Embracing Discomfort - Unlocking Growth with the Anterior Mid-Cingulate Cortex
Hey, Athletes! Embracing Discomfort - Unlocking Growth with the Anterior Mid-Cingulate Cortex
IN THIS 23-MINUTE EPISODE WE DISCUSS:
- Jerred talks about Killing Comfort
- He mentions a Huberman Lab interview with David Goggins that mentions the Anterior Mid-Cingulate Cortex (AMCC)
- Jerred discusses what he sees from the AMCC from research and his approach for Killing Comfort
- And A LOT MORE!!
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To becoming better!
Jerred: Today, I'm talking about the only skill you need to improve to become a better human in 2024. This is the Garage Gym Athlete Podcast, and we're here to build autonomous athletes and put phenomenal programming into every garage, basement, and spare bedroom out there. I'm Jared Moon, and I'm with Joe Courtney.
We are strength and conditioning coaches who have turned over 20, 000 people into Garage Gym Athletes over the last decade. And we're here to reduce the information overload that exists in the health and fitness. industry today. We're going to do that by covering relevant science and give actionable takeaways, not only from the data, but from our years of experience.
So let's dive in.
All right. I am talking about one of my favorite topics today and that is killing comfort. If you did not know, I am the author of the book, killing comfort, the overlooked prerequisite to extraordinary results that came out in 2020. Definitely go grab a copy. If you're into audible audio books, I am the, I actually read it.
So you can grab it on audible. You can also grab it on Amazon. And I haven't talked about this in a while, but the book is the cheapest it can possibly be on Amazon because I really want to get the book in as many hands as possible. It's not about just making money from a profit standpoint. What I sell the book for on Amazon because Amazon takes such a hefty fee and we have cut it down to the lowest possible price that Amazon will allow.
I get next to nothing off selling these books. So really this is about you reading the book. You implementing the things that you read in the book and you becoming a better human in 2024. What I want to talk about today is more a little bit straddling both sides of killing comfort the art and killing comfort the science And I had an overwhelming amount of people send me the same podcast episode recently and I don't listen to a ton of podcasts out there, and I have a couple that I cycle through, but I'm a big fan of audiobooks.
But I'm sure most people at this point are familiar with the Huberman Lab podcast. He had David Goggins on recently, and I was like, why are people sending this to me, and what it came down to being was he introduced this idea that this part of the brain, it's like newer research that's developing, that the anterior mid cingulate cortex is an area of the brain It's known for its role in handling cognitively demanding, emotionally challenging, or physically arduous tasks, and what he was saying, and I tried to look into some of the research, I'd love to see Huberman talk more about this, or Shed light more on the research that he's pulling.
I pulled what I could. I read up on it. I wasn't coming to the exact same conclusions he was, but he's definitely a more of an expert in drawing these conclusions. So I just think that maybe I didn't see everything that he saw in the research, but the. Long story short, what he was saying in this podcast with Goggins is that essentially if you do hard things over and over again, you work this area of your brain and it grows and it's a predictor of mortality.
So living longer, they thinking that people who have a bigger this part of their brain is bigger, they live longer. And this is the stuff I couldn't find specifically in the research. So I'm not saying he's wrong by any stretch. I'm just saying I couldn't find some of these things specifically. So anyway, that's what he's talking about.
Basically, forcing yourself to do hard things helps you in your ability to do more hard things and it can help you potentially live a longer life. And it's almost the willpower part of the brain. Now there are definitely other parts of the brain that are responsible for these kind of things. Prefrontal cortex, amygdala.
All that good stuff. I'm no brain expert, but what I feel like I am an expert on is the idea of killing comfort. I wrote the book on it and I want to talk about that a little more, a little bit more in relation to some of the data that I pulled up because I did find it very interesting because the main part of that human stressed and something I put in my book and also completely agree with is the fact that you have to do something that pushes you.
You have to be doing, you have to push yourself to do something you don't want to do. So an example is I'm going to go work out. Okay. I'm going to train later today. And I'm psyched up for that. I can't wait to do, have my little hour in the day and go work out and exercise. I'm looking forward to that.
Now I might, in a couple of different sets, push myself slightly beyond what I want to go. So there might be some areas of pushing myself to do something I don't want to do, but the whole idea and act of working out something I want to do today. So that's not necessarily stressing my brain. There's no friction there.
There's nothing that I'm pushing myself to do that I don't want to do. So I think that it has a lot to do with pushing forward against your own desire. And that's what he said. The research says on the anterior mid cingulate cortex, the AM. CC. And I think that's very interesting because I wrote a formula in my book.
I call it the hard things equation and it's I define what is a hard thing. Let's just put a definition to it and my exact definition that I published, back in. 2020 is when it was published, wrote, written in 2018, 2019 was pushing forward against your own desire plus daily over decades equals a hard thing.
So if you push forward against your own desire, not pushing forward with your desire, you're not just doing the things that are hard that you want to do, but you need to push forward against your own desire. Find the things that you don't want to do them every single day for decades. And that is a hard thing.
That is the equation I put in the book back then. And it seems that science is catching up with what coaches, people who do hard things. We're all like, sometimes these things just catch up with one another. And I think that's awesome. And so I want to talk about that a little bit more for 2024, because that's really what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to find areas.
Where I don't want to do something, I'm just trying to push myself to do it a little bit more. I'm always looking for those areas to kill comfort, but it can become challenging when you have a lot of good habits built up in your life and you're accustomed to doing hard things, never taking the easy route, trying hard and all things like you have to constantly be searching for how you're going to kill comfort because I don't necessarily agree.
With the David Goggins approach of running your body into the ground and ruining your knees and your back and everything else. And I get it. He can completely disagree with me and all that stuff. And I think he's an amazing human being, but I just I don't think that's truly killing comfort either because it's, it goes into that realm of stupidity where it's I want to be able to hang out with my grandkids and great grandkids hopefully one day.
And so I want to be able to walk around and move my body and still function. There's a big part of that for me and why I don't want to go run. 600 miles or whatever next week. So anyway, and I'm sure a lot of you listening to that are more in my side of the camp. It's yeah, I want to kill comfort.
I want to get better. I want to improve, but I don't want to ruin all of my relationships in the process. I don't want to break down my body to where it's unusable in the process. So let's talk about that because there is definitely, there's going to be a different level of killing comfort for every single person.
And when you look at the AMCC, some of the research that I found was that the AMCC is activated during tasks that require significant cognitive effort and persistence. So if something is mentally demanding for you and you have to be persistent about it, You're starting to shed some light. So maybe learning a new skill, that could be a good way to kill comfort.
And that's where sometimes the ideas lost from my book, killing comfort is people basically read the book title. And then they're like, yeah, I'm going to go work out hard, but they didn't really pick up every single chapter and really pay attention because. Learning to play the guitar could be killing comfort for you.
What if you hate the guitar or maybe you want to learn it, but like it's frustrating to learn a new skill, should I say? And so that can be cognitive effort and persistence. And then there's also a part of the AMCC is emotional regulation and discomfort. So if you're deliberately engaging in a disliked activity, it's going to take some emotional regulation.
And I always give the example of doing household chores because it's something that I just don't really enjoy doing, but I do them anyway. It's just such a monotonous, mundane task, but we all have to do it. We all have to do it, especially if I have three kids. Constantly either getting them to pick their crap up or me picking their crap up, it's just, it's like Sisyphus.
It's, you're never gonna this job will never be over. It will be one day, and I know I will miss it. But, what I'm saying is, there's an emotional regulation component to just doing something that you don't want to do and doing it anyway. So that's part of the AMCC. And so what I'm listing out here is trying to help you uncover maybe what killing comfort for you actually will be this year, because I really think the only skill that anyone needs this year or in general is to learn how to push forward against your own desire.
When I say killing comfort. Some people jump straight to, I'm going to run this race or do this thing. That's not necessarily what I'm talking about. I'm talking about all these other aspects. And so what I've done is I pulled the data from the AMCC, some of the literature and things that you need to think about.
So let's find a cognitive lead demanding tasks. So it takes cognitive effort and persistence. That's part one. Is there an emotional regulation piece here? Do you have to, you're engaging in a disliked activity, so you have to engage your emotions around that. There is some research on pain processing and endurance, specifically endurance training.
So pushing through physical discomfort and exercise, for instance, could involve. The AMCC's function in pain perception and endurance, and that could strengthen your ability to endure hardship. So maybe it is endurance exercise. I know I talked about I'm training later today and I'm super psyched to go train, go do that today, but that's not always the case.
I just happen to be looking forward to today's training session. But if we get into waking up when it's, 30 degrees outside and I'm supposed to run 10 to 15 miles. And it's super early. It's 4 a. m. Yeah, there's a lot of I ultimately want it. I want to have trained. I want to have prepared.
All of those kind of things. But what I don't want is to wake up early. I don't want to run in the cold. I don't want to run that far. So there's a lot of things even within something I want to do that I have to push myself to do anyway. And there's a lot of that in endurance training. And what ultimately happens if you can get around these kind of areas, you have something that's cognitively demanding, requires persistence.
There's an emotional regulation piece. There's some sort of pain processing. If you're going to go the physical route, like you're trying to subdue pain or ignore pain or push through pain, that's all really great things. And then what happens is. This daily over decades piece to my equation is you're going to overcome habitual comfort.
You're going to routinely engage in killing comfort, and it's going to shift your baseline, and it could help the response in the AMCC. So it could definitely help in the anterior mid cingulate cortex. And so that's what you're trying to do is you're trying to change your baseline. And I know that this is very true for me.
It's been true in a lot of different areas. A lot of, one, one place I've always noticed it is schedule demand. And this has happened to me multiple times throughout my life. Where pilot training is an example, when I was in pilot training in the Air Force, it started off like I went from a college kid schedule that had a pretty demanding for like college sake.
Like sometimes I would be taking like 18, 21 hours in a semester and I had other extracurricular things that I was doing, so it was demanding. But then I get to pilot training and then it's just even a whole new level, right? Like we're waking up early, mandatory 12 hour days, starting at 5 a. m., ending at 5 p.
m., having several hours of studying after the fact with other things that need to be taken care of. Family now in the mix, those kinds of things, really crazy at first. And then eventually you adjust to it and it's just, this is the new normal. You can withstand it, and I know that happened even like in my family life.
I remember, so I have three kids, and I talk about this frequently, like they're all in sports or doing different activities. It's basically, wake up early, hang out with them, feed them breakfast, whatever, get them off to school. I have work, and then after work, starts all of their stuff. And, I know a lot of parents know the same thing.
But, when that first started, it was like, oh, one kid has one practice a week. And then it was like, okay, one kid has two practices a week. It's okay, two kids have two practices a week. Okay. Three kids across all the practices, like we have eight activities in the evening. And so it got really crazy, really fast.
And I remember that being a hard transition period from basically having our evenings free to running around, doing all this other stuff to where we just found a new rhythm, right? Okay. Here's where dinners happen. Here's what we do. Here's when we still get to talk and be a family and communicate.
And it took a transition period, but now. It's we're running at this high speed, but we're just used to it. And so I think that's the goal and what you're doing when you're choosing a hard thing. And I also write in the book Killing Comfort is I encourage everyone to wake up each day and ask yourself, what hard thing will I do this day?
And I got that from Benjamin Franklin because he had something similar where he wrote, wake up each day and write what good. Will I do today? Or what good thing will I do this day? And he was very much about like good deeds and whatnot, and definitely a great practice. But I took that into my own account and was like, Hey, what hard thing will I do this day?
And when I say hard thing, exactly that pushing forward against your own desire. So when I sit down in the morning and I try to think, okay, what's a hard thing that I'm going to do today? I have to, one, ask myself that question in the morning, because I'm fresh, I have the most set, I have the most willpower, I'm ready to push myself, and I recommend you do the same thing sometime in the morning, ask yourself that question.
And then once you set it in stone, either in your mind, or you write that down in a journal or your phone or whatever, stick to it, because it might be something at the end of the day that you just don't want to do. Maybe it's, maybe it is the guitar lesson. Maybe it's doing, it's reading a book that you need to read.
Maybe it is doing household chores. Maybe it is doing the workout. Maybe it's meal prepping for the next day. It's a hard thing you basically don't want to do, but you're going to push yourself to do it anyway. And there should be consistency in this. There's not a, in my opinion, there's not a lot of benefit to bouncing from a different hard thing every single day.
Technically you could say if you did a different hard thing every single day, the benefit might be. strengthening the anterior mid cingulate cortex. Maybe that would still happen, but I think if you want real benefit, like results out of life, I think you should spend time on task, like one specific thing.
Cause if I did guitar lessons today, clean the kitchen tomorrow, worked out the next day. Meal prep the day after that and they're all different and I'm doing a hard thing. I'm getting slightly accustomed to doing hard things, but I'm not making progress in guitar lessons. I'm not making progress in doing chores.
I'm not making progress in getting fitter. I'm not making progress in my nutrition. So you want to keep it, in my opinion, time on tasks for one thing. And then once that becomes a new baseline, you get rid of it. You choose a new thing. So if you're trying to add exercising to your routine and you finally get it, you Hey, that's in there.
That's going to happen. What's the new hard thing? What am I doing? Is it nutrition? Okay, great. Now let's add on guitar lessons whatever it is. You keep adding it on. And that's the whole goal is to get a new baseline and change, constantly change what your hard thing is going to be. Now there are some downsides with killing comfort and doing things that you don't want to do.
And I feel like I haven't talked about this enough. There has to be some sort of balance with positive psychology in general. You shouldn't just always be beating yourself up and trying to kill comfort without juggling the other aspect of that. Because maybe you hate having some sort of gratitude practice.
Maybe you hate mindfulness or meditation. That could be an indication that maybe you add those things as a part of your killing comfort routine. Embracing those things. Embrace some positive psychology. And add new habits in your life that are positive, but are ultimately still pressing forward against your own desire.
If that makes sense, if you're like, I just don't like meditation, I don't want to get into it or mindfulness or breathing exercise, do it. Anyway, add some positive to your life. Don't just always be stressing yourself out about something hard that has to be done today. And one thing that was, has been explained to me over and over throughout my military career.
It's just a differentiation between you stress and distress. So being like positive stress causes great things, right? So being under pressure. Hey, this is do this. This project is due next Friday. You're under pressure. There's a deadline. You are a little bit stressed out, but ultimately that stress is positive stress.
It creates something beneficial and then it's over. But when you have a negative stress, when you're in distress, that can be harmful to your health. So don't take it down that level to where you're stressing out about getting your hard thing done. You should get it done, but you don't want to go to the level of it being harmful.
There's a lot of variability on the individual basis when it comes to killing comfort. I think you have to be very aware of what's going to push you forward and how you are actually handling that emotionally and mentally and be very aware of those things. And I think just be mindful of burnout, mental health issues, or physical injury.
Sometimes killing comfort is not. Again, to disagree with David Goggins, sometimes killing comfort is not running 30 miles in the morning because you said you would when your knee is basically broken. Killing comfort might be not running those 30 miles and stretching instead or doing something else where it has time to heal so you can live to fight another day.
You really have to know what killing comfort is for you. And I don't think that killing comfort should lead to physical injury. I don't think that it should lead to burnout and I don't think it should lead to mental health issues. So having said all that, this is what I think everyone should focus on in 2024.
It's what I'm going to be focusing on in a massive way this year, because I, like I said, I feel like I've built up a lot of good habits and I feel like a lot of things are going the right way, but what can I do? To put myself in these uncomfortable situations. What is the thing that's pushing forward against my desire every single day that I need to force myself to do so I can make sure that this A MCC, the anterior mid cingulate cortex is still growing.
How do I make sure that's still happening? Because what I feel like I've done. And I say this from a place, just a lot of hard work. I feel like I have a lot of positive habits. Like I've done a lot of hard things and now I've built up a lot of good habits with reading, health habits, work habits, family habits.
I've done a lot of those things. They were very hard to develop, but I do feel okay, this is, I feel like I can maintain all this and I'm doing a decent job at it all, but what's next? What do I need to, where do I need to learn something new? Is it a new skill? Is it what's the next hard thing?
I need to be looking for that. And that's what I'm going to be looking for every single day in 2024. I'm going to write it down every single day. What's the hard thing that I'm going to do today that connects today to tomorrow, to next year, to where I know in a year from now, I will be a better human being.
And that's all I want to challenge everyone listening to this today to do as well. What is the thing? Take into account everything I just said from all the aspects of what actually involves the AMCC, how to balance your own personal preferences, your individuality, what's going to cause you stress or too much stress, distress.
What's going to. Not lead to burnout, not lead to mental health issues. So taking all that into account, all I want you to do is answer that question today. Okay. What is something that is pushing forward against your desire? Not something that you already do or that you enjoy doing. What's something that you really don't want to do?
No, you should do would be beneficial. You want to add it to your life, what is that thing? What is that? Really think about that. What's pushing forward against your own desire? It doesn't have to be something stupid. There's a lot of, there's a lot of idiotic things I could go do that are pushing forward against my own desire.
I don't want to go drink six beers every single night. Because I know how that's going to make me feel like crap. That's, that would be pushing forward against my own desire. Not headed down that path, but how can I push forward against my own desire and maybe picking up a new habit that I've been wanting to pick up, but I just know it's something outside of all of these great habits I already have.
It's something that's pushing forward against my own desire. It's something I can do every single day. For at least the next year, potentially daily over decades, and that's going to be the hard thing. That's the thing I'm going to pick up. It's actually going to help change the structure of my brain, possibly help me live longer, give me better habit, make me better human.
That's what I want everyone listening to this podcast today to think about and to decide upon and make that commitment for 2024. This isn't a new year's resolution. This is deciding to do a hard thing, right? And it's just one thing. What's that one thing? Don't pick multiple. I didn't say pick three.
Don't pick five. Don't pick one for your personal and one for business and one for fitness. Pick one. Pick one thing. Really think about it. Think about it for a week if you have to and then get started and start doing it every single day. Push forward against your own desire. Do it daily over decades and become a better human.
That's all I have for this one. Remember, if you don't kill comfort will kill you.
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