Some of the best parts of any project are the moments before you actually start. In those moments, anything is possible.
It’s all upside.
- Of course I’m going to PR the marathon I’m going to start training for next week!
- Everyone is going to love my new blog – I’ll be an internet sensation!
- I’m going to start a new diet tomorrow and I’m going to lose 20 pounds and my skin is going to clear up forever!
Taking the first steps is hard, but they are also often filled with excitement and possibility.
But at some point, reality sets in.
It gets hard.
It gets uncomfortable.
It can be super tempting to quit.
You’ve entered the tough bit.
There Is Always A Tough Bit
What’s the old line? To get somewhere you’ve never been you have to do something you’ve never done.
Doing something new and different will mean busting ruts and changing routines. Doing new things you may not be very good at (at first anyway).
In the case of running, it means doing physically hard (and likely boring) runs. For blogging, it means sticking with it and writing, even when you don’t feel like it. Following that new diet will likely mean not eating your favorite food even when you really want it.
But to accomplish your goal, or finish your project, or complete your resolution, you have to push through these tough bits.
It’s the only way to get to the other side.
Surviving The Tough Bits
Consider It Ahead Of Time
One of the best ways to push through the tough bits is to plan for them ahead of time.
When Will You Quit?
Before you begin your project/diet/resolution/big goal, consider under what circumstances you’d quit.
If you don’t consider this ahead of time, pretty much any bad/ unpleasant/ uncomfortable circumstance can create a temptation to quit. You can use anything to reverse engineer a quitting rationale.
But if you’ve thought about it in advance, when the tough bits arrive, you’ll have an unbiased guideline for if quitting is a good idea.
For some projects, you may have specific or definable quitting limits. For example, a certain amount of time or money spent. Other projects (many health and fitness goals would fall into this category) are a little fuzzier where you may not have specific numbers. In these cases, consider your values and why you are undertaking this project. You can set quitting guidelines around when you are no longer accomplishing those aims.
Having considered when you’d quit ahead of time will help you more easily separate when you are simply uncomfortable and when you are actually falling short and when it may not be worth continuing.
When Have You Quit Before?
Before you start, consider when you have failed, or when you have quit prior goals or projects.
This one can be tough on the ego, but it’s important to notice your habits and patterns.
- Are there consistent patterns to when you quit?
- Are there times when, looking back, you regret quitting and wish you’d kept going?
- Are there previous times you’ve pushed through (and later accomplished your goal) that you can look to for inspiration?
When you hit the tough bit and are uncomfortable, unhappy, or want to quit, acknowledge it.
Pretty much everyone struggles or considers quitting at some point on the path to accomplishing a goal.
Struggling or wanting to quit isn’t unique to you and doesn’t make you bad or a failure.
Actually quitting makes you a quitter.
Wanting to quit and actually doing it are two very different things.
Acknowledge that you are struggling and want to quit.
Remember Why You Started
There’s a reason a common piece of advice when starting a project is to know your why.
When you reach the down times and the tough bits, focus on why you started it in the first place.
Why is this goal or this project worth pursuing?
Your why can be big and noble (I want to set a good example for my kids), less noble (I want to exercise regularly so I can eat the occasional cupcake), or downright petty (I want to accomplish this to piss off that guy at work that said I couldn’t do it).
Remember your why (whatever why works for you) and focus on that.
Why Is This A Tough Bit?
Consider why you are struggling.
Be specific and detailed.
- Is it because you are comparing yourself to others and don’t like what you see?
- That you aren’t seeing progress as quickly as you’d expected?
- That you aren’t seeing progress as quickly as you’d hoped?
- That it isn’t as much fun to go for a run as it is to watch Netflix?
If there is something behind your struggle (for example an issue with your training plan that is conflicting with other activities), make changes and keep moving forward.
If it’s just hard or uncomfortable, well, that’s life and keep pushing forward.
Call In Reinforcements
Call on others who have been where you are. Ask them for support or advice.
Call on your loved ones. Even if they can’t offer you specific support, they can likely offer words of encouragement or support.
Take A Break, Don’t Quit
If you’ve hit a tough bit and are really struggling, considering taking a break – for a pre-determined period of time – and then re-assessing where you are and how you can proceeded, before you actually quit.
When you are struggling, it can be easy to engage in black or white thinking. That you have two options – quit or keep going the way you are going.
Take a step back. Take the weekend off from running. Don’t count carbs or calories for two days.
Then see how you feel.
- How did you feel during the break?
- How do you feel about yourself after taking a break?
- Do the tough bits seem as tough with a little bit of distance?
After your break, consider how to proceed:
- Does quitting still feel like the best option?
- How do you now feel about accomplishing (or not) your original goal?
- Are there modifications you can make to your process going forward?
What about you? How have you gotten through the tough bits?
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