What Keeps You Going When You Want to Quit?

It happens to me several times a week. I want to quit. Just yesterday, I wanted to quit my run halfway into it. After the first mile, my lazy self asked, “Why can’t we just walk?” For a while, the voice got louder with each step.

What Keeps You Going When You Want to Quit?

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/pkline

But if it’s not running, it is something else: my marriage, my job, my writing, my blog, or even God. This is just the nature of life. The temptation to quit is a recurring theme.

And if the voices in our heads were not enough trouble, the voices in our culture also urge us to “throw in the towel,” “make a change,” or “take it easy on yourself.”

What these same voices fail to tell you is that there is a distinction between the dream and the work required to obtain it. Everything important requires work. Hard work. And sometimes there is a long arc between the dream and it’s realization. That is where the work and the transformation occur.

In my experience, the thing that keeps me going is answering this question, “Why am I doing this?” I then try to remember the dream. “Why I am doing this hard thing that I am doing.” I try to get connected to the original vision, because that keeps me going when the going gets tough.

For example, when Gail and I have a fight—yes, we do have fights—I ask, “So why should I stay in this marriage?” Instead of pushing that question down like holding a beach ball under the water, I let it surface and embrace it. “What is at stake?”

But notice: I’m not asking “Why should I quit?” because I will get answers to that question too. The mind is tricky that way. It will attempt to answer whatever question you ask it, so you must be very careful with how you frame the question. Instead, I focus on the positive. I am looking for reasons to keep going.

So, why should I stay in this marriage?

  1. Because I want love to be the defining characteristic of my life. There is no better better place to learn how to love than marriage.
  2. Because I want to be a leader, leading myself first and then my own family. Whatever else this means, it means initiative and sacrifice. That’s what leaders do.
  3. Because I really do love this woman with all my heart. All I have to think about is all the incredible moments we have shared together through the years.
  4. Because she is the mother of my five children—and a really, really great mom.
  5. Because she is my best friend, even though we occasionally get on one another’s last nerve. She is the one person I can count on to be there when I need someone to listen to me.
  6. Because we have 31 years invested in this relationship. It is less expensive to invest a little more than start over. We are too far into it to quit. (I would say this if we had been married for 6 months.)
  7. Because I really do know her. I have spent a lifetime learning. And yet there is still so much more I want to know. She fascinates me.
  8. Because I want to provide an example to my sons-in-law—and anyone else who is watching—of how to love a woman well. People need positive role models, and I want to be that person.
  9. Because I want to leave a legacy of love and stability for my children and my grandchildren. The alternative is unthinkable.
  10. Because I want my marriage to be an icon of Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church. After all, this is the sacramental nature of marriage (see Ephesians 5:22–33).

I have a written list like this for every important area in my life. If I get stuck and want to quit, I pull out the list and start reading through it. Immediately, it gives me perspective and energizes me. It makes it possible to silence the voices and get my head back into the race.

The truth is that we learn the best lessons when we don’t quit. This is when our character is transformed and good things happen.

Question: Where are you tempted to quit? Why are you going to keep going? What is at stake? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Sharon Cruz-Pecina

    Thank you so much for helping me look deeper into why desire to change or quit.

  • http://twitter.com/Lady_Jaws Jane Selomulyo

    Spot on! thank you!

  • Lisa

    Wow I have been feeling like this for the past week, and it’s a recurring feeling that rears it’s ugly head every couple of months. I never thought to write a list of why what I’m doing in a certain area of life is important. Thank you for the post! 

  • Thomsuddreth

    Great inspirational words. I got a call two hours ago from a potential employer who wanted a face to face interview. When I called back they said “never mind”. Your words have given me the hope that all this work will pay off. Thanks.

  • Dick

    Whats the meaning of the word quit, it’s not in my dictionary!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sean-Jackie-Fyock/100002281637000 Sean Jackie Fyock

    It is great to have someone posting inspiring messages that truly help people.  Thanks Michael. In Retrouvaille (an international marriage saving ministry) we teach that there is a difference between an “Ideal” and a “Value”.  A Value is something you have actually worked towards and continue to work towards.  An Ideal is something you believe would be great to achieve but you never actually work on it.  Both things can be difficult or frustrating, but only something is a value is it actually making a difference in your life.  

    For me, this means that I need to commit and take action to create value an recognize when something is simply an ideal and stop holding myself responsible for what doesn’t fit in my life. Like; I would love to run a half marathon, but I am not that strong of a runner right now and I don’t have the time to commit to training.  I do value running and enjoy 5K.  So I focus on that and don’t beat myself up over not being a marathoner at this time.

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    Yeah. I ask myself about it too… several times a day on several different areas of life each day. I think it’s not worth the trouble. I think fatalistically about the results (without having all the facts yet). I think it’s just useless in the long run. We’re all going to die anyway. Kind a drags me down when I think about the entire process of each situation to quit.

    For some reason I keep going. Not sure if it’s the expectation, the fear of failure, or just for the mountaintop experiences in the journey. Maybe it’s just trusting that the best is yet to come.

    This is encouraging to me when I’m contemplating quitting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyaL7Hsstc0


  • abbie

    I love the idea having having multiple ‘big picture’ lists to refer back to overtime. How did you breakdown ‘the oter areas ifyour life’?

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  • http://www.2SonsandParisMom.blogspot.com/ Kristy L. Cambron

    Fantastic post! And my favorite line? “She fascinates me.”  I love it when husbands and wives are best friends AND they are fascinated after thirty-one years.
    P.S. Don’t quit blogging? My husband and I love your posts!

  • BWhite

    Very timely for yesterday I took an emotional beating at the hands of some friends. This word encourages me to stay the course and press forward. Thank you

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I’m so sorry for yesterday’s friendly fire. Not fun at all. But I’m glad this post gave you the fuel to keep going forward.

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  • Jessica Rietema

    This was quite an appropriate read for me today.  I am in a hard place in my life – not from external circumstances, but from internal wrestling – and daily feel the urge to quit in the areas I am attempting to grow in.  Lately, I often give in to that urge, and feel even worse for it.  I have found myself in a place of daily, even moment by moment, surrender to Christ.  I appreciate this post because it validates my feelings while drawing me to move forward at the same time.  I want to be a woman of character, not a woman of the easy way out.

  • tlima314

    Thanks Michael, I needed to hear this. Great advice, I will be making my own list’s to look at when I want to quit.

  • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

    Michael,  Iam curious. Has this battle against quitting gotten any easier as you’ve had more success in some areas? In other words, is there a correlation between the desire to quit and our perceived level of acheivement. As one rises, does the other tend to diminish.


  • http://twitter.com/LionLeader4 Chris Chandler

    Thank you for the post, Michael. I’ve found that the best antidote to discouragement is to attack the problem with a double-dose of determination. The results usually cheer me right up! 

  • Lori

    The past several years I’ve been discouraged and frustrated with my job because I don’t like the direction the public educational system is going. I want to quit almost everyday. When and if I find something else (I’m the bread winner in my home so I can’t just accept any job), I will quit for good. But in the meantime, the only thing that keeps me going is God!! He helps me daily to make it through.

  • Johnandbetty

    Very well written and so true. We give up too easily or work to save a marriage too late. A good relationship is worth fighting for and fighting through the hard times. Loved this. 

  • Chuck Underwood

    I have been battling this question for the past few weeks in several areas of my life.   I really appreciate how by asking a different question can change your perspective entirely.  Thanks for the great post!  

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  • Brent

    It’s amazing that you used your relationship with your wife as your primary example of not quitting. My wife and I just minutes ago had a blow out fight and naturally I withdrew and “quit” at least emotionally. I say naturally because it’s become all too common of a habit to want to quit, withdraw and dwell on the “fact” that it’s all her fault.

    This article helped me realize that I don’t want love to be the defining characteristic in my life. And there in lies my problem.

    I felt a sense of relief coming to that realization. I still have the problem but at least now I know what it is. This whole turn of events also made me realize that, Lo and behold, I was the cause of our fight this morning (talk about a vale lifted from my face!). I have no doubt been the cause of many of our fights that I used to think were all her fault. 

    If I want love to become the defining characteristic of my life then it is going to take more soul searching and more defining moments like today. And to think, I only pulled up this site as part of my withdraw-and-pout reaction to our fight. 

  • Kurt Wuerfele

    So well written Michael. Thank you. You and Dan Miller are making a huge impact on my life right now, and your encouragement and wisdom is a gift from the Lord; I won’t give up on my God-inspired dream!!

  • Tea

    It is simple ehcellent said.We can learn lot from you.Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/YouEverySecond YES You Every Second

    Nice list! I love the way you actually say you should make a list of positive reasons to go on – and not some negative reasons to give up.
    It’s important to have in mind the purpose of what we are doing – but I guess that sometimes, it’s better to clear our mind, and just try to make the next tiny step – waiting for more motivation.
    What do you think?

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  • Taylors

    That is a great post and something I really need to hear right now in my life. Thank you for that uplife.

  • Leah

    Thank you so much for always inspiring us! What a great post!

  • http://www.medicalaccountsolutions.com Misty Gilbert

    Excellent post Michael Hyatt! Enjoyed reading it.

  • Linnette R Mullin

    I think the thing I wish I could call quits on is fighting my chronic illness. It infiltrates and poisons every area of my life and its a challenge to keep fighting the constant pain and fatigue. It would be nice if I could wish it away, but that’s not going to happen. Thank you for the post. It was very encouraging!

  • http://www.englishclubpro.com/ Akmal Akbarov

    Love and love how you see family and marriage life Michael. Thank you so much for such a wonderful post. )))

  • Leana Caraballo

    I constantly struggle with the “WHAT” question. Even when things are going good, I fight wit the ” it could have been better if I”. Then I go on social media and see certain friends constantly negative on life. I pray for bitterness to go away, and I rejoice with what I do have. I take steps back and Love more than anything else. Honestly Love is what keeps me going. I didn’t receive much of it growing up but I can Love like “HE”has loved me.

  • Coqueta

    What makes it easy to quit is if you’ve “quit” before. Regarding marriage: I am in my second marriage and it is like a roller coaster in many ways with everything from blended family dynamics, trust issues, opposing upbringings and most importantly, differences in priorities. I will admit…I feel like quitting most of the time. It’s exhausting. I think I feel this way more often than some because I KNOW I can survive without a husband. I’ve done it before. Yes, this sounds cold, callous and self-centered…but, what is keeping me going? My kids. My angels. My family…I don’t want to break their hearts..but, ultimately, I think God has a purpose for me in this marriage. Each day is a struggle and I need to keep focusing on what IS working and being thankful for what God has given me.

  • http://www.mattham.com/ Matt Ham

    Great timing on this re-post! I just finished the first draft of my first book and was getting some heavy artillery from the enemy. I wrote out a prayer for the book with morning as my reminder of why I wrote it in the first place. This was great confirmation, thank you!

  • thecompassionateindependent

    Reminds me of a teaching from Ford Taylor’s ‘Transformational Leadership’ called TFA- Thoughts->Feelings->Actions. When you want to change your actions, start with intentionally changing your thoughts (in this case, the question you are asking yourself). This will lead to a change in your feelings and then to changed behavior. I like your question technique even better. Thank you.

  • Maya

    Your message resonates with me. We do have to go through these uncomfortable moments for the greater good in the long run.

  • Diana Nesbitt

    This post was just what I needed. Today, for a few hours at least, I decided to quit National Novel Writing Month. I’m behind, I’ve been stressing over it and not being too pleasant to be around. So I said I was done. I even entertained the idea if quitting writing altogether. But when it all comes down to it and I think about what I might be missing out on if I do quit, I know I can’t quit. I may fail, but I won’t quit. Thanks for the encouragement to stick with it!

  • Andrew Lennertz

    As a neuroscientist and biochemist who deals with people with severe complex multidimensional challenges that atypical medicine and alternative medicine cannot help that have profound negative affects on every part of the sufferer’s life including intimate relationships, I see blogs daily with trite and useless information in the semantic format of “10 traits of successful people” including “staying positive” so I get tired of this basically low information value that is being promoted by life coaches, therapists and so called experts in life and people presented as expert advise. Your blog is a breath of fresh air. Though you are not a practitioner of any science that treats human suffering, your insights are in line with some of the top research in the area of neurology, sociology, psychology and ontology. There are 2 levels of information value which are objective and subjective. Objective is specific task oriented like tying your shoes. Subjective is global dynamic knowledge which is basically a wisdom or understanding about life. And life is all about relationships. Relationships are highly objective skill and subjective understanding dependent for success. Ultimately people get sick because they don’t have good challenge resolution skills and they lack relationship support. This is some of the best relationship sustainability advice I have heard from a non science person in that field. There are three types of relationships…parity, proximity or affinity based. Many people have only proximity and affinity based relationships…they married somebody nearby who they became infatuated with. Parity based relationships are based on shared values and a sense of shared destiny. All relationship go through 3 phases.. infatuation, negotiation and implementation. Everybody loves the infatuation phase because that is when the brain creates oxytocin the “love” chemical. But that wears off in a couple of months. Then in order to go to the next level of relationship commitment and sustainability, people need to go through the negotiation phase. This is where most marriages fail or stay in limbo in perpetuity often become a passively antagonistic cold war. Only people who are in parity based relationships can get through the negotiation phase and agree on what to do next and implement it. Even if people can agree on what they want to do together they often disagree on how. Your entire semantic narrative reflects a parity based relationship you have with your wife because you share a sense of destiny and mutual like of each other. Like is the neurotransmitter state which keeps you going through the times you don’t feel the “love”. And even when you dont “like” that person for something specific they did or said, you still respect and trust that person. Trust creates like, like creates love. That is the secret of long term happy relationships. People who are looking to create what they want in a mutually beneficial relationship. EVery time you and your wife have overcome some difficult “what, how, when, where and why” difference in your relationships that has increased the trust level and that has strengthened not only emotional and energetic bonds, it strengthens what sociologists called “shared consciousness” bonds. In relationships one of the most overlooked functional capacities is the ability to share consciousness where each person has strengths and weaknesses but each one contributes where they can and the total is greater than the sum of the parts. And the “total” is the relationship which is greater than the parts “the people”. A relationship is a real entity… a trined entity where it must survive for both people to survive. Studies done have shown just a state of having only 2 good experiences to 1 bad can cause people to question the validity of their relationship. So having a mind set of appreciation, flexibility and giving each other the benefit of the doubt is not only great for the relationship they are also critical to the psychosomatic state of each person in a relationship. Statistics show that even a non optimal marriage in the long run can be healthier for people who are single. With the right person who you feel you share a destiny with, see that familial responsibility is a source of joy predominantly and not a burden, who see each other as co-leaders and who can see the virtue of the other persons perceptions have happier marriages and healthier lives. So this might as well serve as a primer for happy relationships and healthy relators…bravo! I always enjoy your blogs since you bring so much life wisdom to them…a lot more than most of the people who are the so-called experts! There is a technology to great relationships that structure them in a way so that they work just like any good creation or invention.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your encouragement, Andrew. What a great comment!

  • gridsleep

    And when there are no dreams, no goals, nothing important? What then?

  • Susan Rampson

    You wouldn’t believe the timing! Thanks for the wisdom and the sample touchstones to frame when to pause and when to take action on a change (in my case, a professional change).

  • Scott Fravel

    Great post. I think we have all been on the verge of quitting at some point. It’s funny that you posted this today, because I posted on this same topic just recently too. THE 4 PATHWAYS OF A QUITTER. http://scottfravel.com/2014/03/24/4-pathways-quitter/

  • Dale L.

    I loved reading this, it was so honest. Yes all married people fight or they are very rare. This was so deep and helpful. Thanks for being “real”.

  • http://www.louannstropoli.com LouAnn

    That’s awesome – I just blogged on the same topic today! Knowing our ‘why’ makes all the difference when the going gets tough. The tough don’t just get going. The tough know why they are getting going. Thanks for the post!