How to Keep Going When You Want to Give Up on Your Goals

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The 50th Law" by 50 Cent and Robert Greene. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Want to know how to keep going when you want to give up on your goals? What are the best ways to maintain your motivation?

According to The 50th Law, when you want to give up on something, the only way to keep going is to learn, adapt, and stay committed to your goal. The authors argue that if you resist change, try to take shortcuts or avoid learning everything you can about your craft, you’ll only end up losing motivation.

Read on to learn how to keep going when you want to give up, based on five tips from The 50th Law.

How to Keep Going When You Want to Give Up

Curtis Jackson and Robert Greene’s book The 50th Law is all about learning how to achieve fearlessness in life by changing your mindset. In the book, they explain how to keep going when you want to give up since this is a situation many of us encounter when we face our fears. To maintain forward motion, they claim you should stay open to change and keep learning new things. When moving toward a goal, unexpected situations will always arise. The only way to overcome these situations and maintain forward motion is to learn, adapt, and stay committed to your goal. If you resist change, try to accomplish your goals the “quick” way, or avoid learning everything you can about your craft, you’ll only end up slowing yourself down.

Many people don’t know how to keep going when they want to give up, and the authors argue that this happens for two reasons. First, they have set beliefs about how things are supposed to be. When a situation arises that they didn’t expect, they get flustered and don’t know how to react, slowing down their progress. However, if you embrace unexpected situations and adapt to handle them, not only will you maintain your momentum toward your goal, but you’ll also add skills to your repertoire and achieve success faster than those who resist change.

(Shortform note: Experts note that people tend to set expectations to maintain control and avoid uncertainty, and these experts reiterate that it’s natural to get stumped when things don’t go as planned. However, they add that we can avoid becoming overwhelmed in the face of unexpected events by implementing a few strategies. For example, try to be flexible when things don’t go as planned. Consider whether you can accommodate or cope with the change and how it might benefit you—even if it’s not what you originally wanted. Alternatively, if the change is distressing and you feel unable to cope, seek support from loved ones or a therapist.)

Second, people struggle to maintain momentum because they want fast results and look for shortcuts that don’t exist. Jackson and Greene argue that to reach your goals and maintain your success, you must become a true expert in your discipline. There’s no fast way to do this: You must dedicate time and effort to your goals to succeed, and taking shortcuts will only sabotage you in the end.

(Shortform note: Jackson and Greene argue that there are no shortcuts to gaining expertise—you need to dedicate time and effort to achieve true success in your desired discipline. However, they don’t specify how much time and effort this requires. Some experts claim that it takes at least 10 years to achieve expertise in a discipline. Further, you must spend this time engaging in deliberate practice to actually progress toward expertise. Deliberate practice requires you to regularly do things that are above your current level of competence and push yourself outside of your comfort zone—we’ll discuss this concept further a little later.)

Jackson and Greene present five inspiring tips to help you keep going when you want to give up on your goals.

#1: Accumulate a Wide Range of Knowledge

When you want to give up, rather than only focusing on your main area of interest, keep going by constantly learning about new topics and fields of knowledge. According to Jackson and Greene, this will help you change directions if unexpected situations arise. For example, imagine that you’ve bought a house to renovate and resell, but the housing market just crashed. In most cases, you’d consider yourself doomed. However, with a broad range of knowledge, you might know that the art scene is booming right now, so you could convert the house into an art studio for people to rent. 

(Shortform note: In Building a Second Brain, Tiago Forte agrees that accumulating a wide range of knowledge is integral to success in the modern age. However, he explains that our brains aren’t equipped to store all of the important knowledge we need. He recommends creating a digital, external storage system that makes it easy to store and recall every important piece of information you encounter.)

#2: Don’t Hold On to Negative Emotions

People tend to wallow in negative emotions. However, this makes the bad feelings stick around for longer and eventually decreases your motivation and momentum. Instead, Jackson and Greene say to let negative emotions wash over you and find a way to evoke the opposite emotion instead. For example, if you’re feeling anxious, force yourself to act confidently. If you’re feeling lonely, call someone that makes you feel loved.

(Shortform note: Experts agree not to dwell on negative emotions. However, quickly replacing your emotion and moving on, as Jackson and Greene recommend, might cause you to ignore your emotions entirely and make the situation worse: Unaddressed emotions may recur until you address them. To avoid this outcome, some experts advise analyzing your emotions using the “Siberian North Rail Road” (SBNRR) technique. First, Stop: Pause what you’re doing before you spiral. Second, Breathe: This will clear your mind. Third, Notice your feelings: What emotions are you experiencing? Are they changing? Fourth, Reflect: What’s causing your emotions? Are they an appropriate response to what’s happened? Fifth, Respond: Think of the kindest, most compassionate response to yourself and anyone else involved.)

#3: Focus on the Small Details Over the Big Picture

To keep going when you want to give up, Jackson and Greene recommend focusing on the small elements that success requires—skills, knowledge, completed tasks, and so on—rather than overlooking them and solely focusing on your end goal. Focusing on the big picture might allow you to achieve your goal, but your success will likely be short-lived as you don’t have the skills and knowledge to sustain yourself. 

(Shortform note: In The Power of Discipline, Daniel Walter reiterates the importance of focusing on small details like daily tasks and subgoals that are necessary to success. He adds that focusing on a big lofty goal without identifying the stepping stones needed to achieve it can often lead to inaction. To help identify these crucial smaller details, Walter advises creating very clear, specific goals—this makes it easier to identify the smaller steps you must take to achieve them. Then, identify how you can break these smaller steps down into even smaller daily actions so that every day, you’re making progress toward your goal.)

#4: Start Doing Things and Embracing Failure

Jackson and Greene argue that you must try new things and fail along the way to make true progress toward your goals. Many people struggle to do this because they fear failure. However, becoming successful requires you to master new skills that your current self isn’t yet a master at—if you avoid practicing these skills because you fear failure, you’ll never make progress. Jackson and Greene note that the more you try and fail, the more you learn and the faster you improve.

(Shortform note: In The Power of Discipline, Daniel Walter agrees that forcing yourself to take action and step outside of your comfort zone is crucial to achieving your goals. However, doing so can be extremely hard if you’re not used to the feeling of being uncomfortable. To increase your confidence and ability to step outside of your comfort zone, Walter recommends putting yourself in uncomfortable situations on a daily basis—you don’t necessarily have to do something big and risky, just something small that familiarizes you with feeling uncomfortable. For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, ask your friends if you can read a poem for them.)

#5: Pay Attention to and Accept Social Change

Finally, to keep going when you want to give up, you must be open to change—Jackson and Greene argue that this means keeping tabs on social change so you can adjust yourself to meet the wants and needs of the people. Many powerful players fail at maintaining success because they do the opposite—they try to convince stakeholders like customers or supporters that their idea is still valuable or important. This is often ineffective because you can’t always convince people that your perspective is sound. However, if you simply mirror what people want, you won’t ever have to convince them to support you: They naturally will. 

(Shortform note: In Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson take a different perspective on balancing stakeholder wants and needs with your ideas. Instead of monitoring the public’s views so you can change your ideas to meet their needs as Jackson and Greene recommend, Fried and Hansson argue that you should create timeless concepts from the start. In doing so, your business idea will never go out of style: You won’t have to waste time and energy trying to predict trends and constantly changing your concepts.)

How to Keep Going When You Want to Give Up on Your Goals

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  • Rapper 50 Cent and Robert Greene's perspectives on overcoming fear
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Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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