Look, things might suck for you right now.
It might be the darkest of the darkest hours. It might be the absolute worse day or year of your life.
Maybe somebody just died in your life. Maybe you’ve been going after a health or a life goal, and crap’s just not working out.
In reality, that’s the name of the game of life.
But you already know what I’m going to say: the greats just keep moving.
How to Keep Going When You Want to Quit
What it Really Takes to Keep Going
You know, there’s this guy named Neil, and he wrote a series of bestselling books on happiness.
He talks about how he had the worst year of his life. In fact, I believe it was the worst week of his life, because not only did he get laid off from his job, his wife divorced him and his father died of a brain tumor. It was truly a perfect storm.
But in reality his entire life, his whole freaking identity, everything he had known — the nine hours in the day that was his job, coming home to his amazing wife, and then seeing his parents in the holidays — all gone. Finished. Gone. Like that – overnight.
He talks about how at first, he just going into the deepest hole he’d ever been in. He had no clue how to cope with it because he’d never had to deal with something that big, especially all at once.
What he did was he started writing down all the simple things that made him happy.
He wrote down, “the sip of a freshly-brewed cup of coffee”.
Just imagine: that first sip tastes so good. He talked about just going out and walking his dog. He talked about watching clouds float by on a lazy summer day.
He started journaling all the most simple, compelling, fulfilling, happy moments of his life.
The very, very small moments. Not “getting married,” not “going on hiking trips,” not “going to Vegas.” The simple moments that happened every single day.
Not only did his book take off (I think which is called A Thousand Awesome Things) but his blog also started taking off.
And it was the result of just coming back to those very simple things.
Others Have it Worse: Champagne Problems, Quitting, and Doing What it Takes
Recently I went to a coffee shop and I was having a particularly bad day.
I don’t even know why – maybe I slept bad, maybe things weren’t going right, maybe I was losing faith that I would reach my health and my life goals. And I talked to the girl behind the counter and I said to her, “How do you have so much energy?”
She said, “Do you know what, what’s weird? I actually only slept three and a half hours last night.” She had to open up the shop at 5am and she had to run it until 5pm on a few hours of sleep.
And I said, “Why don’t you just sleep more? What are you thinking getting up at 4 or 3:30 in the morning?”
She said, “Honestly? I got pregnant at 16, I have three kids. They have to go to school, they have to be watched. And after I get off here at 5pm I have to go to another job at Dunkin’ Donuts, after.”
You know what was funny?
I never heard her once complain. She had up days and down days, but she never once complained to me.
Almost never did she complain about being tired. Three and a half hours of sleep some nights because she had to go from one job to the next, because she had two young kids, and she was maybe 21 or 22.
You better believe that that shut me up pretty quickly.
This is just to remind you that if you’re having a bad day, a bad week, a bad month or a bad year, guess what?
Your problems are probably tiny compared to most of humanity’s. If you’re sleeping four hours a night, you have multiple kids, your health is crap, your parents are dead or dying – everything is going wrong, then maybe you have a real reason to complain.
Don’t forget: there are billions of people in the other parts of the world who don’t complain one ounce. And all they have to do is — all they have to do — walk five miles to get a freaking cup of water that’s muddy and has poo in it.
Most of your big problems are nothing. They’re first world problems.
They’re champagne problems compared to almost everyone else. And I’m talking- specifically I’m referring to Americans in our country – but even the poor in this country. She was an example. She didn’t say a damn word; there wasn’t one complaint out of her mouth.
If you’re having an off day, listen: it’s totally natural.
How to Deal with “Off Days” In the Funk
So here’s what I personally do when an off day happens.
The very first thing is I step away from the goal.
So when I started out in my business, when I started writing my books, when I started going after my fitness goals, and on the days where I wasn’t seeing progress or I compared myself to someone else on social media, I just walked away from it.
Literally. Give yourself full permission to walk away.
So if you’re discouraged because you’re trying to lose weight or you’re trying to do something for your fitness, and you’ve been going after it hard, depriving yourself, doing all this stuff, staying committed, and doing everything right – the first thing is to just back up.
Just get away from all the emotional clutter. Sometimes we get too intertwined with the goal and it’s so emotionally driving us that it drains us.
It can just get discouraging and depressing.
The One Page Exercise to Dump Your Entire Brain, Fears, and More
What I like to do then is I just do a one page breakdown of all the crap that’s in my head.
So if there are fears, if there are things that are discouraging me, limiting beliefs, things people have said to me — get that all out on paper.
Maybe the goal is you’re trying to lose weight.
So you say, “I’m afraid I’m never going to reach my goal.” Or “I’ve been working so hard for a week and I’ve seen the scale go up.” Or “I’ve tried these five things and guess what? They haven’t been working.”
Put all those tactics you are doing – all the fears, all the strategies – all on one piece of paper.
Guess what? It’s like a giant emotional release. It just gets rid of all the crap in your head, because now it’s not up there in your head and it’s on paper. It’s out. It’s empty.
That’s why a lot of teachers suggest getting out a brain dump before you go to bed: put together a to-do list the night before so there’s no stress and there’s no clutter mentally to think about before you go to sleep.
Then what I like to do is I kind of use that piece of paper to forge a new path.
I get discouraged if I leave things in my head, but if I start writing them down on paper they’re much more likely to become tangible next steps, rather than me simply getting discouraged and saying, “Oh, you, know, I’m never going to make it, it’s just never going to work.”
That’s an emotional reaction.
Turning Off Your Mind, Shutting Up the Inner Demons, and Pushing Along
When you put the pen to paper you start developing a logical reaction to your challenges.
And if you can figure out a logical progression for how you’re going to tackle this problem differently, you can turn off that negative self talk that makes you want to quit.
Maybe you’ve been approaching weight loss with a certain diet in mind, and you’ve been doing it but the things just aren’t working out very well.
You do it for three days and it’s like one step forward, two steps back: that’s realistic, sometimes that just happens.
Maybe on that one page of paper you write down, “Okay, well I’ve been thinking about these three side paths,” and maybe you try out those side paths next.
You can try one of them next week, one the following week, and then one that last week.
So rather than having this whole discouragement built into an emotional bubble where you’re like:
“Ah, screw it, I’m just not going to do this anymore!” and an emotional reaction — turn it into a logical, calm one that you put on paper.
Remember, it’s only amateurs in every industry that get emotionally flustered. It’s amateur athletes, amateur writers, amateur business people.
The pros are calm, refined and relaxed — because you cannot make a proper decision when you’re emotional like that.
Sometimes if you let yourself quit, you end up finding out what you started in the first place.
Just Let Yourself Quit (And You’ll Come Back Stronger Than Ever)
It sounds so backwards but I found that if I get so discouraged that my head’s going to explode, I’m losing my temper on people, or I’m getting unhappy with what I’m doing, I just let myself quit.
I say, “You know what, Alex, you don’t have to shoot any videos ever. You don’t have to write anymore books, you don’t have to write anymore blog articles, you don’t have to answer emails ever again. Just walk away.”
And an interesting happens here when you do that: when you give yourself permission to quit, you realize whether or not you really wanted this goal in the first place.
I guarantee Olympic athletes have wanted to quit so many times. But when they give themselves permission to walk away for a few days, they re-remember why they started in the first place.
100% of the time, that’s how it has happened to me.
I give myself permission to quit and never do any of this stuff again if it gets hard. Guess what? After a day I realize this really gives my life so much purpose and so much meaning, and that is why I will never quit despite wanting to for years.
When you keep going over and over, when you allow yourself a space to say, “Hey, guess what? You don’t have to do this, you’re doing this for yourself.”
When you allow yourself permission to quit, the irony is that you come back stronger than ever.
Your “Master the Day” Tiny Daily Habit for Today