“I give up.”
I don’t know about you, but these three little words make my skin crawl.
In our society, the most common wisdom around the issue of quitting is the well-known Vince Lombardi quote “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
Let’s be honest here – we don’t think much of people who are quitters.
As someone who was raised to never, ever, ever give up, I do sometimes have a difficult time sorting this behavior out- for myself and my clients.
A perfect example is one that came up recently with a client of mine.
He progressed to a certain point in his professional development and then, just as he was about to make a big breakthrough and have a massively successful result….. he stopped. He consciously refused to take the next difficult but rewarding step to accomplish his goal. He would not budge. Fear of upsetting the apple cart with certain people, fear of repercussions stopped him dead in his tracks. (They were completely unfounded fears, by the way)
This got me to thinking…..
What makes some people stick it out and overcome adversity while others quit?
As a coach, I get to see example after example of people excusing themselves, justifying quitting, and sometimes even getting angry when I coach them to move beyond their “terror barrier.”
I decided to do a little sleuthing on the subject.
In a New York Times article entitled “Winners Never Quit. Well, Yes They Do” marketing guru and author of the book “The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)” Seth Godin is quoted as saying, “Americans have been brainwashed by Vince Lombardi… Rather than thinking about winning, they’re playing not to lose,” he said.
I reviewed several articles on the topic of quitting, and each, in their own way, noted that if and when to quit depends…..
This was not getting me anywhere.
What I wanted to know is how to determine when you are giving up vs. when are you giving up on yourself.
I think the answer lies first in creating a distinction:
Quitting vs. Giving Up
Is there a difference?
For the sake of this post, let’s define quitting as stopping something for one or more reasons, carefully considered, logically analyzed. In quitting, you might feel a bit of emotion, yes, but primarily you are making a conscious decision to terminate an action, a project, a job, relationship, activity, a business that no longer feels like it is a fit for where you are in your development.
Giving up, however, is a whole other thing. It is being unwilling to withstand the discomfort it would take to break through the “terror barrier” to new fulfillment or success.
It’s in the ‘giving up’ that I see people losing out the most – in opportunity for growth, self-satisfaction, and feelings of self-confidence – and it’s where I see them most torn.
A number of years ago, a former mentor of mine, Suzanne Evans, discussed there is a kind of cycle around giving up:
- It starts with second guessing yourself
- Fear sets in
- You start blaming others for your feelings of fear/projecting the problem onto others
- There is a feeling of overwhelm and it’s all too much
- More blame
- Leading to finally giving up
- Immediately, there is a brief respite, a feeling of relief.
- This relief is short lived because then you start to feel lousy about giving up, and you second guess that decision…
and on and on it goes. (I have a friend who’s been in the giving up cycle around her living situation for 3 years. Three years!)
The issue of quitting vs. giving up has particularly emotional overtones when it comes to business owners.
Entrepreneurs can be a very determined, hardy bunch, and giving up is not readily in their DNA – so they have a very difficult time determining the distinction between knowing “when to hold em, when to fold ’em” strategy (i.e. quitting the right thing at the right time) – and or just being too fearful to stay the course. (in all transparency, I have experienced this myself more than once).
For these folks, sadly, they will sometimes “give up 5 minutes before the miracle.”
Why Giving Up Feels So Lousy
The real answer to why we feel like crap after giving up is because deep down, we know we have bailed on ourselves!
We didn’t believe enough in ourselves to keep at something until it clicked in.
We couldn’t stand the heat or discomfort so much that giving up seemed the only way out.
I assert there is a better way:
Remember and re-focus on your Big Why, your purpose.
So simple, but not easy you say? Duh!
Check this one last story out……
A number of years ago, I interviewed a man for my book who had developed the first apartment owner/apartment seeker matching site in France (this is before Craig’s List). In those days, such a site couldn’t be whipped up on WordPress in a matter of hours.
It took him 3 long years.
He devoted his whole life and life savings into the development of that site, testing it, marketing it.
He lived in a small studio flat and ate pasta and tuna fish. For 3 years.
Then, it launched, took off and it was bought by a big kahuna media site – for $21 million.
I ask you – how many of you would have stayed in that effort without quitting? How many would have taken the risk, stayed the course, endured the discomfort for so, so long, without any guarantee of success?
But all most people focus on is that he sold it for multi-millions. They don’t see or feel the hardship he was willing to endure to reach this end game.
So where does this leave us on the issue of giving up? Is it still at “it depends”?
Here are my top 5 takeaways to help you stay the course in the face of uncertainty:
- Giving up will feel lousy and will not do a damn thing for your self confidence.
- Know the distinction between quitting and giving up. They are very different and done for completely different reasons.
- When faced with the “crazy thinking” about giving up, remember your Big Why (there was a major reason you embarked on this thing in the first place. And it was a powerful motivator)
- Surround yourself with others who have weathered storms and stayed the course successfully. Do not just find people who love to tell you you have too much on your plate, or you should throw in the towel because the odds are against you (they love saying this so they can justify it when they throw in the towel on things).
- Reward yourself for not giving up. Staying power, weathering storms, being able to have stick-to-it-ness is a rare skill and ability and will always be an asset in your tool belt.
While I’m not all that much in alignment with Seth Godin’s take on this topic, I do agree with his advice in this area:
“…. the worst time to quit is when you’re feeling the most pain.”
One of the quotes that I read as I was researching for this piece really hit home for me, so it’s what I’ll leave you with in closing:
Giving up is always an option, but it is never my choice.
I don’t know if there is something in the water or something but lately I’ve been having lots of conversations with clients, colleagues, and friends about their struggles in making a shift – a change in their career, their business, in their personal lives, with clients, with their staff.
This “fence straddling” is driving them bonkers- they are up at night unable to sleep, tossing and turning with uncertainty about which way to go, which path to choose.
So, what happens?
Maybe you’ve been exactly where these folks are. I know I certainly have.
From Bras To The Business Fox
I spent a good portion of my early career in the women’s underwear industry. I felt I had the best job in the world- I was working in a very creative yet strategic business. I got to develop strong leadership as well as business acumen. I got to travel all over the country and the world to get ideas and trends for future product development.
And then the industry changed. The business shrank to a fraction of it’s former size, department stores were becoming dinosaurs, and my career was feeling like a noose around my neck, with nasty bosses pulling tighter and tighter.
The problem was I didn’t want to just get another job. I knew that the grass wasn’t going to be any greener in another company.
Everyday, I’d escape the misery of my office to go out for a quick sandwich on 34th street in Manhattan.
Everyday, I’d swear I’d go back to the office and hand in my resignation.
Everyday, I’d have tears in my eyes because I knew I didn’t have the grit to go back and do this.
Because I was terrified!
- Although I was married, I knew my then-husband wouldn’t be able or willing to support us both until I figured out what was next.
- I had no skills other than manufacturing underwear – or so I thought.
- I could not see any way to quickly replace my 6-figure salary and benefits package without just getting another J.O.B. (I used to describe this time as being in jail with bars made of $)
I just sat on that fence.
I sat on that fence for 4 years.
Four years of yearning to do something more with my life and enjoy being challenged and productive the way I had in the past.
I was pretty darn stuck- and worrying every night about whether my company would make it, worrying about whether my job was secure, worrying about if it was secure how I was ever going to pull myself out of there and start a new fulfilling path.
And here’s the thing:
No one around me “got” how I felt.
They thought I was crazy or ungrateful.
My industry friends thought I was nuts- I had this cushy job with a nice salary, package, lifestyle, and I could do it with my hands tied behind my back, so to speak.
So how did I finally get unstuck?
Well, the universe stepped in and did for me what I couldn’t do for myself…. I think.
Maybe I willed it into being. Sometimes I think that’s exactly what happened.
My company decided to close my division.
But one thing I am crystal clear about. The second they closed the division, I made a decision and got off the fence.
Ok, so I needed a big push. But I used that push to get me going.
I chose to go off into the unknown of entrepreneur-land and launched The Business Fox.
This choice led me to the most amazing path of personal and professional growth, and the fulfillment of knowing that I can and do make a difference with many many people.
I ask myself so often: Would I have leaped if I hadn’t gotten the push?
I believe the answer is yes.
But it got me thinking……
Why won’t people take the leap that will make them happy?
There are 3 big reasons that people will not make a leap that they believe will give them greater fulfillment and success:
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of choosing the wrong path (a.k.a. fear of failure)
- Fear of being uncomfortable in new territory
My client Rebecca has been sitting on the fence for two years.
After many years working as an independent consultant and doing quite well at it (she tapped a very lucrative niche in medical practices) her top client invited her to go to work for them full time. She was a single mom and her son was about to go off to college. Rebecca thought this was a sign from above to make that leap and take a job where she’d get a dependable paycheck and full benefits, making things a lot “easier” while she was funding her son’s education.
Well, going internal changed everything. Her company viewed her and her contribution differently. They saw her as a questionable cost center vs. a real asset. Her boss often ignored her, and let other leaders in the company tread on her turf. He rarely supported her compared to when she was in her own business.
For the last two years, Rebecca has been back and forth in her mind about whether to stay full time or go back out on her own. One month she’s ready, the next month her company throws her a bone and she’s hooked again.
Let’s look at the cost of this indecision:
- If Rebecca were building business for herself she could make more money. True, it wouldn’t be a guaranteed paycheck and she’d have to fund her own benefits, but her earnings also would be unlimited.
- Her stress level is generally pretty high because she often doesn’t know if her company is going to keep her or let her go.
- Her stress level is high from the way her boss dismisses her and her fellow colleagues don’t truly appreciate her contribution to the company.
- Rebecca is not doing what she truly loves and is great at. She is doing what is asked of her in this job. Her full creativity and expertise are going under-used.
- The cost of the back and forth I’m in /I’m out yo-yo – pretty friggin’ high.
So how do you stop the stuck and make that leap you dream about?
If you’re like most people, you’re wired to avoid pain more than to seek out pleasure.
How do you get out of this fix?
I’m not going to advise you to just feel the FEAR and do it anyway.
You already know that.
Here are 7 practices to build up your mindset muscle to support you in making the important leaps in your life – ones that can bring you the kind of fulfillment and peace of mind you really want:
- Meditate. Clear your mind of the gunk at least 10 minutes a day.
- Trust your intuition. You already KNOW – like it’s a duh- what you want to do and should do. You are just resisting it and justifying it with not having enough facts.
- Get some facts to support your intuition, but don’t get stuck in the weeds of endless data that will drive you deeper into indecision. Look at “worst case scenario.” Can you live with it? If yes, then you know you can give yourself the green light. Just remember, your belief about the worst happening usually doesn’t ever happen.
- SEE the true cost of your indecision: peace of mind, health, money, time, love, freedom.
- What is your big WHY? What is your true purpose? When you focus on your purpose, your mission, what you are most inspired by, you will feel much stronger in your ability to withstand the possible discomfort of change.
- Commit. Whatever you choose, make a commitment to this choice. Commitment doesn’t mean do what’s comfortable or only when it feels comfortable. Commitment is sticking to this choice and seeing it all the way through.
- Cautiously seek counsel. Most people will scare you off of living your dreams. Why? Because they don’t want to feel as though they are alone in being fearful and stuck. Seek out the counsel from those who have leaped, those who want to see you grow, stretch, succeed, and be confident in your decisions.
Think about this…. when you are stuck in your head you are often in a very bad neighborhood. Get out of your head and get onto a bigger and better playing field.
Your very sore fence-sitting butt will thank you.
Now it’s your turn:
What’s the worst fence-sitting mistake you’ve ever made? (and what happened?)
P.S. Mine? In 2008 the value of my little house in New York blew up. Some smart folks around me were selling, but I was too scared to take action. I just sat on the fence (it was one of those railroad tie fences as a matter of fact). I was afraid I wouldn’t find anything comparable. Guess what happened a year later! (Fence-sitting cost: multiple five figure$- ouch!)
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