Trying to lose weight? Find more customers? Manage your time better? Get your finances in order? Find a job?
If you have been pursuing any of those goals for awhile, you might feel like there is a secret formula that you just can’t figure out. If you could just tweak your resume and cover letter, find the right combination of words to go on the page that will automatically unlock the good-job door…If you could just balance your calories and nutrients in the right way, take the right exercise class, run the right number of miles each week, then you
would look like a fitness celebrity…If you could just figure out which bill to pay first, how much of your income to save, what the best, most profitable investments are, you would never feel financial stress again…
There are plenty of books, training classes, and expert-led seminars that promise to teach whatever it is you want to know – the thing that you feel pretty sure will make your life a stressless paradise of ease, compared to what it is right now. You may have already spent hundreds of dollars on those products. But the secret formula is very simple.
Don’t stop trying.
That’s the key to success in whatever endeavor you are wholeheartedly pursuing. Keep going. If you give up, you will never figure it out. But if you keep trying, your chances are much better.
There are plenty of quotes from successful people that are more eloquent than “don’t stop trying.” Here’s a old one from Ovid: “Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.”
And another, this one from Vince Lombardi: “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather, a lack of will.”
The problem is that the short-term gratification of poking around on Facebook gives us a nicer feeling than taking the risk of being rejected while making cold calls. It’s easier to watch movies on the couch than volunteer, even though volunteer work will expand your network, give you a good feeling and maybe help you find your dream job. Eating pizza and drinking beer is much easier than going for a run and cooking dinner, but it sure won’t help your weight loss efforts.
I have been teetering on the brink of giving up on several of my personal endeavors, but here are a few things that are helping me continue toward my goals:
1. Talk to friends – My friends tell me that I need to keep going. They remind me of what I have accomplished before, of plans I have laid out, of things I said to them when they were down, of the fact that giving up is not a good option, of other people who have walked my path and reached their goals. They make me laugh when I need it, they tell me it’s okay when I’m sad. If you feel like giving up spend some times with your friends.
There is one caveat, though, and that is to make sure the people you look to really are your friends. Everyone has “friends.” People who you care about but who are not supportive of you and your efforts, who think that even trying is silly, and who encourage you to give up. Stay away from those folks when you’re down. In fact, you might want to consider staying away from them all of the time!
2. Do something – If you gave in and ate the pizza and drank the beer, take yourself for a walk. If you didn’t make your sales calls, send out a few emails. If you over-spent while shopping, find something to sell on
craigslist. Even if you took two steps back, taking one forward will get you moving in the right direction again.
3. Forgive yourself – Sitting around beating yourself up because you are 39 years old and you have never come close to meeting your professional goals will never, ever help you get where you want to be. You have to let the mistakes go, and carry on. Just don’t sit around feeling sorry for, or berating, yourself.
4. Adjust – If your plan isn’t working, make a new plan. Think about fitness, and the zealots you have met. There are people who will tell you that Paleo is the only way to go, and just as many people who will tell you that vegan is the only way to go. No matter your destination, there are different routes to get there. Your path might be more circuitous and tortured than the paths of others, but so what? Isn’t getting there the thing?
Since this post is basically a letter to myself, can you add anything? What advice would you give to someone who is ready to throw in the towel and stop chasing a dream?