Working on long-term projects can be notoriously tough-going, because such projects do not provide the quick-fix positive feelings we all need to feel good about ourselves. As such, you may be tempted to quit many times while undertaking your long-term project. However, if the project is worth doing, you will regret your current decision to quit at a later point.
If you want to reap the benefits of undertaking your long-term project, you need to find ways to avoid quitting just because things are tough. Here are four steps you can take to motivate yourself not to quit:
1. Write down the reasons for starting your project. Reminding yourself of the reasons why you started your project in the first place will put the big picture firmly back in your mind. It could be that you might not even have to do some of the tasks you are currently doing – could it be that you got sidetracked into thinking you have to do them when they are not essential to completing your project? Reminding yourself of the reasons for having started the project works both to get you back on track and to reignite your motivation when you are ready to buckle under the pain and quit.
2. Focus on the long-term benefits of not quitting. If you are like most people, short-term pain has more impact on you than long-term benefits. This is why it is important for you to amplify the benefits of not quitting in your mind. How will completing this project make you feel? Take the pain now, to prevent having to take a lot more pain later.
3. Decide in advance the circumstances under which (if your next set of efforts do not pay off) you are going to quit. Keeping going while having a plan in place about when you are going to quit focuses the mind. The reason most people quit is that without having a firm set of circumstances in place under which they are going to quit, the easiest thing to do is to quit right now instead of taking a fresh look at the big picture (as outline in step 1) and then keeping going.
4. Ask yourself these three questions: i) am I panicking?; ii) who am I trying to influence?; iii) what sort of measurable progress am I making? If your answer to i) is ‘yes’ (be honest), then it is likely that your thoughts of quitting are prompted by short-term rather than long-term considerations. This means that if you are trying to make a decision now whether or not to quit you are likely to make the wrong decision. Give yourself a breather, go through steps 1-3, then reassess the situation while thinking of the long-term. In relation to ii) and iii), if the success of your long-term project depends solely on one person or organisation, and they have already repeatedly said ‘no’, you are in trouble. If, on the other hand, your project depends on the stamp of approval of a market, keep going. Every little bit of progress you make increases exponentially the more you advance, because people within a market influence one another.