day.
Finally, I stumbled upon this reasoning three years ago when I went back on my commitment to my diet and re-engineered my thought process to make that decision to see if I could figure out what exactly caused me to do it.
It was during the 2019 Superbowl in Atlanta in which the Patriots defeated the L.A. Rams in a pretty low-scoring game.
Before that game, I identified there was a single moment in which I debated if I should order out to break my diet because it was Super Bowl Sunday or if I should stick with my commitment since I already had my cheat meal for the week.
When I broke it down, I realized that everything related to my success or my failure in sticking to my diet was in that specific moment in which I had a decision to make.
If I had made the right decision, I would’ve stayed committed to my diet and not ordered out. Since I didn’t, however, I decided that I deserved it because it was a “special occasion.”
That’s when it hit me.
I had repeated this same cycle numerous times in a number of different scenarios related to not living up to commitments or goals. The more I thought about it, the more it started to come together.
I would make a commitment. Everything would go pretty smooth until something would happen in which I felt I was challenged to keep that commitment. I would figure out a way to rationalize that I should go back on it, and then I would ultimately cave.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
As Will Durant recited from Aristotle’s teachings, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.”
I had created a habit of having these Moments of Discomfort, or what I now call MOD’s, and had allowed the emotional, psychological, and physical discomfort they put on my body to allow them to shape my action.
Therefore, I surmised if I were able to figure out a way to overcome these single incidences (these MOD’s), I could overcome anything in life.
So that was it. I had to figure out what to do to commit to my goals and not allow these single moments to derail my long-term commitments.
How would I do it, however?
First, I had to take heed to the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Tis easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.”
Therefore, the first thing I had to do was to make sure that I was able to recognize when they happened. This was crucial to ensure that I didn’t allow a MOD to sneak in and not examine it enough to make sure that I did whatever it took to overcome it.
There were a few sure-fire ways that I could discover when a MOD was approaching.
- It went against a commitment to start or stop something to improve my life.
- I found it mentally, physically, or physiologically challenging to overcome (addictions can fall into this category).
- I started to rationalize and/or negotiate with myself to explain why going back on a commitment was okay.
The first was easy enough. If I committed to something, I just had to not forget that and keep it in front of my mind. Pretty simple.
The second could be a bit trickier, but basically, it is related to when something appears to cause a bit of stress in some form or fashion.
From a mental standpoint, this could be when I committed to sit down and study for an hour, but my mind just doesn’t want to do it and was dreading the drudgery of that hour.
Physically, it could be when my body was already a bit sore from a previous workout, and I was not looking forward to putting my body through the physical pain that I experienced last time.
Physiologically, it could relate to any type of craving my body may have for something that it had gotten so used to (for me it was alcohol…and then sugar) that it almost felt like something inside of me was propelling me to partake in it.
Whenever I felt something may have fallen into one of these three categories, I knew a possible MOD was approaching.
Lastly, when I then began to negotiate with myself and rationalize how I should be able to do it because either it was a “special occasion” or “I don’t need to punish myself and be unhappy” then I knew that this was definitely a MOD and all I had to do was to overcome it and make it on the other side to win.
I couldn’t deviate from this course. I had to stay consistent and be maniacal about recognizing and overcoming these MOD each time or risk losing my momentum.
As Tony Robbins wrote, “In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”
The Result and Strategy
So far, it’s been close to three years since I’ve implemented this strategy, and when I say it has been like a superpower, that is an understatement.
I’m over three years alcohol-conscious (what some would consider sober) after drinking for 19 years straight, in the best shape of my life at about 10% body fat, married to my best friend, and living a life that I could only describe as blessed.
What I realized was that when you are able to recognize and overcome your MOD, you will immediately get a boost afterward that will make your commitment to your goal that much stronger.
It will be like a flywheel of momentum in which with each new MOD that you are able to fight off and get through, you’ll gain more and more speed and focus on being committed to your endeavor.
The great thing is that the more you overcome each MOD, the easier it will be to overcome future MOD’s to the point that they will come less frequently until they cease to really be considered a MOD at all.
They will become more like thoughts that you will dismiss immediately because you have so much experience overcoming them and seeing the positive results of your decisions.
Not only that, but over time, you will be able to predict a potential MOD is coming and implement strategies to prevent them from having the same effect that they did in the past.
This has allowed me to incrementally improve my life in any area in which I know I can do better.
The most simple defense to overcome a MOD is being able to recognize it before it occurs and then making a decision that no longer puts into question what decision you will make.
The faster that you can make the decision to overcome the MOD and prevent you from listening to your voice of negotiation, the faster you’ll get that jolt to your flywheel to get you to the next stage of your development and growth.
Starting to get a craving for that sugary sweet? Grab an apple or some popcorn and eat it ASAP.
Starting to feel yourself trying to negotiate to stay out late at a party instead of going to bed early enough to work out in the morning? Leave AT THAT VERY MOMENT.
Your morning alarm goes off, and you hear yourself trying to convince you to get another five minutes of sleep? Get up and out of bed IMMEDIATELY.
The trick is to recognize that this is a MOD (MOMENT of Discomfort), and the only thing you have to do is to overcome that SINGLE MOMENT in time. You can let the next MOD take care of itself, but for now, all of your focus and energy is on overcoming that single situation.
As American novelist John Irving said, “Good habits are worth being fanatical about.”
You have to do whatever it takes to make sure that you don’t cave at that moment, and if that means you keep healthy snacks on you at all times, leave a party early abruptly, or jump out of your bed when your alarm clock goes off like a crazy person, then so be it.
With each MOD that you overcome, you’ll feel yourself getting stronger and more prepared to face the next one when it comes.
Give this a try today.
Write down one commitment that you’ve had trouble sticking to in the past and test this out to see if it makes it any easier to not go back on your word.
Don’t try to do too many things, as that usually is a recipe for disaster when you are trying to overcome so many deep-rooted habits that you may have had for a long time. You have to tackle one at a time to give yourself the best chance of reprogramming your brain to fight it.
As Mark Twain wrote, “A habit cannot be tossed out the window; it must be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time.”
Use the information above and see how many MODs you face in the day and let me know if any of the strategies above help you overcome them to keep your commitments.
I would love to hear people’s thoughts and feedback on this, as well as any success stories or failures, so please share.
Thanks for reading, and if you ever get a weak moment when a MOD approaches, just think back to what Abraham Lincoln said,
“Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”
Happy MOD Dominance…