Explain to me: If you can choose between being uncomfortable because you’re overweight and sick, or uncomfortable because you’re sweating at the gym three times a week, who do so many people choose the discomfort that leads to physical failure?
— Tim Grover, Relentless, p. 45
(Note: I’ve read a lot of books in an attempt to understand my own personal wiring. Freud, Jung, Epictetus, Robert Greene… the list is long and mostly forgotten. Tim Grover’s Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable was recommended to me by a close friend. My friend said, “This book explained Paul Craig to me.” I snorted and said I would get around to it. I got around to it. My friend was accurate… and the book generated in me high levels of terror and relief. I respect Tim Grover’s work. Nothing in the tone below should be interpreted otherwise. With that disclaimer now firmly in place… we return to our regularly scheduled programming…)
Well, Tim… you might believe your question is ludicrous… but it’s actually valid. And I have the answer for you…
Because the voices in their heads tell them to accept the former as their fate.
I ought to know.
I listened to every single one of those voices for years.
Very often, I’m not sure how that voice popped into my head. And I am definitely sure I don’t know whose voice it actually happens to be. Trust me… if you spend a little bit of time asking those voices how they got there and who is actually speaking, your initial conclusions will be wrong.
Because it takes time to make a positive identification. Or even… identifications. Yes… plural.
Sometimes the voices are composite identities. Many have converged and combined and morphed into something/someone else entirely. Maybe it’s a combination of the teacher who doubted you, an ex-lover who ridiculed you and… let’s say for the sake of this example… a sibling… who is a certified, bonafide narcissistic asshole.
You choose the discomfort that leads to physical failure because you believe the voices.
The voices don’t make any sense at all. They are irrational, illogical and… at times… evil.
(That’s a term I don’t use lightly or often.)
I’ve dealt with this for most of my life. As I’ve aged, it’s become easier to manage. But the voices always return… whispering in my ear… especially in a time when I’m sensing a forthcoming change.
So I’ve developed a personal method of dealing with those voices and what they say. Nothing in my personal method is new. It’s a cobbling together of various actionable steps gleaned from books, movies, documentaries, songs and conversations with those I’ve come to respect and admire.
Here’s the personal method:
- Acknowledge the voice. “Oh hi… it’s… you. Whoever ‘you’ are. Obviously you’re here because you feel the need to interrupt my flow to tell me something important. So please… go ahead. I’m listening.”
- Write down every single stinking word. It doesn’t matter if I agree or disagree. I write it all down.
- Silence the voice(s). When I’ve heard enough, I tell it to shut up. Sometimes I whisper this command. Sometimes I scream it. Sometimes I do both. Sometimes I do the latter… multiple times.
- Ponder the message. I review everything I’ve written down. Every single word. I think about what was said. I ask myself if there is any degree of truth. Sometimes there is. Often… there is not.
- Tell the voice to “Fuck off.” It said what it needed to say. I thought what it said. Now the voice needs to go away so I’m able to focus on what truly needs to be done.
I’m long past the point of spending energy attempting to identify the identity of the voices… although that was an instrumental step at one time. These days I usually know on an instinctual level.
Even with those five steps above, the process isn’t complete. There are two more very important steps… and I do them with speed and efficiency.
- Destroy the paper… you know… the one I used to write down what the voice said. Burn it, shred it, crumple it up and chuck it in the garbage… I’m sure you can find creative ways of insuring that of momentary negativity never finds its way back into your life. Have fun with this step. It has the potential to bring you great joy.
- Immediately go forth and execute on your chosen constructive suffering. Mine is often going to the garage, planting my ass in my bike saddle and doing thirty minutes to an hour of spin. Or I go to the gym and lift weights until I can’t raise my arms. Yes… it hurts. But it is a form of suffering that yields long-term positive results.
Closure then movement.
Burn the words -> Destroy the message. It’s like punching the Messenger in the mouth. Do it a few times and the Messenger gets your message.
Then get moving… onto something… anything uncomfortable that leads to growth or health or any other virtue.
When you’re finished, you might feel temporarily worse. But you will recover and you will feel stronger. I know I do.
The suffering you choose can either be profane or sacred.
Pick the sacred.
Every… single… time.