How to Ignore the Quitter in Your Head

by Coach Stevo
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How to Ignore the Quitter in Your Head

You know that little voice inside your head that’s telling you to quit? That voice is not you. It’s the old you. In fact, it doesn’t even know the awesome new you that’s on this journey to being the best you that you’ve ever been.

“Winning is a habit. Watch your thoughts, they become your beliefs. Watch your beliefs, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character.” – Vince Lombardi

When people come to me for help, they all have one thing in common. They’re sick of feeling like the person they are is not the person they thought they’d be and they’re ready to change something. It might not be everything, but it’s at least one thing. So we only change one thing.

We work on one habit. One short-term goal with 100% focus on the process. The process of learning the habits that the client needs to master in order to be the person they always knew they’d be.

It seems odd to think that the most audacious achievements come down to starting with a single habit, but it’s true. I’ve worked with over 1,000 clients and I’ve never seen a failure of willpower. But we all struggle with focus. We try to do too much because we see the people that we want to be and all that they do well and think, “I have to be that perfect all the time and any slip up just means I’m a failure and shouldn’t even bother trying.” We get discouraged when we waste all our willpower trying to do 100 things perfect instead of one thing better. And we quit when we can’t see our own progress through all the distractions.

So the key to getting past that old voice in your head is not willpower; it’s focus. Here are some of the tools I use to help my clients stay focused on their own journey.

  • Track it. You need to see you’re getting better at something. You need to keep track of that one habit and see the numbers start to add up. You can use MyFitnessPal, you can use a pitch counter, you can use a calendar, but start tracking the days that you improved yourself. So if you want to eat colorful veggies at every meal, write a happy face on that calendar every day you do it. Don’t write a frown face on the days that you don’t because that’s only going to fuel that old voice in your head. You need to see your successes.
  • Keep the cadence; change the distance. When I was a young Marine Officer Candidate, a Marine taught me the key to running uphill is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how small that footstep is. You maintain the cadence, but you change the distance. So no matter how tired you are, you rely on the rhythm to keep you moving forward. I try to impart that lesson to my clients by telling them they can always adjust. If we are working on eating colorful veggies at every meal, but you know you have a crazy day ahead of you, just hit ONE meal. Keep the focus and moving forward.
  • Make planning the fallback plan. If there’s a day when you know you’re not going to get any colorful vegetables, sit down and make a plan for how to avoid this situation the future. Did you forget to buy them? Chop them? How did you get here? Going through that process of learning and planning might even be more valuable that getting all your veggies that day. So stay focused on learning and keep moving forward.
  • Reflect on what matters. My clients answer 2 questions every day that are so important they started calling them “The Two Questions.” What did I do well today? What did I learn today? These questions will help you focused on what you are doing and learning that is getting you closer to being your best self. The process of putting one foot in front of the other.

I’m not going to lie, you’ll hear that voice from time to time. But by saying focused on the process and always remembering there’s a way forward, it’ll mean less and less when it pops up. You can’t stop that old voice from speaking up, but you can learn to ignore it. It’s just not who you are any more.

About the Author

Coach Stevo

Coach-Stevo-Logo.pngCoach Stevo is the nutrition and behavior change consultant at San Francisco CrossFit. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and an MA in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. He teaches habit-based coaching to wellness professionals all over the world and he contributed to Intervention by Dan John in 2012. 



15 responses to “How to Ignore the Quitter in Your Head”

  1. When you put it like this, everything sounds so simple. The truth is change is gradual, not overnight… the problem is when you see “mistakes” as “failures” instead of “setbacks”. I think if everyone can (not overlook) but “forgive” themselves when these occur, they can keep going forward instead of wanting to quit. I’ve had all kinds of setbacks, but I’m still here reading this very article and I’m just thankful my feelings are being put into words. Small steps, or great leaps- you’re still moving forward. Thanks for this post MFP!

    • Avatar Катерина Докузова says:

      To this I can only add not to set too height goals in the beginning, be consistent, set long term goals and don’t overdo things.

  2. Avatar lword says:

    I heard everything you said but the spelling got in my way of focussing on the article. Also some words were missing in sentences.

  3. Avatar paulsz28 says:

    Good article! The cadence trick works for me. When it gets too hard or I’m too tired, just reduce the intensity but keep the cadence. This even works for an entire workout – if you plain jsut don’t have time for your normal 30-40 minute routine, then just go to your bedroom and knock out 50 pushups. It’s not a full workout, but it’s counts as something, and is better than nothing!

  4. Avatar James Miskimen says:

    Focus and cadence – if our goals are anything short of a measurable obsession, it will be hard to maintain focus.

  5. Avatar Natalia says:

    I guess I just let myself go after I graduated. My job got the better of me and now I am about 25 KGS overweight. Its really disappointing to not be able to fit into your clothes and it really affects my self confidence. I’ve decided to go the weight loss way now but I’m really scared I won’t keep at it.

    • Avatar Amy says:

      I’ve been in your shoes. Many of us have. My job makes me to tired. My kids need all my time. What about taking care of us. We lose that. Somewhere us as women forget that. I started working out in October. Omg. I love me now. I feel better look better and I do it for me. Girl you got this. It’s ok to put you first. God gave us one body. Take care of it…good luck to you.

      • Avatar carol says:

        I hear you been there everyone is put before me I start to work out and try to get fit .I end up putting it aside for work family I just can’t stay with my goal it only stays inside and I get more depressed

    • Avatar Debby says:

      I work out with my son. I’m a single mom, full time worker, and student (online school). I know what it’s like to be busy! I also personally lost 200+ pounds and am doing my best to make sure my son doesn’t follow in my footsteps and gain weight and not know how to be healthy.

      We do pushups and situps and he goes on the treadmill at the gym. He likes to watch TV so I set up his tablet for him, and he’s allowed to watch as much TV as he wants as long as it is on the treadmill. Sometimes I take him to the pool at the complex.

      I show him how to lift free weights (he’s 10 years old). I try to make it fun. We race and do sprints. We go to the park and kick a ball around. I take him out for walks and hiking and sports on weekends.

      I have him with a private martial arts trainer while I work out, and/or do classes at the same time at the same place in another room. I find lots of tricks, and just don’t give up until I find something that works.

      I try to make it fun/play, and not go too hard with it. We both love martial arts type of stuff and kickboxing so that motivates us. We do different things all the time, and try different things.

      On the weekends I batch cook healthy foods and snacks like boiled
      eggs and my own low-sodium low cal beef jerky. I pick my son up from
      daycare as late as 6pm. I give him a protein snack and we go to my
      apartment complex gym.

      After the gym I feed him dinner. It is possible
      to make healthy food fast food! Broiled fish filets takes 7 minutes in
      my oven (talapia, salmon). I buy veggies already cut up to make prep
      faster. Throw in a pan with some water and a smidge of salt.

      I get chicken breast cutlets (chicken breasts cut into small strips) and put those in an oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Pour some calorie free Walden ranch dressing on top for flavor.

  6. Avatar Carole Miller says:

    I wish I had access to a coach like you every day!! I struggle with negative self talk on a regular basis. Thank you for the suggestions.

  7. Avatar Coach Levi says:

    Good tips. I’m a big fan of this one I got from Precision Nutrition: “You can quit. Just do it tomorrow.”

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