By Randy Pierce
The enthusiasm for January’s resolutions may have waned and many people find themselves particularly poised for a preponderance of stepping back on all those commitments. Quitting doesn’t call to just our New Year’s Resolutions — it’s something we can face commonly throughout the year and our many undertakings. I don’t even want to count the number of times some of my training runs find me wanting to quit or the frequency with which my schedule feels overwhelming. I suspect most people feel this way frequently. What surprises me is how many times after a presentation someone asks a question which suggests the perspective I don’t feel this way or that I don’t succumb to it. In reality, I stepped off the course at mile 17 in my very last marathon.
I do, however, try to adhere to a few approaches which make it easier to avoid quitting and I’ll share a top five tips with you here for consideration.
- Proactive solutions are always the best. As such, when I am adding a new goal or commitment to my life, I frame it as an individual addition with an intentional trial period. The temptation to add multiple things at once can lead me to feel overwhelmed and the resulting drop of all those things together. By adding things individually they can be managed individually, so we are less likely to quit everything and more likely to remove the actual thing that is too much. In fact, we are more likely to detect when we are approaching too much and ease off before we get there.
- When I add something, I have a reason for adding it. I actually make a record of the reason I have chosen to add it to my schedule. This speaks to the purpose behind my choice. When I am evaluating removing something, I similarly write my reasons for wanting to remove it and then find my original reasons. I compare those and that helps me determine if I’m “quitting” or making a better life evaluation. If the original reason is still more powerful for doing something, it often renews my motivation to continue.
- When I know I don’t want to quit but I’m feeling like quitting or even hearing the voice of my mind trying to tease me into quitting, I mindfully give myself a new and different thought to hold my focus. In the case of running, for example, when I’m tired and I think how good it will feel to stop, I deliberately think about how good it felt to finish previous races, I imagine what the finish of this race will feel like, and I use that distraction of a positive nature to push back the negativity of quitting.
- Procrastinate procrastination! By trying to establish a habit of doing the difficult thing right away, I don’t leave myself too much time to consider quitting. I’m busy doing before I can get to thinking about not doing it.
- Often I feel we sneak into quitting by having put doing something off multiple times until we’ve established a habit of just not doing it and we have quit almost without intention. My use of a schedule is part of how I evade this trap. I put what needs to be done onto a schedule and while there may be a reason I need to move it or choose not to do it, I refuse to allow myself to not do it until I’ve rescheduled it within my time constraints first. For example, if I have a training run at 8 am and a friend wants to meet me for breakfast, then I either move my run to a time before then, or later that same day when I know I’m free and able to run. I do this before I allow myself to say yes to that friend.
Obviously there are many more practices which any of us can use as strategies to keep us earnest and honest on the things which are important to us. Finding the ones which are effective and sustaining them long enough to make them habit (21 days is often suggested) leads to a more effective method of quitting quitting. Ultimately, nothing will stop us from doing the things we truly want to do — but life sometimes is made better for us by doing things which are important to us and yet we fall victim to less ideal habits which we actually do hope to quit.