There’s something you learn once your child begins to walk. They get into everything! This is so true with my daughter. We’ve had to move books, movies, and other things higher so she doesn’t get into them. What’s (sometimes) funny to watch is how my daughter still looks for ways to get the things we put out of her reach. She is persistent and resourceful. She really doesn’t know when to quit. If you watch any child, you’ll see a similar persistence. They’ll do what they can to get your food, a toy, attention, and are especially persistent when learning to crawl and walk. As I’ve watched my daughter, though, I realized that she really doesn’t give up. It occurred to me that every single one of us is born with an innate determination not to quit. We are born persistent.
If we’re not born to quit then the question is, why do so many of us quit (sometimes quitting often) even when it’s something good for us and that we want to do? Now the particular details vary from person to person, however the short answer is in how we’ve conditioned our minds, particularly how we’ve learned to view ourselves and mistakes.
Mistakes are a part of life. From the time we tried something on our own or tried taking our first steps, mistakes were part of our life. We would fall and make mistakes, but we all seemed to instinctively know that a fall was of no consequence; we would eventually get there and walk. As we get older, though, many of us start interpreting events in a negative way. When we make a mistake we interpret it as meaning we are a failure or no good; we’ll never learn or achieve that goal we’re after. On top of that, we can start worrying about what other people will think if we make a mistake.
These thoughts bring about unpleasant emotions, such as jealousy, fear, insecurity, and worry. These emotions are messages from the body to let us know that those doubtful and negative thoughts are not healthy for us. Unfortunately we can interpret these emotions incorrectly and associate them with an event; “I felt bad because I made a mistake”. If these or similar thoughts are repeated they create stronger and stronger connections and neuro circuitries that lead to beliefs that mistakes are bad, people will make fun of you for trying, it’s easier to quit, or any number of similar beliefs. With these beliefs in place we look for ways to avoid mistakes, which leads to developing a habit of quitting.
As an important note, although it may go without saying, there are times we do need to quit. There is nothing wrong with quitting or leaving abusive environments or relationships, harmful habits, or unethical situations. These are things we can get rid of, looking for help if necessary. These situations are NOT what I’m referring to when I talk about not quitting.
Any goal we have must be based on good principles if we are to have internal peace, happiness, and health. Persistence in negative conduct leads to sickness, pain, and often times suffering for ourselves and those around us. Look no further to history for those who persisted in their negative goal and brought suffering to millions. On the flip side, though, look at men and women such as Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and many others who refused to quit on good goals and brought service, freedom, and change to millions.
Another important thing to remember is that there is a difference between quitting and course correcting. Just because you have a certain goal, doesn’t mean you can’t change it. It’s fine, and even healthy, to review goals regularly to see if they still align with your vision for the future and your values. It’s okay to leave a job, hobby, etc. behind in order to pursue something else. So long as the reason is based on good principles and there is internal peace with the decision. If that’s the case then there is no need to feel bad or worry about what others will think. The key is making sure that it is a value-based decision and not driven by ego, pride, revenge, etc. It’s also good to periodically review goals to make sure that the reason why you are working toward them is based on good principles. If they’re not then it’s time to reevaluate the goal and the reason why you want to achieve it.
Another reason people quit is because of a lack of flexibility. There is never a straight line to success in anything. Striving for anything we currently don’t have always requires us to grow; this means making mistakes, evaluating our strategies, learning, and making the needed changes. One of the wonderful things about accomplishing new things/goals is not so much the achievement itself, but rather the growth that comes during the journey. So when going after something, be patient and be ready to learn and change.
Remember why you are striving for your goal. A goal with a compelling reason helps us when we don’t feel like working on our goal. For example, I exercise regularly, but not just to stay fit. I do it to stay strong and healthy for my family. In moments when I don’t want to exercise, I visualize playing in the park with my daughter when she’s 5 years old or I’ll imagine dancing with her at her wedding. It gives me a boost to exercise. And just as goals need to be based on good principles, so do our reasons behind them. When they are, they provide additional motivation that is both inspiring and healthy.
We are born determined and persistent; we are not born to quit. When we see life as an amazing learning experience it is easier to not quit on our value-based goals. We are able to repair relationships, develop greater character, change bad habits, do much good, and indeed even change the world. It takes time and effort, but you can recondition your mind for persistence. You can accomplish all of your good goals, becoming an even better person in the process. So don’t quit on yourself; you have more potential inside you than you even realize.