Most of us are ambitious. We have hopes and dreams. We have big goals and fantasies of success. But they’re not just big ideas and empty words. We work towards these dreams on a daily basis. We fight, we struggle, and we make progress day-by-day. It’s not easy, but there’s value in what we’re trying to achieve.
The problem is, we tend to lose steam as time passes. We start to falter in our devotion to a project and we arrive at a cross-roads where we consider giving up. This happens for a few reasons.
1. The Excitement Fades
Starting new things always comes with a sense of excitement. Facing the unknown, dealing with new problems, and coming up with unique solutions is all very novel. This sense of excitement is wonderful and can take you quite far into a project.
The problem is, hanging your hat on the love of starting is a terrible strategy. Starting is wonderful, but finishing is what really matters. Novelty is a great source of inspiration, but it’s not enough and when the excitement fades, you need something else to keep you going.
2. The Criticism Arrives
Doesn’t it seem like haters are just waiting around every corner to tell you what you’re doing is dumb or won’t work or is a waste of time? Sometimes it takes everything you have to ignore these people, but they’ll never really go away.
Critics, haters, and naysayers are always around and they’ll always offer their opinions on what you’re doing. Dealing with such toxic people, especially if it’s on the regular, can make the idea of giving up pretty enticing.
3. The Progress Slows
Nothing is more demotivating then seeing little to no progress in your work. Whether it be new customers or readers or patents or publications or product development or anything, when the progress is minuscule, our motivation decreases dramatically.
It’s difficult working hard, day after day, without seeing any progress or recognition for the time and effort you put in. In the beginning your momentum carries you forward, but when things slow to a crawl, it gets that much harder. Dealing with a lack of results is anything but inspiring.
4. The Comparisons Begin
The moment our will sways on what we’re working on, we tend to start paying more attention to what’s happening around us. Especially what other people are doing. That’s when the comparisons begin. This guys startup just got their first round of funding. This girls second book just became a New York Times bestseller. This guys app just became the most downloaded ever.
Social media just exacerbates this entire ordeal, making it that much more in your face (although I firmly belief half the stuff on social media is manufactured bullshit).
What happens when we start seeing everyone else and their apparent success? We start to question ourselves. We start to think, why aren’t we at that level? Are we working on the wrong thing? Shouldn’t we be that successful already?
hen you hit this point, quitting often sounds like a great idea. Every act of creation reaches this point, it’s natural and unavoidable, but often times, giving up is not the answer.
There’s a single ingredient that can get you through this crossroads: perseverance. Perseverance is the struggle against any and all difficulties towards our ultimate goal. We often start things for a reason, reasons that are worth our time and attention. When we lose sight of these, we begin to question what we’re truly doing.
It is exactly this type of thinking that perseverance can overcome. It gives us the strength and resolve to push past any and all difficulties and focus on what really matters. It helps us remember why we started in the first place and what our ultimate vision was. It reminds us why our work is important.
This simple point – understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing, will make or break your perseverance. Without a why, you’re probably not going to get far when you hit this wall. Giving up is so much easier if you have no reason to keep going forward.
Having this combination of understanding and perseverance, is how many people we regard as successful today, achieved their goals. It didn’t happen over night. It wasn’t easy. They faced their own doubts and demons, but they persisted. They understood why they started and what it meant to finish. They followed through on their vision.
When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.
There are no guarantees in life and certainly not in success. The number of factors at play when determining success can’t all be controlled. Things like luck, timing, people, and so on, are often out of our hands and that’s OK. Success shouldn’t be measured by the external value we gain from our endeavors, but instead on the internal benefit we receive from actually delivering on what we set out to do.
A quote from Theodore Roosevelt comes to mind when I think about the individuals who struggle for what they believe in:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
For any endeavor that you may start, always remember why you started, and use that to fuel your perseverance to finish it. Whether it ends in victory or defeat, the simple act of trying, of not giving up, is what makes our work worthwhile.