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“Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.”
“We are not retreating – we are advancing in another direction.”
General Mac Arthur
You’ve tried – really you have. But you’re not seeing the results, and you feel like you don’t have more to give. Everyone reaches this point sometimes – whether with school, work, sports, or in relationships. So, there’s no shame in wanting to quit. But being in this state of mind – or actually quitting – can be depressing and demoralizing. Of course, persisting may be a foolish pursuit and a lesson in frustration. So what should you do?
Try the following:
Pause: Stop pushing yourself and take a moment to regroup. Then find ways to let go of the tension you hold in your body. Do some deep breathing, relax in a warm bath while listening to soothing music, or go out for a jog. Do whatever works for you to clear your mind and body of the building stress.
Reflect: To the best that you can, reflect on your situation without being self-critical. Remember, you didn’t consciously choose to be in this position. Just as you would with someone else, give yourself some understanding. Encourage yourself to be honest. It’s okay – even important – to acknowledge being at your limit. Doing this can free you to consider what you’ve learned about yourself. But be careful not to take the lessons too far. For instance, if you’ve taken the leap to start your own business or try a different career, you might realize that this new path isn’t for you, or is harder than you imagined. But telling yourself that you are “a failure” is unnecessarily and unfairly critical. You could not have known – until trying it – how well suited you would be to this new venture.
Redirect: Now it’s time to re-evaluate your situation. Do you still really want to pursue your current path? If you do, is there a realistic way to turn things around? This might mean getting a job coach to help with work difficulties or a therapist to help with relationship issues. Or, maybe it means doubling down on your efforts. Given that you are deciding to take on a big challenge, it is important to find support and encouragement. For instance, you might look to the person helping you improve, supportive friends and family, or others who have travelled similar paths.
If you decide that you really don’t want to stay on your current path, think about what you have learned from your recent experience. Take these lessons seriously – they were hard won. Then, using what you’ve learned, turn your attention to what you want to do next. By looking forward to a new aspiration, and not running away from a perceived failure, you will feel motivated to continue on.
At any point during a pursuit, you may just want to give up – but don’t do it! Instead, pause, reflect, and redirect. Though it might some time and effort, this process will help to revive your energy and morale. And you will keep moving forward… whatever direction that might be.
Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset in Somerville, NJ. She is also a regular contributor for the WebMD blog Relationships and is the relationship expert on WebMD’s Relationships and Coping Community.
Dr. Becker-Phelps is also the author of Insecure in Love.
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Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.
Personal change through compassionate self-awareness