Three Things to Consider When You’re Discouraged

By Gail Wagnild

Reading time:  3 minutes

Have you ever failed and wanted to give up? I have. And sometimes that’s the wise thing to do. But other times, I have quit before I knew how it would turn out and always wondered… should I have kept going just to see what was around the next bend in the road? That’s not easy to do when you are seriously discouraged.  

It’s common knowledge that if we don’t have perseverance, we will fall short of realizing our dreams. Many have said that intelligence, education, and abilities do not predict success but that it is the quality of perseverance that enables us to reach our goals.  Especially as a new year begins, we are reminded how much persistence we will need to reach our goals in the coming year. There are many quotes to encourage us such as “If you’re going through hell, keep going” (Winston Churchill).

But what if we’ve decided we don’t have enough persistence to reach our goals? What if we are thinking that we can’t get back up? What do we do if we’ve failed a lot and just don’t have any fight left in us? We’ve all failed and known defeat. Then what?  If someone then says to me, “You have to have perseverance” I can’t disagree but I might wonder where is it going to come from?

When I first started college and studied piano, my instructor told me that I wasn’t practicing enough and that if I ever wanted to be an accomplished pianist, I needed the following personal qualities:  a strong desire, fierce determination, and self-discipline. Since then I’ve learned from success and failure that when I carefully evaluate these qualities in  myself, I’m more likely to know if something is worth pursuing. So when I’m down and discouraged and ready to quit, I consider the following:

  1. How important is this goal to me? I have to be clear about what it is I want. What is my dream? What do I want for myself or for others? What do I want to achieve?  It helps me to write things down so ideas aren’t spinning around in my head. Once my dream is clear enough to me, I like to talk to someone else about it, too so that it’s very real.
  2. Then I ask, how strong is my determination? Is it enough to sustain through the up and down times? There are apt to be more failures on the way to my goal and do I have the necessary grit to get through them?  Why is it important enough to keep trying? If it’s a relationship with another person, is it worth the effort to work on it? Am I trying to overcome an illness? How determined am I to attain my dream? This can be difficult to measure but try to do this. On a scale of 1-10, how much do I want this?
  3. No matter how compelling my dream and determined I am to reach it, it won’t happen without effort. One of the most difficult parts of perseverance for me is self- discipline, which I resist. My piano instructor recognized this and told me repeatedly that I wasn’t practicing enough. He was right and without the discipline of practice, desire and determination weren’t enough.

When I’m discouraged and trying to figure out if I should keep trying, I like to think about the above three requisites and decide if it’s worth the struggle or if it’s time to move on.