Thursday, July 13, 2017 Thursday, July 13, 2017

Why Giving up Is So Tempting and How to Resist It

Sir Thomas Allen, the performer who inspired the Billy Elliot story, is an opera singer who is famous for his outstanding vocal and acting prowess on the operatic stage. He was born in a working-class mining town in north-east England, where most people grew up to become a miner or involve in heavy industry at that time. Growing up in a community where a career in the arts was not looked upon, he had to deal with peer pressure and criticisms from neighbors. He could have just given up and led the same career like others did, but he worked even harder to become a great opera singer.[1]

All successful people have to overcome numerous disappointments and failures in life – yet it’s usually only their successes that are celebrated and remembered by the public. Seeing only the positive sides of successful people is an illusion.  It causes expectations of success in an unrealistically short time, and creates a negative bias towards our own results in life.

How the Seed of Instant Results Was Planted

The desire for instant results began when we were just babies. By simply crying loud enough, babies could get attention, food – or someone to play with. As babies got older, the expectation of having their needs instantly fulfilled never really went away. In truth, even adults seek instant rewards, but the methods have just changed from crying to be fed to heading to the nearest fast food outlet.

It’s the same with information. Years ago, to properly research a subject, you would have spent hours or days perusing the reference section at your local library. Nowadays, due to the power of the internet, you expect online search results to instantly display on your device.

Sure, fast food outlets and the internet have some positive benefits. But if you’re not careful, they can also lead you into a mental trap — always wanting to see results appear as rapidly as possible.

Sadly, not everything can be as instant as eating fast food. Some things in life take time.

For example, instead of persevering with a challenging job, you might decide to quit it, and take something easier to handle. You may tell yourself that the new job will offer some decent opportunities for growth, but in reality, you’ve most likely just taken the easy way out.

As you’ll see next, expecting instant results is likely to cause you to skid off the road that leads to big success.

The Temptation of Giving Up

Now, don’t get me wrong. I realize that it’s tough to spend all your time and effort on something, and not to see any immediate results. It can be disheartening. And when this occurs, it’s easy to just switch to doing other things (especially with so many options being available in today’s world).

But in fact, the idea that things will get easier and better because of switching to other things is a fantasy. Sure, the instant pleasure of giving up for another option might feel good at first, but unless it’s moving you forward to a bigger goal, then it may actually be hindering you. By taking a short-term benefit, most people end up sacrificing their long-term goals and happiness.

Bottlenecks and problems are everywhere. Even if you switch from one goal to another, you’ll still be constantly faced with challenges and difficulties. They never go away. So it’s better to stick to your guns – rather than throwing them away every time you hit a bad patch.

Right after I founded Lifehack, things were not so smooth. I did my very best to ensure a stable web server and a reader-friendly website layout. I also spent a lot of effort on high quality productivity articles. But I didn’t see a lot of rewarding results. There were only a few readers and some even left comments criticising my work. I was frustrated, and there were people telling my to quit, offering me job opportunities as a senior engineer or a manager. There were so many options available to me, and giving up seemed so easy. But if I gave up right there based on the results at that time, Lifehack wouldn’t be what it is today.

How to Resist the Temptation

It’s not easy to resist the desire for instant results making us want to give up, but here’s what I’ve been doing to stay motivated – and it always works.

1. Widen your perspective and draw out the big picture in your head

Realize that we only see a big fluctuation at the moment issues arise – but we’re probably missing the big picture.  Journeys to major successes are likely to be long and time-consuming.  If we reach a disappointment during the journey, it’s most likely to only be a small dip on an upward-trending pathway.

Accept that you’ll constantly be presented with examples of people around you getting awards, receiving applause, looking successful, etc. This is really tough, but try to celebrate their success, rather than letting it remind you of your failures.

You’ll know that you’re making headway once you’ve learned to experience every day as just part of a longer journey.

2. Put the incremental progress before your eyes

You may not have been taught this at school, but lasting progress is typically only made through incremental steps.  American author Robert Collier described this principle well: “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”

To keep yourself on track for long-term success, adopt this formula: Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = Radical Difference [2]

  • Small, Smart Choices. Take big tasks and break them into smaller components. This is a great technique to use when you feel that you’re not making any progress. Take painting a room, for example. Just the thought of doing it might be enough to prevent you from starting. However, if you make an effort to paint one of the walls, you’ll likely find the motivation and desire to finish painting the whole room.
  • Consistency. Make everyday’s small choices count. For example, are you using your mornings to be productive? Many successful people work on their health and fitness before breakfast. Whether they choose to run around a local park, or exercise at a gym, they have made a habit of putting their physical strength and stamina to the top of their daily to-do list.
  • Time. Progress takes time. The small and smart choices you make every day will be accumulated into something great in a month, and a year. For example, if you run for 4km every day, it’ll become 120km every month, and 1460km every year — that’s a lot of running in a year.

If you only focus on the outcome you want, you may have difficulty visualizing the progress you’ve made so far. To overcome this, always keep a record of what you’ve done and celebrate small wins.

Take running as an example again.  Say you can only run for 2km in your first week.  By the end of it, you can barely catch your breath, and 4k seems like 40km.  But Time and Consistency accumulates results.  After a week, your steps become lighter and your breath comes easier and there you go, you can run for 3km after the second week.  That extra 1km is a small win that you should celebrate.

By doing this, you give yourself feedback and recognition that can help you to stay driven and on track. As already mentioned, difficulties will appear on your journey towards success. However, by recognizing your small wins, this will keep you from falling into the ‘no results now’ trap.

Resisting Giving up Is a Continuous Battle

The temptation is strong most of the time, but remember that giving up never makes things easier. It may look like it’s easier to switch to something else at that moment, but in fact it only makes the future path even more difficult.  All successful people have gone through a lot of tough times to become what they are today.  If you want to become successful, put my advice into action and you will be resistant to giving up.

Reference

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