Give Up or Press On?

The longer you’ve lived the more setbacks you’ll likely be able to recall in your life. Nearly everyone can recall at least one time when something they’d worked hard for disappeared or was taken away. It could be a coveted position at your workplace, a special accomplishment on a sports team (such as winning a championship or breaking a record), or even a relationship you thought was “the one.” The commonality is that it was something that was supposed to endure.  Like the proverbial sandcastle on the beach, however, life has a way of coming along and tearing things down.

So what’s the point of putting in effort when everything seems hopeless? What’s the point of pressing on when the success you have already achieved is ripped away from you? What’s the point, indeed?

The answer is simple and may seem trite but here it is. You continue on because what appears to be the end isn’t. You see? Simple. That’s hardly sufficient to assuage the anger, sadness and despair that some people feel when faced with a great loss, I know. Therein lies the rub. It’s not supposed to.

When we accept that life is full of setbacks, that it will constantly beat us down, we have only two choices; give up or press on. Too many people choose to give up and this is because they don’t see anything in their future. They believe that what they have accomplished – perhaps the best they’ve ever done – as the best they will ever do. This is the self-limiting thought that kills dreams.

The reality is that as human beings we are capable of much, much more than we realize. Exceptional sports comebacks, feats of superhuman prowess in emergencies, miraculous cures, and so on, happen with enough frequency that they cannot be denied. Amazing things do happen. Individuals just like you and me accomplish amazing things and yet we believe that we are not cut of the same cloth. So we take great pride in our own accomplishments and put them on a pedestal and beam with pride, for we could never accomplish a greater feat in our lives! That’s a lie we tell ourselves to add value on what we have done and to give us permission not to try harder, to risk failure, so that we can achieve more.

Human beings thrive on challenge and adversity but many of us do not like pain. In fact we do almost anything to avoid it. Many of us fear it. Except when we believe we must do something, in which case suddenly the pain becomes almost irrelevant, the cost of our efforts outweighed by the fact that the thing must be done. To quote one of my mentors, “When the ‘Why’ is big enough, the ‘How’ doesn’t matter.”

To borrow an example from Darren Hardy, imagine being offered twenty dollars to walk across a 100-foot metal beam that is resting on the ground. No problem. We could easily walk the beam because there is no real risk to us and the benefit or gain is an easy twenty dollars. Next imagine the beam is resting atop and bridging two tall skyscrapers and we are offered the same twenty dollars to walk across the beam. Most people would say “No way!” because the risk far outweighs the benefit.

Now imagine standing atop one of the buildings with your young child on the far building, which is engulfed in flames, and only by crossing the beam can they be saved. We would do it in a heartbeat to save our child, regardless of the money! Why? Because our reason, our “Why” is a MUST and far outweighs the risk.

When we accomplish something great in our lives we feel proud of our accomplishment. If that accomplishment is undone or taken away, however, we may feel defeated but we shouldn’t. Time changes everything. Nothing is untouched by time. In our dream position we will eventually become stagnant or “comfortable” and stop pushing ourselves.  We’re no longer growing and no longer doing our best in that position. Athletic records will one day be broken and the next year brings a new round of playoffs and (usually) a new champion.  Relationships change over time and sometimes “the one” turns out not to be.

What we need to realize is that there is more. There is always more. More to be tried, more to be gained, more to be learned, and more potential to be realized. This is one of the lessons that needs to be learned for more personal growth to occur.

As the great Jim Rohn once said,

“Every life form seems to strive to its maximum except human beings. How tall will a tree grow? As tall as it possibly can. Human beings, on the other hand, have been given the dignity of choice. You can choose to be all or you can choose to be less. Why not stretch up to the full measure of the challenge and see what all you can do?”

Too many people reach a certain point and are content to stay there, not giving themselves permission to grow further, to experience more, to be more. When something great comes to an end, we need to remember that all things come to an end. An accomplishment of any kind should be viewed as a milestone, not a Stop sign. Hope is essential. We should maintain faith that we are destined for great things if we simply continue the work.

Don’t be satisfied with quitting after your accomplishment. Compete against yourself to best your best! Don’t sit on your laurels after setting a record. Work harder and beat your own record! Don’t believe for a second that a relationship that ends is all you were meant to have. Know that the relationship ended to make way for a better relationship that is truly meant for you!

What you think is a setback, is really a set-up for a greater comeback! – Joel Osteen

It’s not how many times we get knocked down in life. It’s how many times we get back up again. The definition of success is getting up one more time than you get knocked down. So stop feeling sorry for yourself and press on! Use your setback as a launching pad to get up and get back at it. You will achieve what you set out to and then some. When it’s all said and done you’ll look back and be glad you didn’t settle, that you didn’t quit, and it will feel darned good.


Originally published in





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