How Do You Decide When to Quit?

Knowing when to quit and when to press on can be one of life’s toughest decisions. When things get tough, the tough get going… but do they go straight ahead or in a different direction? When I wanted to quit football in high school, my father taught me a lesson I have never forgotten.

high-school-footballIn preparation for the big homecoming game my sophomore year, our rural Oklahoma football team had ordered new uniforms so we would look our best during the halftime ceremony. Just one problem – there weren’t enough new uniforms for everyone. Junior and senior class players got first selections. Then as one of the coaches was giving sophomores their uniforms, he skipped me (and a couple of other “average” athletes) and gave the remaining uniforms to some of the talented freshmen players.

I was humiliated.

How Emotional Posture Stunts Growth

vulnerability is not weakness

original image by samplediz at FreeImages.com (http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1224442)

“I’ll never let that happen again.”

Amidst all of life’s slings and arrows, we learn to put up our shields to protect ourselves. We do this to get through situations when we feel attacked, but if we leave our shields up we close ourselves off. We galvanize ourselves in a way that prevents us from learning, changing and growing.

We trust someone and they hurt us, so we no longer trust as easily.
We try something new and it backfires, so we go back to our comfort zone.
We share our art with others and get negative feedback, so we keep it to ourselves next time.

Our brains naturally try and avoid pain in order to protect our existence. Self-preservation is essential in life or death scenarios. But we’re people, not jam. We don’t need to be preserved indefinitely. In order to experience what it means to be human, we have to take emotional and mental risks, even when it means inevitably experiencing pain.

If we let it, our emotional posture will stunt our growth.

Pushers and Pullers

who-pushes-youIf you’re like most folks, you have a lot of people pulling at you daily.

  • You may have children who need your support.
  • Your boss likely needs you to to complete specific tasks to help her achieve stated objectives.
  • Schools and/or churches pull on you to volunteer and help raise funds.
  • Advertisers constantly pull on your attention and wallet

And that is simply the tip of the iceberg.

When you stop to think about everyone and everything pulling on you, it makes sense why you feel pulled in so many different directions.

But, have you ever considered who is pushing you? Who pushes you to…

  • … grow and learn?
  • … say “yes” to something that scares you?
  • … say “no” to what will distract you?
  • … dream big?
  • … take action on YOUR goals?
  • … stick to YOUR values?
  • … get out of a rut?
  • … choose grace over criticism?
  • … stop settling for less?
  • … dig deep inside yourself and find something the world can’t live without?

We give “pushy” a bad name, but sometimes we need more pushers to help us break free from the superfluous things pulling at us.

Invite someone to give you a push – and value it when they push you in the direction you need to go.

2 Kinds of Indecision

2-types-indecisionYou are faced with a nearly infinite number of decisions each day. The cereal aisle in the grocery store used to be a sign of our mountain of choices, but you can now find enough varieties of any product to fill a store (or more) thanks to online shopping. The only problem with your freedom to choose is you no longer feel you have the freedom to NOT choose. (It’s no surprise we now use terms like decision fatigue to explain why this process wears us out.)

So, what do you do? If you’re like most of us, you put off choices when the decision isn’t clear. But some of these decisions could be important or urgent, so the procrastination technique isn’t always successful. Some decisions can’t wait, but you don’t have enough time to do everything at once.

This brings you one more decision to make: which choices will you choose?

In order to figure this out, it will help you to know which of 2 kinds of indecision you’re experiencing: indifference or ambivalence.

indifference-versus-ambivalence

  1. Indifference

    If you don’t care whether you eat at the Italian restaurant versus the burger joint, then you are indifferent. This is the type of decision you can defer. Let someone else choose or simply flip a coin to decide. If the meal isn’t imminent, you can also put off this decision until later.

  2. Ambivalence

    If you’re choosing between two very different job offers, but want each one for solid reasons… then you are ambivalent. This is the kind of decision that deserves your full attention. You may need time to research the options further, gather other opinions and gather your best judgment.

This seems somewhat obvious, but you can spend a lot of time pondering choices without considering how much you care about the outcome. By focusing our attention away from our indifference and on what you feel strongly about, you can accomplish more significance with every decision.

Do you struggle with indecision? Let me know if this is helpful or if you have other thoughts on this topic.

God from the Machine

JR-Ewing-Jeannie

Many of us remember when the TV show Dallas turned an entire season into “just a dream” in order to bring back a character who had been killed off. Viewers were furious with what they deemed a copout. The solution was much too convenient and it came out of the blue.

This is a prime example of what the industry calls a deus ex machina.

A deus ex machina is something inserted into a story which provides a contrived solution. In Latin, the phrase means literally “a god from the machine.” We may show frustration with Pam waking up or Tolkien’s eagles, but truth be told, we want our own god from the machine.

We want the pill that allows us to lose weight without changing our eating or exercise habits. We want that windfall of money from the lottery to solve our debt problems. We want our relationship issues to disappear as the other person realizes they were wrong all along. Basically, we want to wake up in the morning and realize all our problems are now as insignificant as a bad dream that rinses out of our lives in the morning shower.

Wishing for your own deus ex machina does little good. Your time can be better spent honing your craft, growing your following, rolling a snowball downhill and building momentum. As you do this, you learn how to make bold – but smart – decisions. This is where you can take the leap you’ve been preparing for your entire life (and the leap after that).

And maybe that’s it. Maybe it is a bit of god from the machine. Only, in this case, the machine is your life.

The Secret to Getting There

GroundhogDay

This fabulous gif image is from Chris Piascik: http://chrispiascik.com/2011/02/groundhog-day/

 

There can be an exciting place to think about.

It is where we want to go. We dream of it. We imagine ourselves somehow looking better – stronger, more secure, more confident, admirable, accomplished, popular, envied, relaxed, unburdened, successful – all because we have arrived there.

We paint a picture through goals and visions. We commit ourselves to getting there.

But so many times, we never arrive. We don’t even seem to make it to halfway there. We tend to stay here. And that is the secret to getting there.

We have to let go of here.

As long as we hold onto our here, it will always feel safer than going there. Once we let go, then there seems safer than the limbo we have created. But it is scary to let go of the trapeze. To trust our momentum to carry us through the vacuous space from here to there.

Maybe that is why resolutions are so hard to keep. We resolve to get somewhere different in the new year, but we hold onto the place where we are comfortable.

So, maybe you have a there, where you want to be in 2015. Are you willing to let go of 2014 in order to get there?

Swing yourself with confidence. Build your momentum. Generate velocity in the right direction. But if you never let go, don’t be surprised by the strikingly familiar surroundings.

How to Find Significance in Your Work

bite-sized-elephantCrossing numerous small hills doesn’t make you a mountain climber.

Dousing millions of lit matches one at a time won’t qualify you as a fire fighter.

Running a quarter mile every day for four months won’t make you a marathon runner.

The tedium of small accomplishments can lead you to become apathetic about what you’re doing. If you’re willing to take on the bigger challenge, you may find greater significance in your work. Each step gets you closer to the top of the mountain or closer to an important finish line. The thrill of knowing you can do something significant can inspire you to keep going.

They say the key to eating an elephant is to take one bite at a time. Unfortunately, we often look for bite-sized elephants instead.

That’s fine. Just don’t complain about the portion size once you choose it.