Two very determined mountain climbers depart from a remote Himalayan trailhead to embark on the extreme challenge of reaching the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. It will take them weeks and every ounce of courage they possess to do it. Call it whatever you want; it is their goal, their vision, or their dream to reach the pinnacle of the earth’s most imposing glacier of granite.
Both climbers are equally capable physically. Each is sufficiently prepared in terms of gear, equipment, supplies, and support. Both boast the experience and knowledge to successfully complete the endeavor.
Along the way, both climbers will encounter their fair share of obstacles. Extreme temperatures. Buffeting winds. Impassable crevasses. Falling rocks. Sheer cliffs. Icy passes. All of it made even more difficult by the brutal effects of extreme altitude.
While each of them may take slightly different routes along the way, both will endure an extremely difficult trek. There will be no way either of them could say their journey was more challenging than the other’s. In terms of sheer difficulty, their experiences will be identical.
Nearly forty-five days later, both survived their summit attempt. However, only one climber actually arrived at his destination at the top of Everest. The other turned around and hiked back to the trailhead only a day or two from reaching his goal. He was so close!
His excuses for not reaching the top could be many:
· It got too difficult.
· He didn’t know what to do.
· He got discouraged.
· He became distracted.
· He felt defeated.
· He lost his way.
Excuses and explanations aside, the only difference between the two men is that one chose to persist and the other decided to quit. Even if his excuse is valid, he chose to stop rather than to endure. We may admire that he tried, that he made it further than most, or that what he faced was overwhelmingly insurmountable. In the end, the other climber encountered similarly challenging obstacles along the way, but he made it to the summit of the very same mountain.
In short, one quit. One did not.
The Quitter in All of Us
If we are honest, every one of us has quit something at one time or another in our life.
· A diet
· An exercise routine
· A New Year’s resolution
· A financial plan (budget)
· A job
· A recovery program
· A marriage
· A cause
· A project
· A degree
· A goal
· A dream
Our resume is populated with numerous jobs we quit because of one thing or another was not to our liking. Our garage is full of the equipment we accumulated with that hobby we quit because we just didn’t have enough time. Our closet is full of clothes that don’t fit us anymore because we quit another diet to lose that same thirty pounds we committed to shedding two years ago.
Everybody has quit something at one time or another. And we all have excuses for why we did. Our excuses are as varied as the rationalizations we adopt for allowing them. We blame our schedule, our boss, our job, our spouse, our kids, our parents, our surroundings, our finances, and even our body.
Very rarely do we ever blame ourselves.
In the very beginning, every pursuit in our life is deemed worthwhile. Its perceived importance is why it becomes a priority to tackle in the first place. While each of our ambitions may be of different value in the grand scheme of things, nonetheless, they are significant to us for one reason or another when we decide to pursue them.
· The desire to lose some weight is worthwhile.
· The goal to get into better shape is worthwhile.
· The dream to own your own business is worthwhile.
· The ambition to become an artist is worthwhile.
· The pursuit of earning your degree is worthwhile.
· The decision to overcome an addiction is worthwhile.
However, at some point along the way, we lost motivation and gave up doing what we wanted to do.
Some kind of obstacle got in the way of our progress. Call it a problem, a challenge, a hiccup, a snafu, or a wrench in the works. Whatever term you use, something stood in the path of what we were endeavoring to accomplish.
Life is a journey. Along the way you will encounter hundreds, even thousands, of obstacles.
In the classic adventure stories of fiction that involve a character on an important journey (think Lord of the Rings), the inevitable obstacles along the way look like enormous mountains, broken bridges, lost maps, unexpected detours, turbulent oceans, severe weather, haunted forests, vicious animals, blood-thirsty adversaries, booby-traps, a string of bad luck, or an evil spell.
However, in the story of our life, the obstacles are all very real. There are no dragons and daggers, of course, but the impediments are every bit as challenging. They look like fear, failure, inexperience, lack of credentials, disappointment, discouragement, insufficient finances, negative thinking, criticism, enormous odds of success, competition, recession, loss, lack of time, divorce, missed opportunity, addictions, mistakes, unexpected pregnancies, poor choices, illness, injury, disability, death of a loved one, natural disaster, difficult people, or injustice. The list goes on and on.
There are literally thousands of obstacles strewn about on the path of our life’s journey. Thinking you’re going to travel the path of your life without encountering challenges that will send your ambitions careening into some discouraging detour is just plain naïve. That is the stuff of life. Wise people expect it, plan for it, and determine not to let it defeat them.
“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.”
-Theodore Isaac Rubin
Unfortunately, we don’t get to watch the story of our life from the comfort of a theater seat while enjoying a bucket of popcorn before we head home to bed. Our life and the obstacles we encounter along the way are all very, very real.
Everybody Wants to Quit.
Neither the opportunity nor the temptation to quit is unique. It presents itself to everybody on life’s journey. Ask any person who has ever succeeded at something, and they will tell you there was a time (or two) when they really wanted to quit somewhere along the way.
Successful people wrestle with the urge to quit too. The truth of the matter is that everybody who has ever wanted to accomplish something worthwhile has been tempted to quit at one point or another. In the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and overwhelming challenges to one’s ambitions, all of us grow weary along the way and entertain the thought of quitting.
The urge to quit is not the problem. It’s inevitable on the long, difficult road to any worthy destination. The choice one makes when tempted to quit is what determines the rest of the story.
Every success story has a point in the script where the main character determined not to give up.
· They persisted.
· They kept going.
· The found a way through.
· They figured out a solution.
· They took a different route.
· They stuck with their plan.
They simply refused to quit.
If we get right down to it and parse all the explanations and excuses, the only thing keeping us from achieving our goals is quitting. Call it whatever you want. You got derailed, distracted or even discouraged. But when you decided not to take another step forward toward achieving your ambitions, you quit.
Every person with a goal will encounter what seems like a million obstacles. You must find your way through, over, under or around each of them if you hope to get where you want to go. But you'll never get there if you quit.
The key to getting where you want to go is to quit quitting!
Your dream - that thing you've always wanted to do, to be or to become - does not need to remain a wish or a fantasy. It's not the stuff of positive thinking and naive ambition. If you can imagine it, you can create a plan and a strategy for pursuing it. And then, with enormous amounts of diligence, discipline and determination, you can enthusiastically pursue it with all of your heart.
Expect delays and obstacles along the way. They are inevitable. Adopt them as your teachers and your trainers. What you learn by navigating your way through each of them reveals the depth of your passion and the character of your commitment.
The degree to which we stick with something says a lot about us.
The only thing that can ultimately steal your dream away from you is quitting. And that's on you. If you quit, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
Nobody Said It Would Be Easy
If you think for a moment that achieving your dream will be easy or quick, you’re sadly mistaken. If your dream is easy to achieve, it’s probably not big enough to really make a dent in anybody’s world.
The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
A dream, by nature, is enormous and difficult. It borders on the impossible. To expect that it will come to reality easily is a reflection of the fact that you have not dreamed big enough.
At the risk of sounding overly simplistic or even inconsiderate of your most valiant attempts, the decision to quit is almost always the result of one of two obstacles:
1. IGNORANCE: We don’t know WHAT to do.
Ignorance is a legitimate explanation for why you are stymied, but it is not a good excuse. When you don’t know what to do next, figuring out what to do next is the work you have to do on your way to achieving your goal. Some days you’re working on your goal. Other days, you’re working on learning what you have to do next in order to achieve it.
Between the internet and the local library, we are rendered without excuse for not being able to figure out what to do next. There are just far too many resources for learning what to do in the face of whatever it is we can’t figure out. Name the topic and there is a book, a video, a blog, a network of people out there to help you figure out the next step you need to take to get to where you want to go. Go ahead, just try it: search any topic you can come up with on your internet browser, and you will be presented an almost endless choice of options to explore in search of answers to your question.
Don’t know what to do next? Don’t quit. The next thing to do is to figure out what to do next.
2. INCOMPETENCE: We don’t know HOW to do what we need to do.
Not knowing how to do something is a matter of skill. And skill, my friend, is a matter of knowledge, practice and patience. The human capacity for developing new skills is remarkable. With enough persistence, it is amazing what we can learn to do if we want it enough. Fortunately, for those skills we have neither the time nor talent to acquire on our own, there is a host of people out there who have already mastered them. When stuck due to the lack of skills you need for your next move, find some people who have the skills you lack and start asking your questions.
Neither ignorance nor incompetence is reason to hang your head. Not knowing what to do or how to do something is the perfect environment for discovery. Being embarrassed or angry that you don’t know how to do something you’ve never done is the height of narcissism. Swallowing one’s pride and admitting one’s limits are part of what it takes to figure out the solution to overcoming the obstacle that stands between you and your dream.
The wisest people on earth recognize they do not know everything and accept help from those who possess the knowledge they lack.
About the only other explanation for why many people fail to complete the important endeavors of their life is paralysis by fear. There are occasions when we know what to do and how to do it, but our insecurities seize control of our initiative and steal away our momentum for achieving what we want to accomplish. In our fear of failure, we invite it in to steal our dream right out from under our nose.
There will be a hundred disappointing things that will happen along the way toward your goal. Learn from each of them. See them all as experience; the elimination of one more obstacle between you and what you want.
The evil cousin of disappointment is discouragement. She’s the one who shows up at your door when you allow disappointment to stay longer than you should have. Discouragement is the cold north wind that blows through when you leave the door to disappointment hanging open. It chills you to the bone and causes you to crawl deeper under the covers where it’s warm. Stay there too long and you never leave the cozy confines of your comfort zone.
Life begins outside of your comfort zone.
Even the most positive person wrestles with doubts, fears, insecurities and discouragement. It’s pretty normal to the human experience. However, positive people do not let negative thinking determine their destiny. Time and time again, they draw upon the resolve to see their ambitions fulfilled. Tenacious people learn to tune out the negative and demoralizing obstacles that stand between them and their goal.
So go ahead, look up one more time and take another peep at that mountain summit above you. Stop for a few moments to remember why you got started in the first place. It was worth it when you began.
Rest if you must.
Look for another route to the top.
Ask for some help if necessary, but whatever you do, don’t you dare quit.