“Never, never, never give up.”— Winston Churchill
There was a period in my life where giving up had become commonplace. I was used to throwing in the proverbial towel and saying things like “I quit,” “I’ve had enough,” or “I can’t do this anymore.” I had given up on things I had once cherished.
Because of it, I suffered through the seemingly endless torment, pain, and anguish that comes along with realizing that something you once believed in no longer matters to you that much anymore.
It was a difficult time. But, through it all, I came to be a stronger person mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And while the road wasn’t easy, the lessons that I came away with will now be with me for a lifetime.
Had I not given up on things like marriage, business, friends, and family, I wouldn’t have the same perspective on life that I do today. And I wouldn’t be the same person that I am right now.
If you’ve given up in the past after suffering through some painful failure, know that you’re not alone. I feel your pain. I know what it’s like to go through what you’re going through. It hurts. It stings. It resonates right down to the core. It makes you question who you are and all that you stand for.
The sad truth is that many have let go of once closely-held dreams. But, giving up doesn’t make you a lesser person. It’s simply a part of this journey that we call life.
But the questions remain. How do we not give up on things that we want? How do we tirelessly pursue our goals and our dreams, relentlessly tackling any obstacles that get into our way?
The process isn’t a secret. In fact, it’s straightforward, simple, and involves a fundamental understanding of goal setting and why we do the things that we do.
How Not to Give Up on Things
To better understand why we give up on things, we have to rewind the clocks. We have to go back in time. We need to transport ourselves to the very beginning, when we were born. Why? Because our birth signaled the birth of that construct that resides in our brains: our minds.
When we’re born, we’re born with what Sigmund Freud dubbed the id. The id is the basal and instinctive part of our minds. It creates the urges to eat, sleep, defecate, and ultimately, procreate. It’s interwoven into the very fabric of our DNA and part of our survival instinct. Without the id, we would be left floundering like a fish out of water.
The id is based on something called the pleasure principle. It lives wholly in the subconscious mind. And its sole purpose is to help us get what we want. Instant gratification if you may. When a baby is hungry, it cries. It wants to eat. There’s no reasoning with a hungry baby. When it wants to defecate or urinate, it also does so.
These urges are built into the baby’s mind through the id. They’re hardwired. Even as toddlers, the mind remains largely an id-mind. The filters that exist in adults don’t exist in toddlers and even small children just yet. They’ll say what they’re thinking. They’ll point out if someone is fat or ugly, or whatever it might be, even to the embarrassment of the parent or anyone else around. .
The good news? Our minds don’t stay solely id-minds forever. They evolve.
As we grow older, our Id-minds break off into two other parts: the ego and the superego. Together, all three parts make up what Freud dubbed the three-part psychic apparatus.
The other two parts of the three-part psychic apparatus are the ego and the superego. These parts live in both the conscious and subconscious minds.
The superego is derived form our upbringing. It’s based upon the guidance of our parents or guardians. It’s developed through a sense of community and religious guidelines. It’s our moral compass, so to speak.
It’s the superego’s job to be the voice of reason, to help steer us to do the right thing. But it doesn’t always get its way. When it doesn’t, its job is to inflict feelings of guilt or remorse.
For example, when we’re dieting, and we reach a plateau or get bored, it’s our id that calls us to seek pleasure. The id tells us to go ahead and eat that chocolate cake or candy bar. It helps us seek pleasure. It acts almost as a devil on our shoulders.
The superego, on the other hand, helps to steer us in the right direction. It helps us to do the right thing. This is especially true when it comes to doing things that we know are right or wrong. For example, lying, cheating, or stealing just to name a few.
The superego acts like the angel on the other shoulder. But, often, it’s not strong enough, nor is its voice of reason powerful enough for us.
The ego acts as the referee. It’s steeped in the reality principle. It knows that we can’t always get what we want. And its job is to help us get what we want, but within reality. However, it too is often not strong enough for the urges of the id.
If you imagine the id as a racehorse, the ego is the jockey and the superego is a fan trying to call out to it from the sidelines or the bleachers. Often, the ego can only help to steer the racehorse in a certain direction rather than change its direction.
This is why most of us give up on things that we once thought we wanted. Because the id is all-powerful and all-consuming.
Pain versus Pleasure
Now, immersed in all of this is the pain-versus-pleasure paradigm. We will always do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure. And, since the id is based solely on the pleasure principle, when the id is overbearing in the mind, it will always win over those things that require too much pain to achieve.
This is part of the reason why we give up. The psychology of our mind is working against us. The id in my life used to be extremely powerful. It used to control much of my actions. I knew how to get what I wanted within reality, but I also heavily pursued my pleasurable indulgences.
The reason why people give up on diets is because it means a lot of pain. Dieting, if you were to look at the first three letters of the world, reads “DIE.” To many people, this is all too real. To diet means that a part of them must die. It invokes feelings of great pain.
Similarly, when people try to quit smoking or overcome any other addictive behavior, they face similar roadblocks. The mind comes up against a significant amount of pain. When that happens, alarms go off, trying to steer us away from that pain. We are doing more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.
Think about this for a moment. Would you do more to earn $100,000 or to avoid someone from stealing $100,000 from your bank account? The latter would signify an enormous amount of pain. And most people will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.
So, at this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “Okay, if our minds are wired to avoid pain and to gain pleasure, how is it possible to get ahead in life? How can I not give up on the things that I really want?”
Well, all hope isn’t lost. The biggest problem about the pain-versus-pleasure paradigm is that the circuits are soft-wired to work in the short-term. Not in the long term. We do more to avoid pain than gain pleasure in the short-term than in the long-term.
That’s why cigarette smokers keep smoking, overweight people keep eating, and indebted people keep spending, just to name a few. Our brains aren’t wired to see past the short term for the most part, unless we flip the script.
When we flip the script, we rewire the brain. When we look at the costs associated with the things that are holding us back and causing us to give up on something in the long term, we can outweigh the pleasure-inducing benefits that are provided in the short term.
We have to move away from a sense of instant gratification. We have to override the inherent desires of the id. We have to hack our minds, so to speak, so that we can get what we want, and not constantly give up on our hopes and our dreams.
Okay, okay, so how is this done?
7 Steps to Not Giving Up
Our minds are working against us. That much is clear. There’s a constant battle being waged in that three-part psychic apparatus that’s very real. The biggest problem? Most of it is happening behind the curtains, in the subconscious mind.
The typical human has upwards of 60,000 thoughts per day. Largely, those thoughts are fear-based thoughts that wreak havoc on the mind, causing upset and remorse. To step away from all of that and ensure that we don’t give up on things, we need to flip the script.
In particular, there are 7 steps that, if followed, any person can go from constantly giving up, to actually following through with their dreams. I know, because I followed this exact recipe. I was so used to giving up in the past that I wasn’t able to see the forest through the trees until I came to this realization.
Once I began to implement these 6 steps, everything changed for me. And I know that it can for you as well. If you want something bad enough in life, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it, then you won’t end up giving up on things.
But simply wanting isn’t enough. There’s more to it. Here’s how it works.
Step 1 – Calculate the Costs
The first step in achieving your goals and not actually giving up on things, is to calculate the costs associated with your behavior. What has giving up cost you in life? What is it that you really want out of life, or think you really want, and haven’t achieved because certain things have been holding you back?
When we calculate the costs, we bring it to our conscious minds rather than keeping it hidden in the subconscious. You see, it’s the ego’s job to help us get what we want within reality, and oftentimes, to do that, it will mask the full truth from us.
For example, when we give up on a diet, the ego might say “We didn’t want it that badly enough anyway,” or, “I’m just big-boned. I’m built this way.” And so on. We need to calculate the actual costs and bring things to light.
This includes the financial costs and also the emotional, mental, or spiritual costs. You need to calculate just what you’ve missed out in life along with any real hits you may have taken. More pain needs to be associated to our behavior in giving up on things, so that we overcome the standard paradigm.
If we don’t calculate the costs, the psychic apparatus can continue along its merry way of tricking us to believe what it wants us to believe.
Step 2 – Be Specific
One of the biggest things that I found while giving up on things, was that I was never clear at the outset exactly what I really wanted. I had an idea in my mind. I had set a goal in the abstract. But it wasn’t concrete or specific.
Setting goals the right way has a big impact on whether we give up on things or not. You have to be highly specific when you set your goals. You have to know exactly what you want and when you want it. You can’t just set the goals in your mind.
Most people don’t set goals in this manner. They aren’t specific about what they want or the life they want to lead. Yet, if you set your goals the right way, and you’re highly specific, giving up doesn’t become the modus operandus that we default to.
Grab a piece of paper and detail out what you want. Get specific. Write down every last detail. Whatever it is that you’re after, if you don’t want to give up on things, make sure you take this all-important step. Get a clear visualization in your mind and put it on paper.
Step 3 – Know Why
The next step to not giving up on things, is to know why you’re doing it in the first place. But this can’t be some flimsy reason. It has to be real and profound. If it isn’t, you’ll hear that voice of the id inside your head telling you to go ahead and succumb to your innermost desires.
For example, you can’t say that you want to make more money just to be rich. First of all, you can’t say something like “make more money” or “be rich,” you have to be specific about the exact number.
So, whatever the exact figure might be for you, you’ll never endure through short-term pain associated with achieving that goal if you don’t have a strong-enough reason for it.
However, if we move away from the superficial, and say that we want to have a million dollar net worth in the next 18 months, for example, then the goal becomes more real. And, if we say we want to do it so that we have more freedom and time to spend with our family, it becomes far more achievable.
Having a million dollar net worth might signify that we’ll have the freedom and time to do what we want and be where we want when we want to. It signifies security, freedom, and time. Those are profound reasons. Find your profound reasons, and giving up becomes less likely.
Step 4 – Know How
When we want to achieve something, we need to know how we’re going to do it. We don’t need to know every last step that we’ll take, but we do need a general plan. Without a plan, we’re like a ship left without a rudder in stormy waters.
When we create a plan, we’re also far more likely to follow through and not give up on things. Why? It helps to pain a clearer picture to the mind of the steps we’ll need to take in order to fulfill our dreams. And it helps create a framework for goal achievement.
Take an airplane for example. When an airplane decides to fly to a destination, any destination, it has a specific goal. It knows where it’s going, when it’s going, and why it’s going. It also knows how it’s going to get there.
The plane knows how it’s going to get there because it has a flight plan. It has a general idea of the speed and direction of travel along with the altitude it will fly at for most of its flight. But, what happens when things interrupt that plan?
When there’s turbulence at 32,000 feet, the plane might rise to 37,000 feet. When there’s air-traffic congestion over a major metropolis along its flight path, the plane might veer slightly off course. The plane follows its plan until its forced to modify it along the way.
However, without a plan, that plane’s goal couldn’t be realized. Similarly, you need a plan if you want to avoid giving up on things. It doesn’t have to be exact down to every single step you’ll take. It just has to give you a general and overall direction.
Once you have your plan, you need to track and analyze your progress. You absolutely must do this daily. An airplane will do it every second with the help of a computer. All you need to do is chart your results on a daily basis so you can see how far you’ve come, where you are, and how far is left to go.
Step 5 – Know Who
Sometimes, we need a little bit of inspiration when we’re pursuing our goals. Often, what we don’t realize is that some of the most famous people failed before succeeding. The road to success isn’t a straight line. It’s wrought with trial and error, heartaches, setbacks, and upsets. It twists and twirls and spins around in circles. Often, is no direct path to our goals.
However, when we have some sense of the people that have come before us, overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and accomplished their dreams, it gives us a feeling of hope and inspiration. The unfortunate truth is that we never really get to see the plight of their paths unless we seek it out.
The media tends to glorify the rich and famous, but don’t tend to highlight the intense amount of struggle that they had to go through before achieving their dreams. Seek out someone who’s accomplished what you’re trying to achieve, and use them as a source of inspiration.
Use sites like YouTube and TED Talks to find talks or content related to helping inspire and motivate people on whatever subject it is that you’re chasing. If you want to lose weight, find inspirational stories about huge weight loss success. If you want to earn lots of money, seek out relevant inspiration there.
You could also use a vision board to pin up pictures, quotes, and articles about what you’re going after in life. Keep in mind that the subconscious mind is very powerful, and it will help to steer us towards that which we really want and focus on in life. Make it prominent and in front of your eyes at all times.
Step 6 – Focus on Keystone Habits
Often, the thing that holds us back the most are our habits. Considering that 40% of our behavior is habit-driven, it’s no wonder that although we might want to or say we’ll change, that we’re almost incapable of it. Our habits hold us back.
The solution to this is to focus on keystone habits. Keystone habits act as the soil for other good habits to be formed. They take no extra work, but provide the greatest benefits. And, for people who are hoping not to give up on things, they create a fundamental shift in their approach to goals.
Keystone habits act like dominoes. Not only do they allow the other good habits to grow, but they also work to decimate bad habits, creating explosive personal growth. As we pick up steam and build those keystone habits up and make them cornerstones in our lives, some remarkable things begin to occur.
The biggest problem is that people try to take on too much too fast. They try to go from zero to hero almost overnight. That never works. But, by focusing on keystone habits, our goals take a front seat in our lives as opposed to being forgotten in some garage.
If you can locate the keystone habits in the area of your life that you’re looking to improve upon the most, you will see an incredible transformation occur over time.
Step 7 – Be Persistent
You’re going to fail as you reach to accomplish your dreams. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s not about how many times you fail. It’s about how many times you pick yourself back up again. You need to wield the Art of Persistence and keep fighting the good fight.
Once you’ve reached the understanding that your mind is playing tricks on you, then you’ve illuminated part of the process that holds you back. After that, it’s up to you to ensure that you keep at it and that you don’t end up giving up on the things you really want in life.
Find a good system that you can use to track and manage your time. In the mornings, ensure that you define the most important tasks of the day and tackle those first to get them out of the way. This way, you’ll feel far more accomplished.
Whatever you’re reaching for, know that it won’t come easy, especially if it’s a sizable and notable goal. Small goals are easy to attain. But, it’s the big goals, those that help mark such a deep transition from our current state of affairs, that truly require our persistence.
Do whatever it takes to remind yourself that you will not give up on the things you want no matter what happens. Find ways to stay motivated and inspired, and keep pushing. As the Japanese Proverb states, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” But remember… “Never, never, never give up.”