It happens to the best of us.
There comes a point in your life when you feel like giving up. You wake up feeling less than enthusiastic about your life and work.
I remember feeling like that several times during my journey as a coach. Giving up felt so much easier.
Can you relate to this?
You start out so passionate, believing in yourself, backing yourself fully but somewhere in between, you lose hope, strength and all that good stuff.
You feel like you’re putting in the hard work but nothing comes of it. It is like banging your head against the wall – no matter what you do, that creepy feeling of powerlessness is always there, lingering in the background.
But why does that happen?
First, the good news. There is nothing wrong with you and feeling like giving up is pretty normal. In fact, I’d be worried if you never felt like that, ever.
The not-so-good news is that as humans, we all have our flaws. Sometimes, we don’t want to get back up once fallen. This is called “learned helplessness”.
In 1967, Martin Seligman conducted a series of experiments with a group of dogs. He put dogs in a cage and shocked an area of the floor. This led to dogs jumping away from the shocked area and moving to the other side.
Then he strapped a few dogs so they couldn’t move. He repeated the experiment, only this time the dogs realised that could do nothing but passively bear the shock until it stopped.
Later on, he unstrapped them – but the dogs still behaved as if they were tied. In short, they had learned helplessness. It wasn’t until the researcher and his team physically picked up the dogs from the electrified floor (took at least two attempts) that they “unlearned” helplessness and responded by jumping over the barrier to move away from the electrified grid.
Life will always throw curveballs at you and that can “teach” you to be ineffective. Of course, it takes your permission for that to happen, but once you learn helplessness, you feel like giving up on things that matter the most to you.
So how do you stay on course even though you have no solid footing?
Here are six self-reminders that will help if you stray from your path.
In a world of technology and credit cards, everything is super-fast and right at our fingertips. Unfortunately, it has also conditioned humans to expect things to happen right now. Delayed gratification is a thing of past, but it stills holds immense value, should you choose to practise it.
Little sacrifices every day go a long way. For starters, they teach us to appreciate what we have because success comes after a lot of hard work. It takes a fine level of maturity to respect that. On the contrary, people who are attuned to instant gratification associate huge rewards with little effort.
Think of someone who likes to gamble – they might win a huge sum one day but lose it as easily by gambling again. Now think of someone who has been saving $100 every day – little daily sacrifice – in a few years’ time they will have saved up enough to buy a car, for example. And they are very careful where they spend that money because they associate it with effort.
When you feel like giving up, take a step back and ask: Am I being impatient to see results? Then commit to just one next best action step that moves you toward your goal, no matter how small the step.
Ideally, you don’t want to have it all instantly – you want to delay it. There’s a certain beauty in that – home-cooked healthy meal takes time but tastes so much better when you have a sit-down to eat it with your family, and keeps you miles away form that heart attack.
Don’t you agree?
The moment you realise you’ve made a mistake, you judge yourself.
Ironically, I find that not making mistakes is the biggest mistake. Think about it – without mistakes, how would you grow and evolve? Learn new and valuable lessons?
You’d rather be making mistakes than playing safe and doing things you hate doing.
…because you will never be able to predict what happens next. You will never be sure whether or not it’s going to work. But you can always plan and take a chance.
A lot of times you’ll just have to go for it. In the larger scheme of things, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Either you will win or you will learn a valuable life lesson, which is more feedback for your future goals.
No matter how bad a situation is right now, know that it will change. Life changes at every moment, and so do you.
The more you resist change, the harder it becomes. Every single moment, high and low you experience has led you to this very moment.
I remember back in 2012 when I was contemplating whether or not I should take up coaching – I spent 6 months “trying” to make that decision in the name of research.
Did it yield anything? Perhaps – but nothing concrete came out of it until I said YES to my passion. That was the day when I stopped resisting change and built up courage to live a life on my terms.
How about you?
I have a simple philosophy in life: It’s to “say yes and work out how later”. Risky business you say? Perhaps, but I’ve found that it pays off every single time.
You’re either learning and growing or ripe and rotting. Every single decision you made in the past has led you to this very moment. Be thankful, learn from it and move on.
You can’t change your past – so quit spending hours in a dark room, thinking about a situation over and over. After a point, the analysis and justification won’t help.
Because here’s the thing: There are no wrong decisions. You are doing the best you can with the resources available to you – always. So rock on!
Here’s an exercise for you: On a piece of paper, draw a circle. Outside this circle you have several dots named as “P”. This circle is your Comfort Zone.
Now imagine yourself sitting nice and tight in the middle of this circle. Draw a smiley face representing you.
From your vantage point, those P’s looks like Problems because they lie outside your comfort zone. You think you feel secure, but in reality, it is a product of secondary gain of an unresourceful behaviour pattern you’ve been running for a while.
As you gradually move toward the edge of your comfort zone, the P’s become Possibilities. Opportunities.
See the difference?
That’s all it takes – a small action step; a forward movement, no matter how tiny, toward the edge of your Comfort Zone.
Once you become comfortable with being uncomfortable, you find more opportunities line up your door. Eventually, the boundary between you and Possibilities blur.
You don’t even think out of the box, because there is no box (or circle) anymore. You’re forever stretching your boundaries, doesn’t matter by how much.
The next time you feel like giving up, pause and really ask: Have I done everything I can do to turnaround the situation? What else can I do to expand my comfort zone just that little bit more?
Another great strategy is to connect it back to your big WHY. Ask: Why do I want it in the first place? Your why connects you back to how to achieve your goals as well as how face the challenges and stay motivated.
Which of the above reminders could you connect with the most? What resonated with you? Perhaps you have one of your own reminders to add to the list. Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!