The first thing I did as a college student was drop out.
I dropped my first class of college on the first day of school before I even ate lunch.
My “brilliant” admissions counselor had assured me taking Anatomy & Physiology as a freshman with an undeclared major wouldn’t be a big deal, even with a full load of 15 credits.
However, on the first day of school, the professor walked to the microphone and said, “If you’re taking more than 12 credits hours or are not a nursing or science major (that was me on both fronts), I want to see you after class.” I took copious notes over the next 75 minutes, while being terrified of what awaited me after class.
After waiting in line with all of the other fully-loaded/non-science people, he said, “what’s your story?”
I replied, “Well…”
He interrupted, “What’s your major?”
“Ummm…I don’t have one.”
“How many credit hours are you taking?”
“15”, I mumbled.
In shock, he asked me, “Then why on earth are you taking my class?!”
“That’s a great question.”
“Bring a transfer sheet to my class before noon and I’ll sign it for you to take anything else.”
I gladly complied and quickly dodged a major bullet. I quit my first class before I even attended my second!
The decision to quit that class was one of my best life decisions. When you don’t plan on majoring in science, Biology 100 (or Bonehead Biology as I called it) works just fine!
Quitting often looks as appealing to us as that professor’s offer. Persevering can seem foolish. My options were fairly black and white that Thursday morning and my professor made it clear what he hoped I would do.
Deciding whether to quit or persevere in life is often not that simple. We’re often tempted to throw in the towel and move on to someone, somewhere, or something else. Discerning whether to “drop the class” rarely looks as cut and dried as my experience with Anatomy & Physiology.
But, I think we regularly give up too soon. Like the image below, we have no idea how close we are to achieving our dreams when we quit. We come so close to our goals, only to turn around because we believe we’re hundreds of miles away.
So, what helps us persevere when our natural instinct is to give up? How do we develop the discipline to embrace a hard path when we look around and see others trying to bail on those routes?
As I’ve been reflecting on what enables us to persevere when all we want to do is give up, five habits rose to the top for me.
Reframe. Reframe. Reframe.
Have you ever noticed how different a picture or item looks when it is in a frame? Something common looks more special because of the borders around it. Something average can become extraordinary. Reframing a situation puts a new perspective on unchanging details. For example, consider contentment and gratitude – both include reframing. In my ebook, I write,
[Tweet “”Gratitude does not change your circumstances; gratitude changes your perception of your circumstances.””]
The same goes for contentment. Contentment does not alter the amount of “stuff” you have; in the words of my pastor, contentment “is a change in how I think.” When we reframe our experiences – especially the frustrating ones, we make it easier to push forward because we’re activating our mind to filter the unhelpful and destructive mindsets.
Don’t go it alone.
At my church we have a mantra. “We’re better together than we are alone.” We realize that our need for each other. We often flail and waver when we’re isolated and lonely. However, when we’re present with others, exchanging updates and encouragement, we can move forward successfully.
[Tweet “Author Jeff Goins recently wrote, “Every story of success is a story of community.””]
Goins’ words crystalized an idea I’ve held for a long time – we cannot become human on our own. We’re a lot more likely to quit on our own than when we’re on a team. We need other people to help us become the people we’re created to be.
Celebrate the goals you’ve set and achieved.
When my wife and I paid off our first credit card, we celebrated by taking the couple who facilitated our premarital counseling out to dinner. During counseling, we had a very uncomfortable session around the subject of money and I drove home really upset that evening. Yet, less than two years later, we had turned a corner and were intensely committed to paying off our cards. This first achievement, while not the ultimate win, was a major step for us. Over that garlic bread and marinara sauce, we were able to celebrate how far we’d come together.
You cannot understand progress without a goal and you never know whether you’re winnning or losing without some sort of metric to measure. Celebrate a win propels you towards the next major test.
[Tweet “Discovering how far you’ve come fuels you to keep going.”]
Constantly go back to your “why”
We must never tire of rehearsing the most important values and truths of our life. We need to constantly return to and drill them deeper into our hearts.
[Tweet “Gail Hyatt wrote, “People lose their way when they lose their why.””]
When we lose our “why” (a sense of calling, an experience of injustice, a burning passion), we lose heart and give up. My sense of calling as a pastor and my desire to write words which help other people motivate me on many occasions (including recently) when other things could have dominated my attention and left me discouraged.
Make it fun!
“I’m quitting because I’m just having so much fun. This is terrible. My last day is…” I’ve yet to hear that announcement and read that story. We rarely give up in the middle of enjoyable seasons. Men and women give in and resign themselves during a decline, disappointment and adversity.
My friend, Ashley, has a motto – “fun is a choice.” It’s a life motto for her. She is constantly reframing her experience, reminding herself and others that the current space is a place where fun (and not just fear) can exist. It may take creativity and work but fun is possible in some very unexpected places.
Laughing, smiling and connecting can fuel us through times when we’ve had enough and want to give up. We are not ignoring the hard realities, but finding some joy to share can transform a difficult experience.
What do you think? How do you push through disappointment and adversity? What has help you develop perseverance, in order to keep pressing forward and not give up?