Keep Moving Forward

How often do you quit?
Do you abandon an aspiration or idea at the first signs of difficulty or personal discomfort?

I ran into a former colleague whom I hadn’t seen in years, but whose success I have been following from afar for several years now. She has created an incredibly successful business in the past five years that has hit the seven-figure mark. When she was thinking of starting the business almost a decade ago, she had talked to me about her aspirations, and of her fears of being in a flooded market with what she saw as little differentiation. She was wrestling with her own self-doubts about being able to create a profitable business.

So the question I had to ask as we talked was:
“What do you attribute your success to?”

Her answer took me by surprise. I was expecting a brilliant dissertation on how she figured out a magic formula, a secret marketing plan, or a novel approach. Instead, she looked at me right in the eyes and whispered,

“I put myself out there consistently and kept moving forward. I didn’t quit.”

Of course that peaked my curiosity and I had to ask what she meant by that seemingly simple statement.

She talked about how when she was starting out she would approach people for help or with her concepts, and would often be ignored. About how difficult it was to reach out or put her message out when no-one seemed to be responding, but that she kept at it anyway. About how she was plagued with self-doubt and wanted to just abandon her whole concept but didn’t. She felt the discomfort and moved through it. She kept moving forward. When she started to feel comfortable with her own discomfort and persevered through it, the momentum began to increase and things began to happen. The forward motion she consistently kept in spite of the appearance of non-response, perceived rejection, and lack of validation eventually bore fruit. It was her ability to keep moving forward despite every reason she gave herself to quit that eventually moved the needle for her.

The simplicity of her answer had me think about how often we abandon something when it gets hard, and then make excuses to ourselves as to why it didn’t work.

It can be anything from losing weight to taking on a difficult new job assignment, to pursuing a new venture. We begin with a stupor of excitement and as soon as it gets hard, we stop moving forward.

We abandon ship.

Dare I say the word—we quit.

Quit with a host of excuses as to why it didn’t work out—most of them to rationalize the fact that we had trouble with moving through our own discomfort as it arose.

When I started writing this blog about a year and a half ago, I had the same “abandon ship” instinct. I started with enthusiasm and excitement about providing a weekly vehicle from our busy lives to pause, reflect, and think about our own personal impact in our lives, wherever we are. I wanted to provide a simple catalyst for personal reflection and change. The problem was—who has time to read? And how would people find the time to read this in all the noise out there? And who cares about this stuff anyway? (I can go on and on about the reasons I gave myself to provide me with permission to quit and not do this.) All the reasons were rational and good ones. But I persevered through my own saboteurs and lack of external validation and kept moving forward. I went from two readers at the beginning to over five hundred now. I get numerous e-mails each week with self-reflections from people on whatever topic we are talking about and about the impact the self-reflection has had for them. I know this is small potatoes in the world of blogs, but my point here has nothing to do with my blog.

It is about moving through our own discomfort and committing to a higher vision. It is about moving forward consistently in service of that vision in spite of our own immediate need for instant gratification and approval.

So here is my challenge to you this week:
Identify something you want to accomplish.

Whether it is losing weight, being a better leader, learning how to meditate, or whatever.

Create a plan, and then start doing it and keep moving forward.

As soon as it gets hard for whatever reason—keep moving forward.

Don’t quit. Persevere.

Feel the discomfort and keep going anyway.

Stop looking for approval or validation from others.

Stop the script of excuses and rationalizations that put you right back in your comfort zone of inaction.

Listen to all the voices of why you should quit and do it anyway.

Repeat this mantra over and over again:

“Keep moving forward.”

You might just be amazed at what you can create when you commit and don’t quit.