The Most Important Question You Can Ask Yourself When Life Gets Tough

My life hasn’t been always been easy. I’ve faced a lot of hurdles, and a few of them nearly did me in. There are so many times when I could’ve given up on finding any kind of success. I’ve worn several hats trying to find my way, and more than one path I’ve taken has sent me into a dead end.

Like most survivors, I learned to adapt, taking each day as it came. There were times when I wasn’t sure how I was going to continue on. I’m grateful I did, although at the time the effort often felt futile. I had to dig deep too many times to count, but I refused to stay down.

When life gets hard, and giving up starts to feel like a real option, I ask myself this one question above all else: How badly do you want this?

Badly enough to push on just a little longer? To do whatever it takes, even if that means putting forth a just little more effort?

One of the most important lessons we can learn is that we only fail if we give up. We can have endeavors that don’t work out, and we can even lose on investments, but success only ever becomes closed to us when we stop trying.

Photo by Jill Wellington on

New York Times best-selling author Tavis Smiley coined a worthwhile term in his 2011 self-help book, “Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure.” To “fail up” is to take each major roadblock as an opportunity to learn, grow and move closer toward our goals. Instead of seeing failures, we see steppingstones. Each one is as beautiful as it is unpleasant because it’s moving us closer to where we want to be.

Success might come overnight for a rare few, but most of us have to work at it. We must earn it—through time and tears and desperate loss. Not only is each failed venture a potential springboard toward success, but it’s also a test of character:

How badly do you want this?

Photo by Alena Shekhovtcova on

It took me decades to realize each of us is the only one at the helm in each of our lives; we are the greatest driving force in the shaping of our individual destinies. But the forces against us can also be great. They can strip us bare and leave us feeling vulnerable and alone. That’s their job, and they succeed every time someone with a great fire in their heart gives up on finding new fuel to keep themselves going.

Even if all that’s left is a smolder, we still have goals within our reach. They may feel more distant, and we may need to claw our way through deep refuse to get back on track, but what’s important is that we find the tenacity within ourselves to keep moving forward.

Don’t give up, and the battle’s half won.

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