3 Reasons Why We Quit
Tl;dr: don’t talk about your goals, use discipline, and gratification to remain motivated and make it too costly to quit.
How many times have you had a great idea in the evening, told a couple of friends or your parents about it, maybe worked on it until 5 AM, only to…quit the next day?
Or be demotivated?
I’ll assume many times because I’ll assume you are a very dynamic person.
In this post, I’d like to give three reasons behind quitting in the early stages of an enterprise, as well as one trick to avoid doing so.
Did you ever have big dreams, big plans for the future, or a brilliant idea, and the excitement just made you tell everyone about it?
I did too, and every time I told someone about my plan, I felt less motivated to start working to do it and the plan would eventually end up…nowhere.
I was as much aware of this psychological effect as I was aware that telling everyone I was going to do something my parents had promised would be a guarantee to see that thing canceled last minute.
However, what I didn’t formerly know was that telling people about my own goals had a demotivating effect and would increase the chances of making me quit, as explained by Derek Sivers in this TED Talk.
In it, Sivers explains that when you tell someone your goals, you trick your brain into a new social reality where the brain believes that the goal was reached as you were formulating it, hence decreasing your motivation to achieve it.
The brain, that idiot, mistook the talking for the doing.
This whole idea is somewhat linked to the concept that people create their reality by talking and thinking. When you hear about “mindset for success” or that kind of idiocies, it’s about creating your own reality where what you thought was impossible suddenly becomes possible simply because you thought it could be possible.
It’s what the book “the secret” is all about.
The author explains that if you want to be rich, just imagine and behave like you already are until it becomes reality.
Tricking your brain into thinking you’re rich will make you act like a rich person and therefore, attract money.
It’s a “fake it until you make it”.
Sadly, in our case, verbalizing the goal won’t help you make it, but quite the opposite.
That’s the first reason why we quit early.
The second reason why we quit is not scientific, it’s just my own theory.
I believe we can find the strength to achieve our goal from several “motivators”, such as…motivation, discipline, passion, frustration, etc.
Motivation is a rather big “motivator”: who knows how many motivational videos are there on Youtube or the number of books that have been written on the topic.
The problem with motivation is that it is an emotion, and like all emotions, motivation is flaky and uncontrollable.
As such, relying on motivation to do something will indeed work only as long as you remain motivated.
Once you lose motivation…you quit.
Passion is another “motivator” that gets people to do things: Mary started painting because that’s her passion, Stacey started twerking because that’s her passion and Erik started playing the piano because…that’s his passion.
Passions get people to do things and “find your passion” may be one of the most over-used advice given to graduates and young people in general.
“Find your meaning” would be more appropriate, but that will be another article for later.
While passion is more reliable than motivation, it won’t get you far into your projects because passion is based on pleasure which we get as long as the passion does not evolve into something too complicated, or too monotonous.
In one sentence: passions are for the weekend, not for the week.
It’s interesting to talk with people that have made their passion their job: chefs with cooking, musicians with playing music, and taxi drivers with driving.
Many of them stopped being “passionate” about their passions as they metamorphosed into work, with annoyances, long hours, (not enough) money, and (the worse) annoying people to deal with.
Hence passion is not quite a reliable “motivator” for initiatives either.
We’re getting therefore to our third “motivator”: discipline.
Discipline is based on all but your mental strength.
Discipline is the idea that whatever happens, whatever the mood, the weather, or the fatigue state, you will do what you said you would do.
Discipline is the greatest “motivator” and root for success because nothing can stop discipline, and so the goal is eventually reached.
It is, ironically, also the most difficult “motivator” to use.
The third reason why we quit is the lack of gratification.
I didn’t say pleasure, I didn’t say meaning, I said gratification.
I don’t especially enjoy helping my friends moving out, but it is gratifying because you see the accomplished result and your friend is happy.
I don’t get dopamine out of it, nor meaning: just gratification.
So how do we obtain gratification?
Well, I know for myself, but I’m not sure for you.
I know I get gratification out of difficult tasks.
I won’t like it if it’s easy or quick, I want it hard and difficult so that I feel entitled to the reward I get at the end.
I want to struggle.
I’m happy when I’m unhappy and the other way around.
I quickly fall in love with the bitchiest most drama-loving girls…and wouldn’t have it any other way.
I need it as much as I hate it, but it’s like that.
It’s the reason why I do these carnivorous and no-fap experimentations.
It is difficult, so it is gratifying.
To sum up, this part, avoid telling your goals, seek gratification in projects, and use discipline to fuel your initiatives.
“But Aurélien, discipline is hard, I can’t stop myself from eating when I open the fridge”.
Yes, it is hard, but the battle is not won in front of the fridge: it’s won in the supermarket.
If you don’t buy that chocolate cake, it won’t sit in your fridge.
There was a point in my life when I couldn’t stop myself from smoking weed (I was in the Netherlands so I wasn’t breaking any law btw), so I just stopped buying some.
Boom, it was fixed.
Life is already difficult enough for you not to overcomplicate it.
If you can’t stop yourself from buying the cake, then avoid the cake alley or the shop altogether.
You see, I only eat meat and therefore only go to the butchery.
No need to go to the supermarket, thank you.
That’s how I stopped eating my daily kilo of Greek yogurt and became a strict carnivore: I stopped going to the supermarket.
In a likewise fashion, you should stop talking about your goals.
And yet, this is not easy: funny enough, the fact that I knew about this “don’t tell your goals” effect wouldn’t make me stop.
I knew there was a price to pay and was ready to pay it.
Ok, most of the time, I couldn’t stop because I was drunk, but still, I couldn’t stop.
Stopping something altogether is not easy in general and I believe you should replace a bad habit with a good habit, something less detrimental.
For example, replace smoking with playing Teris (it actually works), replace the chocolate cake with fruit, then the fruit with a vegetable, then with meat, then with nothing.
As such, I stopped talking about my goals once I replaced them with helping people for theirs (I’m not a Saint, not claiming to be one either).
It was still goal-oriented, but with much better results.
Instead of answering the question “what are you up to” with a rant on my latest project, I now say “not much, and you, where are you at with X? Could I help you with something?”.
Helping would make me happy and feel like I’d achieved something.
The person would be happy to be helped as well.
Helping would therefore get me out of talking about my goal, help someone else, and avoid negative consequences of goal spreading, such as jealousy.
Yes, people get jealous.
They don’t like it when one seems to make something out of one’s life.
They don’t like it when others deviate from the norm.
I don’t like it when I see someone more successful than I am, so I swallow my pride and see if I can help them, hoping that I will learn something by doing so.
Life is a constant competition, that’s how nature is wired.
When people tell me they want to build a business, I feel threatened in my own mediocrity as I get reminded that I’m nowhere in life and that I should work much harder than I am.
Even though it’s an emotion, frustration can be quite powerful too to get off your fat ass and start doing sh*t.
One More Trick
I want to give one last trick on how to avoid quitting in the early stages of an enterprise even if you used gratification, discipline, and got your mouth shut.
It works for me, hopefully, it will work for you too, so there you go: make it too costly to quit.
Make Quitting Too Costly
When I started this blog in February 2020, I wrote 14 articles within two weeks because I knew I had to trap myself into making it too costly for me to quit.
After two weeks and all these articles, I was no longer in a position to stop because I had spent a lot of time figuring out how to create a website, how to use WordPress, how to write content, I had spent money on server rental and had written all of these articles.
This effort, I must say (and I’m kinda breaking my own rule here) was initially fueled by the excitement in the short-term…but sustained by discipline based on making it too costly to quit in the long run.
Quitting would mean I would have done all the work for nothing.
The more efforts you originally invest, the higher the price you’ll pay if you quit.
The Bottom Line
Don’t talk about your goals as if you do, it will make you less likely to achieve them and might make people jealous.
Help others achieving theirs instead.
Use discipline and gratification from the start of the project and invest directly a lot of efforts into your initiatives so that it would be too costly to quit.
Of course, while I’m all about perseverance, you shouldn’t insist to do something that is clearly not working.
We should always support people in their projects and very rarely discourage them to do something unless this big project is of course…to become vegan.