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What Keeps You Going: How to Persevere During the Tough Times

By August 2, 2023December 15th, 2023No Comments
What Keeps You Going

You know that feeling, that temptation to throw in the towel?

Me too. After all, life is amazing, beautiful, and surreal, but it’s also an inherently bumpy ride.

It gets even rockier when pursuing a worthy goal. Daunting by nature, worthy goals challenge you and take you to the edge of who you are and what you know, and what you’ve achieved.

It’s no wonder there are moments of doubt where you say, “I just want to lay down on the floor and hope this goes away.”

But if you want to “give more to the world that you take” – a powerful phrase from Jacqueline Novogratz about a life well lived, you need to keep going, and you need to stay committed.

So, here’s how to find the inner motivation to push on when things get dicey.

Life Is Going to Have Tough Moments

I want to start with two reminders for when you’re going through hard times.

The first is the phrase: “This, too, shall pass.”

It’s a nudge to stay calm and keep going during the good and the bad times. When things are going great, the phrase should keep you humble, reminding you not to get too cocky, overly excited, or over-inflated.

During difficult times, it can help you recover from feeling depressed or diminished, knowing that this situation and your emotions are transient.

The second reminder I want to give you is that we all have injuries and scars. Embrace the fact that wisdom enters through the wound and that scar tissue is the strongest tissue we have.

It shows recovery. Our journey. Our personal growth. The problem comes when we let our scar tissue stop us from moving forward.

But scar tissue doesn’t have to stop us – it can be broken down.

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How to Keep Going: 6 Ways to Persevere When Things Get Tough

I’ve unlocked the best of who I am by taking on ambitious things that stretch me, challenge me, and are hard for me. When I was writing The Coaching Habit and had no idea if it would ever find a publisher, it felt like I was looking up at a near-vertical cliff face – but this daunting zone is where I thrived.

It wasn’t a smooth road either. I had doubts, it was stressful, I was worried about money and I got stuck constantly. Getting stuck is normal – it’s natural that when you embark on a worthy goal, you’ll run into obstacles. Getting unstuck means finding possible routes around them to progress forward.

Every obstacle is a gift. It’s a chance to think bigger, step into the next best version of who you are, and give more to the world.

With that in mind, here are my tips for regaining momentum after a setback. When your motivation wanes or you’re unsure what direction to move.

1. Separate Facts From Your Judgements

Self-doubt is inevitable for anyone pursuing a worthy goal. There’s not a single person in this world – apart from maybe psychopaths – who doesn’t ask themselves once in a while, “What am I doing?” or, “This is a terrible idea,” or, ”I’m never going to finish.”

As you do when giving and receiving feedback, it’s essential to break down this internal monologue into three components: data, feelings, and judgments.

Often, the difficulties we face become way more overwhelming than they need to be because of the good ‘ol inner critic.

While you can’t stop the inner critic from knocking on the door and paying a visit, you can control how you respond. Try asking yourself: “What are the facts?” or “What’s the evidence?” when feeling overwhelmed.

By untangling all the noise around your feelings and separating what’s true and accurate from your judgments and fears, you’ll reconnect with your internal compass and it will be much easier to craft logical next steps.

2. Maintain the Physical Engine

It’s no secret that taking care of your physical well-being is vital.

Easier said than done – I get it.

Life can get hectic and busy and stressful, and when this happens, our good intentions often take a backseat.

But here’s the thing, your body is the physical engine that fuels your brain. When you prioritize your physical health, it’s like providing high-grade fuel for your mind.

Now, I get that during stressful periods, you might be tempted to neglect your health – skipping workouts, sacrificing sleep, and indulging in quick, unhealthy meals.

Trust me, I’ve been there too. But establishing a fitness routine is beneficial for so many reasons.

Aside from the fact that there’s the potential to look like Henry Cavill, keeping your body tuned will also help you stay sharp, energized, and regulate your emotional well-being.

It might take some effort initially, but once these habits become ingrained, they’ll support you throughout the ups and downs.

3. Remember the Mission

At, our mission is to infect a billion people with the possible virus.

And with the new book, How to Work with (Almost) Anyone, it’s to improve ten million working relationships.

For me and my team, this mission feels like an aspirational north light that we’re working towards.

When a tactic or strategy doesn’t pay off like we hoped, remembering our underlying purpose helps us bounce back from failure. By being mission-led and remembering we want to make the world a better place, we can reframe setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow.

When you’re feeling low, stuck, or lacking motivation, ask yourself, “What’s the difference I want to make?”

This simple shift takes you from personal ambition to purpose-driven outcomes. It helps you transition from short-term losses to playing the bigger game.

4. Embrace Struggle

If you’ve delved into How to Begin, you’ll know that struggles are an inherent aspect of pursuing a worthy goal. You’ll also know the three elements of a worthy goal:

  • Thrilling – the thrilling aspect ignites a spark within you; it’s what excites and motivates you.
  • Important – the important component means your pursuit serves a purpose beyond yourself; it positively impacts the world around you.
  • Daunting – this is the element that pushes you beyond your comfort zone, challenging you to grow and evolve.

Now, it’s essential to understand that embracing something daunting inherently leads to struggle. There’s no clear or linear path to success when you take on a worthy goal. Failing, pivoting, and encountering obstacles are all part of the process.

So, when your feet are stuck in the mud, take a moment to engage in a little forensic accounting.

Look at what happened, what it tells you about the goal, about yourself, and about the context you need to move forward.

Then set a destination that’s pretty close, get there, and determine the next destination a little further out. Remember, reaching a worthy goal involves lots of small hops instead of leaping confidently in the direction of your dreams.

5. Separate Yourself From the Outcome

Trust in the process, not the result.

Being able to separate your sense of self from the outcomes of the stuff you’re working on is a challenging lesson but one that’s incredibly empowering.

If you subscribe to my newsletter or read my LinkedIn posts, you’ll know one of the phrases I use a lot is: “You’re awesome, and you’re doing great.”

I get the Conspiracy group to say it, I encourage my friends to say it, and I want to get everyone else to say it.

This phrase serves as a constant reminder that, no matter what happens and however you’re feeling about yourself, you’re doing the best you can.

While things may change and evolve, you’re always awesome, and you’re always going great.

So, ground yourself in the image of you as your best self. It will help you recover from the inevitable stress of pursuing something thrilling, meaningful, and daunting.

6. Focus On Your Friends and Family

When writing Friends, Robin Dunbar discovered that our brains can only maintain about 150 meaningful relationships. Within this figure are inner rings of individuals who play diverse roles in our lives.

These inner circles consist of 1.5 intimate friends, five close friends, 15 best friends, good friends, and countless acquaintances.

The key lesson here is understanding that support and connection come from those inner five to fifteen individuals. When times get tough, these are the people who will remind you of your strengths and how you’ve overcome similar obstacles in the past.

Investing time and effort in nurturing and growing these friendships is vital. Unfortunately, many of us, especially men, are pretty terrible at this. For many men, their only really close friend is their partner. And while a loving partner is great, depending on one person can increase feelings of isolation and loneliness.

As you’re working towards your worthy goal, neglecting your relationships can become all too easy.

But engaging with others will help you succeed and nurture your happiness. So, get good people around you, people who encourage you, push you, and cheer you on when you feel like stopping.

Strive to Do Your Best

I want to finish off by recommending a great book The Dip, by Seth Godin. It’s short. It’s sweet. It’s powerful. It’s useful.

The subtitle on the cover reads, “The little book that teaches you when to quit and when to stick.”

Really, you feel like the book is going to say, “Let me give you some excuses for opting out of things.”

But the key challenge Seth Godin lays down in this book is a call to step away from mediocrity.

Either do it well, be bold and ambitious, and strive to do your best – or stop doing it altogether.

What you don’t want is to be caught in that timid middle where you’re doing okay, hanging in there, not pushing too hard, but you’re not freeing up capacity for things that matter.

When you’re looking for motivation, be honest with yourself about what you’re willing to give. To do the work that matters, you need to commit to it fully. Or you need to say no to it. Don’t be stuck in that middle place where it’s miserable. Make a choice and then cross the threshold.

As Bukowski said, “If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

Are You Ready to Keep Going?

A worthy goal will be inherently daunting – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue it.

If you’ve started something exciting but it’s stalled, or know what to do but need an extra nudge, check out my How To Begin course.

It’s a structured, powerful way to deeply engage in your most meaningful work, craft a worthy goal, and keep going to completion.

Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

I'm the author of five books that have collectively sold more than a million copies. I'm the founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. I'm the host of the *2 Pages with MBS* podcast.