I have been getting messages from life lately teaching me how to react when I feel like giving up. Don’t we all feel like giving up sometimes? I have felt that way in my career, in my schooling, and in my personal life in one way or another. My clients have expressed to me similar thoughts about areas of their lives, or with the therapy process itself. Certainly there are times where what we want simply cannot be–in these cases it is best to accept and move on. However, far more often we get in the way of our own potential success. Especially if our goal is stop being miserable! As I thought about what principles I’ve learned, I thought it would be a good idea to share what I say to people when they tell me they feel like giving up.
- Why did you create your goal in the first place?
A useful first step is to remind yourself what you wanted to gain. Whether it’s increased happiness or self-esteem, financial stability, a useful skill, or something else there is always some positive reason for creating your goal. This is your motivation and sometimes in the middle of working your way toward it, it can be easy to forget why you started in the first place. Sometimes a simple mental reminder is enough, but usually you are better served by doing a bit more. Consider taking a moment to write out all of the reasons for creating your goal, and how that would benefit you. Looking at the positives, is it worth the effort? Usually the answer will be yes.
2. Learn from failure
One false belief some people have is that failure is a bad thing. It is not always a bad thing! Understanding why we have failed at something is the first step to doing better in the future. It is the great teacher. It causes us to reevaluate how we did things, what went wrong, what to change. The entire scientific method is based on the process of someone developing a hypothesis and then proving or disproving it. Either case results in learning! This is how we landed a man on the moon. One thing I have to keep reminding myself of is that some failures are bad, some are inevitable, and some are good. Whatever the cause, taking it as a sign of personal defectiveness is not true, nor even helpful.
3. Change the How
You have likely heard the expression, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” While as a professional I can assure you this is not the actual definition of insanity, there is a lot of insight to be gained here. If you are feeling frustrated or stymied at your attempt to obtain your goal, do yourself a favor and get curious. Take a look at your method. How long have you been at it? Is it too short a time to tell if it’s working, or so long that it’s obvious it’s not working? If the latter, it’s time to brainstorm some different approaches. Take paper and pencil and try coming up with some ideas. Ask a friend, relative or a professional for help or advice. While I don’t particularly like the expression “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” one cannot deny it’s truth in most situations.
4. Change your attitude to one of success
A statement often quoted is that success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm. A reporter once asked Thomas Edison “How did it feel to fail 1000 times?” referring to his invention of the light bulb. He replied, “I didn’t fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps.” Consider your choices. If a goal of yours is really worth obtaining, then you really only have two choices: give up, or continue pursuing it. If you are going to pursue it, isn’t it better to assume that you can succeed and it’s just a matter of time, or finding the right path? It’s alright to have a rough start but a great finish–in fact I’d say it is the norm.
5. Be Patient
Geoffrey Chaucer once wrote that patience is a conquering virtue. Think about that, a virtue that conquers! Be patient, not only with the process but with yourself. Some goals are very short-term, in which case quick action is required, but more often pacing ourselves is a much better strategy. Many worthwhile goals are a marathon, not a sprint. Getting down on yourself, or excessively putting all the blame on someone else doesn’t do any good. Nurture your motivation by reminding yourself why you created this goal in the first place; learn from failure by not taking it personally, looking at it like an experiment; consider different ways you can approach your goal; assume that you will eventually succeed, even if only partly; be patient!