When to Give Up on Your Dreams



Today at 2:47pm EST, 64 year old Diana Nyad achieved the impossible: she was the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

The 110 mile swim was her 5th and final attempt, taking 52 hours and 54 minutes to accomplish. She entered the shores of Key West as a crowd of hundreds were there to greet and cheer her on.


We’ve spent a great deal of time on this blog talking about goals and dreams. We already know that it’s important for us to dream big, write down our dreams, position our lives to meet those dreams and then go after them. Yet, in hindsight, I left something out of the equation: when to give up.

Diana Nyad’s first four attempts to swim the 110 mile trek ended in failure. At some point during each previous attempt, she had to quit early for various reasons. While it may appear that she gave up in the midst of the struggle, it highlights that there are times to back away and reassess your approach.

Diana’s story got me thinking about persistence. What does it take to keep going when everything around you is telling you to quit and give up the dream? Upon landing in Key West, she offered these sage words of advice:

  1. “We should never ever give up.”
  2. “You’re never too old to chase your dreams.”
  3. “[Swimming] looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.”

Let’s face it, we’ve heard one and two countless times. They’re so common that they’re clichés, but let’s not overlook the third too quickly. While her context is swimming, try deleting the word “swimming” and replacing it with what you’re attempting to do on your own.

When you work with a team, giving up doesn’t come easy because a team wants to win. Yet, I wonder how many of us are giving up our goals the same way we made them: alone?

Living Life “Open”

openI recently started reading a book called, “Open” [Amazon.com affiliate link] by my friend Craig Gross. The premise of the book is about living in accountability. While Craig is mainly known in the church world as being the “porn guy” due to his ministry, XXXChurch.com, this book takes a much broader perspective at the idea of accountability:

“…letting in someone who has a vested interest in seeing you live the full, honest life you want to live. I’m talking about incorporating an accountability partner into your world to help keep you pointed in the right direction.” —Craig Gross [emphasis added]

There are two phrases in this definition that offer keys to a successful accountability:

  1. Vested interest – The person or persons on your team have to have a vested interest in seeing you win. When you win, they win. It’s a win/win for everybody.
  2. Keep you pointed – Encouragement is critical to success. Those who are on your team are there to root for you when you find success and experience failure.

Diana was so committed to her dream that she told anyone who would listen, and as a result, she gained the interest of the world. Sure, it’s a great story, but there are lots of great stories that are never told.

As I write this, Diana is trending on Twitter and her congratulatory tweets are still pouring in, like this one:

Who Knows Your Dreams?

So, who knows your dreams? Who will keep you pointed in the right direction when you want to give up? Who’s there to cheer you on when you want to give in and walk away? When you involve trusted family, friends and coworkers into your journey you are more likely to stay on track and meet your goals.

During the swim, Diana met all sorts of challenges she expected, and some she didn’t, but through it all, she held her mantra close:

“You don’t like it. It’s not going well. Find a way.”

How much would we achieve if we were always determined to “Find a way”?

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  • http://www.spencesmith.com Spence Smith

    Great post Kyle! Sometimes I think I’m letting some of my dreams fly by. Time to pick up and get back at em!!!

    • http://www.kylechowning.com/ Kyle Chowning

      It’s easy to do, especially when you have a youngin’ at home. :)

      Good to hear from you Spence. Thanks for stopping by.