David Goggins — The Cookie Jar Method Explained

Willy Kon
7 min readFeb 21, 2021

When the desire to quit is strong, keep on going with the help of the Cookie Jar, a technique created by one of the toughest men alive, David Goggins.

What is the Cookie Jar? This post will discuss the technique “Cookie Jar” coined by ex-Navy SEAL and motivational speaker, David Goggins. Considered one of the toughest men alive, David Goggins created this Cookie Jar method through constant exposure to pain and suffering. In an Impact Theory video, in his own words, David explains the Cookie Jar method as:

The Cookie Jar is something I’ve made up of all the failures of my life. All the things that I failed and I went back and finally succeeded. All the things that kicked my ass, I put them all in the Cookie Jar. Because in times of suffering, even the hardest men forget how hard they are. Suffering is just a test of life. Whenever I get pulled into a “woe is me” or “life sucks” mentality, I step off and pull out something from my Cookie Jar, and remind myself what a badass motherfucker I am. It’s a reminder of who you truly are at the core of yourself.

Keep reading to figure out the real concept and explanation behind David Goggins’ Cookie Jar method.

Table of Contents:

  1. Origins of the Cookie Jar Method
  2. The Cookie Jar Method in Life
  3. How can you apply the Cookie Jar Method?

1. Origins of the Cookie Jar Method

In his book, Can’t Hurt Me, David Goggins goes on to explain in all details his background. He doesn’t filter the experiences as he wrote about the traumatic, emotionally distressing moments in his childhood all the way until his early adulthood in a raw, direct way. From withstanding constant abuse from his father, enduring times where he lived in a shackled old house with his mother paying 7 dollars rent, and later on, being called “nigger” every day in school. Exposure to trauma shaped him into a stuttering kid with low self-esteem, full of anxiety and anger. As he puts it, he was “the weakest human God ever created“.

But he also learned the beauty of simple things; even in the midst of struggle, David’s mother always found a way to give some hope to little David. One of her ways was to fill up that cookie jar in the kitchen with wafers, Oreo’s, and Chips Ahoy!. His mother let him grab a single pack of cookies only in certain moments, like after doing the chores and only like 2–3 times per week. To little David, grabbing one cookie from the old Cookie Jar was like being granted the tastiest and best quality dessert in the world. He made sure to really enjoy his treat; it was a true reward. Coming from a place of scarcity, David Goggins found in the Cookie Jar a source of joy, inspiration, pleasure, and motivation. He found value from simple cookies.

San Diego One Day, 2005

Fast forward, the year was 2005 and David Goggins was now 30 years old. It came the time he would first employ the Cookie Jar method, which happened during the first ultra-marathon David would ever run: the San Diego One Day. Basically, he had to run 100 miles in 24 hours, however, he hadn’t put on running shoes in over a year. He hadn’t trained before and he also weighed almost 300 pounds. To make it worse, he hadn’t brought any water; his diet during the 24-hour run was Ritz crackers and a few bottles of Myoplex.

My quads throbbed, my feet were chafed and bleeding, and that simple question was once again bubbling up in my frontal lobe. Why? Why are you doing this to yourself? Fair questions, especially since I hadn’t even heard of the San Diego One Day until three days before the race day, but this time the answers were different… It was about how much I was willing to suffer, how much more I could take, and how much I had to give. If I was going to make it, this shit would have to get personal. I stared down at my legs. I could still see a trail of dried piss and blood stuck to my inner thigh and thought to myself: who in this entire fucked-up world would still be in this fight? Only you, Goggins! You haven’t trained, you don’t know dick about hydration and performance–all you know is that you refuse to quit.

The Cookie Jar Method in Action

So the now called Cookie Jar method was used by David Goggins in his most desperate state. He was at the bottom of his physical wellbeing and he had to pull himself out of it. What did he do? David had to remind himself of what crazy things he overcame. Of course, he reminded himself of the cookie jar his mother used to fill back when they were living in poverty. The concept came back fresh, with a new perspective.

Let me pull out something from the Cookie Jar. Alright motherfucker, you went through Hell Week. You went through it three times! One of the guys died during one of those. You are a badass motherfucker. You are.

The remainder of what he had gone through and how the very thing he was doing at that moment: the first ultra-marathon he had ever run (without previous experience) made him ask himself: Who in the world would do something like that? David Goggins would. It is under the knowledge of that fact which sparked a light inside of him. He was in control of his own mind at that point which made him surpass the physical pain.

With his leg hurting, his bones broken, stress fractures, dehydrated, malnutrition, peeing blood, shitting his pants, his toenails dangling loose inside his battered old shoes…

David limped at first for one mile, but kept his pace; then ran the last 19 miles non-stop and successfully finished the race.

2. The Cookie Jar Method in Life

Each time you do encounter yourself at some point where you are feeling down because such moments are going to be inevitable, you are going to have to take action. Maybe you are struggling with money, maybe you’ve been gaining much weight, maybe you have trouble forgiving a certain person, maybe you haven’t given much thought to your passions or goals, or maybe you’ve found yourself waking up one morning and wanting to stay in bed because there is not much that motivates you out there. Everyone goes through such periods in their lives.

Now you have three choices here, which are:

  • Attempting to hide your emotions by pretending to be feeling good when you are not, therefore it’s a double struggle now.
  • Letting the emotions drag you down. Triggers and coping mechanisms, such as binging and escapism will become options now.
  • Not accept the state you are in — dive headfirst toward the struggle.

Sometimes we feel powerless, we lack the energy, or we are feeling emotionally numb. Then there are those who choose not to accept that. Instead, they strive to go forward ready for the battle. The Cookie Jar Method is one I really recommend if leaving behind doubt and negative self-talk is of your interest; because it is proven to be legit not only by David Goggins himself but by hundreds and millions of people. The premise regarding the Cookie Jar method implies that you remind yourself of the tough and painful things you’ve overcome. Each time things go south, pull out a cookie and get reinspired.

3. How can you apply the Cookie Jar Method?

In order to apply the Cookie Jar method in your life, David Goggins mentions in his book that if you can think about a time or two when you overcame odds and tasted success, then you can employ it when disaster is all around. The first thing to do is get yourself a journal, or paper, and pen. Then you write all of your accomplishments down; don’t just include achievements, but also life obstacles. This could include losing weight, overcoming depression, or other challenging scenarios you went through. Take inventory of all the small tasks you succeeded in finishing, and remind yourself of what it felt like to overcome those obstacles. Write it all down, because it’s the small obstacles that build up and encourage you to keep going.

When you are going through hell, keep going with the aid of the Cookie Jar. If you feel like quitting, pull up a cookie, get energized, and keep going.

Thank you for reading.