How To Stick With It (When You Feel Like Giving Up)
Ever wonder: where would I be today if I hadn’t given up so soon?
The goal of this article is to prevent you from wondering that! Instead, I hope you learn a few tricks that will set you up to be able to persevere through a challenging task, day after day, even when there’s no promise of success in sight.
We’re living in a time where we’re used to immediate gratification. When we don’t see results right away, there’s a great temptation to ditch what we started and move our attention to something else. If you find yourself changing from one priority to another on a daily or weekly basis, or quitting after the first sign of struggle, this post is for you.
More grit, less quit
The good news is that grit—defined by expert Angela Duckworth as "passion and perseverance for long-term goals"—can be fostered through intentional practice. Once you've carefully selected a challenging goal that is meaningful to you, you can nurture grit by putting in time to work on it, reflecting and refining the goal, and repeating it consistently over the long term.
Duckworth encourages grit in her own family through the Hard Thing Rule; essentially, this is the idea that everyone in her family pursues a challenging activity or project of their choosing that requires daily practice. One of the requirements of the rule is that you can't quit in the middle—you have to see it through to a natural stopping point, like the end of football season.
A lot of us (myself included) gravitate towards activities that come easily to us. It feels good to be good at something! But if you only ever choose to spend time on the easy things, you won't be prepared to tough it out through the hard things. Embrace the discomfort by opting for the hard path sometimes.
By exposing yourself to hard projects and seeing them through, even in the face of failure and struggle, you build your grit muscle. In turn, this makes you better at your next hard thing.
Get into the right mindset
When you venture out to accomplish a new goal, you’ll likely have a lot of enthusiasm. And with that enthusiasm often comes overconfidence in your own ability. The key to starting a new project or activity is having realistic expectations.
Any new behavior is a change, and change can be hard. It’s worth taking a few moments to imagine what possible obstacles might pop up along the way. For example, let’s say your new goal is to wake up at 6am every weekday. Simply set your alarm and get out of bed, right? Shouldn't be an issue
Well let's say your kid gets sick and you're up all night taking care of them. Or a loud thunderstorm wakes you up and you can't get back to sleep. Any number of unanticipated events could cause to you sleep through your alarm, even if you prepared like a champ and had the best of intentions.
Keep in mind that factors outside of your control may get in the way of making your goal a success. Rather than throw in the towel after two days of failed attempts, try again a third, forth, and fifth day. Keep showing up, reflect on what went wrong, and try again tomorrow.
I encourage you to aim for progress instead of perfection. Maybe you only wake up early two days out of your first week. Instead of feeling like a failure because you didn’t have a perfect steak, celebrate the two additional days you DID wake up early as compared to the week prior! Focus on the little wins and recognize that change doesn’t happen overnight for most people.
Related: Taking Imperfect Action: A 5-Step Guide to Getting Out of Your Own Way
Strive to make it a habit
Some people are able to wake up early and have a morning routine that allows them to get in exercise or perform some other grounding activity. If you attempt their routine, it may not come naturally at first, but remember: this person has had months, potentially years, of practice at doing this routine. They could probably do it with their eyes closed.
That means it might take you a bit of time to build up to that level. Success is rarely a straight and clear path. If you get discouraged when you hit snooze a few days, it doesn’t mean your goal of waking up early was a bad one. It just means it’s a change, change takes time, and you have to try again tomorrow—perhaps with a slightly different approach.
Related: How To Wake Up Early
When is it time to quit?
When setting a goal, get specific about which actions you’ll perform, and for how long. Decide at the outset exactly how long you’ll try it before evaluating whether or not it’s helping. Until you reach that point, reserve judgment and remain curious about the experience.
If you’re adopting a new behavior that drives towards a big goal, such as weight loss or a new job, you probably aren’t going to see results until several weeks or months later. You’ve got to buckle down for the long haul. That being said, what you can measure early on is consistency. Can you stick to a new behavior for a week? How about two weeks?
To truly give something a “college try,” you can’t quit it the second you encounter a challenge or slip up. That’s why Supporti has you stick with one single daily action for a week at a time when you're paired up with an accountability partner for that week. A lot of people aren’t successful with attaining their goals simply because they haven’t stuck with it for long enough to learn anything. One way to help you stick with it is to have someone holding you accountable to your commitment.
Once you’ve been at it for weeks and months and you aren’t seeing any progress, it’s time to reflect on what might be going on. Let’s say you’re trying to expand your network to ultimately lead to a new job. Are your networking emails resulting in interviews? If not, there might be something that needs to change with your messaging, or maybe you’re not reaching out to the right people. Your next week’s goal might be: reach out to a friend or mentor to review my email and give me feedback on the wording. By the week’s end, you’ll have seven new perspectives on your message, which you can then test and try out again.
After months of attempted networking, you may find that networking alone isn’t connecting you with the job you want. At that point, you may want to interview someone in your dream role and get tips on what you’re missing. If they say you need more experience/credentials in a certain area, at that point, it may make sense to pivot and focus on doing some pro bono work to get the needed experience and references.
By approaching the goal with flexibility and openness, you’re continually working on a path towards success versus giving up on the goal (and yourself) after the first hiccup. And while there is no guarantee that you’ll accomplish the big goal, the journey may lead you to identify new strengths and goals.
What challenging goal have you given up on? If there's a goal that's been in the back of your mind nagging you to give it another go, try some of the strategies mentioned in this post and commit to being in it for the long haul.
If you'd like some one-on-one accountability to jump start your commitment, be sure to sign up for a free two-week trial of Supporti, the accountability partner app!