Why Are You Quitting Already?
One of the best quotes I’ve come across for a while is the following quote by Les Brown.
He said “Most people knock on the door of their dreams once, then run away before anyone has a chance to open the door. But if you keep knocking, persistently and endlessly, eventually the door will open.”
This behavior of knocking then running away is a behavior that I personally have had to combat in my own life multiple times; I wrote briefly the other day about how quitting the hard work required to make your dreams possible is the fastest way to spell “impossible.”
But the ubiquity of the behavior across time causes me to think more deeply:
Why do so many people say they want one thing but settle for another thing?
Below are a few reasons I believe this happens on a frequent enough basis to make it a basic human trait.
Your Perception Doesn’t Match Your Reality
We look at others around us, maybe on Instagram, Facebook, reality shows, and we think that what they’ve got going on looks great. We imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes, or living their lifestyle.
We perceive that their lifestyle is a certain way, but don’t have any way of personally knowing what it’s like. There’s no reality associated with it.
We’re also maybe bored with our current state; we don’t like our job, we’re not happy with the house we live in, the spouse we’re married to, or the co-workers we have to put up.
So we look elsewhere.
And in our day and age; it’s easier than ever to do that.
Social media…Netflix…Hulu…Amazon…podcasts on every imaginable subject: the list of ways to occupy our attention is endless. There are hundreds of thousands of hours of mindless ways to distract ourselves.
I came across an article stating that to view the material uploaded to Netflix in 2017 alone, it would take a person approximately 236 days of watching straight, and that’s not just an eight hour day of watching; that’s 13.84 hours of watching a day.
Needless to say, there is enough distraction in the world to keep all of us from ever accomplishing anything beyond the minimum we need to keep us fed and clothed. (Unfortunately, even that can get neglected.)
And the distractions are good enough and easy enough that we are easily thrown off track by them. We don’t want what we think we want enough to actually change our bad habits to get there.
It’s easiest to sit on the couch after a hard day doing whatever it is you do all day to pay the mortgage and put food on the table than it is to study an hour of French, or read about how to create a secondary source of income that could potentially start paying your food bill in a year from now.
In short, we are quitting too early because how we think about success isn’t aligned with the reality of how success is achieved.
Success Is Victory By A Thousand Steps
Success isn’t overnight. Virtually never, is it overnight. And if it is, it’s an individual case that is a massive outlier, and no one should regard that data as having anything to do with how success is almost always achieved.
A weekly chore that my kids have is cleaning their room. At the beginning of the day, it’s an overwhelming mountain to climb. They’ve done crafts in their room, played in their room, and lived in their room all week long. As I joke with them, I say it looks like a dinosaur threw up in their room.
At first, they complain about how their room is always messy and that it’s too big of a job.
So I give them guidance.
“Start with putting away the books.”
“Now pick up all the clothes.”
And so forth.
Before too long, the room starts to look noticeably cleaner. Their mindset changes.
“Oh!” they say. “We’re almost done!”
They usually need a little more push to get the room totally done (including the edges and corners vacuumed) but once they start seeing progress, their motivation levels are astronomically higher.
As adults, we’re really no different.
We hear about someone making $100,000 selling a course online.
We read about someone starting a business (and it actually succeeds) and they make a million dollars a year now.
Or we meet the CEO of a big corporation who we know makes $5 million a year.
And we want it. We want the success we see.
So we get motivated. We get excited. We read a book or two. We buy a journal. We change a few habits.
A week goes by. Then two. Maybe three?
And we are getting tired of the new habits.
Usually, that means we tried doing too much too fast. We changed too much right away.
Success is incremental.
Five years ago, my wife and I started doing date night once a week. We added just that one little change to the week.
Then we added Family Night once a week.
Recently, we added “Boys Night” and “Girls Night” to spend more concentrated time with our kids playing games, or occasionally, watching a film.
We’ve added things like getting up every day at 6 AM.
By adding little behavior modifications here and there, over the years we’ve changed our entire week.
And when we do stay up some night and binge Netflix, we kind of regret it in the morning. We are tired and it throws our rhythm off. We miss the rigor of the regular.
This writing every day is the most recent addition to my own schedule. I felt ready to start tackling something new, and so I have committed to writing every day for 30 days.
We’ll see what happens after that, but since writing a book is a life goal of mine, starting by writing every day for 30 days seemed like a good place to start.
Rather than trying to write a whole book at once; if I add a full writing “loop” to my day every day, I will gain momentum, I’ll feel the flush of small successes, and in a year or two I am in the habit of writing every day — and so I begin writing a book.
Victory comes through a thousand steps. And then maybe a thousand more.