If he’d given up, his family would be without a father, his business without a leader and the world would be the poorer for it.
If she’d given up, she would be single, lonely and working ultra hard in her business to make up for what she’d done in her personal life.
If he’d given up, his team would have lost their jobs, his suppliers would never have been paid and his reputation would be tarnished for a long time to come.
If she’d given up the kids would be frazzled and acting up, the business would still be unprofitable and her relationship would be tense and unsupportive.
If he’d given up, he’d have procrastinated his way into uselessness while trying to work harder and harder to make up for it and his kids would barely see him.
When it’s tough, or things are going the opposite way they want, the people I work with never give up on the surface. They show up every day at the office, lead their teams, move the business forward and do what needs to be done. They’re strong, resilient, persistent, confident and determined to win their way through.
But there’s another part to the story you rarely get to see. It’s the inner fragility, the self doubt and the exhaustion from constantly being on an internal battlefield. The endless self-criticism, the punishing expectations of personal performance and the never-ending striving to be better. The sleepless nights, the loss of enjoyment of life and the quiet questioning beneath the surface, “What’s the point of all this?”
We’re all human. The husband and father who comes home from work tired, disconnected and frustrated has spent all day trying to keep it all together. The wife and mother who comes home from work nervous, distracted and emotionally volatile has been busy running the show for years.
But you can’t keep on like this for ever. There’s a point where you give up inside because you no longer have the energy to fight and you have no idea how to solve the problem. Most likely, you don’t even know what the problem is. It’s life, love, work – the whole lot of it. Nothing seems to work the way it should and there’s nowhere to turn.
And this is the moment …
… where you have to choose…
…whether to give up or wake up.
If you give up you make a decision out of powerlessness. You don’t know what to do so you throw away everything you have in the hope it will somehow get better. You run away – from the business, the marriage, yourself, maybe even from life itself. It feels bitter but it seems inevitable. There’s no other way out that you can see.
If you wake up you take a different path. You admit you don’t have the answer but you ask for help. You realise you can’t go any further in the same direction so you look for someone else to show you the way. You face the fact that you’re lost and in your heart you hold onto a fragment of a thought that there’s still hope.
If you wake up, you give up what you’ve been doing that got you into this situation but you don’t give up on life. You let life show you what’s possible instead of trying to control it all yourself. You open up to the possibility that you can’t see as clearly as you thought, but it doesn’t mean there’s no way forward. It just means you can’t see it…yet.
At first you feel weak and exposed. But you know you can’t go back. You will never ever go back to where you were, because when you look back on it you can see just how painful it was. So you walk forward, a step at a time, as if in a new country, not sure of the correct way to behave.
Gradually you discover that life is easier here. It’s more peaceful and your mind is clearer. You’re not trying to hold everything together any longer and you discover that it holds itself together very well without you working so hard. You’re more relaxed and there’s a lot less to hide. There’s a strange power in this, which is unfamiliar, but sweet.
People are nicer to you. Life feels kinder. When you’re unsure of yourself, you can ask for help because you’re no longer pretending to have all the answers. It’s a good place. Such a relief. The pressure relents. The voices in your head are quieter. You can breathe deeply.
When you wake up, rather than give up, life offers you its most beautiful opportunities. Most people don’t realise this. They never know what they missed in that petulant moment when they threw everything away.
And those people at the beginning who nearly gave up?
He became a better father, a more powerful leader and is now enriching the world with his insight and wisdom.
She recreated her marriage so it became better than it had ever been, and is loving her work but not overdoing it.
He saved his business, his staff kept their jobs, his creditors were paid and his reputation is stronger than ever.
She runs a happy family, the business became profitable for the first time and her relationship grows from strength to strength.
He has the energy to get far more done in less time, connect and spend time with his family and help run another business as well.
And even if you gave up in the past you can still wake up now. It’s never too late.