Charlie's Blog: February 2018


Fatigue and Exhaustion in the Sub-Optimal State of Operation

I don't stop when I'm tired. I stop when I'm done.

Motivation is not very motivating. If you have ever made big plans or New Year's Resolutions, you know how the initial excitement of making changes in your life wear off in a short while as the projects turn into drudgery and work. This happens so frequently that we have to conclude that motivation as we know it is a waste of time. There is only enough energy to make the initial decision. To follow through with those decisions requires something. That something else is grit.

Grit is what makes you get up each day and go to work even though you don't feel like it. I have yet to miss a day of work this year despite battling a nasty flu a short while ago. I just have the habit of showing up even when I feel really bad. But don't ask me about showing up for the gym. I do not display the same grit on that sort of stuff. Why?

Work is an essential thing in my life. If I don't work, I don't get paid. Some people are in the habit of blowing off work on those days they aren't feeling it. Those people wind up poor. You have to work. I have to work, so I do it whether I feel like it or not. I never worry that I have never felt like going to work a single day in my life. My feelings don't matter. I have to get it done.

Resolve is a powerful thing. It is way more powerful than motivation. You discover that most success in life isn't a matter of winning as it is in simply not quitting. Obligations strengthen resolve. Once quitting is no longer an option, the only thing left is to get it done.

This is the genius of Navy SEAL and extreme endurance athlete David Goggins. This is a guy who has learned to never quit. Goggins is a man filled with grit. He is worthy of your emulation. You want to have this man's grit in your life. Here's a nugget of David's wisdom that I recall frequently:
When you think that you are done you're only 40% in to what your body's capable of doing. That's just the limits that we put on ourselves.
I have pushed through being done enough to agree with Goggins's 40% Rule. Heck, I'm usually done before I even begin. But I ignore that garbage. Fatigue and exhaustion are mostly mental. Your brain tries to preserve your body by convincing you that you are done long before you are actually done. It is possible to push yourself beyond what your body can endure and kill yourself. People have done this. But for 99% of the rest of us, we never even come close to this level of fatigue and exhaustion.

Grit is simply the resolution to embrace whatever suffering you will encounter on the way to accomplishing your goal or mission. Pain is your friend. Comfort is your enemy. The crucibles of life will test this resolve, but the resolve becomes stronger the more it is tested. I think God also helps us in these trials. He gives us the strength to endure our trials. Christ commands us to take up our crosses daily and follow Him.

The problem so many people have is they either wait for or seek out the "optimum." Things have to be perfect and pleasant or else they are ready to abort the mission. But this makes no sense whatsoever. I can't recall a single time in my life when I found the optimum. The reality is that the bulk of my life as been spent in the sub-optimal state of operation. I have not always had the breaks I felt I deserved. At this point, I have to accept that the sub-optimal state of operation is the default setting of existence. Then, you layer on a generous helping of fatigue and exhaustion on top of it to make it even more daunting. You can make excuses, or you can resolve to get it done despite the challenge.

As I get older, my life becomes less optimal. My body doesn't automatically do what I want it to do. I used to go to bed tried. Now, I wake up tired and go to bed really tired. I don't know if this is because I am old or if I merely think I am old. I've seen some old people do some pretty remarkable things. They had grit. A lifetime of suffering and persevering will give you that.

There is no secret to successful living. It is nothing more than accepting the required amount of suffering. Once you get used to being tired, being in pain, and stuck in the sub-optimal state of operation, there is little you can't do. That is some counterintuitive logic, but it is true. These things are not barriers. They are opportunities. When things are going really bad, motivation exits out the back. Whatever is left is your resolve. Resolution is what will carry you through.