The first thing I did as a college student was drop out!
I dropped my first class of college on the first day of school before I even ate lunch.
My “brilliant” admissions counselor had assured me taking Anatomy & Physiology as a freshman with an undeclared major wouldn’t be a big deal, even with a full load of 15 credits.
However, on the first day of school, the professor walked to the microphone in the lecture hall. His first words were, “If you’re taking more than 12 credits hours or are not a nursing or science major (that was me on both fronts), I want to see you after class.” I took copious notes over the next 75 minutes, while being terrified of what awaited me after class.
After waiting in line with all of the other fully-loaded/non-science people, he said, “what’s your story?”
I replied, “Well…”
He interrupted, “What’s your major?”
“Ummm…I don’t have one.”
“How many credit hours are you taking?”
“15”, I mumbled.
In shock, he asked me, “Then why on earth are you taking my class?!”
“That’s a great question.”
“Bring a transfer sheet to my class before noon and I’ll sign it for you to take anything else.”
I gladly complied and quickly dodged a major bullet. I quit my first class before I even attended my second!
The decision to quit that class was one of my best life decisions. When you don’t plan on majoring in science, Biology 100 works just fine!
Quitting often looks as appealing to us as that professor’s offer. Persevering can seem foolish. Deciding whether to quit or persevere in life is not that simple. We’re often tempted to throw in the towel and move on to somewhere something else.
I think we regularly give up too soon. Like the image below, we have no idea how close we are to achieving our dreams when we quit. We come incredibly close to achieving our goals, only to surrender because we believe we’re miles away.
What helps us persevere when our natural instinct is to give up? How do we develop the discipline to embrace a hard path when we look around and see others bailing?
These five habits enable us to flourish even when we want to quit.
1. Reframe. Reframe. Reframe.
Have you ever noticed how different a picture or item looks when it is in a frame? Something common can become extraordinary because of the borders around it. Reframing a situation puts a new perspective on unchanging details.
For example, consider contentment and gratitude. Gratitude does not change your circumstances; gratitude changes your perception of your circumstances. The same goes for contentment. Contentment does not alter the amount of “stuff” you have; contentment takes what you have and turns it into enough.
When we reframe our experiences – especially the frustrating ones, we push forward because we’re activating our mind to filter the destructive attitudes.
2. Don’t go it alone.
At my office, we have a mantra. “We’re better together than we are alone.” We realize that our need for each other. We often flail and waver when we’re isolated and lonely. However, when we’re engaged with others, exchanging updates and encouragement, we can move forward successfully.
In his book, The Art of Work, Jeff Goins wrote, “Every story of success is a story of community.” Goins’ words crystalized an idea I’ve held for a long time – we’re a lot more likely to quit on our own than when we’re on a team. We need other people to help us become the people we’re created to be.
3. Celebrate the goals you’ve achieved.
When my wife and I paid off our first credit card, we celebrated by taking the couple who facilitated our premarital counseling out to dinner. During counseling, we had a very uncomfortable session around the subject of money and I drove home really upset. Less than two years later, though, we turned a corner and were intensely committed to paying off our cards. This first achievement, while not the ultimate win, was a major step! Over garlic bread and marinara sauce, we celebrated how far we’d come together.
You cannot understand progress without a goal. You never know whether you’re winning or losing without some sort of metric to measure. Discovering how far you’ve come fuels you to keep going.
4. Constantly go back to your “why.”
We must never tire of rehearsing our most important values. We need to constantly return to and drill them deeper into our hearts. Writer and entrepeneur, Michael Hyatt, regularly quotes his wife Gail, who believes, “People lose their way when they lose their why.” http://michaelhyatt.com/photos/people-lose-their-way-when-they-lose-their-why-gail-hyatt
When we lose our “why” (a sense of calling, an experience of injustice, a burning passion), we lose heart and give up. Reading a story from an encouraged reader or reviewing my personal mission statement motivates me when I feel discouraged or defeated.
5. Make it fun!
“I’m quitting because I’m just having so much fun.” I’ve yet to hear that statement in a resignation letter. We rarely give up in the middle of enjoyable, successful seasons, but we often resign during disappointment and adversity.
My friend, Ashley, has a life mantra – “fun is a choice.” She is constantly reframing her experience, reminding herself and others their current space is a place where fun (and not just fear) can exist. This reframing may involve creativity and work but fun is possible in some very unexpected places!
Laughing, smiling and connecting can fuel us through times when we want to give up. We cannot ignorine reality, but finding some joy to share can transform a difficult experience.
What do you think? How do you push through disappointment and adversity? What has helped you develop perseverance, in order to keep pressing forward?