Stick-to-it-ivness: When You Want to Give Up is When It's Most Important to Keep Going
If you prefer to listen, here's the podcast version of this post.
It’s that period of time when you’re not sure what to do – but nothing’s changing and you’re trying your hardest, and something better happen soon or else you just might give up. Whether you’re on a new health kick and not seeing dramatic results, or attempting to pursue a new career – often the most difficult to surmount is the master of disguise – the plateau.
Oh, the old plateau will make life look pretty much the same for long enough that you start to get antsy. That you start to feel you might have already failed – or that change of course is needed – “I haven’t seen progress for quite a while - something must not be working – it must be me, why did I even think to try in the first place? This must not be right-“ or my favorite, “Silly me, I never had a chance of success in the first place…”
It is this window of time – the plateau – I would argue, that is the most difficult challenge you will ever face. It’s not the last leg of the race that tricks you into stopping. It’s the time when literally the only piece of advice you need is “Keep going.” It’s this advice that’s the hardest to follow – especially when it comes to pursuits that are new – that require you go out on a limb and jump.
If this is you, I am writing this to give you a much-needed push in the same direction. You must have a large gulp of Gatorade and listen to the sound of my voice – keep running. I know it’s not fun anymore, you don’t feel successful, but there was a very good reason you started this run – and now’s the time you’ve got to trust that and just keep running. Trust your own original instincts and power through. You’re on a plateau and the plateau ends – your path will eventually round a turn, and once it does, you will be able to see the finish line in the distance.
Success is the result – of genius and original thinking yes, but more so of sticktoitiveness. There have been many before you who had the same idea, but the pudding goes to the one who perseveres – who keeps going because they want it – who runs the length of the plateau and can recall that the pursuit was a worthy one, despite the lack of excitement you might feel.
The plateau is a test of sorts – it is to weed out those who want it and those who want it “if” something. If it won’t hurt. If it’s easy enough. If it doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice. If it doesn’t challenge my want and true desire. Your success relies heavily on your decision making – right now. In this very window. Do you want it? How bad? You decide with your actions – this is the make or break moment in your path, even though it feels like not much is happening.
In truth, the pursuits you make in life must be those of an unbreakable commitment. I know that sounds harsh or intimidating – so instead think of it like a state of being. It is not temporary. It is who you are. It is inspired in you for that reason. You should not fear that it will somehow “go away” or that you will give in to “the real you” who cannot and will not follow-through. Because you’re not pursuing just the result – you are deciding on a way of living. You are acting as the person you are – by practicing something you want in your life, regardless of the result it brings. Your goal has value – to you, as an individual – outside of the result. It has worth and meaning in what it means to you, because this pursuit DEFINES you – it comes from somewhere sacred inside of you, so it has little to do with the big party at the end of the race. That practice – of being your ideal self – by running this race – is of the greatest value and should be your measure of success: to live life as your self. You can think of it in terms of how it defines “you” to “you.” Think of the phrase, “I am the kind of person who (blank).” Or, “My true goal is to be (blank).” Not have (blank).
When you really decide to claim something about yourself– you decide it and it is a part of your entire future, regardless of the “if” conditions. The form it takes might shift in practical terms, but the pursuit of that desire always has merit.
If you’re asking yourself “if” questions right now, then you are threatening to not believe yourself – that you really meant it or felt it to begin with. And that’s coming from fear, fear of failure – fear of success – or fear of a perceived long-ass plateau full of lots of bumps ahead. All of those perceptions are just bad self-protective habits.
Change is by default – uncomfortable. It’s not where we have been, so it feels like we’re running way off course when there aren’t constant sign posts reading “this way to success – oh, and here’s your award!” But do not be mistaken – it’s not a lack of progress or real signs of failure that are stinging your confidence, it’s just fear and discomfort around this new state of unknown.
Your fear is what makes you THINK you are lazy or incapable. That is not a valid truth. The consistent part of the work behind your goal can get boring or tedious, and that’s when you simply keep doing it. It’s not hard or impossible – it’s the thinking and buzzing about it that feels that way. In truth the day to day is pretty straightforward. If you’re in need of some new approaches, that’s it’s own separate issue – that you should separate and approach with that mindset. Don’t let it confuse you about the truth of your path to begin with.
Here’s a sign post for you: the dream is real. Because when you decide something of this value in your life – you don’t arrive at that place by accident. You were likely struck by something profound – a realization, a want, a love – and though it scared you, you chose to jump. THAT is something rare and special – it is true, real, valid, it has weight and importance in your life – and to the world. Our passions and urges are our gifts, they come from a place that is so rare and special – they are not accidental.
Here’s another sign post: keep going. Take a gulp of Gatorade and run harder. You’re on a plateau and you’ve got to keep your head on straight.
And here are some more specific tools tailored to different types of cases…
1. Totes Doable
If you’re getting overwhelmed and almost paralyzed by your goal, there’s something you should be aware of called “Learned helplessness.”
That's about focusing on something too far away- because from here, it's impossible. So if you’re a Type-A-er like me, there’s a good chance you’re making this impossible for yourself. Your expectations are literally impossible to achieve from where you are now. For you, my tool is this – instead of writing a “to-do” list,” you’re going to call it a “Totes Doable” list. Your job is to create a possible focus- on a day-to-day basis. Something hard but completely achievable – basically make it easy on yourself – keep every goal small and simple and never build too many goals on top of it. Keep the to-do list to a maximum of 3. Never put yourself in a situation that's too difficult that it's impossible.
2. Be Consistent When You Do The Limbo
This is another one for the type-A-ers. When it comes to achieving goals, it’s most important to be consistent, and equally important to be flexible. Flexibility is more important for success longevity. Learn to inhibit impulsive responses – like when things don’t go your way, what will define your success if that you accept all hurdles and roll with the punches, bend with the ups and downs. Every challenge is a lesson you needed to learn to get where your going. Don’t be so stiff that you fall apart and give up the game.
3. De-activate Your Failure Genes
If you believe based on your life's results that you’re a failure, all failures you have experienced thus far are likely the result of your mindset.
There are two ways of thinking that we are brought up into - one is called a fixed mindset and the other is a growth mindset. A fixed mindset means you think everything is a result of birth – your skills stop at what your genes allot. Growth mindset is having an understanding that despite genes, all success and skills can be bettered with learning and practice. If you think one of these ways, it’s likely the way your parents brought you up – it can be a subtle language dynamic like, “you’re a natural!” or “practice makes perfect.“
If you’re taking every failure as a sign of your crappy born-in abilities, your thinking is likely getting in the way of your success – meaning you’re simply living out a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yes, this way of thinking is based is your upbringing– but most importantly, it’s a learned mindset – and can therefore be untrained. So whenever you get down about a failure – remind yourself that success is learned: it comes down to growing yourself, in all ways necessary. Your results come from learning from mistakes, and putting the lessons to use – working hard to grow yourself into what is required.
Malcolm Gladwell believes there’s no such thing as genius – only those with an exceptional level of practice of their learning. They also make the most of any and all opportunities. Don’t allow yourself to believe in the failure genes – stop whining and remind yourself that failure is not a sign of ability. It's a sign you need to learn something from your set-back and practice that learning with fervor.
4. Get Success-Minded
Your job is to think how successful, like-minded people think- constantly pushing themselves harder. Empowered to find answers. If you’re not surrounded by inspiring, driven people – you’ve got to do double duty in creating an environment for yourself that supports your goals.
Environmental enrichment is super important - be active in your own support and inspiration. This is a lifestyle so it can't be a quick fix. Need to be active in creating your environment- need to expand and grow your world – you never know where answers and feedback will come from. Go to a lecture, buy a book, reach out to a source of learning that can give you some much needed energy – it’s vital that you keep your clarity for your vision to become a reality.
5. Million-dollar Focus
A lot of your success is knowing what to say no to, and what to shut out. That includes naysayers, dismissive ignorance, worry and self-critical thinking. All of it drains a whole lot of time and energy and most importantly – FOCUS. That is your most valuable currency. Don’t waste it on things that are not aligned with your goals and dreams.
6. Mini-Progress Party!
You are likely to continue things that show you have a chance of succeeding. If you can't see progress, you'll likely give up. To stay consistent, You need a sense of growth – something visible – a reminder. If you’re like me, you have possibly grown used to others telling you when you did well – whether it’s an award, an accolade, a number of “likes” or just a promotion. You’ve got to create a version of that tied to your own success related to this goal - and make the growth something practical, but meaningful. I highly recco you start writing a daily progress log and keep a progress scrapbook. Basically, own all successes no matter how small and celebrate them – value them, invite all of them into your life. When you get down about where you’re not – fill the negativity with reminders of the growth you have witnessed. Journal about things learned, and own all growth in your goal.
7. Fuel the Foundation
If you’re struggling for fuel, try to think back to your base- what did you start with? What was your why? Your original inspiration? I feel it’s helpful to write that down or record it via voice memo to yourself.
Build more on that foundation - so if it's art, your job is to find more inspiration. If it's a social endeavor, reach out to lots of new people. Keep the foundation for your passion, fed. It's that core purpose that will propel you forward and guide you to success. This is really about a love, trust, and commitment to your self and your values. Keep that investment strong. There will be many times in yours life that u are the only one who believes in yourself. That’s why it’s very important to act in accordance with your dreams and passions – in what moves you, motivates you – your purpose.
As you move forward and weigh opportunities make sure they're in alignment with your core values – because when you choose in favor of your highest goals, things get simple. The path gets clear and you get to know yourself better as you go. Don’t get distracted by things that are not serving that purpose.
8. (This is the most important tool for this plateau) Action
If there’s anything that is the key to success, it’s action. So no matter what it is – do something in favor of your goal. Don’t get trapped by thoughts – do anything concrete, and invite inspiration and progress from all directions.
This plateau is a test to show you that you can overcome all the ups and downs and totally flat, uneventful boring parts to come – because that’s what it takes to be a success. But don’t worry, it’s not hard – and you’re already doing it. The hardest part is not listening to fear, and continuing to run even when you’re uncomfortable and no one is cheering you on. Running, and loving it, even when there’s no trophy and you get foxtails stuck in your socks. Because you are the kind of person – who forges this path.
You arrived upon the path for a very good reason. Whatever it is you are attempting to pursue in your life – it has value. And though you are not feeling the success or truth behind the purpose right now – know that plateaus are gifts in disguise: to demand we demonstrate we really, really mean it, and sometimes to show us we need to tie our shoes and run faster. Because once you say, “I want it this bad” it’s as good as yours. So stick to it peeps, smile and whatever you do, don’t give up.
I hope this helps you and if you liked this, please let me know with a heart or a follow! It helps me a lot. And if you have any requests, please write me – I love to get new topics.
Happy new year lovely people!!! Sending you my love,
Sarah May B.