3 Ways to Motivate Yourself When You Just Want to Quit
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
Some work weeks are five Mondays in a row. That’s life. Or at least that’s life as an entrepreneur. By that fifth Monday, with fires that won’t go out and the people whose opinion we value mostly being wet blankets, it’s normal to be asking if it’s worth sticking it out or if, maybe, we should just fire ourselves and go looking for another job.
We can pump ourselves up with platitudes like “quitters never win” and “failure is not an option,” but that’s seldom effective when we’re overwhelmed by urgent demands and out of time, money, and energy.
I’ve had my share of “a week of Mondays” and I’m still hanging in there after 20-plus years as an entrepreneur. Here’s what I do when it feels like the end of the road.
1. Quit for a while, then come back smarter.
Usually when I hear those “you might as well just quit” voices they’re really just an early warning system that I’m headed for a breakdown. It means I’m so deep in it, and so committed to it, that I’ve ignored the earlier storm warnings and now that tornado is about to touch down.
Try interpreting this as your smart signal saying, “What you’re doing isn’t working, it isn’t sustainable, and it isn’t going to be pretty when it all comes crashing down.” Which doesn’t mean you need to quit your business and start hitting the job listings. It means you need to quit doing what you’re doing the way you’re doing it.
So quit. If you’re right in the middle of a time-sensitive task make a commitment to quit as soon as that task is complete. And keep that promise to yourself. Take a nap, take a walk, take a deep breath. What kind of reset do you need?
Ask what has to change before what you’re doing does work, is sustainable, and isn’t threatening to come tumbling down around your ears. Then go back to it with that new template for how work gets done.
2. Reconnect with your dream destination, then check your road map.
Every now and then those sirens singing the sweet song of surrender have been telling me I need to quit doing what I’m doing because it’s not taking me where I want to go. I’ve had times when I realized that I was burning myself out doing what I thought I was “supposed” to be doing to get something I was “supposed” to want when really, what I was working toward wasn’t what I set out to achieve back when I first designed my entrepreneurial dream.
When that happens I have to reassess both my direction and my destination. If I decide that going on in the direction I’m headed will, in fact, bring me closer to a dream that still makes my heart beat a little faster I inevitably find that my heart is suddenly less weary and the siren’s call to stop all operation is muted to barely a whisper.
3. Quit pretending to be the Lone Ranger.
Even the Lone Ranger didn’t go it alone. But he did stick to just a couple of side kicks (don’t forget Trigger, he counts as a side kick too!) When I’m feeling like an orphan child in the desert I know that rounding up the usual inner circle of good friends isn’t always going to help me rewrite the story to suit myself.
Sometimes I need to work though it with someone who will challenge my perception and mindset, sometimes I need to find someone I can pay to pick up the slack. Sometimes I need to get some practical advice, sometimes I need to talk to someone who doesn’t know me, but knows my situation and feels my pain. So I might call my coach, file a project on Upwork, or get out to a meetup or other networking event.
Often it’s that change in how I’m framing the story and my emotions about it that frees up my energy to keep going. Or it’s getting one or two small but draining tasks off of my desk. Whatever it is, it’s not just the act of asking for help, but the relief of getting the help I need that makes it possible for me to get going again.
Test drive life after quitting.
When nothing else is working I give myself full rein to fantasize about quitting. I play out the satisfaction of saying, “I quit!” I rehearse the quitting conversation in my head. I write out checklists of all the things I’ll need to put in place to wrap up my business affairs. I make a list of what I’ll need to do to be successful in a job hunt.
So far, every time my fantasy got to the idea of taking a traditional job, I was so ready to get back to running my business. Quitting is always an option. But Entrepreneurship has my heart.