What to Do When You Feel Like Giving Up


Giving Up

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” – Elbert Hubbard

I’ve accomplished many big goals over the past few years.

Live overseas?  Did it.

Graduate with a master’s degree?  I crossed that off recently too.

When I set my mind to a goal, I put in a lot of time and effort to finish it.  Even if goals take a lot of hard work, I know that with patience and perseverance, I can achieve them.

But still, I would be lying if I said I never consider giving up.

That goes for everything I’ve done.  There hasn’t been any big goal that I’ve set out to accomplish that I never felt like walking away from.

Whenever I set out on a big goal, I know that I’ll eventually get that gnawing voice in my head saying things like:

“You’re not good enough to do this.”

“It won’t work out the way you planned.”

These negative thoughts eat at the back of my mind like parasites.  Whether from fear or self-doubt, they pop up to derail my plans.

But I don’t let them.

I know that these thoughts are a normal part of the process.  They’re just another obstacle you have to overcome to get where you want to go.  And if you know how to handle them properly, they’ll never hold you back.

Whenever I feel like giving up, I first ask myself one simple question:

Is this goal something I still want or has something changed?

Perhaps you feel like giving up simply because you no longer want what you’re working towards.

Maybe you feel like giving up because your priorities have changed.  It’s possible to set out on a goal, but change over time.  Perhaps you’re at a stage in life where you no longer find this goal important to accomplish.

If that’s the case, your feelings are there because you no longer value the end goal.  In which case, you shouldn’t feel bad about quitting.  There’s no point in chasing something you don’t truly want.

If You Still Want the Goal

If you still want to keep going, but you’re feeling like giving up, it means that you need to reconnect with what you’re pursuing.

When you’re working hard to reach something, your motivation and inspiration for doing it can get lost among the daily effort.  We start to focus too much on what we need to do and less on why we need to do it.

Here are four ways to get back on track:

1. Revisit your motivation

Remind yourself why you wanted to pursue it.  What was the reason you started out?

Think back to what inspired you.  Was it a book, a person or a story?

Take some time to reconnect with that inspiration.

Reconnect with everything that made you excited about it.  Most of the time, what’s missing is that spark – the electric excitement of what’s possible.

There’s a purpose behind your actions and you just need to re-discover what it was.  If you can remind yourself what made you begin in the first place, you can give yourself a boost to keep going now.

2. Focus less on the end and more on how far you’ve come

Sometimes we focus so much on the end goal, that we forget to realize just how far we’ve actually gone.  If all you see is how far you still need to go, you’ll only discourage yourself and become frustrated.

Instead, take a moment to see where you’ve been.  How much have you done to get to the point you’re at?

Think of all the hard work you’ve done.  Think of all the progress you’ve made and how much you’ve actually done.  You’ve done a lot more than you’re giving yourself credit.

When you take a moment to shift your focus from the end to the beginning, you’ll really start to feel good about what you’ve accomplished rather than bad about what you still have ahead of you.

3. Talk to someone

Feeling like giving up can be an emotional experience.  When you get that feeling, your mind is filled with emotions like fear, doubt, worry and frustration.  It can be a difficult time.

Sometimes you just need an outlet.  Just having someone to share your thoughts with can get some of those thoughts out of your head.

Feelings can carry a weight to them.  When you bottle them up in your head they just weigh you down.  Talking them through with another person can help you release that weight off your mind.

Plus, it’s good to have someone who can put things into perspective.  They’ll remind you why you want this goal and everything you’ve already done to achieve it.

Having someone to cheer you up at the right moment can help you get out of your slump and back on track.

4. Fall in love with your challenges

Big goals take time and effort.  You can’t expect things to fall into place right away.

I’ve learned that big accomplishments rarely work as a straight line from a to b.  It’s a zigzagged course taking you all over the alphabet from a to z.

You’ll face unexpected challenges.  You’ll face difficulties you never anticipated.  It’s never as straightforward as we like and that can be frustrating.

But rather than letting it bring you down, see the positives of the situation rather than the negatives.  The problem can be that you’re seeing your challenges in a negative light.

Don’t see them as negative things you’re forced to overcome.  See them as puzzles to solve.

Think back to a time when you were challenged.  It can be a time at work or school when you were faced with a problem and you overcame it.  Remind yourself how good it felt when you finally solved it.

Your challenges can be solved too.  When you remind yourself of that good feeling you had when you finally solved it, you can give you the motivation to recapture it.
photo credit: Jason Parks

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  1. These are great thoughts to keep in mind when pursuing the goal. I have to remember to do these when I have a goal in mind. For example, when I am trying to lose weight or get healthy, I will use a jar and put a marble in for every pound that I lose. I look at that daily to keep reminding myself why I am doing what I am doing.

    • That’s an interesting method; I haven’t heard of someone doing that before. It would be good to have that visual reminder to keep you going. It seems like being able to see it every day would be good to keep up motivation.

  2. I love the idea of looking at how far you’ve come. I’m going to apply that for sure. It’s a bit like the thing that I used to do (and will start up again now) is keeping the to-do lists for the week and seeing how much has been crossed off.

    Nothing screams achievement than actually seeing what you’ve done.

    • It’s a good feeling when you can look back on everything that you’ve done. Seeing all those items crossed off your to-do list feels great. It makes you realize that all that effort has been accomplishing something.

  3. Really helpful. We all often stumble and need to pick ourselves up and re-energise our efforts to acheive our goals. Sometimes a simple step, a small task, that moves us just a bit closer can be helpful to build confidence and momentum.

    • Those simple steps can be some of the most important. Well, anything that you can do to keep going is important. There’s an old Japanese proverb that goes, “fall down seven times, get up eight.” You just have to keep getting up.

  4. I love that the step before the four steps is to make sure it is still a goal that is desired. To me, that has been a major factor: Many times things have seen much more interesting/relevant to me/a life path I want to go down before I start only to have the bright light of reality make them much less attractive. Before I give myself permission to walk away, I always stop to make sure it isn’t fear that is jading me. Some of my best decisions in life have been those where I have realized that my priorities have changed.

    • Yeah, priorities do change. I’ve gone after some things in the past that I just lost all desire for. I wanted to quit, but, at the same time, didn’t want to feel like a quitter. But quitting is only bad when you’re giving up on something that you truly want. If you don’t want it, don’t waste your energy trying to get it.

  5. Nice post Steve, doubt is really a huuge limiting factor in achieving your goals.
    This reminds me of a cool quote I’ve read recently, can’t really remember where;

    “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will”

    Motivation is IMO the key thing to take away from this. Figure out whether or not this is something you still actually want and just keep going. If we let our lives be build on doubt we’ll never get to where we want to be. Try and fail and you’ll be one step closer to where you want to be.

    My two cents for the day 😉

    Take care man!

    • That’s a great quote and so true, too. Doubt can be a motivation killer as well as a dream killer. It’s quite insidious that way.

  6. I like #2 very much. I’ve just published a monster post reflecting on my achievements since 2012. Every time I do it is amazing.

    I would add another point: form a daily habit to pursue your goal. It significantly decreases the likelihood of emerging the temptation to give up.

  7. I love what you said about asking yourself if the goal is something you still want – that’s probably the thing most people don’t even think about. Re-assessing our goals and plans is a very good idea.

    • You have to take it into consideration. What if you don’t want the goal anymore? If you don’t, there’s no sense if maintaining course.

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  9. Great points here,

    I find when I’m feeling like giving up or calling it quits (When it comes to writing and building my online platform) or start getting a bad attitude about life. It’s time to take a day off so I can rest and relax. Great tips here!!!

    • I sometimes do that too. Just taking a day or two away is a great way to start fresh again. When you’re too much into the activity, you can get too frustrated.

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