Lesson 3: Finding Motivation When It Gets Hard: Hitting The Grind

Lesson 3: Finding Motivation When It Gets Hard: Hitting The Grind

Welcome to the third lesson of Self-Learning Quest!

You continue your journey through the Dessert Wastelands until you reach the Coral Dolphin Coast. On a small rock in the middle of the coast, you spot the notorious Seraphina, Queen Of The Reef. Legend has it her music lures everyone but the most motivated travelers away from their path.

As soon as you spot her, she begins her song and you reach deep inside yourself to find the motivation to continue on.

To ignore this foe and travel on, you must read through the lesson and complete the action items.


Todays Challenge: Figure Out How To Navigate The Grind

"Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting." - Napoleon Bonaparte, The Civilization Series

On the path toward any goal, there is a hardest moment.

A time where motivation is lowest, effort is highest, and you don’t know how in goodness gracious you’re going to make it out. It’s during this moment where you’re most likely to stop and procrastinate. Feelings of doubt and insecurity creep in. But it’s also at this time when you’re closest to the outsized benefits that come with sticking through.

I call this moment hitting the grind.

Grinding is commonplace in many video games.

One of my favorite examples is Terraria, which you can replace with any RPG you have played. Over the summer of 2020, I played Terraria for HOURS daily with my friend Alejandro.

We often had to spend outsized amounts of time getting better armor, weapons, or tools to make it to the next level. We killed bosses we’d already fought, like The Eye of Cthulhu, tediously mined for more ore and crafted potions.

However, once we got out of this grind, we could kill the next boss and reach a new level of power.

In real life, many goal pursuits and skill improvements look like this.

The difference is in video games, people willingly subject themselves to the grind, often reveling in it, whereas in real life, we usually succumb and give up. Video games, therefore, have tons of insight into how to stick through the grind. Here are five of my favorites.

5 Insights From Video Games On How To Stick Through The Grind

Let’s apply the video game insights to the grind I’m currently in, cutting to 165 pounds.

Everyone has had the experience of starting a diet, getting put in front of some of grandma’s cooking, and then taking a break for—say—the rest of your life. Dieting is hard, which makes it the perfect project to apply our video game insights to.

Insight 1: Remind Yourself Why You Started

I’m getting dinner at one of my best friends Joaquin’s Christian Union.

I don’t know what we’re eating, but I’m hoping it’s something with a decent amount of protein. I don’t want to eat something too high in carbs or fat because it will screw up my diet. I look at the table.

Chicken pot pie… It’s one of the highest-carb dinners you can have.

I gulp. It smells incredible. Scents of thyme-seasoned chicken, buttered biscuits, carrots, and peas, and, dare I say, love, float to my nose. The warmth of the dish, combined with the laughter of Joaquin and his fellow Christians, creates a cozy, inviting feel to the room. My turn to serve comes, and I consider entering a food coma.

It’s moments like these where following our goals is incredibly hard.

Luckily, video games give us our first insight into sticking through the grind by clarifying why we are pursuing our goals.

RPG games sport a quest log that breaks down larger, more meaningful goals into individual projects and tasks. Many video games are rich with stories that make us care about the characters and our actions. And they measure us on our progress.

We can do all these things in real life by reminding ourselves why we started a goal when things get tough.

When I began my cut, I wrote out a list of reasons why I wanted to cut in the first place. Firstly, I want to supercharge my resistance training with periodization, which includes regular bulking, maintenance, and cutting periods. I’ve stagnated in the gym for about a year and am trying new methods.

Secondly, I’m also trying to improve my relationship with food. For the longest time, I avoided this type of dieting because, during the beginning of COVID-19, I lost 30 pounds in three months on a toxic anabolic diet. It was too fast, and I likely lost lots of muscle. Now, I feel not only physically stronger but mentally stronger. I won’t go too far.

Finally, of course, I also want to look better. I’m aiming to look more like Jayce from Arcane. If you know, you know.

While standing in front of that chicken pot pie, I reminded myself of all of these reasons and avoided eating an ungodly amount while still having a good time.

Insight 2: Be Mindful Of The Middle

The hardest part of most goal pursuits is the middle because you don’t have the inspiration from starting something new nor the excitement of being close to finishing. I’m in the middle portion of my cut right now, and it’s not so much fun.

Many video games get players through this period by being mindful of the middle. They might lower the difficulty setting, give players more rewards than usual, throw in a surprise, etc.

In real life, we can anticipate when we will hit the grind and prepare for it. I’m being mindful of the middle by having it occur at my parent’s house. There’s something you should know about my parents: they’re health nuts.

While I’m there, processed food becomes an endangered species. They eat salad like it’s oxygen. They consider dark chocolate their “cheat dessert.” My mom exercises so much she thinks a 5k is a warmup for her real workout.

Why is this helpful?

The people you hang out with, the environments you put yourself in, and the information you consume play a huge role in influencing you. I figure if I’m surrounded by people with health standards this high, I could fail on most levels and still make my cutting goals. I could be demotivated one day but instantly re-inspired seeing my mom exercise before most people have even gotten up.

Insight 3: Grind With Others

Many video games get us through the grind by encouraging us to do it with others. Going back to my Terraria example, Alejandro and I got through it by doing it together. In real life, we can do the same thing by recruiting allies to pursue our goals.

I’m doing this by cutting with my brother.

Every time we call, we bond over our experiences. My brother struggles with binge eating, so he always has the funniest stories. Once, he called me and said, “Aidan, why do they put nuts in such large jars?” Another time, he told me he was taking a break from cutting, and when I asked him why, he said, “I’m visiting grandma.” He’s been cutting for three months (much too long by the way) because he’ll do fantastic for two weeks, and than eat 5,000-7,000 calories in a meal, setting himself back a week or two of progress.

Connecting over funny stories like this has been invaluable in getting through the tougher moments of my cut.

Insight 4: Focus On A Different Skill Or Goal

Many video games include main quests as well as side quests.

If I’ve been pursuing the main quest for too long or it’s getting too hard, I like to do some side quests to take a break. In Terraria, this often took the form of spending way too long building ugly structures. When I’m refreshed, I go back to the main quest.

In real life, we can do the same thing by focusing on a different skill or goal–one we might not have hit the grind in yet or already surpassed.

I’m doing this on my cut by improving my pixel art drawing at the same time. I recently got an iPad Air and have been having way too much fun learning to draw pixel art for my articles and YouTube videos. Here’s an image of me holding the best food on this planet–peanut butter:

And of some Terraria-like weapons I drew to honor my love for the game:

And here’s some food:

I realize this probably wasn’t the best thing to draw, considering the goal I’ve been talking about. Regardless, drawing pixel art in my cut’s tough moments has been invaluable.

Insight 5: Stop Relying On Motivation

This last insight is a catch-22 because video games don’t do this well.

We play video games because they are inherently fun. Motivation isn’t usually a problem. But there are times in real life when, no matter what we do, we won’t be able to find motivation. Video games can’t help us here.

There is only one thing to do when this happens: act anyways.

Action creates motivation. There have been so many times where I haven’t felt like doing something, told myself I would do it for five minutes, and then got myself to do it. Action without motivation can come from three main sources: 1. Discipline 2. Passion 3. Habits

Discipline is the classic “doing something when you don’t feel like doing it.” Unlike most people think, discipline isn’t innate, but rather built. It’s a false belief to say, “I’m not disciplined.” It’s more accurate to say, “I’m not disciplined, yet.” In my cutting, there have been many times I don’t feel like sticking to the plan, and I simply say, “tough luck, your doing it anyways.”

Passion is love for the thing in itself, regardless of extrinsic reward. Passion is what fuels me in my cutting. I wouldn’t exactly describe cutting as “fun.” But I have fallen in love with the process of cutting. The increased hunger, the slow progress of losing more and more fat, the challenge of staying on the plan.

Finally, habits require less motivation because they are subconscious. One of the best ways I have implemented this on my cut is eating at the same time most days and getting the same plate and general foods.

Now it’s your turn. If you can apply even one of these insights, I’m confident you will be significantly more likely to make it through the grind and reap the outsized reward in your self-learning quest. Who knows, there might be diamonds on the other side.

🎯Take Action Today

  • Choose one or two of the insights above that resonate most with you and journal or talk with someone about how you can integrate them into your self-learning quest.

You summon up every ounce of motivation you can find and manage to pull yourself from Seraphina’s mesmerizing song. How? By thinking of puppies of course!

Smiling, you continue your way on your path, confident you can continue to tap into that motivation throughout your journey.

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