Most people give up long before reaching their goals. Since winning isn’t achieved by giving up, we’ll review 10 ways to keep going when you feel like giving up.
The human brain is treacherous. Your brain will constantly try to trick you into giving up, especially when you are trying to accomplish a lofty goal such as building a business, learning a foreign language, losing weight, building muscle, pursuing a degree, developing your social skills, quitting smoking/drinking and so on.
Your brain is biologically hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain, making you want to stay safely inside your comfort zone. However, greatness isn’t found in your comfort zone. If you want to accomplish your goals, you must fight against your own brain’s resistance and keep going.
Lofty goals take time, effort, and persistence to accomplish. The following 10 strategies will help you to keep going when the going gets tough.
1. Logarithmic Or Exponential? Find Out What Type Of Growth Curve Your Goal Is Expected To Follow
The #1 reason why people want to give up on their goals is that things aren’t progressing the way they hoped. We usually expect a linear progression but almost no goal in life follows a linear trajectory of progress.
In most cases, your progress will follow either a logarithmic or an exponential growth curve1.
Goals That Follow A Logarithmic Growth Curve
Examples of goals that are expected to follow a logarithmic growth curve are
- Strength training
- Weight loss
- Learning a new language
- Developing a skill (such as playing a musical instrument)
If you’ve chosen a goal that’s expected to follow a logarithmic growth curve, it’s normal for the improvements to slow down after the initial weeks (or months) of fast growth. Fast initial gains mislead most people into expecting the gains to come by at their initial speed after they exhausted the newbie gains. When that doesn’t happen they often get frustrated and give up, only to quickly lose their initial gains and go back to square one.
You can avoid this fate if you are aware that your goal is supposed to follow a logarithmic growth curve. You already know that it’s normal for your gains to slow down after a certain point and you don’t panic when it eventually happens. You just keep going since there’s nothing wrong.
If your newbie gains didn’t come by even though your goal is supposed to follow a logarithmic growth curve, don’t fret. There’s absolutely no reason to get disheartened and give up prematurely. You are probably doing something wrong which should be easy to fix with the help of a little research. Fix your problem and resume pursuing your goal.
Goals That Follow An Exponential Growth Curve
Examples of goals that are expected to follow an exponential growth curve are
- Building a business
- Growing website traffic
- Investments and wealth
- Building a personal brand
- Growing your social media followers
If you’ve chosen a goal that’s expected to follow an exponential growth curve, it’s normal to see little to no results in the first weeks, months, or even years. Working hard on your goal without seeing any results or receiving any feedback can be disheartening. When you know your goal is supposed to follow an exponential growth curve you might find it easier to endure the initial lack of results. Of course, there are no guarantees that you will reach the exponential portion of the growth curve but you are guaranteed to not reach it in case you throw in the towel and give up.
2. Be Prepared For Detours
No matter what your goal is, plans always deviate from your original plan. The road to success not only rarely follows a linear trajectory as we’ve seen in the previous section, but it’s also filled with detours.
When we start working on a goal, we have a vision of the end result in our minds and we usually have a plan to get there. You will naturally be reluctant to change your original plan because a change in the plan means a delayed arrival. However, real life is complex. Unless you are extremely lucky, things will rarely go according to your original plan. Adjust, pivot and resume. Arriving at your destination a little later is better than not arriving at all. A detour in your original plans is expected so it doesn’t warrant giving up.
3. Losing Your Motivation Is NOT A Valid Reason To Give Up
Losing motivation is one of the most common reasons why most people give up long before reaching their goals. This is also the reason why most New Year resolutions fail.
Motivation is useless for accomplishing a lofty goal because success is the result of repetition and, sooner or later, repetition is bound to get boring. It’s not the most motivated people who end up succeeding. It’s the ones who have the strength to endure boredom.
If you lose your motivation before you accomplish your goal, don’t panic. Motivation almost always wears out. This is where you differentiate yourself from the average person. Embrace the boredom and just keep going.
4. Pick One Goal At A Time
It’s understandable if you have a burning desire to pursue multiple lofty goals at once because a sense of urgency isn’t a bad thing in and out of itself as life is short. Also, there are always opportunity costs involved. Every time you are working on a goal, you miss the opportunity to work on your other goals.
Nevertheless, pursuing multiple goals at once has the potential downside of accomplishing neither of your goals.
Picking up one goal at a time skyrockets your chances of accomplishing it because when you are working on only one thing, your mind will constantly suggest improvements of value, which doesn’t happen when you are pursuing multiple goals. Working on too many goals at once will cause your attention to be divided. You will miss out on valuable suggestions that your mind would otherwise provide if you had a single goal.
Unless you pick goals that support one another, it’s better to focus on a single goal. Pick your top priority goal and go with it.
5. Plan For The Worst
Fear is one of the most common reasons why people give up on their goals. What if you can’t pay your bills anymore? What if your business never pops? What if you never accomplish your goal, waste precious time, and go back to square one? It’s normal to feel fear, especially when you are chasing long-term goals such as building a business.
The crucial thing to know about fear is that it’s often an overreaction. The human body is predisposed to overcompensate. Your brain is evolved to make sure you are always on the safe side. It’s a survival strategy that helped our species to make it to the 21st century but more often than not your fear is unwarranted. It’s a feeling, after all, and feelings are often poor indicators of reality.
Analyzing your situation rationally is a better strategy than relying on your feelings. Instead of letting your fear consume and paralyze you, write down your worst-case scenario. What is the worst that can happen if you fail to achieve your goal? More often than not, you’ll find your fears to be unwarranted. If you make sure that you can handle the worst-case scenario, you can keep going with peace of mind.
If you find out that the worst-case scenario isn’t acceptable, it’s still not a valid reason to give up. Simply quit the endeavor in question and start another one where you are sure you can live with the worst-case scenario. Quitting is fine but giving up is not.
6. Don’t Underestimate Your Abilities
Another irrational human behavior is that we overestimate our abilities in the short run and underestimate them in the long run.
It hurts you in two ways:
- Overestimating your abilities in the short run leaves you vulnerable to quit prematurely for the reason that you’ll be disheartened by the inevitable mistakes and failures at the initial stages of your endeavor.
- Underestimating your abilities in the long run, again, leaves you vulnerable to quit prematurely for the reason that your early incompetence will lower your confidence and cause you to believe that you will never be good enough at what you are doing.
We look at massively successful people and think “there’s no way I will ever be as great as them”. We forget that they all started as nobodies, they all sucked in the beginning, and they all fucked up countless times until they got it right. What makes them great is that they endured the pain of early failures and just kept going.
Accept and understand that you’ll suck in the beginning and just keep going. You’ll exceed your own expectations if you stick to your goal until your skills take hold.
The imagined or real opinions of others cause many of us to give up on our goals long before we achieve them. The fear of embarrassment or the fear of failure clouds our judgment and we quit prematurely.
The opinions of others hurt us in two ways:
a. Imagined Opinions
The early stages of every endeavor are filled with failures and mistakes. We imagine that if we make mistakes we will embarrass ourselves and everyone will laugh at us. This causes us to walk on eggshells to avoid making mistakes and throw in the towel long before we succeed. Mistakes and failures are prerequisites to success. Avoid failure and you’ll avoid success.
Dealing with imagined opinions is easy. There was a time when you didn’t care about making mistakes and embarrassing yourself. It was when you were a kid. Every kid learns how to speak and how to walk before they become self-conscious. They aren’t afraid to butcher words when they are learning to speak or fall flat on their asses when they are learning to walk. Adults often laugh at them but kids give zero fucks. They fearlessly make mistakes until they get it right.
When we reach adulthood we become self-conscious. We are afraid to make mistakes, especially in front of others. Unfortunately, there’s no mastering a skill without making mistakes. Most of the time, other people don’t even notice whether you are making mistakes or not, nor do they care. Humans are selfish. They don’t care about you and it’s a good thing. Feel free to make mistakes without caring what they think. Most of the time their opinions only exist in your imagination anyway.
b. Malicious Talk Dressed As Real Opinions
When you are doing something that has the potential to elevate you above others, people will try to talk you out of it. They will say things like “90% of new businesses fail”, “you’ll injure yourself”, “you’ll go crazy” blah blah blah.
Dealing with malicious talk dressed as real opinions isn’t too hard either. Understanding human nature goes a long way in accomplishing your goals. Humans are selfish. Believe it or not, most of them (if not all of them) hate to see you succeed. They are secretly (and often unconsciously) afraid that your success will remind them of their failures. Misery loves company. Humans prefer to see their kind failing rather than endure the pain of seeing them succeed, especially when they live in misery themselves.
When they try to talk you out of your goal, it’s a manifestation of the crabs in the bucket mentality. They want you to fail. Since you are guaranteed to fail in case you give up, they will do anything to talk you out of it. Avoid naysayers, nod, and resume going after your goals without a care what others think.
8. Learn From Accomplished People In Your Field
Learning from the experiences of accomplished people in your field is a great way to learn how to overcome your sticking points. Unless your goal is something that no human being has ever accomplished up to now, there are plenty of people who have already succeeded in your field of interest. There’s a good chance that your current sticking points which make you want to give up now were encountered and resolved by them. It’s also highly likely that some of them wrote books about it.
Read books in your field and learn from them. You’ll often encounter solutions to your current problems. You might even shave off a considerable amount of time by quickly solving a common problem that took them years to come up with a solution. Take advantage of the accumulated knowledge. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel.
If you know accomplished people in your field to be within your reach, overcome your fear of rejection, call them, visit them, or even email them and ask for help. You’ll be surprised how many of them will be eager to help you.
9. If You Are Overwhelmed Or Exhausted, Consider Taking A Break
We often have a sense of urgency to achieve our goals as soon as possible so we are unwilling to take breaks. However, if you are overwhelmed or exhausted, you risk burning out. Taking a break will allow your brain to recharge and help your body to replenish its energy stores so that you avoid giving up. Reenergized, you can keep going after the break. We all need to take a break sometimes and most importantly, taking a break is infinitely better than giving up.
Unless your goals are fitness-related, regular exercise will help you to accomplish your goals by keeping you mentally and physically in shape. Also, regular exercise is known to relieve stress and help you to sleep better.
My preferred type of exercise is bodyweight training but if you prefer light exercise I would recommend walking, preferably in the open air. Walking is not only relaxing but also people who walk regularly are healthier and thinner.
Be sure to read:
- How to Be a Superior Man, Chapter 3: Gain Direction (The Difference Between Wants And Goals)
- How To Stop Caring What Others Think Of You
- Dopamine Fasting 3.0: How to Get Motivated to Succeed in Real Life
- Internal or External Locus of Control: Which Do You Have?
- 24 Ways to Get Rid of the Victim Mentality and Adopt a Victor Mentality
- I learned this from James Clear who says he learned it from Scott Young. Here are the links to their full articles on the subject: Two Types of Growth by Scott Young, The 2 Types of Growth: Which One of These Growth Curves Are You Following? by James Clear.
- Journal of Small Business Management 43 (2005): 78–92; S. McDowell-Larsen, L. Kearney, and D. Campbell, “Fitness and Leadership: Is There a Relationship? Regular Exercise Correlates with Higher Leadership Ratings in Senior-Level Executives,” Journal of Managerial Psychology 17 (2002): 316–24.
- G. Goldsby, D. F. Kuratko, and J. W. Bishop, “Entrepreneurship and Fitness: An Examination of Rigorous Exercise and Goal Attainment Among Small Business Owners,”