When You Feel Like Giving Up

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I get to work with teenagers who are struggling - academically, emotionally (usually both). Recently, I was ready to give up on one of them.

I had been meeting with Sean weekly for 6 months to work on what was getting in the way of passing  his classes. But he continued to fail. He didn't even seem to care. That's what irked me the most.

At our last session, Sean was failing two out of six classes and barely passing two others.  With only a few weeks of school left, I knew it was not likely that that he could pass. He would have to repeat  Algebra & Biology, extending  his high school career (unless he chose to drop out).  So, of course, he was giving up. And I completely understood. My mind was trying to come up with reasons to try.

Chances of  Sean climbing out of this hole were slim.

Perhaps you feel like giving up.

You may be in a relationship that seems beyond repair. In so much debt that you don't know how to climb out.  About to break under the weight of caring for so many people.  Buried under clutter or responsibilities or an endless list of tasks. So far behind, you don't know how to catch up. Your ideal weight, job or life may be too far out of sight.

Perhaps you are tired and overwhelmed (I am no stranger to these feelings).

Here's how to dig out:

First, offer yourself compassion. This topic deserves its own post, but for now, give yourself warmth, encouragement  and unconditional acceptance in your internal dialogue. This means being kind to yourself in your thinking.

Next, remind yourself that challenges, failures, and pain are simply part of being human. We are all the same and we are all in this together.

Finally, step outside of yourself and observe your thoughts, emotions and sensations without judgement or resistance. This mindfulness makes new behaviors possible.

Then, connect with what is important to you and take one small step in the valued direction. 

It turns out that Sean did care and when he let himself, he cried about it. Much of Sean's pain came from the fear of disappointing his mom, who works hard at two jobs.  Sean felt that he was letting his mom down. So I tried to help him connect with his values. Sure, he wants to pass his classes, but that's not the only point. Right now, Sean can work hard (a family value) and learn.  He can feel good knowing he is doing what is important and making his life meaningful.  This also increases his chances of passing.  And if he does not pass a class, working hard and learning now can only help him  next time around.  His next step was asking teachers if he could make up assignments.

What is your next step?

Is it writing a list? Making a twenty-dollar payment? Drinking a glass of water, touching your running shoes, saying a prayer, giving a hug, making a call, opening a book, asking for help, breathing deeply, prioritizing, apologizing, resting, signing up?

You don't have to do it all right now.  You don't even have to know all of the steps. Just take one small step in the right direction.

You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance. It took me a long time to accept that, but it’s true. -via light-between-the-leaves

Did you miss the April Blueprint Newsletter? Check it out here.

Image via Geoff Captain Studios