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Plus Habits — What David Goggins Can Teach You About Persistence

“Life is one big tug of war between mediocrity and trying to find your best self.”  — David Goggins

In 2005, David Goggins entered a 100-mile race to raise money for charity. It was his first ultra-marathon. The starter gun was fired and Goggins took off. The first few miles were fine, and he kept a steady pace.

Around mile 25, exhaustion kicked in and he started questioning his limits.

Halfway through the race, each step he took sent a shockwave of pain through his body and the idea of crossing the finish line seemed out of reach, yet he still kept on going.

Around mile 70 — with his feet filled with blisters and swollen with pain — Goggins couldn’t move anymore, and sat down to rest. During this phase, he began to recall his battle with obesity, his two Navy SEAL Hell Weeks, and other achievements in his life that others had once deemed “impossible.”

With this thought, he soon managed to stand up, and ended up completing the final 30 miles without any breaks, reaching the finish line in 19 hours and 6 minutes.

The Cookie Jar Method

Goggins has said, “The Cookie Jar is a place in my mind where I put all things bad and good that shaped me. Some people try to forget the bad in their life. I use my bad for strength when needed, great lessons learned. In that Cookie Jar, I pull out whatever I need for the task at hand.”

During any kind of challenge, your mind constantly evaluates where you stand currently compared to the goal. If you’re not making significant progress, it creates excuses and reasons for you to give up.

The Cookie Jar method helps you overpower those negative brain loops by serving as a mental reserve you can dig into to remind yourself of everything that you have been through and how resilient you are.

Goggin’s mind told him as early as 25 miles into the race to give up, but he used the Cookie Jar method to push through and reach the finish line. Often, when we’re running our own personal ultra-marathon, we tend to struggle at the 25-mile equivalent as well. And it’s not always because of exhaustion or physical injuries.

It could be because of distraction, inertia, or perfectionism. You could come across the “25-mile point” an hour into your workday, or 15 minutes into a workout session, or a few minutes into your meditation.

That’s when this method comes in handy — you can simply reach out into your Cookie Jar and pick out a Cookie related to your situation, and it can provide you the motivation to keep going!

How to Create Your Own Motivation Cookie Jar

Simply imagine that you have an empty cookie jar into which you place all of your past victories, accomplishments, and the challenges that you have overcome (referred to as “Cookies”), and can take a bite off any of these when need be.

You can remind yourself of that day last week when you were feeling distracted but still managed to annihilate your top 3 MITs. Or last month when you were feeling lazy and wanted to spend all day online but still got up and squeezed in a workout. Or when you managed to complete your meditation session even though your neighbor was blasting loud music all day.

After all, if you’ve done it before — sometimes in worse conditions compared to the present — you can probably do it again. Doing this habitually will imbibe you with the belief that most of the time when your mind is telling you to give up, you probably still have some extra fuel left in the tank to push ahead.

Whenever you face a challenge and feel like giving up, just reach out into your Cookie Jar and pick out a Cookie. You will feel more alive and energized when you do this, and if you persist with it you can overpower old habit triggers with new ones.

This was an excerpt from my book Plus Habits.

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