What to Do If You Feel Like Giving Up on Your Dreams

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Slight Edge" by Jeff Olson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What do successful people do when they feel like giving up? How can we re-inspire ourselves when pushing forward just feels like too much or worse—pointless?

To achieve success, we must resist the urge to give up and our inclination towards losing faith. One way to keep pushing forward when you feel like giving up on your dreams is to amp up your levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Here is what to do when you feel like giving up.

The Loss of Faith

One of the major obstacles to success is the fact that once we reach adulthood, we often don’t have the faith in ourselves that we did as children. Consequently, we stop being willing to take the risk of making mistakes, lose belief in the possibility of success, and lose tolerance for the experiences of failure that are often necessary to achieve success. You can tell you’ve reached this state if you regularly have thoughts like “I could never do that,” or, “this is too difficult for me.” Over time, these thoughts make you feel less motivated to take the risk to pursue your goals, and more likely to give up on them.

When you are on the edge of giving up on your dreams, you must find ways to re-inspire yourself if you start to lose faith and don’t entertain thoughts of giving up.

One way to stay motivated when you’re afraid of failure or stop feeling inspired is to keep your dopamine levels high. Dopamine is the reward chemical, and the more dopamine your brain releases, the stronger your ability to persevere through challenging periods

You can increase your dopamine levels using the following strategies:

  • Every time you take an action towards your goals, visualize yourself getting a jolt of dopamine. For example, you might imagine yourself drinking a shot of liquid and becoming immediately happy. Research shows you can use visualization to train your brain to associate perseverance with pleasure.
  • Reframe your perspective on moments of struggle. See these moments as opportunities to build confidence. For example, every time you take action towards your goals when you don’t feel like it, praise yourself for how strong and capable you are. This teaches you to associate work with growth, and growth with joy.
  • Treat every positive action you take as something worth rewarding. For example, even the smallest actions, like getting out of bed on time or combing your hair, can be fuel for your dopamine tank. This trains your brain to release dopamine even when you’re not taking actions directly towards your goals.
What to Do If You Feel Like Giving Up on Your Dreams

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  • Why some people fail and some succeed despite having the same tools
  • How small practices, executed consistently over time, will give you an edge
  • How you're getting in the way of your own growth by neglecting simple things

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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