Don’t Get Distracted, Disengaged, or Discouraged
About twenty years ago, I tried to get a nonprofit off the ground. I launched a new initiative in my community to kick start it. I spent a lot of time on the phone recruiting sponsors for the event. And I communicated with a government agency to have a public official at the event. And I worked with various media to garner attention for the event—before social media. After all that work, I thought, “This was too much. I can’t do this again. It’s too hard.” I decided I couldn’t stick with it.
Several months later, I was talking to a nonprofit leader about that experience. When I told him that I abandoned the idea of starting up the organization, he was surprised. He said, “It took me three years to get this organization up and running. Why would you think it would take you less time than that? Why didn’t you stick with it?”
At the time I didn’t realize how long it took to start a nonprofit organization. I had unrealistic expectations about how quickly I could get it going. Once I quit, it would never be as easy to keep it going as it would have been, had I not quit. I had already had a successful event. I had already gotten the attention of media. And I already had a connection with a public official’s office. When I quit, all that work I had done was lost. And it would have been even harder to start after that.
Don’t quit too soon. It’s important to stick with it. Watch out for these three things that will make you want to quit—and here’s what you can do to overcome them.
1. Don’t get distracted. Stay focused.
Keep focused on what you need to do. And keep on doing it. It’s easy to be pulled aside by other bright shiny objects, but don’t get distracted. Don’t lose your focus.
When you are distracted, it’s easy to forget why you started to begin with. But when you stay focused, you can remember what your purpose is. Keep your purpose before you, so that you stick with it.
If you go hiking in the woods and you are distracted by all the different paths that you could follow, you will not make much progress. That’s especially unhelpful if you need to be at a specific place by a specific time. You can’t afford to be distracted from the path if you are going to stick with it.
The path you have to walk in your work life is not much different from the path in the woods. If you veer off your path much, it will be all the harder to get back on track again.
2. Don’t disengage. Stay engaged.
If you are doing something new, it will be hard. Expect that going into it. Don’t think it will be easier than it will be. Stay engaged in the process.
When you get stuck, it’s hard to get reengaged. It’s like getting your tires stuck in the mud and you don’t know how to get out of it again. Don’t allow yourself to spin your wheels. Instead take the time to focus on the road ahead of you and stay engaged at the wheel.
Because I stopped trying to start up the nonprofit, I allowed myself to get stuck. The only way you can guarantee you will not get stuck is to be constantly moving forward. If you are consistently moving forward—even if you’re not moving that fast—you will not get stuck. You are more likely to get stuck when you try to do a big push. Remember: slow and steady wins.
Stick with it, so that you don’t get stuck. Keep moving forward—and don’t be concerned with the pace you are moving forward.
3. Don’t get discouraged. Encourage yourself.
Your attitude will be your greatest asset. If you don’t intentionally keep your attitude up, you can fall prey to getting down.
You need to believe you can accomplish the goal ahead of you. You may not have any cheerleaders who will be there to help you. It’s important to be your own cheering section to keep your attitude up so that you can stick with it.
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our Attitudes.
You can accomplish your goals. You can do what you set your mind to. But you have to stick with it.