If you feel like giving up

November 24 2015

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been at it: there’s a moment you feel like quitting, throwing in the towel, giving up. Seth Godin penned the journey “The Dip” and believes we too often quit the wrong things at the wrong time. Knowing the difference between staying put and moving on can help us find success both professionally and personally.

The truth is that everything new is always fun: relationships, jobs, projects, cars, clothes, music, movies, towns, school. You name it. Then, over time, it gets boring or hard and you find yourself at a point you can’t be bothered to care at all.

This is when professionals step away from hobbyists: they remain focused, trim off the frayed edges and keep going. And if they do quit, they do it in a way that’s strategic and thoughtful. Champions devote themselves to causes that matter and subscribe to the notion that the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward.

According to Angela Lee Duckworth, the ability to tough it out and stay put is the closest indicator we have of success. The names we don’t hear about, the people who fail to make an impact, quit too early. They never made it to the intersection of do-or-don’t, or they never found the right problems to solve to begin with.

So, if you’re in a rut and feel like quitting, here are four points to consider before you make any decisions:

Remember when you started.

As a founder, there’s always something to be done. I don’t think I’ve had an empty “to-do list” in over three years. That’s why when I want to hop in a plane back to America, I take a second to recognize how far we’ve come. There was a point I was scrubbing floors and felt a constant film of construction dust on my teeth. Now, our little Learning House is a lively center with classes and students and seminars.

Think about the challenges you’ve overcome to get where you are today and be proud.

Why are you doing this?

We’re all human. God knows I’ve had moments I’ve had to talk myself out of bed and out the door. I’ve gone through weeks of daily internal debates: Am I effective? Should I keep going?

Sometimes, our original goal becomes a blurry dot on the horizon. For whatever reason — projects, donors, grants, social responsibilities — we’ve moved away from that original purpose that gave us meaning, the work that first brought us joy.

Can you remember your original spark? That first flash of inspiration, the smile of someone’s life changed? Ask yourself: the mission you’ve devoted yourself to, is it worth it? If the scale tips in favor, keep going.

Know it won’t always be easy.

When you can accept that grey days are part of the color spectrum, you can relax into rutty moments.

About one year ago, a South Bronx school principal found herself in the Oval office with President Obama. She asked, “When is the time you felt most broken?”

He described his 1999 Congress run. He lost. Bad. He felt old, ineffective, and his relationship with his wife was on the rocks.

“The thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself — if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck.”

Focus on your work and what needs to be done.

Take a break.

We’re people, not machines. Create space to renew and energize, step away from obligations and responsibilities. Even though you’re a leader doesn’t mean you’re always strong! Watch a movie, go for a long walk, call a friend.

Social work can take an impact on your mental and emotional health. It can be helpful to connect with someone who can empathize with your struggles and keep you on track.

Then, chin up, shoulders back, stand tall. Keep going. The world needs you. We need you.