If you want to reach your full potential, one of the most important lessons of life is learning how to not give up. We all have been there. We have all reached a point when we felt like there was nothing more we could do, when we felt like the only thing to do was give up and throw in the towel. Are you struggling with your workout regime at the gym? Thinking about giving up because you are not seeing any results yet? Or are you struggling with that project you started? Can’t seem to find a breakthrough? Do you feel like you are running up a never-ending hill? Or are you struggling to see the light at the end of that tunnel?
Know that you are not alone. Some of the greatest minds in our time felt the same way, but the difference between them and regular people is that they did not give up. They made a conscious decision to not associate the words “Give” and “Up” in their minds. Being part of the human race means that you are one of the most resilient species on earth. That alone means you have the potential to keep trying. Besides, if some of these great minds succeeded 100 or 200 years ago, why can’t you and I do more today? Access to information is much easier today and we are more connected than they were. Whenever you feel like giving up, come back to these important lessons of life that will surely help you to keep trying:
1. Remember a concept known as “learned helplessness”
Learned helplessness is often a result of severe punishment (e.g., repeated failure). Imagine failing at almost everything that you do (failing over and over again, to the point that it starts feeling like punishment). At some point, you might start thinking that you are not very intelligent, the world/God hates you, or what’s the point of trying. Invariably, depression will set in, and then you give up – you have learned to be helpless.
In the moment, it might seem bleak, but you can defeat learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is simply a way of thinking and you can counter-condition the way you think. Remember – thinking that you are not very smart, that you have no control over life outcomes, that you do not have choices in life, that things will never get better, will always be self-fulfilling prophecies.
2. Don’t be so hard on yourself
Whenever we have a brilliant idea for our next big project or we feel like developing a new positive habit, it is often easy for us to be very hard on ourselves. We often do that by setting impossible time frames to reach our goals. What happens next is that we try to do so much at the start, we eventually burn out and give up because we feel it is an impossible job.
It is not! You just need to be more patient with yourself. Let’s assume that you decide to lose weight. You need to build a realistic plan which you can follow. It starts by making sure that you are going to the gym in the first place, rather than going for the toughest workouts the first day which will make you quit immediately. Be more patient with yourself, take it one step at a time. You also need to consciously appreciate the “little” successes because that will encourage you to keep going until you achieve the big ones.
3. “Failure” is part of the success journey
If everyone had abandoned their projects after a couple of failures, then we would have been short of a good number of inventions. Remember this the next time you use an aircraft to travel from one place to another. It took the Wright brothers many iterations of gliders and years of trying new ways to come up with a flying machine. “If birds can glide for long periods of time, then… why can’t I?” – Orville Wright.
The next time you find yourself in a dark room and want to switch your light bulb on, think about Thomas Edison who is considered by many to be America’s greatest inventor. It took him 10,000 trials to come up with the light bulb. Yes, you read it right! 10,000. He famously said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This is the kind of mindset you need to develop to reach your full potential. Start seeing failure as an opportunity to improve and to get better. This will push you to constantly seek more knowledge and help you to improve your projects. Remember that failure truly becomes a failure when you choose to give up.
4. Success feels great
Do you remember when you had those sleepless nights because you were studying for an exam? How difficult it was to abandon those unhealthy meals in order to lose weight? Or all the time and energy you put into internships without any salary so as to have the required experience to land your dream job? How did you feel when you got what you had been working so hard for? Good, right?
Success feels really good, and the harder your journey the better it feels when you reach your destination. Whenever you feel like giving up, think about the potential joy you might miss.
Keep writing the next chapter of your personal story – this is one of the most important lessons of life. Don’t give up! After reaching your goals, your book (life) might be an inspiration to millions of people. We are looking forward to reading your book.
D. C. Lawrence, Ph. D., MSc., BA., BA.
An I/O/E psychologist, Dr. D.C. Lawrence has taught IT, Business, and Social Sciences curricula for over eighteen years. His teaching expertise is augmented by HR and OB MOD consulting. Besides teaching, D. C. enjoys jazz, sports, traveling, and of all things “cooking”.