Do you ever feel like giving up? Throwing in the towel?
I think we’ve all been there. We get tired, burned out, frustrated and discouraged. When we get discouraged, we start considering things we would’ve never considered otherwise. Our fatigue fuels our fears and we pull back from pursuing our sense of purpose and calling. We even begin thinking about quitting.
I’ve considered quitting…
-as a pastor on many Mondays after a Sunday which went terribly…
-as a blogger on those weeks where a post fails to generate any response…
-as a writer when I wonder if I’ll ever publish a book through a traditional publisher.
Crazy things happen when we lose sight of our purpose due to discouragement. We consider giving up and doing something which is easier. In worst-case scenarios, we even begin compromising our values and character. We even begin resenting the work or those around us as we compare ourselves with someone who seems to have it better.
So, what keeps us going? How do we press forward through frustration, failure and falling spirits?
We keep going when we are gripped by a powerful sense of purpose. When we have a strong, powerful “why”, we have a reason to persevere.
Gail Hyatt once said, “People lose their way when they lose their why.” Isn’t that the truth? When we lose the sense that what we’re doing matters, the opposition and difficulty overwhelm us.
It is our “why” which will keep us going when others give up. In fact, that’s the story behind how humanity discovered how to fly.
The Story Behind Flight
This weekend, I flew to a conference. And as we were taking off, I was reminded of a story Simon Sinek told in his wildly popular TED talk. In the talk, Sinek shares about a man who was pursuing powered flight along with Orville and Wilbur Wright.
“Most people don’t know about Samuel Pierpont Langley. And back in the early 20th century, the pursuit of powered man flight was like the dot com of the day. Everybody was trying it. And Samuel Pierpont Langley had, what we assume, to be the recipe for success…Langley was given 50,000 dollars by the War Department to figure out this flying machine…He held a seat at Harvard and worked at the Smithsonian and was extremely well-connected; he knew all the big minds of the day. He hired the best minds money could find and the market conditions were fantastic. The New York Times followed him around everywhere, and everyone was rooting for Langley. Then how come we’ve never heard of Samuel Pierpont Langley?
The difference was, Orville and Wilbur (Wright) were driven by a cause, by a purpose, by a belief. They believed that if they could figure out this flying machine, it’ll change the course of the world. Samuel Pierpont Langley was different. He wanted to be rich, and he wanted to be famous. He was in pursuit of the result. He was in pursuit of the riches. And lo and behold, look what happened. The people who believed in the Wright brothers’ dream worked with them with blood and sweat and tears. The others just worked for the paycheck. They tell stories of how every time the Wright brothers went out, they would have to take five sets of parts, because that’s how many times they would crash before supper.”
The Wrights had a why. And it wasn’t fame, money, or “success.” They loved their work. They wanted to make an impact, a difference, leave a legacy. And their collective “why” drove them even when they failed – and they failed A LOT! But they didn’t give up and their discovery changed the world.
What about Langley? Well, when the Wrights beat him to the first flight, he gave up. He didn’t care about making the best flying machine – he cared about the fame and “success” of being first. He gave up when he heard about the Wright’s success.
3 Reminders For When We’ve Lost Our Way or Why
If you’re struggling with discouragement and you’re thinking about giving up, here’s a few reminders. These are the reminders I’ve used in the last year or two when I’ve been discouraged and tempted to quit.
1. Go back to your “why”
When you think back to the beginning of your journey as a ________ (parent, spouse, leader, teacher, volunteer, artist, etc.), what was your “why”? What was the purpose or dream you had? What motivated you to start? If Gail Hyatt was right when she said we lose our way when we lose our why, then we can rediscover our way by reconnecting with our “why.” When we get discouraged, our confidence and reassurance in our sense of calling or purpose can carry us. Even in spite of feelings which try to convince us otherwise.
2. Rehearse stories of impact
We all have moments where we say, “that makes it all worth it.”
Sometimes, we hear someone share a story with us which we didn’t know. Or we meet someone who admires us. We look back and see how far we’ve come since we started. We finally get over a mountain we’ve been climbing for months (or years).
I keep a file in my office with cards, letters, and emails. When I get really down, I go back to this file. I’m reminded of the impact I’ve had. While in the moment I may feel like a failure, these relics remind me how my feelings lie. I think we all need a file like this where we can get perspective.
3. Recommit to living your God-given purpose.
Sometimes, we get discouraged because our focus becomes things which don’t matter. We start trying to live out other people’s callings instead of our own. We start comparing our behind-the-scenes footage with someone else’s highlight reel. We lust after other people’s accomplishments and forget the process it took to get them there.
My friend Teresa Swanstrom Anderson is a writer living in Colorado. She posted this caption to a photo on Instagram, which describes this recommitment well.
“I had a dream two nights ago (I never remember my dreams) that I feel like was a little whisper from God:
I was at a table writing something and when I finished, I handed it to the man sitting by my side.
After reading it, he showed me my text side by side with Shauna Niequist’s (best-selling author) and they were essentially the same…I had simply moved her words around.
He said, “You are not being you. You be you.” So I sat back down to do a rewrite.
Right then, Shauna walked up beside me and took my rewritten papers off the table.
Reading them, she looked up and smiled. “You have something to say. You have a message to be told. Tell it.” And then I woke up.
Gosh He’s good. Love when He gives affirmation and reminders that He cares when He knows our hearts are heavy.”
What’s your struggle?
I’m convinced the two most powerful words in the English vocabulary are “me too.” When we realize we aren’t alone – that we aren’t the only ones with the same struggle – our perspective changes. When we share our struggle with someone, two amazing things happen. One, we gain more power over the struggle. Something about speaking the truth about our struggle makes it seem a little more managable. Two, we connect with someone else. I think we connect more powerfully through our struggles than our successes.
My challenge to you is to share where you’re struggling. You can do it in the comments below. You can comment on this post if you discovered it via social meida. Or text a friend and decide to get real.
Whatever you do today, don’t give in. Not now! We need you and what God designed you to share with the world. If I can pray for you, please drop me a line at email@example.com. I’d love to encourage you!
Like the word my friend Teresa heard, tell your story today. “Keep writing.”