When you want to quit

photo credit: M I S C H E L L E via photopin cc

photo credit: M I S C H E L L E via photopin cc

If you have ever done a job interview for a serious position, you have probably been asked the question, “Describe a time when you persevered in a difficult situation.” At work I’ve been working on a few different projects for the past couple of months. One project in particular has me thinking about this question.

Usually, I tell the story of how I wrote my first novel in a month. This experience has served me well in many circumstances. All of those circumstances involved persevering through difficulty. With that first novel, I was driven to finish to prove my brother wrong (he said I couldn’t do it). The transferable part was the pattern I noticed: the project starts and you’re exhilarated, then it starts to be less exciting but still neat, then you want to SHOOT YOURSELF and TAKE PEOPLE WITH YOU but you got this far so you better keep going, and then you get so close to the end you can feel it and you push through.

This week, I was at the SHOOT YOURSELF part of the project. As I was walking home from work one day I was reflecting on what was keeping me going. How was I managing to keep myself motivated despite the fact that I resented having to do some of the tasks I was doing (it was just that one part of the project; as a whole I’m very happy with my work!).

What motivates you?

This is the list that I came up with as I was trudging through the snow:

  1. The task is worthwhile and the end product will serve many people for years
  2. It moves our mission forward (and I believe in that mission)
  3. Our mission is worth experiencing the difficulty
  4. If I procrastinate because I don’t want to face the task, it will probably die and never be finished (which would be bad because of 1 & 2)
  5. It’s my job, and my integrity as a good employee is on the line if I bail.

But of that list, it’s really #1 – #3 that keep me going. I really, really believe in what I’m doing. I believe in it so much that I’ve done many things I’m not crazy about because I want to see us move forward. I’m happy to “take one for the team” so to speak.

Reflect on your ‘Whys’

What’s on your list? What motivates you to continue despite hardship? Running through that list was really helpful and calming. I hadn’t really thought about those things before during the project, but I agreed to do it because of the first 3 on the list.

Despite this experience being a frustrating one at times, I already feel a sense of accomplishment in getting to the other side of the hard part. I’m looking ahead to the project being finished and having a product that helps others do good work.

What motivates you when you don’t want to finish a project or task? 

Learn how to motivate yourself

As you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to motivate myself. I don’t think this is entirely a bad thing. Sure, it isn’t nice to be unmotivated, especially when you’re someone like me who likes constant movement towards, well, anything. The positive thing is that I’m learning about myself. Through trial and error I’m learning how to get myself from where I am to where I want to be. Since I started University, I’ve been using different techniques to motivate myself to do tasks I don’t like. I would never have graduated without doing this.

I know that just because I don’t want to do something doesn’t mean it has stopped being worth doing. It just loses its excitement, not worth. In reading and learning about leadership, I’ve heard people say that leading yourself is one of the hardest things you’ll learn to do. I can’t remember where I heard that and I’m not totally convinced it’s true. But I do know it can be hard.

This week I watched the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (on Netflix). It was fascinating. One thing that I noticed that was alarming was how many people the guy was interviewing who said something along the lines, “I know I’m going to die because I’m overweight and unhealthy. It’s no one’s fault but my own. I’m the only one who can fix this. But, I just can’t. I love food.”

“BUT YOU CAN!” We  want to yell at them, right? And yet, we can probably relate in some way or another with serious demotivation. We can relate to an obstacle that seems so insurmountable, we give up before we start. Right?

This is where become resourceful is key. We need to have a tool belt of ways to get our butt in gear. In my experience, one thing may work like a charm in one area of my life, but not another.

In getting ready to write this post I searched the internet for resources to quote, but no one really said much that I didn’t already know. This was half encouraging (I’m on the right track!) and also disappointing (what if these ideas aren’t working!).

Ways to motivate yourself

If you’ve read my ebook some of these things wont be new. But they’re still true. Sometimes you need to be creative in how to activate each of these things.

  1. Vision. Remind yourself of how it could be if you achieve your goal. What was that original vision that capture your heart and mind? If you want to know more about this you can read my ebook.
  2. Inspiration. Hang out with inspiring people, read inspiring blogs, or biographies. Find out what inspires you to be better (spouse? child? sibling who tells you you can’t accomplish your goal?) and use that as fuel.
  3. Rewards. Humans often need rewards in order to be motivated. Whether or not you are ok with that or not is out of the question. You might think you’re better than that, but you probably aren’t. You’d be surprised what you’ll do for a square of dark chocolate, a chance to play a video game, dinner at Joe Beef. Develop a rewards system for yourself and try that out. Maybe going for a winning streak on Lift is reward enough.
  4. Play games/add healthy competition. Find a friend (or enemy?) you can have some healthy competition with. See who can lose the most weight, or swear the least while making a pie crust. Try something like Lift
  5. Act on the facts. The facts are, you’ll die younger than necessary if you’re obese. How do you act on that fact?

Now the question I’d be wondering if I were you: are any of these working for you? Sigh. Not in this case. BUT, that doesn’t mean I’ve given up. I’m still on the search for a successful motivational tool. Sadly, the increasing numbers on my bathroom scale are not yet working.

Ten Months


For two years in a row, I have managed to stay on top of my New Years Resolutions for Ten months. This is surprising to me because ten months is a long time. Ten months is the vast majority of the year!

But it’s still only ten months and not twelve, which I find super frustrating. WHY CAN’T I DO THINGS PERFECTLY?

And so now I have this on my list to ponder for next year. Why ten and not twelve? Is it that I get bored (high possibility)? Is it something about October? Is it both? What gives?

The Oggings

If you follow me on twitter you would have seen me tweet this yesterday:

In the last week a bunch of people have bugged me (or simply asked) what was up with my lack of blogging (or jogging for that matter).

The simple answer is: I don’t know. That’s also the complicated answer. It’s not that I’m too busy (Mrs. Buxton!). It’s worse than than. I have been uninspired and  demotivated.

I still care about these things. I just lack drive. This is a weird state for me to be in. It is rare for me to lack drive to write. It’s rare for me to lack drive to learn.

So this week I was thinking a lot about what I could do to stay motivated.

Dynamic Determination

Dynamic Determination is a leadership quality we teach a lot about at work and one that I’ve been working on in my life these last few weeks. I am determined to not let The Oggings fall totally by the wayside. The process of figuring out how is the tricky part. Do I use positive reinforcement and reward myself with Fleur de Sel every time I do one? Do I use negative reinforcement and deprive myself of something good for not having done one of these things?

I know that in my life there will be plenty of times when I don’t Want To do X or Y. Right now I’m learning how to find or make the Want To. Self-discipline is hard enough for me when I have motivation. At this point in time when I lack it, that self-discipline is nowhere to be found. But I’m on the hunt.

Give up or Keep going?


I’m on vacation this week and taking a break from the internets. These are scheduled posts. Forgive me for not responding in the comments until next week.

I think about this question every time I make pastry. I am so bad it it. The process looks something like this:

  • This time will be different
  • See? It’s going well!
  • Ugh. Stop tearing and separating.
  • OK. Moment of truth. The part where I transfer it to the pie plate.

That last part, is where my blood starts to boil up, adrenaline shoots through my body. A string of rather vulgar swearwords come to mind and sometimes I even say them. Out loud. Because I’m just that angry at myself and the blasted pie crust that it just wont do what I want it to. Despite all the practice, I just can’t make it work. (Sure, I might be using non-traditional flours like spelt and gluten free stuff. Yes, that does make it harder. I have confirmed this as I watched my mother-in-law — the Patron Saint of Pretty Pies — struggle to make the spelt/gluten free crust work for her).

Penelope wishes she had quit:

“I was a figure skater growing up. I skated three days a week at 5am and most days after school as well. But I couldn’t do double-rotation jumps. I’m simply too large. I am tall and big-boned. I am too heavy to rotate in the air twice, even as a very skinny fifth-grader. I wish someone had told me to stop focusing on figure skating because it would never work for me. I wish someone had helped me find what I’d be great at.”

So how do I know whether in this case Practice-Makes-Perfect or Girlfriend,-Give-Up-and-Spend-Your-Time-on-Things-You’ll-Actually-Improve-On?

A Few Principles:

  1. Is your ambition leading you to neglect valuable parts of your life? I haven’t gotten to the point where I have a singular focus on making pie crust. I am not neglecting my family or values so that I can get this frigging crust to submit. It is possible that this could happen in other areas of our lives. Certain goals require a huge time commitment.  That’s not necessarily bad. But if it is negatively affecting things you really value, that might be your cue to quit.
  2. Are you afraid of success? Do you want to quit because you’re afraid of the unknown associated with success? Your life might change a lot if you get published. What if you do become a hugely successful lawyer and speaker? What then? That can be scary.
  3. Consider your commitment. Why did you say you would do this thing? Who did you commit to doing it with? What does breaking the commitment mean for you and them? If you have a physical injury that prevents you from continuing, that’s one thing. It’s another if you’re just being flaky.
  4. Do you (like me) struggle to finish everything you start? Maybe you’ve never really figured out how to coach/motivate yourself into finishing something. You’re easily distracted and can always find something newer, trendier or more interesting (for a time) to focus on. This one is a big one I’m trying to learn.
  5. Does the payoff of quitting outweigh the investment you’ve put in? You’ve put a lot of money and time into achieving your goal and you’re considering giving it all up. Sometimes it’s good to quit but we fall subject to commitment bias and think “I can’t quit now, look how much I’ve invested!” Sometimes we should give up anyways. Sometimes we should keep going. If you have invested a lot and still want to quit, consider why that is? (Is it fear of success? Reality sinking in that you just aren’t capable like you thought you were?)

I don’t think there’s an easy answer. I have thought my response was common sense, only to have people think I made the wrong choice. We don’t all want the exact same things from life, and we’re not all going to approach everything the same way.

How do you decide whether to quit or keep going?

Slow down, grow up


This week things are slow. My stamina in running is growing, but my foot muscle pain prevents me from running as long as I’d like. I can only run for about 15 minutes before my feet hurt enough to make me think it’s smart to stop. So that’s not going how I’d like it to.

Yesterday I read a bunch about the health benefits of fermented foods on our stomachs and digestion. I read this article that mentioned wheat intolerant people (in some cases) being able to eat rich sourdough breads. It can help my digestion and cost a fraction of all my other flours do? I decided to try it, so now I’m on day two of growing my own sourdough starter. The whole process is going to take about a week for just the starter and then the bread will take a good while to make too. Apparently, the longer the bread “prooves”, the more likely the cultures will eat the gluten out of the bread. Or something sciencey.

So far this month, I’ve slowed down a lot. Enjoying the pace of the (start of the summer). Reading, swimming, trying to run, baking, when I’m not working.

Usually, I’m all about fast, but for some reason I’m getting used to this slow persistent nurturing thing. That’s probably a good thing, right?

Also: I’m going to name my sourdough starter “monster.” Comment away with your name suggestions!

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