Why We Quit On Our Goals

Why We Quit On Our Goals

Just like clockwork, about three weeks after making my birthday goals, I started questioning, “Did I choose the right goal? Is this really what I want? Will I even achieve it?”

For about an hour, I toyed with the idea of scrapping my goals. No one would even know.

Except that I would know.

I would always look down at my bracelet and think of that goal.

I would remember the newsletter I wrote to you sharing my new goal.

For a moment, I wondered if maybe I could chuck the bracelet out the window and pretend it never happened. If maybe I could find a logical reason to hit pause on my goals.

And then I started laughing at this elaborate plan I was concocting… all the mental energy I was pouring into getting out of my goals when, ironically, simply pursuing my goals started to feel like less effort.

Just like that, I stumbled on an idea that I want to flush out in today’s newsletter and share with you:

The desire to quit is part of the process.

The desire to quit is a sign you’re doing something you haven’t done before.

Without the desire to quit? You’re simply living yesterday’s life. Rinse and repeat.

The problem is that most of us listen to our desire and assume it’s right. We listen to our thoughts like they’re truth. Isn’t it funny how the only time we actually listen to our thoughts is when they’re saying negative things?

I have this secret dream to start a Quitter’s Hotline. A direct line for dreamers and creatives to call when they start feeling the desire to quit.

*puts on superwoman cape*

Saving Creativity—One Dream at a Time—From the Jaws of Quitting!

Okay, the tagline needs some work. But you get what I’m saying?

I learned very early on that the nagging voice of my ambition will never go away. I can quit on it as many times as I like, but it will return. For a short while, it does go silent—but only to lick its wounds. Oh, but it comes back! And when it does? It takes a big juicy bite out of our confidence. Back to square one. Except this time, we have one chunk less of our confidence.

The secret I want to share today is this: even if you were the most motivated person on the planet, you would still feel the desire to quit.

It’s. Part. Of. The. Process.

It’s why, when I sit down to set my goals, I spend half of that time dreaming about the goal and half of that time planning for when I will want to quit. I know it will come, and when it does? I’m not taken aback by it. I don’t question if that means I’m not ready to pursue my goal.

That’s the difference between someone who quits on their goals and someone who doesn’t: the quitter doesn’t anticipate the desire to quit. They go in with hopeful thoughts that this time they’ll be committed and motivated enough to reach the finish line.

Good goals are meant to feel like shit. The pursuit of the goal is meant to feel like shit. Not in a burnout kind of way, but in a questioning-your-value-as-a-human kind of way. That’s the real purpose of goals: to dig up all the negative thoughts we’ve unknowingly accumulated about ourselves and bring them to the surface.

When I was younger and spending the summers in Lithuania with my grandparents, many of my chores included helping with the garden. Picking strawberries and blackberries, which were, of course, the fun chores. One berry for me, one berry for the basket. But digging up potatoes? That was so boring. Half the time I dug my shovel so hard into the dirt that I would pierce a potato in half, making me so sloooow at filling my basket and being reprieved from duty.

But for some reason, that memory is the strongest in my mind. Even more oddly, it’s the metaphor that always comes to mind when I think of working on my mind. I picture negative thoughts as potatoes buried deep in the soil of my mind. They’re always there, under the surface, even if I can’t see them.

Setting goals is like piercing a shovel into the earth. As we dig and toss the soil, a potato or two fly out with it. And then they’re just there, sitting in the sun, forcing their potato-ness in our face. Hah! I’m above soil now! Look at me! Bend down and pick me up, you peasant!

Quitting on our goals is like snatching those potatoes and burying them back into the ground. Covered up, safely, under the deep layer of dirt, their smug potato-ness far, far away.

But then you can’t have potato soup! And you can’t have potato pancakes! And you can’t have potato pudding! And you can’t have potato dumplings! 

(We love our potatoes in Lithuania, if you hadn’t noticed.)

The chore of my childhood was digging up potatoes.

The chore of my adulthood is digging up negative thoughts.

We endlessly question our goals, as if a pros and cons list will lead us to unravelling the mysteries of the universe. Instead, let’s commit to whatever goal we happen to pick and allow it to do it’s true purpose: digging up the thoughts we’ve kept buried.

And when it does just that, digging up fear, self-doubt, discomfort, worry, and not enough-ness—start fighting that battle! Point your wand and use the Expecto Patronum spell to blast it out of your mind. (Harry Potter, anyone?)

Life is not a pursuit of finding our purpose.

Life is a pursuit of de-conditioning our minds so our purpose can shine through.

Here’s an eclectic list of books if you’re fascinated by the idea of resistance. They’re not fluffy modern day self-help books—diluted with mainstream colloquialism—but a tad deeper and darker, which I always find a lot more impactful to read:

Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Success by Napoleon Hill.

“Nature will not tolerate idleness or vacuums of any sort. All space must be and is filled with something . . . When the individual does not use the brain for the expression of positive, creative thoughts, nature fills the vacuum by forcing the brain to act upon negative thoughts.”

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Every Friday morning when I sit down to write this newsletter, I have resistance and fear show up. My companions. I’ve learned to expect them to show up, and so I never overthink it. I just get started with my morning routine, which seems to satisfy them for a few hours while I can unlock my writing brain. I’ll make a cup of tea, turn on my diffuser and candle, listen to a podcast (often, a snippet from Elizabeth Gilbert does the trick), and then I write what feels important to write.

I hope I was able to write what you needed to read today. And if not? I hope next Friday, or the one after, will fill your cup in some way.

Until then…

My Quitter’s Hotline is always open.

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