Example actions: working out, taking an ice bath, cleaning your house, admitting when you are wrong.

These things are not difficult to actually do, but are often described as hard, when in reality they are things that go against your instincts, so your brain tries to convince you to not do them due to instincts like conservation of energy, ego protection, etc.

The best word I have for this is just “a thing that requires mental discipline”. I am looking for something like non-instinctive, but with an additional clause of not actually being difficult to do. Or when the only barrier to doing a simple task is your own instincts. Does this word exist?

Example usage: “I need to go work out, but I am reluctant to do so because it is really ____.”

Thank you!

  • 2
    Your example usage doesn’t seem to fit what you’re looking for. Can you explain why you see that example as appropriate?
    – Jim
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 7:22
  • I am looking for an adjective I believe, something that I would substitute out for “hard” in the example usage I posted. The action itself isn’t hard, but I would be fighting my instincts in that case, so it feels difficult to get started, if that makes sense?
    – Shan
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 7:44
  • In the example, going to work out is hard (that's the point of working out, it isn't supposed to be easy). Your 'instincts' might tell you there is no need to bother, but that's not what the question asks. Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 8:21
  • 1
    Do you mean something like distasteful? Or arduous?
    – Jim
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 8:22
  • ...it's not in my nature? Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 11:25

2 Answers 2


I suggest the idiom go against someone's grain:

to not seem right or natural to someone.

It goes against his grain to question the boss's judgment.


On a side note, are you sure working out is the sort of thing that goes aainst your instincts? Everyone does "work out" every once in a while if I may say so, right? Apart from that, the suggested idiom seems to cover your question very well.


Since you are focusing your analysis of this behaviour on the instinctual drive that you seem to recognize in it, why not use the very term "instinct" in a somewhat novel construction such a "counter-instinctual" or "counter-instinctive"? The prefix "counter" is freely productive and "instinctual" or 'instinctive" seems also like the sort of adjective that can enter into such a combination with the prefix "counter".

(SOED) counter A freely productive prefix forming vbs, n. and adj. […] forming adjs. from ns. and adjs. w. the sense 'contrary to, in opposition to' as counternatural

You find the already current forms "counter-intuitive" and "counter-productive".

  • I need to go work out, but I am reluctant to do so because it is really counter-instinctive.

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