Why some give up, check out, or lose heart… and what we can do about it

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You can see it wherever you look… people that have given up on life, their jobs, or on themselves. Often, at the least, this might be manifested as poor performance in the workplace. At it worst, it can result in physical harm to an individual or others.

Many have written about the reasons individuals give up, check out, or lose heart. Today, I would like to add my thoughts and, hopefully, provide some practical steps we can take to either help ourselves or others keep dig out or prevent these “valleys” from becoming something permanent. Additionally, understanding the reasons why some give up can help us as leaders, family members, or friends take proactive action to keep ourselves and others motivated.

Reasons why some give up, check out, or lose heart

  1. The pain becomes too great to withstand – Pain, either physical or emotional, can become debilitating. When someone experiences pain day-after-day without a pause, they can begin feeling things spiral downward… Will it ever get better? Will I ever have another good day? I can’t even get out of bed, much less function. How can I thrive when it is doubtful I will even survive? Pain can also lead to the abuse of alternatives that might become addictive or more harmful. Even the most positive, enthusiastic person can lose that edge when pummeled by pain for an extended time. It is important that we understand the impact of pain in an individual’s life and be sensitive when we see it in others… or ourselves.
  2. What I do doesn’t matter – Everyone has an innate desire to be productive. We all want what we do to matter or count for something. Most desire to make a difference in their work, in their family, or in their neighborhood. When an individual starts feeling that their life doesn’t really matter, they lose heart. When we start feeling that our work is meaningless, our effort diminishes. It is important that we find our real purpose and understand that, because we were created by the God of the universe, we have value.
  3. No one cares what I do – During my time in the workplace, I heard many individuals explain to me that because they felt that no one really cared what they did or how they did their work, it became meaningless to them, as well. When you feel that no one else cares, you lose heart. Finding meaning, even if only in your own eyes, in what you do makes a great difference in how you feel about your work and your value.
  4. This is no longer fun – People often check out when the things they do no longer brings the enjoyment or fulfillment that they expected or that it once did. When our work or life becomes difficult without gratification, we can slip downward. Finding some enjoyment is essential to happiness and when it cannot be found, we become demotivated.
  5. I am all alone – Loneliness can become a truly difficult life challenge. When an individual feels alone in the world, they can slowly slip into thinking that “it doesn’t matter anymore” which often leads to something worse. Finding a way to stay connected with others is essential to happiness and self-worth.
  6. I am overwhelmed – That feeling that life is throwing more at you than you can handle will often take an individual into a valley of despair. Being overwhelmed with work or time deadlines or fatigue can all hamper your well-being. Finding ways to manage the load, or at least recognizing that “all you can do is all you can do” is important to maintaining a proper balance.
  7. No matter what I do, it is wrong – When you believe that you are not successful and never will be, it is tempting to give up, or at least slack off. Finding ways to be successful, even at little things, can help one reclaim that feeling of worth and value that failures tend to diminish.
  8. There is no hope that things will get better – When an individual loses hope, despair is sure to follow. Have hope in the future is critical to finding meaning today.

Warning signs that someone is or has given up

Here are a few things to look for in others or yourself to determine when someone has given up or is losing heart”

  • They have lost their sense of humor
  • Their work performance has gotten worse
  • They spend more time alone
  • They laugh less
  • They avoid others
  • They blame others more
  • They don’t seem to care about things they used to love
  • They stop hobbies that were formerly important to them
  • They begin doing just what it takes to get by
  • A sense of sadness is evident
  • They begin spending less time taking care of themselves
  • Screen-time becomes more important than people-time
  • They begin abusing food, alcohol, drugs, or anything else
  • They begin talking about self-destructive actions, dreams, or thoughts
  • They become less reliable

When you see an individual exhibiting these behaviors (or, you find yourself experience them), it is time to take some productive action to help a complete slide. A few suggestions are offered below, though you may need to be aware that professional help could be needed, as well.

Actions for keeping others motivated

What can you do to help restore someone else that has or is showing signs of giving up, checking out, or losing heart? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Be an encourager – Verbalize positive thoughts, comments, or accolades when merited. Be intentional about positive feedback.
  2. Provide a future event –  Plan something that the individual can look forward to. Speak about the future. Create a positive goal to strive for.
  3. Provide a new assignment, new challenge, or new opportunity – Be intentional about creating variety in the life/work of the individual. Be creative.
  4. Be a friend – Have a meal together. Do something with the individual. Share your own life. Be vulnerable. Ask about things in the individual’s life.
  5. Help them see the value and purpose in what they do – Be specific about how the individual’s work/life matters. Show them the result of their work. Show them how much they mean to your and others.
  6. Introduce something fun – Schedule something fun that is unexpected. Do something light. Make smiling important and routine.
  7. In the workplace, avoid micro-managing – Do not (repeat, do not) demotivate an individual by micro-managing their life and work in the workplace. There is, perhaps, nothing that will demotivate an individual more or faster.
  8. At home, be more positive – Find something positive to say. Do it often. Do it sincerely.
  9. Spend time with the individual – Nothing says, “I care” more than spending time with an individual.
  10. Encourage more life balance – A proper balance in life (work, family, self, hobbies, etc.) is important. It helps to distract when things in one area become difficult.
  11. Introduce the ultimate “hope” – We all need hope. You can find my ultimate “hope” at this link (What is your hope?).

Keeping myself motivated

What if you find yourself giving up? What if you don’t really care as much anymore? What if you’ve lost the enthusiasm you once had? Well, the list above is a good one for you, too. However, let me add a few additional things that I know can help:

  1. Find a way to serve someone else – There is no way to take your focus off yourself than to find a way to serve someone else. Someone once said, “You can’t call a day a good day unless you’ve done something for someone else that could never repay you.” When you serve someone else, the greater benefit is always for yourself, not the one you served.
  2. Make a change – Sometimes, we just need to do something different. Re-arrange the furniture. Drive a different way to work. Find a new job. Go outside your comfort zone. Sometimes, a single change can kickstart other areas of our lives.
  3. Visit a Children’s Hospital or Eldercare Home – Seeing the challenges and strength in someone weaker than ourselves can often motivate us to be different in our own lives.
  4. Make a new friend – Really, when was the last time you made the effort to nurture a new friendship? Give it a try.
  5. Initiate something fun with someone else – Be intentional about scheduling something fun. Go to a ballgame. Play golf. Take a class together. It is likely that this would be good for both you and the other individual.
  6. Start a journal, blog, or notebook – Sometimes, taking the time to write down your thoughts and aspirations can be motivating.
  7. Learn a new hobby – Getting into a rut can often be broken when we decide to learn something new. Consider learning something new than you can do for a lifetime.
  8. Start with small steps – Make a goal that is very achievable. Celebrate that success, then do it again. Small victories can encourage us and motivate us to take bigger and bigger steps.
  9. Be the light in someone else’s darkness – Find someone that you know that needs to see something positive in their own life. When you become a light for them, your own world becomes a bit brighter.

 

Today, as we stand on the brink of another new year, is a great time to look for ways to rekindle that spark of encouragement in the lives of others… or, our own lives. Finding ways to both recognize and do something to help those that have given up, those checking out, or that friend that has lost heart can make the difference not only for them, but for us, as well.

 

Finding happiness… even when the sun doesn’t shine

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One of my nephews married a Norwegian girl and their family now resides in Norway. It seems the Norwegians believe it is important for children to be taken outside every day, even as infants. Despite the cold, Norwegians feel it is necessary to expose their children to all types of weather rather than protect them by keeping them inside except for clear and warm days.

My initial thought was they believed the cold helped build a tolerance for extremes in weather. I didn’t really understand there was a more important reason until I read the following quote:

“Encouraging a child to go outside in all weather builds resilience, but more importantly, it saves them from spending their life merely tolerating the ‘bad’ days in favor of a handful of ‘good’ ones – a life of endless expectations and conditions where happiness hinges on sunshine.”                                                    – Nicolette Sowder –

I recall that, as a child, I rarely stayed inside because of the cold or bad weather. My siblings and I walked to school (I can’t recall a single day through elementary school that I was driven to school) and played outdoors nearly every day of the year. When it was cold, we bundled up. When it rained, we enjoyed the puddles and mud. When it was hot, we removed our shirts and wore shorts. I’m not sure my childhood built resilience, but it certainly did not give us easy excuses.

Today, it seems, children suffer from overexposure of a different kind. Over-protection by parents, grandparents, teachers, and others promotes a view that we can take a mulligan when the conditions aren’t perfect. If we don’t like our boss, we don’t have to do our best on the job. If we don’t like the work, we can simply quit and stay at home. If my teacher is unreasonable, my parents will fix it. If we aren’t promoted within the first year, we quit and find a new job. We have become individuals that thrive in sunshine, but avoid bad weather. Our happiness has become dependent upon how much sunshine we experience in life.

Someone once said:

“A good day is not determined by what happens to us, but by how we react to the events of the day.”                                   – Unknown –

 

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It is toughness. How much toughness do you exhibit? Are you one that can quickly move on from disappointments? Are you known as someone that will get the job done regardless of the barriers or challenges you face? We can’t allow the amount of “sunshine in our lives” to define whether we are a good employee, a good parent, a good spouse, or a good friend. We must develop the skill (or whatever attribute or ability you want to call it) to be focused and not easily distracted by challenges or inconveniences.

In Oslo, the average number of hours annually with sunshine is 1668. That number is undoubtedly impacted by Norway’s latitude. Marseille, France experiences 2858 hours per year of sunshine. In the USA, Phoenix leads the way with 3872 hours of sunshine per year…nearly 2.5 times that of Oslo. Where I live, the average is 2594 hours annually… well below Phoenix, but still over 60% more than Oslo. So, do you think the people of Norway allow the lack of sunshine to impact their happiness? In fact, studies year-after-year rank Norwegians as some of the happiest people on earth. They are unaffected by their lack of sunshine. Perhaps, Sowder is right. Perhaps, we need to learn that attitude is a choice nurtured by how well we have learned to tolerate adversity. Things might not always go our way, but we can choose to thrive in any circumstance, not merely stay inside to avoid discomfort.