Starting, Stopping & (Not) Giving Up
[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
I saw a meme the other day about giving up. You've probably seen it too; a guy is digging through a tunnel and turns around right before reaching whatever he was digging for-diamonds in this case:
It made me think about giving up; when is it right to give up, when is it right to keep going, and how to tell the difference.
I don't personally believe in giving up, especially if you're interested in whatever it is you're pursuing or working toward. But maybe you should give up if you're working toward something you don't care about, like if you're studying something you're not interested in, or if you're pursuing the life you think you should live instead of the life you actually want. That would take the wind out of anyone's sails.
I'm convinced that if you want something badly enough, you'll find a way to get it. The phrase, "if he wanted to, he would" applies in dating and in life. If he or she or me or you wanted something bad enough, he or she or me or you would do almost anything to get it. Or, if you want out of a situation badly enough, you'll find you're way out, too. But we're all human, and we all succumb to things like fear, or a lack of discipline, sometimes.
Fear doesn't go away unless you address it, and discipline can be learned. Anything can be learned for that matter. But instead of telling you a story about someone who has found wild success in not giving up, I'm going to tell you about small ways that I've started, stopped, and not given up on the things I care about.
Four years ago, I started this blog. I didn't know what it would be, but I had the idea brewing for a while. I had a word document saved on my computer that was over 50 pages long, every other page a new blog entry. I thought I might write a book. I thought I might just keep my pages forever. I was afraid to launch a blog because I was afraid of being judged, and I'm sure many people did cast judgement. I built out this website over the course of a few weeks. Slowly added new blogs, but didn't publish. I started and stopped a dozen times before finally hitting "Publish," and I'm glad I did, not only because blogging has become a consistent part of my week, but because this blog has opened doors for me. I started because I was passionate about writing, stopped because I was afraid, and continued anyway because the process of writing is more interesting to me than the fear of being judged.
In August, I started a 100 miler in Big Bear and ran 56 miles before dropping out. The reason I dropped out (a maybe-injury) isn't as interesting or important as the feeling that not finishing brought me. I had started something and not finished, and that didn't feel good. I train (hard) to be able to run ultra marathons, and I knew I needed another crack at it. So after I figured out that my injury wasn't acute, I signed up for another 100 miler, three weeks later. This time, I was determined to finish, but I still faltered. Sixty miles in, I wanted to quit, and nearly did. But I also knew that I couldn't, that the discomfort of falling short again would eat me alive. So I kept going, and I finished. The process of running 100 miles is far more interesting to me than the fleeting pain I felt.
Finally, I moved to California over 5 years ago with my ex fiancé and no job. I submitted nearly 100 resumes and took dozens of interviews. Looking for a job became a full time job. I finally landed a job in marketing for a company obliquely related to the auto industry. My first day at the job, I watched the owner of the company berate my manager to tears. I kept looking for jobs, and eventually landed a job at the Red Cross, where I stayed for the next four years. I loved that job, but I never would have found it if I'd stayed in a bad situation. I never would have found it if I hadn't decided to move across the country. And I never would have even tried if I didn't believe I had more to offer. The process of looking for work was irritating beyond belief, but having a fulfilling job was worth all the hoops I had to jump through to get there.
None of these examples are big and inspiring and they don't have to be. Sometimes, even the smallest things can feel discouraging. Event he simplest tasks or goals can feel impossible. If you give up though, you'll think of yourself as someone who quits. Maybe your goal was too big, and you need to topple a smaller tower first. Maybe your goal wasn't too big, and you just need to start again, and again, and again, for however long it takes.
P.S. Read Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, watch this video about giving up from Jordan Peterson, or read this article about not giving up from Tiny Buddha.