In this post you’ll find a few strategies on how to not quit on your goals.
We live in a time in which goal setting has become the mantra in virtually all self-help and business advising circles. The idea is in essence that one can always achieve its wildest dreams, but only if one turns that “dream” into something more than just an aspiration. The idea is to turn that brig dream we all have into a concrete goal, since when a dream is a concrete goal we not only get to break it down into smaller and attainable steps, but we also get to reduce/eliminate the biggest problem humanity faces: procrastination.
So when a dream becomes a goal we have a different attitude towards it, and this increases the odds that we’ll get what we want. The big problem here is that most of us take a solution whose sole purpose is to get us closer to our goals, as the kind of solution which will get us to our goal. This is the kind of “one size fits all” approaches to life, where when we first find out the existence of a hammer, we assume that not only all problems can be fixed with that hammer, but also that there are no other tools for which different problems are better suited.
When we turn a dream into a concrete goal we are more likely to achieve it due to the fact that procrastination in the starting phase is less likely to occur, but there are other problems way down the road that cannot be solved by just “goalifying” a dream, and giving up after we’ve started in our journey is the one of them.
How to not quit on your goals?
So, How do we not quit on our goals? Well, this is one of those difficult problems in life for which there is no concrete solution. It’s more an art than a science, though some of the strategies here involve science, but still not the kind of problem we should just give up on, first because finding the answer matters more than anything in the world, and second because it’s certainly possible to succeed in our “not giving up efforts” more often than not, and that’s more than good enough for the things we aspire to achieve in life.
1.Make working on your goal pleasurable (Pavlov’s Dogs)
The first idea to contemplate, and possibly even to add to our “not quiting” strategies comes from the old psychology text book. If you’ve not taken a psychology class the name Pavlov might ring no bell, and even sound intimidating, as anything academic usually does, but it’s not only worth reading about but also quite easy to understand.
Here is a short clip on it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qG2SwE_6uVM , but the essence of it is that the brain works in by association. If we take action A for example, and something good happens, the most intuitive association the mind can make is that doing action A is good, and so it’s motivated to repeat behaviour A more often. It’s the old idea of action followed by reward you’ve probably heard about at some point, and here you’re the one deciding where and when to place the rewards.
The more often a given action is paired with a reward, soon the action is “tagged” as a new source of pleasure, and as you know, we are seekers of pleasure, and avoiders of pain.
So, the idea here is to make sure that after a day’s of hard work to reward ourselves with a meaningful enough reward that will not slow us down on neither our micro nor big picture goals. This means that if your goal is to lose weight, it might or might not be a good idea to reward yourself with a weight gaining meal after a day of a workout.
Another point within the same point is to make sure we look forward to the reward during the hard moments, especially when we feel like giving up, and to make it all even more powerful to also look forward to the big picture goal. This is assuming of course that both the short and long term rewards are powerful enough to make you so emotional that for a second, or a minute, you’re willing to endure the pain or the low self-confidence of the moment, and so second by second, and then minute by minute, the urge to give up on or goals is conquered, since if you have resisted that urge at least once you’ve probably noticed that it works in waves, first feeling unbearable, and after resisting for long enough, making us feel like “we got it”, repeating then that cycle of doubt and confidence until we’re done, and we are thankful we stayed on our track.
Eventually the way to our goal becomes pleasurable, and when the way becomes just as if not more pleasurable than the big picture goal, you gain nothing but the kind of certainty of victory only the ones who deem themselves destined for whatever they deem themselves destined to have.
2.The 1000 reps/tries experiment
The second strategy is one I learned not long ago through trial and error and that is to put the 1000 tries/experiments to play. When we start on our journey to achieve our goals there are two expected time durations for achieving the goal we hold within ourselves. The first is the one we tell to ourselves and others out loud, and the second is the one the inner us in us tells to itself, and sometimes even us, though we tend to try to often ignore that second voice’s opinion.
In this era of “work until you get what you want” wanna be mindseters, saying we’ll quit on our goals earlier than after we accomplish them has become just like sex before marriage not long ago, a form of sin. Try to tell that out lout, and the people around you will either look at you as weak, or try to bring out up with whatever positive thinking message happens to be hot at the moment. So, we are “coerced” into saying we’ll never quit on our goals, until the day we do, and we feel the urge to come up with an well-crafted explanation of why the goal wasn’t what we really wanted, or how someone more powerful who’s out to get us made us fail.
The truth is that deep down we tend to know how many times we’ll quit before we get into something, even if we say out loud we’ll never quit, and you know you got to that number, or at least close to it when you feel the urge to quit.
One quick hack or way around this is to consciously pre-define that quitting number, even if you think you’ll never quit, and the twist here is to make that number ridiculously high, so high that the moment you hit it, and you don’t achieve your goal, there will be no doubt you left your all in the table.
If your goal is to get in shape, one way to apply this is by going to the gym for 500 or 1000 days, if its getting good at math, to practice for the same amount, and so on, and only when you hit that mark you give yourself the right to put your hands down. The beauty of this approach is that more often than not our goals tend to give in for that kind of insanely repetitive acts of effort, and as for the rest that doesn’t, one of two things might be the problem:
- 1)Either the approach your taking is incorrect/ineffective
- 2)Or the level of effort required to achieve it is much much higher, which means that this is the point at which you ponder whether there isn’t something else that matters more, and that would be unachievable if you do decide to try 1000 more times or 2000 more times.
3.Make it painful (The principle of pain aversion)
In the same way we are attracted to that which we deem pleasurable, we are just as repelled if not even more so to that which we deem painful. And it all makes sense, our brains throughout all these centuries of evolution, built generation after generation, a composite of the most basic knowledge of the kinds of things that would make us live or die, and the best way nature found to ensure these knowledge is followed by the letter was to make the things it found to be good to be attractive to us, and the things it found to repel us in pain and all of its most varied forms.
So, as we can take advantage of our tendencies for the pleasurable, we can also take advantage of the painful. The good thing about being born in the time we’ve been born(well.. one of the many good things), is that there is a vast array of knowledge and theories about the things we are averse to, and one of these kinds of pain is the pain/fear of social isolation.
We all need to be around people to some extent, even those of us who deem themselves completely independent people who need no one to be happy. We all need people though in deferent degrees, so much so that losing them in any way, shape or form is often enough to get us to commit suicide. One proof of that is the fact that at our most basic core, all we want is to stay alive, and all we do from eating, mating, and being cordial when we don’t have to can be directly or indirectly thought of as a strategy to fulfil this one goal. Apart from acts of self-sacrifice for a person, or a cause, the ones who take this dark path invariably do so because of the pain they are going through, and the only assumption is that life as it is, is not worth living Social isolation either through bullying or in any of its many forms being one of these things that cause such feats of extreme pain, is not to be ignored.
By taking ownership of our need to be and have people around us, we can take advantage of this weakness/strength in the following way. Instead of falling for depression, or feelings of worthlessness, we can hone this feeling of insecurity we all possess against ourselves by making our goals and dreams as public as possible. There are many reasons why this can be effective and below are a few:
The shame that comes from quitting on a public commitment is often enough to overpower the voices in our heads that keep telling is to bail out when things get though or it just takes too long for us to get what we want. The truth is that this shame, just like pretty much any other negative emotion we have is based on something concrete, and the concrete thing here is the fact that when we quit on our public commitments, people do make us feel bad regardless of whether they believed in us in the starting line, or whether they were rooting for the opposition since day one.
As we discussed in the point above, as open minded as the world as a whole seems to be, in the subjects of dreams, and pretty much anywhere else, there will always be the kind of people who don’t believe you’ll achieve what you set out to achieve. Some of them will tell you openly, even before you start, but others, usually the majority, will hold their lack of belief until the moment you quit. For these people the strategy is only to label them as the enemy, and the more you buy into the idea the better. The reason for this is that as any kind of enemy, our tendency is to do everything in our power to not make them win/make them lose, and in the field dreams, that one thing is just not giving up, so when you do feel like giving up, all you have to do is to remember that just like a countryman in battle helping the enemy, you’re betraying your own side, and the enemy is laughing at it.
4.Put yourself through the difficult more often
There is one thing about regular exercising most regular exercisers don’t talk about, and that is that comfort they build over time to that feeling of almost wanting to quit. The first instinct we have when we get on that journey is to give in, and take a rest, and more often than not we do. As long as we don’t come up with a clever reason for why exercising is not for us, this then becomes the first step towards a life time change, and eventually, we gain pleasure when we notice the urge to quit on anything, and pushing through it becomes a part of who we are.
So, another way to reduce, and probably even eliminating the quitting tendency is to expose yourself to more quitting prone situations, and time after time taking control over your mind, in the same way you would conquer a country in war time, piece by piece, battle by battle.
The thing about the quitting tendency as we discussed is that it’s one of those you can only control over time, by becoming more and more aware of the second voice that lives in you. I like to think of it as two opponents fighting over the real estate of our lives, each with it’s own agenda, and where more often than not these two agendas collide. Paying more attention to the moments where an emotion doesn’t make logical sense, or when our attitude doesn’t match our goals, is definitely one of the most important steps towards the change we all seek but fail to have, and the goals we’ve always dreamed by fail to achieve.
It is all about knowledge and experience 😉
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