We’ve all known someone that went after something challenging only to drop it, and there are always a slew of reasons why. Maybe that someone is a close friend that you admire, maybe a casual acquaintance that drives you nuts, or maybe it’s you.
The funny thing is that they always seem to be blind to the fact that their reasons for not doing it are usually not reasons at all, but instead are poorly supported excuses.
This is no accident. Perhaps it’s not intentional, but we all have creative ways of fooling ourselves.
Human beings have no shortage of mechanisms to keep themselves protected from discomfort and harm. An unfortunate result of this is that the aversion to discomfort is so strong that people will often convince themselves that they are actually keeping themselves safe from something that might harm them in some way.
Starting a new college course and it’s “too difficult”? Drop it. No need to waste many thousands of dollars and several years of effort on an avenue with a dead end.
Going to get in shape and eat well but you don’t have the energy? Nope your way out of that. No way you can exhaust yourself in the gym and the kitchen and go about your normal day.
The excuse train is typically easy to identify – it rolls itself out of people without any provocation. Ask someone how their college course is going and they’ll readily volunteer that they aren’t in it any more along with the reasons why… and usually in a downtrodden tone.
“I couldn’t get along with my teacher. I swear they were out to get me. And I’m really not a morning person, you know? I just can’t seem to turn my brain on before about eleven ‘o’ clock. And really, who has the time to do all that homework?”
Yeah, I hear what you’re saying. Do you hear it?
Ask someone how their course is going when they’re excited about it and their face will brighten right up as they can’t help but tell you about it. The same unprovoked information but this time spilling out of a cup that has been overfilled with curiosity and fascination.
You know, now that I think about it, they won’t necessarily get all bubbly and full of energy. School is exhausting and you may well get a half-dazed answer as they stare into the abyss of the overwhelming amount of material being assimilated by their consciousness.
That may seem like an undesirable situation to be in but a good friend of mine is in school for something he loves right now. It takes a big toll on his schedule, his energy, and his social life. But he has said that while he sometimes misses some of his old routines he has no second thoughts about where he’s headed and knows that it’s worth the cost.
Regarding those that turn away from the challenge, the excuse factory that has talked them out of their commitment probably doesn’t realize that the bubbly people that are seemingly happily cruising through their adventure are experiencing a similar level of difficulty, only the burden seems much lighter.
And if not lighter, as I previously stated, simply worth it. Everything worth doing is difficult to some degree, and the attitude we take on can either lubricate the gears of challenge or throw sand in them.
I’ve known many people that have convinced themselves that a personal goal that’s dear to them is something they are unable to take on – myself definitely included. The imagination is incredible at manufacturing convincing reasons to hold back.
One that comes up often is the tendency to over-complicate the plan and therefore say you don’t have enough money, enough time, enough experience, enough resources…
“I don’t know how to do it” is a staggering set of words to hear from someone dreaming about a goal – how the hell would you? You haven’t figured it out yet. That’s what the goal is for! To figure it out so that it can be a part of your life!
“I haven’t found my passion.” This one is characteristic of someone that thinks they’ll do something and it will be some combination of natural, easy, instantly fulfilling, or it will speak to them in some obvious way.
The thing is, all of us have hopes and dreams that we could move into. Or, at least, move towards. The pursuit of the goal doesn’t mean that we’ll accomplish it – there is no guarantee that working towards something will bring you to success… at least not in the way you imagine it. In fact, very likely not in the way you imagine it.
I’ve read about the great Michelangelo’s work painting the Sistine chapel. It’s so easy to look at it and think of the artistic genius that flowed from the man and not even realize the amount of resistance, physical agony, and numerous attempts to quit that were also a part of it.
On top of all that he wasn’t even a painter. The pope was like “paint the chapel ceiling” and he was like “I’m not a painter” and the pope was like “you’ll be fine, I said paint the ceiling.” So he did. He was dedicated to art and he was placed in this challenging, though initially ill-fitting position to put his passion into something meaningful.
He knew that art was his soul, but he sure didn’t see that coming. And despite the seemingly impossible barriers and odds against him, he did it.
I come from a long string of efforts to accomplish something that is prominent in my mind and growing with every beat of my heart, and also a long string of projects abandoned – usually just put off while I rest/figure it out/get some perspective, never to be picked up again.
Or to be picked up and have to start from square one. When that’s been the case the regret and frustration has usually been strong enough for me to put it down again quickly. Why start again if I’m just going to waste my time again?!?
The pursuit of something you’ve never pursed before is not akin to looking at a map of your country, choosing a city, and following the road there. It’s something where we catch the scent of curiosity in something and we pursue it while the way there presents itself as we go. And usually that pursuit is done quite inaccurately – there is no efficient path through the unknown.
There is an amazing power within the story of a person that decided they wanted something and simply went at it until they got it. They didn’t stop until they were finished, no matter what stood between them and their castle on the horizon.
What’s amazing is that the people behind these stories rescued themselves. They were their own hero.
With the support of a great net of people along the way. Nobody does anything great alone – life is designed to be shared.
The mindset of giving up is an old friend of mine. I say friend instead of enemy because he rests there, all too eager to do what comes naturally and tear my dream apart in front of me. Or, more accurately, once I turn my back.
I’ve had to do my best to make friends with this aspect of my personality so that I can learn from his experience – I can learn what I’ve done before that gave him so much business helping me give up. I can learn what to avoid as I march forward again and again.
Watch yourself when you say you “can’t” do something – we can do whatever we want, we simply won’t.
For example: do you hate Mondays? “Yeah, but I can’t just not go in to work…”
Sure you can. It’s entirely possible, if not easier than getting out of bed and getting yourself dressed. But every action has a response, and if you skip every Monday, sooner or later you will lose your job.
Another example: “I can’t find a girlfriend.” Yeah you can, my friend. If you haven’t yet and it’s seeming more impossible every day it just means that you haven’t figured out how yet.
There are consequences to learning how to do this as well and they usually involve looking honestly at yourself, building your social skills, going out into new situations, and having a lot of potentially awkward social interactions. Not to mention the immense amount of rejection you will inevitably have to weather.
These are not easy consequences to handle, but if the end goal is important to you then they are worth the roller coaster ride of growth.
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” -Friedrich Nietzche
Don’t let yourself get away with saying something can’t be done. You don’t have to turn your world around at every mention of the word. But, if nothing else, at least pay enough attention to notice when you do utter that vocalized damnation so that you can challenge it; so that it does not have the freedom to rest comfortably and impassibly across the road of possibility in front of you.
And therein lies the bright side – at every turn of self-talk you have an opportunity to free yourself from the restrictions of self-limiting belief. Every time you catch yourself trying to talk your way out of some possibility you can loosen the shackles just a little bit. Before you know it, you will slip free from chains that you didn’t even know were there.
Keep on your bright side, my friends. I’ll see you there.