There is a consistent lie swirling through human culture. We have internalized it; believed it hook, line, and sinker. The lie is that things ought to be easy. If it is difficult, it is wrong. Challenge is a problem that needs to be fixed. Struggle is an evil that needs to be eradicated. Success is a lack of despair.
It is hard to believe, but every human endeavor follows the same shape. The Project Mood Curve. We start out with high, hopeful expectations. Our world is overrun with choices. There are opportunities and endeavors around every corner. We only pick the one(s) we engage with because we expect they will work to our benefit. We choose relationships, jobs, and hobbies because of their potential upside.
But this is just the beginning.
The Point of Giving Up
Over time (it could be minutes or months), every project falls into the pit of despair. The Mood Curve dips. Nothing we do perfectly matches our expectations. Nothing. And when reality and expectation start to show a gap, our mood lessons. We start to wonder if this really is the right job, the right relationship, a worthwhile hobby.
When we no longer feel romantic, optimistic, and thrilled about our project, we start to think it is a sign the project is wrong. The relationship has “gone sour”.
This is an important moment for the life of a relationship (or any other project). We have to decide if it is worth continuing or if we should give up and find a new endeavor.
The Give-Up Cycle
The real systematic trouble for many of us is that we are in a cycle of giving up. Because, again, this lie of perception permeates our lives: we think we just need to find the right relationship, job, or hobby. The one where it isn’t so hard. The one that meets our expectations.
The trouble is nothing works. The best relationship won’t stay in the honeymoon phase forever. The best job will have its trials. The best hobby still requires work and diligence. And this isn’t just a sad reality. It is a beautiful one. Relationships grow and our work progresses because of our struggles. The challenge develops intimacy, knowledge, and capacity. It is not a measure of failure but a marker for success.
When we give up, we are committing to starting the process of The Mood Curve from the beginning. What this means is, what we are really doing is starting the inevitable shape of the Mood Curve from square one. So often we convince ourselves we are quitting in order to find a “better” project. An easier relationship. We are looking for an endeavor that shortcuts the Mood Curve. That goes from expectation straight to thriving. But there is no such thing. In order to get to thriving, we need to experience challenge.
The real question around quitting is whether or not we are aiming at the wrong vision. Not whether or not it is hard. Good things are hard. Bad things are hard for a different reason. We have to discern, with truth, which kind of hard we are facing.
And know that, if we quit, we are starting over. And another season of challenge is not too far away.