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Be the Expert: How would you encourage a quitter?

Ramit Sethi

Sometimes I like to take a break from my normal writing on strategies of psychology, persuasion, careers, entrepreneurship, and money to see how well you can actually APPLY my material. After all, it’s easy to read and read along, nodding your head, saying, “Yeah Ramit, I got this.”

But what happens when I put you to the test?

It’s like a good Asian father surprising you before dinner with an unannounced math test. “But daddy,” you might say, “I already took math today at school!” Asian dad laughs, then pulls out an apple and a banana and demands you demonstrate how to rotate conic sections.

So, in the spirit of my upbringing, I created a series called “Be The Expert,” where I invite you to apply your new insights on money, psychology, and behavioral change. For example…

How would you persuade a young guy to start investing? How would you help someone start working out at the gym? Hmm, this dude has poor social skills and actively wants to improve them…what persuasion techniques should you employ to help him?

Most of your answers have been atrocious. After reading several years of sophisticated material on behavioral change, social influence, and persuasion, IWT readers still tend to answer in generic layperson comments like, “If he really cared, he would do it!” or “You should just tell him to seriously get it together.”

Lesson 1: Whenever you use the word “seriously” or “should,” you’ve already lost.

Lesson 2: You can be persuasive or you can be right. Often (not always), those two are mutually exclusive.

Your spectacular failures have nearly convinced me shut down my email list, turn my blog into a private community of 1, and solely write for my own amusement. At least I could write the really dirty jokes I’ve been holding back on.

So today, I’m giving you another chance.

Like any 30-year old single guy in Manhattan, I read UrbanBaby, a site for NYC mothers, to learn insights on the human condition. Wait, that isn’t normal?

Anyway, here’s a question I found while spending yet another afternoon calmly browsing thousands of posts while sipping a cup of tea:

Question from UrbanBaby:

“How do you encourage someone who is a friend or family member who is, for lack of a better word, a “quitter”? This person is smart enough, capable enough, and has good ideas. She has started exercise programs–done really well, and then quit right as she was making progress. The same goes for jobs, writing a blog, and new friendships. She starts out strong and then abandons ship. No one knows why.”

We ALL know someone like this. We all know how frustrating it can be — you just want to shake them and say, “WAKE UP!! Your life isn’t that bad! In fact, if you actually did something instead of complaining about it…it might actually be better!”

What would you do? Assume she has complained and wants help.

Warning: I have contemplated killing myself multiple times after reading your previous responses. If you want me to keep writing this site, think carefully before you answer. Answers that will not be accepted include the words “seriously,” “should,” and “get off your fat ass.”

Do me proud. Or I swear to god, we’re going back to school.

Share your advice in the comments below.


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  1. avatar

    My first instinct is to ask “why would you try to change that person? Don’t you have enough stuff to do in pursuit of your own goals? Don’t let other people’s drama distract you”

    But, assuming she complained and asked for help, I would ask what goal she was working towards. Then I would tell her to bet on herself- to bet say $500 that by a specific date she would’ve achieved the goal. If she achieves the goal, she gets the money back, if not it goes to a charity for a cause she hates or something else painful to her with me holding the money in between. As long as we choose something she truly finds painful and the goal is something she really wants to do, this should help.

    But mainly I would say don’t get involved, trying to influence her is most likely a distraction from your own goals and happiness unless you’re her coach or therapist. She’ll probably just be annoyed with your ‘help’ unless she’s ready for it, at which point she’s unlikely to need your ‘help’ anyways.

  2. avatar
    Chris Johnson

    I’d probably immediately minimize contact because whatever she has is likely to be contagious and catching.

  3. avatar

    First, I would acknowledge her feelings of frustration and empathize as someone who has also been in similar situations at different points in my life. I think it’s important to establish that comfort and trust at the forefront and assure her that I’m not there to judge her actions but to help her as friend. Once that is established, she will be much more receptive to your feedback and willing to truly listen.

    Next, I would ask her some questions to dig deeper. A lot of this is probably a mental block and fear-driven, so I would start by asking her what it is that she is afraid of. What is stopping her from following through? Explore some specific goals/situations more deeply. Ask her what’s the worst that can happen, peel through the layers of all the anxious ‘what ifs’ and then start to talk through the possible ways she can deal with each situation should any of those scenarios happen. (In business terms: identify the risks, develop contingency plans) Hopefully that would start to put her at ease. Break things down into small steps that are more manageable. If there are elements to the problem that are skills-based, I would recommend any resources I knew of that could help her develop some of those skills. Basically, I’d want to draw out (with her) meaningful ways to feel motivated and productive again.

    Lastly, I would provide reassurance of the progress she’s made and the faith I have in her abilities. Sometimes (and I find it especially common for women, including myself), people just need that extra ‘yes, you can’ moral support to give that extra boost to the finish line. Check in with her occasionally, keep her accountable, and offer your help where you think can provide it.

    (Ramit, this is my first time coming across your blog– I really like what I see so please don’t privatize your blog! Hope this post makes you a little proud!)

  4. avatar

    Ramit- I’ve read your blog for two years and loved every minute of it. Hopefully I can be of help on this question.
    This is what’s called a polarity response — it’s discussed very often in the therapy world. It’s because someone wants to draw attention to the opposite side of anything– for instance, when you encourage someone, they talk about what could go wrong; when you talk about success they worry about failure. It’s just patterned behavior that at some point serves a purpose but too often does not.
    In order to get new behavior, you need to change the pattern.
    The way to deal with a quitter is simple– you encourage them to *quit*! Then their polarity response kicks in and they will start to focus on what could wrong with quitting ie they will start to think about persevering. Encourage them to *fail* and it will prompt them to focus on success.
    I know it sounds ridiculous, but it works.
    This is how actually they deal with suicide cases. Think about the normal pattern: A person says “Ohh, my life is not worth it, I’m going to end it”, then they get some sympathy, but eventually they stop threatening to kill themselves, so the attention/sympathy stops. The suicide case feels ignored and makes a new bid for attention– by voicing more suicidal thoughts. To interrupt the pattern, the therapist is actually trained to say “Ok, if that’s the case, end it right now, we don’t care”. It breaks the whole pattern and allows you to lay down a new, more resourceful one.

  5. avatar
    Lorenz Merdian

    I would ask her why she wants change. Where she wants to progress.
    And let her write it down.
    Then I would ask her to set a big goal. And write that goal down. I would ask her to image what real benefits she would gain from reaching this goal. She would have to write this down. Then she would have to break this big goal up into smaller (about 4) steps. And write those down. She would have to think why she thinks she is able to achieve each step. And write this down, too. I would ask her to write down which obstacles might hinder her to achieve this goal, or each of the steps. And finally she would have to tell friends, family, whomever what’s she gonna do.

  6. avatar

    I have a friend who did not lose her pregnancy weight even after 5 years post preganancy. She looked 7 months pregnant and would worry about losing weight. She had been to plastic surgeons and was ready for a tummy tuck. Then I told her two things and she changed her mind and started losing weight by going to a good dietician. One- “No one will tell you that long after the operation you will be dealing with unending pain. You will look good but chances are you will be in a lot of pain”. Second-” You have a lot of weight not just on your stomach but also everywhere else. So you could lose 20 pounds and your stomach will simply flatten out.” She joined a job and that gave her added impetus to do something about her weight problem. Now she is working and looking great and on her way to health and happiness.

  7. avatar

    I would recommend the lazy one to put on paper what he/she would like to do or be in a year from now, his/her ideal life or lifestyle.
    Then hopefully a couple of these ideas will bring a spark in their half closed eyes… then Ramit you’re the best to tell the story, break down the goals, work on them bits after bits in a way to be able to see easily the progress.
    Earn1K then should do the work once the spark is there 😉

  8. avatar


    I agree with your advise and it’s grounded in sound principles. Only thing I’d add is that certain level of trust must exist to facilitate change. The person to initiate the change is to be non-judgmental and must always respect in all circumstances that people have a fundamental need to feel important and safe.
    People have an inherent tendency to comply with authority figures (as a proof, I’m here writing this post because my mentor said so).
    Individuals tend to rise to the level of other people’s expectation of them.
    So long as she knows that you expect the world of her, then a stern approach that elicits polarity response is appropriate.

  9. avatar

    The first word which came to my mind when I read the Urbanbaby post was “ADHD”.

    Then remembering your advice of over-preparing, I clicked on the Urban Baby link to read more directly at the source. I found additional info:
    1. She was praised a lot as a child, and still receives support from peers/family
    2. She is 30 years old.
    3. The second last comments is by a person who actually suffered from ADHD and seems to most closely identify with the person in question. That person suggests medication and therapy.

    Now, to answer your question of what would I do if she complained to me.

    I would
    1. Go with her to the doctor, get her tested for ADHD
    2. If it is indeed ADHD, then support her as she adjusts to the medication and other requirements, until she is able to manage herself again.
    3. If it is not ADHD, then honestly try to speak to her and understand her problem. Is it work anxiety, is there a problem at home, is there too much pressure? Once the problem is identified, then I would help her choose the most effective ways to deal with it, depending on the nature.
    4. And finally, sometimes it is best just to wait until the person figures out the answer for themselves. This is especially true if you stay far from the person and cannot meet with them on a regular basis.

    Above all, no matter the problem, being there for her as a friend and offering encouragement at every little victory is important. Also equally important, if the matter is frivolous, to honestly tell her. Good friends appreciate a reality check once in a while.

    I look forward to the feedback for my answer. Would like to know if I’m going back to school!

  10. avatar

    I think we often misunderstand people, trying to find shortcuts and figuring them out. I’m no doctor but I know of cases for instance where they prescribe something but it only treats the symptom, not the cause so the problem remains. Or there’s cases we think someone is lazy but it might just be that their diet (literal or mental) is so poor that they run on little fuel each day. Or there’s instances where people have “scripts”, limited beliefs that have run their life for them without them realizing these scripts are false and not serving them. They might think they are a failure, or that having financial success requires being unethical etc…
    I don’t think there is one solution that fits all cases.
    But the principle I can see is that a quitter is a quitter for a reason, however bad it is. The fact the quitter asks for help about it is a sign s/he realizes something has to be done but doesn’t know quite what.
    It would be good for the quitter to:
    1) Reflect rationally on what scripts or limited beliefs s/he operates and why. Maybe family/friends/people with authority made them feel that way early in their development. May be they interpreted things the wrong way.
    2) Reconnect with the person they aspire to be and feed their mind with the positive energy that will help them break out of the negative pattern become the better version of themselves
    3) Make it a priority for at least a month to see the changes in themselves and get hooked to the new

    4) Have a like minded associate/mentor who will pick them up or make them accountable if they slip back to their old patterns too long.

    The way I see it, it’s a process. Brain plasticity means patterns are reversable but it takes time and effort. No magic pill here.

  11. avatar
    Melanie Gulliver

    wow what a lot of varying advice..

    I’d start by asking her if SHE thinks she is a quitter.. and is that bad? Perhaps she thinks her life is OK as it is? Why should we judge others by what we think is the right way to act..

    If she said yes she is a quitter and yes it is bad, then you have to again ask why does she quit? She will probably recognise the trigger in her that starts her off on quitting.. and if she doesn’t then you need to find out what it is.. I love ‘The Power of Habit’ book by Charles Duhigg, which says that every habit is based on trigger- action- reward.. and any person’s behaviours gets changed by finding out the trigger, CHANGING the action, but then ensuring you still get whatever the reward was (perhaps some relief from routine or something new to get excited about in this case). The only way to break a ‘bad’ habit is to introduce a ‘good’ habit but you can never succeed without the trigger and the reward being identified as well..

  12. avatar
    Steve Martin

    First of all, Ramit chill the hell out. I like you am very passionate/antagonistic when trying to encourage people. It doesn’t work for everybody. Secondly, my SPECIFIC advice is to be antagonistic with quitters, show them the carrots and the sticks of their specific situation. If they quit going to the gym you can say things like, you looked so much better when you were working out. This backhanded style compliment simultaneously is in their face and reminds them of what they can accomplish. The second way is to go Socratic method all over them. Why did you quit XYZ behavior? What prompted that decision? What would it take to get you started again? No, really what would it take for you to move some ass? Okay, why aren’t you doing it? Ramit, the only place I see you quit is on people who require a lot of effort. Sadly, quitters/addicts/losers require the most effort. They are the Wendigo of the world, always eating/sucking/stealing your time/money/resources. The only way to stop a Wendigo is to give everything, and then there is no gratitude. Sometimes, it is time to cut ties, and sometimes it is time to just throw everything in someone’s face, give them the consequences and let them make the decision to succeed or fail. Ramit, you will make a lot more money pandering to the masses than the cream of the crop, but it will take longer and cost you more time and energy. That being said, again, relax all this talk of suicide/hatred of your fan base isn’t productive.

  13. avatar

    This is something that would need to be clarified by talking to the person, asking about here motivation behind starting AND begind quitting the said things, but judging from the very short bio the following might be a reason:

    When you’re young, all the way until you graduate from a university the goals are clearly defined and more importantly they have an ending point, the time when you’re done. Later, in most cases (and certainly things that have been described by the UrbanBaby OP) there is no clear ending. Maybe that could be a mental barrier to continuing.

    In that case, I’d help the person define a very very clear “intermediate” ending points. After the ending is achieved a new one would be picked, and so on until the person doesn’t need them anymore.

    For example, if the excersize program would be running, you’d pick a race in the calendar to prepare for, and pick a time you will aim for. After that’s done, you’d take a few days break, and then sit down with the calendar and pick another race and so on. With a blog it could be a short multi part series of linked posts about a big topic or a number of monthly readers.

    But, first, listen to the person looking for clues as to what is causing the quitting.

  14. avatar

    Ramit – I sometimes feel I should be mildly outraged by the way you talk to me but I find it refreshing and hilarious.

    I think habit is a powerful thing. I think that self worth also plays a huge part. So does self belief. However, there is a lot to be said for stopping everything, switching off every distraction (including all of the ‘first world’ problems that consume us all). Then find a place, cause, community in the world that really really needs you, where you cannot for one moment languish in boredom or choice. Stay there for 4 weeks. Come home and see what’s shifted and what you have the appetite to do with your life.

  15. avatar

    Completely agree here!!

    Funny that my husband and I just attended a marriage class last night that talked about this same thing (well not the EXACT, same thing, but pretty darn close.)

    A lot of times we’ve got a story about a person, but it’s not the whole story. It’s super important to dig deeper to see where this behavior is coming from. To look through the “little eyes” of the person you’re talking with. Ya, they might be an adult, but chances are they’re still viewing the world through lenses and scripts they did in their childhood. It’s not about being a quitter, it’s about some underlying fear or tape of lies she’s playing over and over.

    It’s important to BOTH figure out what that is.

    And lastly, like C1589 said, I would be a reassuring friend. Maybe not telling them that they’re doing everything well (chances are they won’t believe it anyway), but reassure them that you’ll be a safe and welcoming place for them to share. (Aka you’re not going to flip out on them, share their deep hurts with others, or just up and abandon them after they’ve got out their fears.)

    In summary: Have Empathy, Dig Deeper, Be a Safe Sounding Board.

  16. avatar
    Adele Barlow

    Assuming this woman is a friend or family member and WANTS to change, I’d first of all encourage her to read “Switch” ( or I’d summarise it for her until she understood that behavioural change starts with psychological change.

    Only she knows why she keeps self-sabotaging, so I’d encourage her to look within herself to find these answers, whether that means visiting a therapist or reading a few psychology books to increase her self-awareness.

    During or after that process, I’d help her to pen down a clear vision of what success looks like, a calendarised action plan, and a support network of a few carefully chosen people who are genuinely interested in helping her.

    At the height of her initial excitement, I’d encourage her to equip that support network with specific scripts to feed back to her when she finds herself in The Dip ( She’d have a code phrase so that they knew when she was struggling the most – i.e. when she calls them and says, “This is that moment,” they know to refer to her pre-delivered script.

    She would check in with that support network on a regular basis – whether it’s a daily text or a weekly phone call at a specific time.

    Her action plan would consist of baby steps that feel achievable and realistic and factor in the likelihood of her reaching that point where she wants to quit, as she has done in the past. She’ll know that when she reaches that point, it’ll be harder for her to quit, because this time, she would have inserted preventative measures like the support network or stronger accountability mechanisms to keep her on the path she initially set out upon.

  17. avatar

    I am this person.
    Not literally, but I do see a lot of myself in the desription above.
    Interestingly, the one thing I do not quit is going to the gym.
    I have been forced to do so twice, but every time I get back to it, I stay on and pull through.
    I’ve asked myself why this works with fitness but doesn’t in other areas of my life.
    One: Visible progress. In true nerd-fashion, I make a spreadsheet where I put in my body-measurements, the weights I lift(ed) and am going to lift and so on.
    This is incredibly motivating, because it shows me continuously what I have already done (“fuck yeah!”) and where I want to end up eventually (“there’s more work to do!”).
    Two: “I’ve done so much”. I just discovered that recently by reading “The Willpower Instinct” and it is the bomb: If you are making a decision that would result in a slip up, don’t think “I am such a lazy ass person, why do I want to do this, I must not want this enough” but instead think “I have done so much for my goal already, I must really want this. Is this going to help my reach my goal?”. It works, I’ve tested it (and I have been tested, believe me…).

    Also: Deadlines work (see Tim’s recommendation of stickK) and really small steps (BJ Fog’s “Tiny Habits” program and Learn Python The Hard Way by Zed Shaw).

    So, here is what this friend/family member should tell her:
    “For the next 2 weeks, do really small step X as scheduled, otherwise I get 50 bucks from you [or use stickK]. Also: Change your mindset to “I really want this” instead of “I’m a lazy person”. Then let’s see how that went.”

  18. avatar
    Raphael Soares

    First I would try to discover what is holding this person, try to discover if there are any fears holding this person. Or maybe it´s just a case of lack of system which prevails over the ability to focus. You´ll only be able to help if you understand the psychology behind the fact this person is a “quitter”.
    I would start by asking what´s his/her expectations towards all those things mentioned above (jobs, starting a blog etc). Also what keeps him/her motivated?
    Work your way towards understanding this person and avoid giving this person several advices and tactics to follow.
    No matter what you say this person will only get over this once he/she understands what is holding him/her back and take action against those things.

  19. avatar

    It looks like this person does not have a strong enough “why” they’re pursuing the goals they end up quitting. They might think they do (“I need to lose weight duh!”) but really if their reasons for the goal was compelling enough they wouldn’t quit (like if they knew they would die in 3 months if they didn’t lose weight). With any goal the why is the most important aspect as it provides the juice to drive the person to see it through. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with quitting goals that no longer serve you and the person asking the question is too shallow to realize this otherwise they would’ve taken the time to understand things from the perspective of the “quitter”.

  20. avatar

    Ramit – I love your outlook on things!

    I would start off by asking if she actually wanted to change or if she was fine the way she is being a “quitter”. If she wanted to change and didn’t know how, I would suggest creating a roadmap, you can’t get from point A to point B without a roadmap (unless you have a smartphone with GPS). First I would suggest this person sets some hefty but attainable goals for 3 – 6 months out. Then I would have her set smaller daily goals. Serious behavior changes come from gradual incremental changes not a complete overhaul. Sure if you immediately cut your calorie intake to 800 calories a day you will probably lose a bunch of weight real fast but you won’t stick with it and the weight will just come right back when you start eating again. Behavior change is hard work but if you stick with smaller incremental changes and have a plan for how to get where you are going you will be more likely to succeed.

  21. avatar

    Make it a habit.

    She obviously wants to change, because she complained about quitting. The problem is for some reason she stopped. Why expend so much energy determining whether or not to do something when instead she could just automatically do it without thought. The key here is that willpower is not going to help her get through this. Been there, done that, it didn’t work.

    For example:
    * If it’s investing, setup something automatic so you don’t have to think about it.
    * If it is working out, always work out at the same time, place your workout clothes in the same place, and start out really small. Perhaps walk for 15 minutes once a week. Suppose you pick working out right when you wake up – put your clothes right next to the bed so they are the first thing you see when you get up. Put shoes right next to the door. Tell yourself “I will only step outside and walk for 1 minute. That will be enough, and I will be satisfied if that is all I do.” Eventually you will start walking more. Reward yourself afterwards – for example, I always enjoy a hot shower and a nice meal after I workout.

  22. avatar

    My advice to her:

    You have done something truly amazing! You’ve done what a lot of people WANT to do but can’t seem to figure out HOW to do. You’ve not only started your own business AND been successful at it, you’ve overcome the fear to do it. Most people can’t even get beyond their fear to even get started – you’ve started and succeeded. Don’t second guess yourself. You can finish just as stongly, if not stronger, than when you started. When you realize you’re feeling a fear that’s making you question yourself or think negative things about yourself or your business, beat it back with the same confidence you had when you started. Then beat it down with the focus and determination that got you success in the first place. I know you can do it, I’ve seen it. Now go kick some butt!

  23. avatar
    Aaron Morton

    Firstly it is quite amusing seeing how some people are reacting to your humour. You are no more going to shut down your email list than I am going to walk out my door naked with the message ‘join me’ paint on my back.

    This individual doesn’t have a problem generating ideas, they appear to be an ideas machine. The problem appears to be making the idea concrete and specific in order to get a clear outcome of what they would like to achieve. When an idea come to mind it tends to be abstract in nature (“ahhh I could write a blog about money”). This can generate enough excitement to get motivated and move but any type of emotional state (motivation is a state) doesn’t last permanently so will fizzle out soon enough. This is why with any idea before moving forward it is a good idea to get specific about what the outcome is and how you will know you’ve achieved it. For brain geeks this activates more of the frontal cortex of the brain for analysis.

    From reading the ad, it appears the next issue is they get started but then stop. This tends to happen when the individual hasn’t put in place a system that involves a trigger to start the system, a specific act of what the system involves an end point and frequent feedback sessions to:

    A) update themselves where they are in relation to their outcome.
    B) Become clear of what the next step is.

    By incorporating a system you become less dependent on being in the right emotional state to act so more likely to regularly incorporate the system. An additional trick could be to do as BJ Fogg suggests and incorporate a system just after an already formed habit or system.

    It is worth looking at how the individual represents set backs/failure. If they see it as a reason to stop because they’ve failed you could highlight the fact that missing a day of the system doesn’t mean the end, it can be picked up again the next day and still lead towards the outcome.

    So if this person asked me to help them I would:

    – Diminish the severity of the problem by saying from time to time we all have moment where we quit, the real focus is what we do different from now on.
    – Invite them to pick 1 thing they would like to achieve in the next month (1 month will ensure a long enough time to implement a system, a short enough time not to tempt fate and have them quit)
    – Work with them to get them specific to the point of being Anal about the outcome they are going to achieve by the end of the month & How they will know they have achieved it.
    – Once the outcome is clear, Create a system that include the behaviours necessary in order to reach this outcome. For a blog, it would be write daily WHEN? in the Morning at 9 because that is when im fresh FOR HOW LONG? For an hour. WHAT WILL YOU DO THEN? I will mark on a calendar it has been done
    – By this time our Latte will be nearly finished so I would end by asking them when they would be able to start this with the idea of them starting in the next two days.
    – This would provide a framework for future projects but initially I would have them focus on a single project for the next month and say to note down any ideas that come in the next 30 days for them to look at once this project is finished.

    Right I’m off to write ‘Join me’ on my back!

    Aaron Morton

  24. avatar

    I agree with Radan ” first, listen to the person looking for clues as to what is causing the quitting.¨

    Show dat someone cares

    Customize your intervention then.

    You must be proud on all the above writers!!!!

  25. avatar
    Sherry Langland

    I would ask her what might be some of the things that are getting in the way of her exercise plan. We might spend some time talking about it, and then I would ask her,”What would you tell your best friend to do in this situation?”

  26. avatar

    I think it’s a game that people play–I find myself playing it too: complain, get sympathy, do nothing, complain again. The problem is not knowing how to proceed and not feeling that anything can really happen. I wouldn’t respond to the complaining. I would listen for the underlying fear and point it out to her, and help her with a plan to find and remove obstacles. Once she gets started she has to know that she will fail every now and again but that failure does not mean she is a lost case and can never succeed–it means she has reached a higher level and is fighting moving forward. Regroup, maybe get a trainer to get over that hump.

  27. avatar

    In my experience, capable people who act like quitters do so out of pride, to protect their egos. They think, “I’m really capable, so I should be much farther along than I am right now, but I’m not, so I’ll quit before I make more of a fool of myself.” They can’t set aside their ego like a zen master (and really, how many people can do this?).

    Reverse psychology — saying something like “You’re going to quit soon, right? or “You really can’t do that anyway” — might work in the short term, but it’s fairly shallow, and it can be easy to detect.

    It’s more effective to try to subvert the person’s ego, saying something like “I didn’t know you could get that far in such a short amount of time. How did you do it?”, or “Damn, you’re almost doing better than me! I’m going to have to step up my game to keep up with you!”

  28. avatar
    Rob S.

    If this person is getting to a certain point where they are seeing success and then quitting, then they know “how” to make progress. So it’s probably not an issue of planning, organization or tactics. I’d look elsewhere:

    How is the person choosing their goals, jobs, relationships, etc? Do the goals have deep roots in what the person really wants and needs in life? Or are the goals rooted more in what the person things they “should” achieve (because their parents, culture or society say so)? It could be that once the novelty of achievement wears off or once things get tough that the person doesn’t carry through on their effort because they weren’t really invested in the outcome from the start.

    What is that person’s relationship to failure? Once they start seeing success, they could be so afraid of appearing to strive and fail that they purposely quit to save themselves from having to face the pain of failing in front of others.

    If the issue really was one or both of the above (or even if it was using #1 to avoid #2), I’m not sure what advice to give them. I think they would need a method or some guidance to help them separate what they want from what they think they “should” want. And then they would need to purposely be exposed (maybe in small doses at first) to public failure to help break the grip their fear has on them. In both cases they care too much what other people think.

    Or maybe I’m just projecting my own difficulties onto the situation 🙂

  29. avatar

    Dear Quitter:

    You tend to quit because you’re afraid, and being afraid is natural. After all, with success comes increased responsibility and heightened expectations to live up to, all of which will take you outside your comfort zone and set us up for some degree of pain. We humans have a tendency to avoid discomfort as part of our wiring; it’s a throwback to the days when we were nomadic tribespeople living at the mercy of nature, and any discomfort/pain threatened our survival. This ancient wiring holds many of us back, but the key to being successful is to push past the discomfort and the pain, with a conscious awareness that our wiring is about 20,000 years out-of-date (In our modern world, a little pain or discomfort does not generally threaten our very existence). The alternative is stagnation. Picture yourself 6 months from now after having pushed through the pain and envision how your life might be different. Now picture yourself in 6 months having remained in your comfort zone and ask yourself whether anything will have changed for you for the better. If you like the former image better than the latter, then I don’t have to tell you which path to follow; you already know.

    Good luck,


  30. avatar

    whenever we face a setback towards our intended goal it is a detour and will delay it but is a fantastic learning opportunity. I have had lot of learning as a trainer particularly when I screwed up a particular exercise ( These happened during the initial stages- Now I am a good trainer going towards a great trainer ). Similarly when One is facing any roadblock – understand what is not working and check what action can be changed. Sometimes we set up an exercise cycle of 1 hour every day and fail on a consistent basis. May be we should think of 10 min every day and slowly increase the number as it becomes a habit without any guilt. First step is to bring awareness and start with an achievable target. Second is to increase the number/frequency/efficiency ensuring that there is always the fun element and enjoy what we do. Use any technique that works ( NLP/Huna and others ). experiment and discard what doesnt work for you. whatever period we live in this world at least enjoy and have fun. Then you will automatically start spreading the fun and happiness to others. You should try that … Seriously 🙂

  31. avatar

    “The heart has a question.
    The heart must be Satisfied.
    Without that Satisfaction —
    Which is necessarily Spiritual in Nature —
    there is no Real Happiness.”
    one of my favorite quotes by Avatar Adi Da because so much of all this is talking is vacant of the true nature of people’s experience. We as a species are clearly not simply satisfied or made happy or made peaceful or ever relieved of the anxiety of mortality by acquiring material success, doing it “right”. There is no end point, no moment where this conditional world when the mind will say “ahh, I’ve got it”… No amount of exercise, of money or friends or vacations that keeps your from dropping dead at some point…. It is a positive to peruse an abundant happy life, action is absolutely necessary, responsibility falls to each one – so this sort of how would you fix this person idea is entertaining if everyone wants to play I know what it is and I know how to make it work and the only thing we are is psychology and brain function….so I don’t have a way to fix her….A nice little systematic action plan to offer you and hope you don’t think me foolish, I don’t even know why I am bothering to write this…there are simply things one must engage to manifest a happy healthy life….generally speaking people resist these activities…People are generally unhappy and no amount of tv land or activity vacant of heart will suffice….people seem more comfortable doing what’s familiar and if feeling failed, no good, less then, incapable are the normal pattern, the familiar feeling or point of view then people end up unconsciously doing much to make sure this pattern stays in place, so what cracks the pattern? Yes, I support people to go for it, investigate their experience, live grand and happy, its an interesting consideration, why people don’t get with it, why we hesitate…and the work Ramit has seems essential to motivate some, to push towards self understanding and self responsibility …but for the sake of this question proposed, for all this why don’t you take action…. it seems that this matter I am trying to articulate is missing….when I see someone spinning in a circle, always defeated by their own activity I see someone in need of feeling positively connected to the world, to the heart, to life…how does one do that?

  32. avatar


    There seems to be a category error here. You write about what advice we should give a quitter, but unless the quitter herself thinks she has a problem, our advice will probably fall on deaf ears.

    The person asking the question needs to reframe things. Is the quitter hurting the asker? Then the asker needs to rearrange his life so the quitter can’t continue causing any harm. If the quitter’s not hurting the asker, then the asker needs to start minding his own business.

  33. avatar
    Brian Speronello

    In your example, it says she’s “making progress” but then quits. The question is, in whose mind is she making progress? Is it in the mind of the friend observing her? Or is it in her own mind? I’m going to proceed under the assumption that she is giving up because *she* doesn’t feel like she is making progress, even though her friends do.

    If she’s giving up, she probably doesn’t feel like she’s getting anywhere. If that’s the case, then she needs to establish where “somewhere” is with a small, attainable goal. Otherwise known as a “Quick Win.” Then she needs to measure her progress regularly in order to see how she’s doing and to feel like she’s on the right track. This is particularly helpful for physical changes, since a scale or calipers or body composition scanner will often show you making progress way before your eyes will. Additionally, having someone else checking up with her on her progress would provide external accountability, and fear of failing publicly is a great motivator to stick with something.

    To go even further, she could also follow the Dietbet model where she would pay someone she trusts a decent amount of money, say $50, and then she would get it back once she reached her goal. People are significantly more sensitive to losing money compared to acquiring more money, so they work much harder not to lose the $50 they already had compared to being offered an extra $50 or even $100 reward.

  34. avatar

    I would encourage her to write specific implementation intention for her goals.

    An implementation intent is an “if-then” or “when-I will” statement. For example: “When I wake up feeling too tired to go the gym, I’ll just put my gym shoes on.” or “If I crave ice cream, I will go to the kitchen to make myself a chocolate protein shake.” It is a specific action you will take when a specific (usually inevitable) event takes place.

    Maybe dumb examples, but the power of implementation intentions is two-fold.

    Firstly, an implementation intention will force her to forecast the most difficult points (inflection points) in achieving her goals that she rarely thinks about when she’s full of excitement in the beginning of the her goal planning process. i.e. the ice cream craving she gets one week into a diet that will probably throw her off the wagon when she acts on it.

    Secondly, implementation intentions are actionable steps that are easy to achieve and create a small step in the right direction, which will encourage another small step in the right direction. i.e. simply putting on your running shoes is a small step you take before you go to the gym.

    Implementation intentions have a lot of scientific backing in the results they produce, Ramit has endlessly recommended them, and I’ve used them successfully myself.

  35. avatar

    There are some good ideas above (put money on the line, discover the underlying issue and be an understanding friend, pattern interrupt). I won’t repeat those, but I might try them depending on the person.

    When she asks for help, I’d help her figure out her goal and get specific. Maybe she wants to lose weight, and we figure out she wants to lose 15 pounds by her July vacation to Maui. Great. Now the problem is making sure she keeps working in that direction–each day she needs to take a step toward better diet or exercise.

    So then depending on the circumstances, we agree on ways to make taking a positive step each day more compelling than flaking out. If she wants to go for a run every other day, we’ll set up a schedule and I (or another friend) will pound on her door if she’s not ready (“Hey Suzy, it’s 6AM, get your running shoes on!”). Or if diet is the issue, we’ll rearrange her fridge to put the “good” stuff in front and the cheesecake bites in back.

    By setting up a series of micro-goals, each of which is a small step toward her big goal, she isn’t as likely to give in to her fear of success (or fear of lots of effort and falling short).

    And over time, as good habits form, we can move on to better steps (e.g. adding weight work to the cardio). But that’s for later.

  36. avatar
    Analmouse coward

    I ain’t falling for that one Ramit,

    I’ve been quietly reading away for a year or two now and you nearly got me to actually comment, you crafty wrangler.

    too slow, too slow for this cat.

    Bollocks to helping her ” Write things down…. ” you can’t be “Nice” in this situation.
    Remove her from safety net of family/friends/attention etc.
    Wait for her to hit rock bottom by actively laughing in her face every time you see her quit something.

    bboooom… lasting results.

    break her down so you can build her back up.

  37. avatar

    I would ask her if she were open to hypnosis to see if she was willing to try it to get different results. If so, I would help her find a hypnotist.

    This method worked with a friend of mine who wanted to quit smoking, but always failed. She had tried everything and always started smoking again. After she agreed to try, I helped her find a hypnotist who had success with smoking cessation. One visit and she has not smoked in three years, I thought it was a minor miracle because this was a person who was used to failing and actually didn’t want to quit smoking, but knew she ‘should’.

    I don’t believe that you can change someone elses’s behaviors, but I do believe people can change their own minds…change the thought and it may change the action.

  38. avatar
    Max R.

    Dear Ramit,

    I would answer in the same way as you encouraged our answers to this blog post — create a competition. This is will give the initial motivation to start the momentum. Then, establish a commitment of spending at least one hour per week on a particular activity. Finally, you encourage ramp up activities as a habit is established.

    In summary, motivation to start (competition) and baby steps to keep moving.

    Max R.

  39. avatar

    Does it really make sense to call this person a “quitter”? Is name-calling the right way to go about helping this person? I think I would genuinely ask the person (gasp! communication!) why they stopped doing a some of their projects and see if a pattern emerges. There is probably some underlying issue that’s preventing this person from moving forward, and in my experience, even the acknowledgement of that underlying issue can mean a lot of progress.

    Really, though, my answer is that this is not a matter for advice. This is a matter that would probably be best handled by talking to a therapist and not a pseudo-psychology advice-giver. We all want to help, but sometimes (especially with problems that seem to span many areas of life) friends, family, and folk-wisdom won’t be as helpful as a trained, impartial listener.

  40. avatar

    On how to encourage a quitter

    The most important thing to encouraging a quitter is to help them understand the why behind the advice.

    Do not confuse this for selling them on doing something. This is influence, not authority.

    The conversation starts with questions. Lets try to understand two things 1) why they wanted to start working out in the first place, and 2) why they would stop at the point they did.

    For example, If the reason they wanted to excising was to lose a few pounds to look good in a bathing suit, they may stop working out when they feel they are looking better compared to a person who’s doctor recently told them they need to worry about cholesterol that stops because of a lack of REAL progress, feeling like the effort to results ratio is just way to high.

    Seek to understand before being understood.

    Once you understand, and you make them understand that you understand why they had started and why they had stop you are now in a position to offer advice. You have earned that right by listening first.

    You may find out that the real reason the person quite is because deep down they are actually scared of their own success.

    When you finally go to offer advice, get permission first. Ask them if you can present your thoughts “ so that all makes a lot of sense…may I comment? Or is it more helpful to just have someone to listen?”

    Curiosity at the very least will likely have them want to know. But either way, if they are out right saying they don’t want the advice – is it really going to be heard? No. Go back to step one.

    When you have earned the right to give your opinion and they are open to it do not tell them what to do and how to do it. Tell them why it is important and what the results look like. Define the outcome, and let them figure out the how. No one wants to hear what to do, and how to do it.

    Offer then your THOUGHTS and why you think it is important and ask if it makes sense.

    So it sounds like this is the situation, is that correct? (yes) Okay well in that case it sounds like the best thing to do is probably this…for these reasons – does that add up? (yes) Okay well let me know how it goes or if there is anything I can do to help.

    Establish trust by listening. No one wants to be told what to do. It does help to understand why you are doing it. This starts from an early age…

    Clean your room… WHY!?!

    Its very deeply rooted – people need to understand why they are doing what they are doing – and figure out what to do on their own

    Define the definition of success, the out come, and then define the importance of which.

    Over time, you will establish enough credibility and trust that you can start pushing on the issue a little more firmly, but please establish a base line of trust, and listening before you ever try to get someone to do something.

    At the end of the day – we all do things for our selves, not for other people.

    Make it easy for them to understand why they want to do it, rather than telling them what to do.

  41. avatar
    Charlotte Smith

    She is getting something out of not following through. To you or I that something looks negative, yet each time she fulfills her typical pattern she’s getting that ‘something.’

    To identify what this is I’d explain to her that I recognize there is a positive intention in her behavior – her psyche, emotions, spirit – something – is getting a positive reward. Ask her about one specific area: “when you started your blog, what stopped you from finishing the next post?” and just let her sit with that question. She will notice a thought, a feeling, an emotion, a vision, word, something will key her in to what stopped her.

    Then she can ask herself, “through not finishing my blog post, what do you want for me that’s positive?”

    Something will come up. I’ll throw out an imaginary answer, “I just wanted to sit in my chair and not write.”

    Ask herself again, “through sitting in my chair, what do you want for me that’s positive?”

    Something again comes up – here’s my made up answer for her: “it’s relaxing to sit in the chair.”

    She asks herself again: “through feeling relaxed, what do you want for me that’s positive?”

    Again, each answer goes deeper. Following this pattern of questioning herself what the positive intention is that she’s getting, she will eventually notice a feeling of oneness, peace, calm, and motivation and focus. At that point, she will either be motivated to follow through, or the REAL thing she wants to focus on will emerge. i.e., “what I really want to do is stay home and be a mom and all these things get in the way of that.”

    Or, whatever answer comes up for her. She has the answer inside. It takes a well-trained person to guide her through this process, though.

    Also, there is no wrong answer – it’s what’s welling up inside of her, not what we think is the problem.

  42. avatar
    Andrew Williams

    Seriously, she should get off her fat ass.

    With the obvious joke out of the way, here’s my approach:

    1. Motivation. She needs to understand why she wants to change, or she won’t be committed to change. Is it to fit into that bikini? Too weak! To impress her husband/boyfriend/dog? That won’t do. It’s got to be for her – say, wanting to be in good enough shape to see her grandchildren grow up.

    2. I’d have her set clear goals. “I want to lose weight” is a terrible goal. “I want to lose 20lbs” is a much better one, as you have a target to aim for. When do you want to do this? More than a pound a week could be dangerous, so she needs to allow enough time to get there – four months would be about right.

    3. I’d put a system in place, tailored to her situation, to make it as easy as possible to stick with the plan – because otherwise, she won’t. Sooner or later it gets hard, and without a system in place it’s very easy to just skip the gym this week or decide one day of takeaway pizzas is okay… and then turn it into a week. List foods she can/can’t eat freely, so she can snack on “good” foods whenever she feels hungry. Tailor a workout programme that suits her current abilities and allows for improvement, and is actually fun – no-one likes spending hours on a treadmill.

    4. Perhaps most importantly, I’d set up a support system – linking her with other clients in the same situation so they can offer mutual support, regularly checking up on her progress, reminding her of her motivation when needed and varying her programme if it isn’t working for her. If she’s on her own, she’s likely to fall back into bad habits; with friends encouraging her, she won’t want to let them down so readily.

    5. Rewards might be good – if she makes it to her goals, she’ll get acclaim on my website (which also works for me as a testimonial). Various branded goods can be given away to programme members that do particularly well, such as T-shirts, exercise equipment, etc. (These would also be available for sale for any other interested clients!)

    6. Finally, once she reaches the end of the course, I’d have some suggestions on how to maintain her new lifestyle – because if she just goes back to how she was, she’ll put the weight right back on. I’d encourage her as one of my “alumni” to spread the word, help others to get fit and, if she was interested, offer her a commission on any referrals to my business she makes.

    Damn, perhaps I should go set up right now…

  43. avatar

    Hi Ramit,

    From personal experience , 2 reasons

    #1 they give up on things that dont interest them. I have started many things like classes on programming , painting , sewing , personal Training at the gym and never followed up on them or quit midway. Just wasnt interested

    #2 I recently heard a ted talk about how when u tell Your friends about doing something , chances are u ll probably Not end up doing it because when u tell Your friends about it, they congratulate u or be happy for u and that somehow Feels like an achievement , so people dont follow through on what they set out to do because they already feel like they accomplished something. I am testing this theory out with the recent class I ve been taking. No one knows about it. Lets see if I complete it 🙂

  44. avatar
    Sean W.

    She complains, and I say…

    What are you afraid of? Really, what are you afraid of in winning, in finishing the race? You obviously have the drive and motivation to start exercising, blogging, new jobs or whatever else. Yet, YOU DON’T WANT to finish.

    Why? You don’t have to answer me right now, and you may not have the answer. Go home and have some quiet time, get a cup of coffee, tea, booze or whatever gets you thinking. Find your FEAR.

    Once you find it, you have to power to change and deal with it instead of going in a loop and not getting anywhere. Keep me posted.

  45. avatar

    She knows how to start, she’s got some results … she’s halfway there.

    Let’s take the exercise example:

    Here’s what I’d do. Get a picture of her pre-exercise, take a picture of her current state, leave an empty box that says “final results”. Stitch the the three images together. Post it to her Facebook/Twitter/Instagram with a comment that says “Can’t wait to see the final results!”

    Now it’s a game and she is publicly accountable. Her friends will be looking for that last image. She’ll also create a little more internal drive to finish what she’s started. This should get her over the quitting hump.

  46. avatar

    She has to take stock. Every time she quits at something, there are always a number of obstacles that lead to quitting. Each habit we try to acquire or lose has a number of moving parts. She must identify these parts and focus on working on one at a time. Starting from the least difficult to overcome to the most. She will be less overwhelmed as a result as well as the small wins at start will motivate her to push further.

  47. avatar

    Hey Ramit,

    Here’s what I would do. First, I would start by saying, “I’d love to help you. But I gotta tell you, you’re gonna have to dig deep to get past this issue. And if you’re not interested in doing the work, nothing I say or do is going to move you any closer to your goal.” As soon as she said, “I’m all in.” I’d give her one week to complete the following writing assignment and email it to me.

    “Set aside at least 1 hour to write. Think about the last thing you quit. It could be a job, exercising, whatever. Write at least 5 sentences about your experience. When you’re done, think of the thing you quit right before that and write another 5 sentences or more for that experience. Continue this pattern until you write the last story you can remember about quitting.”

    Now I know that is a doozie of an assignment, but that’s why I asked if she would dig deep in the first place. Not to mention, if she isn’t really committed to changing, she’ll run away screaming shortly after that request.

    Supposing she completes the task, I would analyze her written assignment before we talked again. I would look for potential invisible scripts, subconscious personal payoffs, “quitting cycles” related to specific activities, and emotional/environmental triggers that spark a quitting response.

    When we met again, I would ask her specific questions to help her explore what might be unconscious behavior patterns and confirm (or not) what I thought I observed in her writing. Together we would make a “Challenges” list. It would include her scripts, payoffs, cycles, and triggers.

    If she was thinking about to quitting something soon, we would start there. I’d give her a copy of the Challenges List we made along with an Observations Framework and have her track results in a notebook. The observation framework would have four parts. 1) Reflect on the current situation; 2) Compare the situation to Challenges List; 3) Create an Action Plan for testing one script, payoff, cycle or trigger; and 4) Record Results.

    Last, I would ask that we check in once a week to give her an accountability structure.

    Oh yeah, and I’d bill her for my time. lol

  48. avatar

    First, you have to be sure that person wants to change. Maybe she’s happy being a quitter! Just cause you don’t want her to quit, doesn’t mean she’s not happy being that way. Assuming she doesn’t want to be a quitter, ask her to conduct the five-year test in which she pretends she’s meeting herself five years from now. What does she look like? How much confidence does she project? How does she interact with people? Based on her current trajectory, does she like what’s she seeing? This can be quite a powerful exercise.

  49. avatar
    Louise Kay Uy

    You’re right Ramit; saying stuff like “seriously,” “should,” and “get off your fat ass” isn’t a motivator to anybody trying to get things down, especially when they feel highly unmotivated/afraid of a possible (or what their minds would say, ‘inevitable’) failure.

    I do agree with everybody else is that the quitter person needs someone to confide or go to for support. This doesn’t mean that the friend should become a crutch that the person goes for sympathy points and does nothing.

    Being a quitter myself, there are some tricks and techniques that have helped me along:
    -writing things down/saying it aloud to someone they trust: write/say the fears just get it out of your head. Sometimes the problem isn’t as bad as it is but if it’s left brewing in the brain it often looks or feels a lot worse.

    -If it’s out there in words or in conversation, it’s easier to break it down or find the source of the ‘problems’ and think up of a solution to it. There could be a physical problem that can be dealt with, and then there are the emotional scripts that they need to be aware of and how to deal with it through friends or professional counseling.

    -break the solution down to baby/small steps: this is Ramit and Tim Feriss’ suggestion that into order to fix a big problem/start a new habit/keep at something for a long period of time, it’s important to do it in small strides. Doing it all at once or in big landmarks is still overwhelming or exhausting.

    In terms of being creative (where the progress isn’t as clear cut), I recently read some advice on multiple articles thinking about it in increments of time, sort of like exercising. Like ‘Today I will spend 1-2 hours working on this project’, so regardless of the outcome at the end of the day, the person can be content knowing they’ve made some progress from devoting a set amount of time to it.

    Keeping a progress chart/journal of good things: sometimes being unmotivated and depressed go hand in hand, so having a chart showing one’s progress is encouraging, but if the person might think ‘o I still have a long way to go, this is hard’ having a journal with only their positive feelings and accomplishments can help boost their confidence and motivation as to why they’re doing this.

  50. avatar

    Agreed, Analmouse coward. I’ve been there. When you hit bottom, you have two choices: crawl into a hole and give up (and live a life that equates to that) or take action because you have no further excuses to avoid addressing the obvious problems in your life. Thankfully, in my case, I chose the latter. It made me strong and brave and gave me very little sympathy for those who whine and quit.

  51. avatar
    Kim Cassidy

    I would say to them (and only if pushed for an answer), “I’ve thought about telling you what I KNOW will work, but I’m not. Because, I know that you will not do them. I’ve been there. I really have. You are looking for the ONE TRUE thing that will fix it all without any work on your part. And, you want a guarantee that THIS TIME things will work out. Well, it probably won’t. You won’t be working hard long enough. Good luck.”

  52. avatar
    James H.

    I would recommend the bet-switch mechanism to them, offering up my personal anecdote of how a $50 offer helped me hit the gym and work out consistently for months straight.

    If I have sufficient investment in their follow-through (e.g., they’re my spouse), I would offer to serve as an accountability partner or otherwise find one for them. Just showing up is half the battle and having an appointment one would miss (with all the social stigma attached) can turn the tide.

  53. avatar
    Yousuf Azhar

    Hi UrbanBaby,

    Your friend probably has trouble staying motivated.

    To overcome a lack of motivation use systems and automation.

    Here is a list of motivation thieves along with tips for your friend to overcome them:

    1) Low Energy
    -Identify those times of day when your energy is highest and plan to get work done during those times.
    -Identify low energy times of day and plan to do something that will recharge you (nap, read a fun book, go for a walk outside, etc.).

    2) Being Overwhelmed
    -Break down any overwhelming tasks into “bite size” chunks. These mini-tasks should take about 15 mins to complete. Once you have broken down the large overwhelming task into a bunch of smaller 15 minute tasks, they should be easier to tackle.

    3) Lack of Inertia
    -Simply commit to doing at least one task per day for your project (even if it only takes you 15 mins or if you don’t even complete it!). The simple fact that you will be doing a small consistent action will create inertia and you will feel good about keeping up the momentum.

    4) Forgetfulness
    -Assume that your memory is weak and don’t rely on it. Instead, pick some calendar tool (whether paper-based or electronic) and keep track of things in that. You can put important dates there, task lists, etc.
    -Schedule a weekly 30 minute review of your planned tasks for the coming week and what tasks you completed the previous week. You can use Google Calendar to recieve text msg reminders about your appts.

    5) Lack of Urgency
    -Use your ego against itself. Since you decided that a particular project is important, you can also later decide that you don’t feel like working on it. To trick your lazy side into keeping up with your project, find someone to hold you accountable. Your ego will hate to go to that person and admit that you don’t keep up with the tasks you committed to. Once you find someone, have a standing 15 minute weekly appt to review what tasks you plan to complete in the coming week and which of your tasks you did complete from the previous week.

    6) Discouragement
    -Remember that people who discourage you from trying to reach your goals are probably just jealous. The best way to make frustrate them is to NOT be discouraged and use their jealausy to fuel your energy towards doing your project tasks.
    -Do a monthly review of: everything you’ve learned, accomplishments, long-term goals, short-term goals.

    These tips should help your friend maintain her motivation once she commits to a project so that she may successfully complete it.

  54. avatar
    Gisella A.

    1 I’d give her a copy of this song, “A quitter never wins” by Larry Williams and Johnny Otis.
    Not sure the lyrics will convince her but the rhythm sure does gets you movin – that’s a start! 🙂

    Then, as a quitter myself, I would suggest a couple of things that helped me a little bit:
    – make a list of all the things she quit that she can remember
    – see if she can find something in common about what she feels/thinks/does/hear or what happens etc when she starts wishing to get out of that thing she’s doing
    then when she actually decides to quit and does
    – then look for at least one thing that hopefully she ever got to complete and see if she can detect some difference(s), any detail, in what she felt/thought/did/heard or happenned.
    – Then see if she can find a way to use those when she feels like quitting again.
    If not, just pay attention to what she feels/thinks/does/hear in that moment – and don’t know how this helps breaking the pattern of being dragged away.

    (…maybe tomorrow I can remember something else, but now’s 00.31 and I’m too tired to write more!)

  55. avatar

    I think the person asking the question has issues of his/her own and is avoiding them and attempting to feel superior by focusing on that other person. It’s pretty egotistical and condescending, considering I didn’t see that the other person even asked for that person’s advice/input/whatever. Needs to mind their own business and focus on their own shortcomings and stop trying to fix people as if they are broken. The kind of change the so-called quitter may or may need (as deemed by outsiders) is internally motivated and solved. It’s their own personal journey.

  56. avatar

    Honestly I can´t talk about any technique. When I face lazyness and someone tries to “help” me I totally get mad. I think “Leave me alone!” but what I really answer with a little smile is : Thank you, I´ll try it.

    Pleasure works for me. If it´s about exercise I love when you get completely wet and your heart beat almost explotes. If it is about learning a new language I care about interacting with people, not focusing on grammar.

    What I think you can do as an “outsider” is to test what can be pleasant for your friend and help him build momentum. Probably it´s not about “exercise” but finding a cool sport.

    And, If you are going to help someone I also think that you must put yourself on the line. It´s easy to blame the person with the problem with such nonsense as “lack of will”. If it´s not the case, better to stay aside and don´t waste time and energy.

  57. avatar
    Whitney Z

    First, this person is not a “quitter.” If you approach this person like they have a huge problem, they’re going to get defensive.

    Second, your goal is not that they listen to your advice, it’s that they change their behavior. People hate unsolicited advice.

    Third, you do not have to motivate this person. They already have basic motivation. So, you need to work on getting them to re-start their habit. Behavior BEFORE motivation.

    Now that we established that…

    Do you empathize with your friend? I know I do. There are so many things I want to do and learn, and they all seem to be getting in the way of each other.

    Approach them as if you’re interested in their help. In this case, talk to them about how you want to learn how to finish projects that you start. Scott H Young recently posted that you need to PRACTICE finishing the projects you start in order to develop the habit. So create a pact with your friend to commit to a certain project for 1 month, 2 weeks, whatever.

    Don’t worry if they drop the habit after your trial period. It’s more important to develop the muscle to sticking to your commitments.

    Keep doing these pacts for longer spans of time until you both are able to stick to your projects/commitments.

    THEN, start working on creating habits for the long term.

    Later, you can address such issues as
    -Are they procrastinating/avoiding because it’s not important to them? (Cal Newport)
    -How do they turn a project/activity into a habit? (Charles Duhigg)
    -What are their psychological barriers? (Ramit Sethi)
    -Would they be better off just focusing on ONE thing? (Steve Martin)

    One other note is: If you can, help make it easy for them to stick to their commitments. It was so easy to play sports as a kid because my mother signed me up, drove me to practices, bought me equipment, my teammates and coach were expecting me to show up to the games, etc. Now, as an adult, it’s a pain in the butt to exercise!

  58. avatar
    Ingemar Pedron

    Q: How do you encourage someone who is a friend or family member who is, for lack of a better word, a “quitter”

    A: “You” can’t. It is only after realizing the cumulative effects of serial quitting that the quitter may maybe get a hint.

    I’ll leave you with a quote from a certain religious text: “As a dog returns to his vomit, so does a fool return to his folly.”

  59. avatar

    This friend is probably utilizing willpower and the excitement of a new system to power her efforts.

    As we know this sort of motivation doesn’t last long. The prompt from UrbanBaby implies a fairly close relationship (friend or family member, and we’re assuming they’ve come to you with this as an issue and they want help), so the easiest way would be to get her to realize she needs to focus on building good habits and follow-through.

    I’d start with the exercise end of things, and have her join me – just coming to the gym with me (she doesn’t even have to work out, just show up – she’s much more likely to work out once there) 3 times a week at the same time and on the same days. I’d use this as a springboard both because exercise is one of the stated goals, and it is the easiest to do together. I would have her commit to just one month of this to start off.

    With the above I am providing: a realistic goal (show up at the gym 12 times with me) to avoid feelings of failure and associated dis-motivation (e.g. I didn’t lose the 20 pounds so this isn’t worth it); a structure to complete the goal (come at x times with me); and accountability in the form of a partner.

    I’d continue re-upping on the agreement to come to the gym with me, until this becomes as much of a habit for her as it is for me.

    Having developed one positive habit with her, I’d use it as an example framework for her next endeavor, not trying to throw information about using systems to get things done or just talk at her about habits, but using her demonstrated success as motivation for the next singular objective.

  60. avatar

    This is really an excellent answer. Thanks for the insight!

  61. avatar

    I have a feeling the purpose of this is not to really solve this girl’s problems, but to teach us a lesson about ourselves and how we have “quit” things. Am I right, Ramit?

  62. avatar

    Well, you could give up going to the gym again but I remember the look in your eyes when you tried on that dress and you REALLY wanted it and it just wouldn’t do up. You made a commitment to lose those 10 pounds, only you can do it – remember that dress!

  63. avatar

    It is never easy to change someone else. And if it has to be done, one has to be completely sure that they want it. If this person really wants to change and is having trouble going about it, then it would be a good idea to help. Otherwise, it is mostly a waste of time and energy. If change is what is required then one of the ways that I’ve learnt to break myself and my friends out the shell is to make the conversation about them and how the change that they seek is not really hard work, or strenuous, but a more enjoyable process. In short, check out Tony Robbins’ stuff 😛

  64. avatar
    Elvin @ Journey To Millions

    Hi Ramit,

    This is a very timely topic. The other night, my wife and I were discussing her frustrations about writing articles in our blog. She wanted to quit writing so that she can just focus on teaching, her primary job.

    Here’s what I told her after I patiently listened to her struggles.

    “I understand how you feel. I know that you’re good at the things that you do. I also know that it’s hard for you to concetrate in juggling tasks at the same time. Why don’t you give yourself a break first by resting tomorrow. Do whatever thing you want. Just relax. After that day, start reading again (my wife loves reading, it’s her passion). Don’t force yourself into writing right away. Just read and absorb information. Remember, we’re doing this, so that we can grow and increase our credibility as a writer. In case, you’re thinking that the tasks are hard and so big, you can just read one material a day that’s 365 materials in a year. You can summarize the articles you’re reading in a week and come up with one article a week. That’s 52 blog posts in a year, more than our initial plan of 2 posts per month.”

    Her face lightened up. At that point, I realized that my strategy worked.

    So, I guess these are the steps: listen intently to understand the reasons for quitting. Second, remind the person of the reason why he or she is doing it in the first place by re-stating the goal. In case the goal is too hard to accomplish, break the huge goal into mini-goals that can be accomplished in one day. This way, the person can feel that he/she is moving towards his/her goals.

  65. avatar
    Jenn Adams

    First I would try to understand what her personal goals are and listen to what she hopes to achieve. I would also put myself in her shoes to gain perspective of what she fears that keeps causing her to quit.

    Once I have a good grasp on her perspective, I would talk to her about where she will be in a year if she quits versus where she could be if she continues working on the given project. Then I would help her identify a goal for her to work toward that is SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely). We would also identify small baby steps she could take each month or week to ultimately reach that goal.

    I would then offer to hold her accountable to her larger goal and suggest she could even make a game of it by betting against me and other friends that she won’t make her goal. If she hits her target, she wins money. Then along the way she has money on the line to give her additional motivation.

  66. avatar

    I would ask “Why SPECIFICALLY did you quit? Be honest, even if it’s something that sounds kind of dumb.”

    They will answer with a long list of excuses.

    Then say, “Sure, but that stuff was all true when you started. What changed between when you started, and when you quit?”

    That should get you closer to the answer. And then you can coax them towards a solution.

    It’s funny how just a tiny little thing can kill what little initiative we have to get stuff done.

    Maybe she set goals that were too ambitious and she got discouraged when she didn’t hit them. (Solution: help her choose better goals.) Or maybe she was exercising at lunch and a coworker made a rude comment. (Solution: either ignore the coworker, or exercise either before or after work.)

    This is stuff that we all do ourselves. I have gotten a lot better at fixing the quitting problem with myself, using this line of questioning on myself. It should probably work on other people? (Sorry if this answer made you suicidal.)

  67. avatar

    1) To get the young man to invest I would do a matching funds. If he will put up $25 to $100 and leave it in the account until maturity, I would match the original investment or help find a matching funds IDA (Individual Development Account) program. Very few people would say no to free money.

    2) For the woman who appears to be a quitter; it may be the challenge of starting a project that is intriguing, when it is established and running well it becomes boring. The solution may be helping her find new challenges in the established project such as an untapped application or market to keep her interest.

  68. avatar
    Fábio Duarte Martins

    This one is easy: it’s a matter of excitement.

    Instead of long-term gratification, this person should skip to short-term ones.

    Or putting that talent to work: she’s not a quitter, she’s a starter.

  69. avatar
    nathan bogan

    I always tell others, and myself as I am traditionally a quitter…. why are you doing this? Exactly why?

    Every time I want to skip a workout, stop studying, skip practice, or do anything that makes it seem ok to stop trying I tell myself:

    If I do this TODAY, today what I REALLY DONT want to do, then I WILL reach my goal. If I practice TODAY then I WILL succeed and reach my goal in time.

  70. avatar
    L. Susan Drennan

    It’s about seeing an end in mind and incremental progress. Also a purpose compelling enough. The prize may not be compelling enough to finish.
    A to B, B to C, etc.
    Sometimes in real life we don’t have the luxury to quit.
    She must have someone who’s picking up the pieces.
    Personal Responsibility Counts.

  71. avatar

    I presume this person has acknowledged their quitting is a problem and has asked for help…

    A person who is smart, capable, has good ideas and initiative is lacking only one thing: structure.

    This comes down to simple goal setting. I would create a format where the person clearly defines realistic, detailed goals with specific action steps and deadlines.

    Those specifics must be shared with friends and family so they feel accountable to people other than themselves.

    I would offer support when I could (an added bonus to being accountable to your family and friends is that they are, by default, added to your potential support network).

    Bonus: You should rarely compliment someone’s smarts, creativity, etc. Compliment hard work. If people are conditioned to believe that they are naturally gifted and that those gifts trump hard work – they’ll be much more likely to quit.

  72. avatar
    Joey King

    For both diet/exercise and practicing a musical instrument, I have shared a gdoc spreadsheet pre-formatted as a timesheet/measurement log with tabs for myself and the person who claims they want to make progress. Then I updated my progress on my own tab, demonstrating the possibility of change/progress and sparking competition without domineering. Motivation can be enhanced with personal challenges, like racing to a goal for diet/exercise or agreeing to publish a YouTube video of playing the practiced musical instrument on a certain date. I’m not yet persuasive enough to use more direct methods. With the above, the exercise guy gave up after 2 weeks, but the music contest is going strong.

  73. avatar

    What’s important to note here is the reasoning behind the lack of effort. I would encourage this person to first do some self-analysis. To give her somewhere to start, I would provide a few potential reasons for her attitude with some easy to understand solutions. Here are three potential reasons this person may be “quitting.”

    – Fear. This person may be, as cliche as it sounds, “afraid of success.” If this is the case, I would advise this person to seek professional counsel since it may be indicative of deeper psychological issues and is beyond my ability to help.

    – Lack of Motivation. Maybe this person has a wealthy family to fall back on, or maybe she has a husband that enables her bad habits. She should write down exactly what goals she wants to achieve. Keep a diary of her progress on these goals. Write down her daily progress and thoughts. Seeing her progress on paper might spark some motivation. Seeing her thoughts on paper might allow her to realize why she is losing motivation and focus on resolving that conflict.

    – Stress level. Perhaps this person doesn’t really feel that she is “quitting,” but feels like she can’t handle these tasks once it becomes real work. I would suggest a time manage website like to get a good look on what she spends her day on. I would also suggest creating “To-do” lists. These will break the giant tasks like “lose 50 lbs” into much more manageable subtasks.

  74. avatar

    I self-sabotage all the time. Advice? Smart people have that problem. We know that we are not the smartest, and believe that the smartest should “win”. What gets me off of the self-sabotage cycle is simply reminding myself: “someone is going to do that and make millions. It can be me, or simply some idiot that did not know when to quit.It will not be someone smarter than me. Finish it, and get the prize before some idiot does. “

  75. avatar

    I would wonder, privately, if this person was afraid of change. Now, assuming the person experienced the behavior as a problem and verbalized the wish to change, I would probably listen to this, and the next time this person tried something, I would hang back, be relaxedly supportive of the efforts, and talk more about “maintaining.” Something like, “Wow, you are really maintaining your exercise plan.” This isn’t about “changing” or “improving” or any of the words that can freak people out, just “maintaining,” which can sound like nothing much is going on, and then the person could just sorta back themselves into improvement. Disturbing a homeostasis, even a bad one, can really freak people out.

  76. avatar
    Andrew Shankles

    Explain, using examples from my own experience, the value and growth that come from simply making a choice and sticking with it. Practicing perseverance and even stubbornness can lead to bigger and better opportunities. If you don’t treat your job as if it’s your dream job and throw yourself into it, you’ll never earn a shot at your dream gig. Only by making a decision (which comes from the Greek, meaning to cut away) can you realize either what you don’t want or what you do want to do- two sides of the same coin. So stick with it, at least until some better opportunity presents itself, and then tackle that challenge with as much fervor as you can muster instead of picking out all the aspects that aren’t ideal for you. It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

  77. avatar
    SES Da Great

    I’ve found that the best way to encourage a quitter is to give encouraging words that focus on their accomplishments and strengths rather then what they have quit or left incomplete in the past. Most quitters are subconsciously trained to doubt themselves and/or fear the sacrifice neccasary to achieve, so I always make an effort to empower them while belittling the complexity of the work. I also talk about the benefits of completing the goal and how they’ll feel when they’ve achieved their goal.

    Ramit, much respect to you God!

  78. avatar
    Big D

    Sounds like the stakes are too low.

    That person will never work to their potential unless there is something to lose. You could try and convince them that life is short, but they’ve probably already heard that with little effect.

    If they really want to succeed, I’d have them wager something of significant value to them as the fear of losing is often a more powerful mover than the potential for gain.

  79. avatar
    Mark Eichenlaub

    Get a notebook TODAY. Start jotting down goals and add to, revise, review what it is and how you will get there daily. Keep it next to bed and work on improving your approach to life and you will be shocked what you can accomplish. Stick with it though. Quit reading and thinking about and start doing it.

  80. avatar
    Mark Eichenlaub

    My site didn’t show. It’s

  81. avatar
    Her Every Cent Counts

    I’m a quitter. But I’ve also made progress in my life. I’m textbook ADHD. Here is my advice:

    It’s easy to view the world in black or white terms, all or nothing. But that’s not the way progress works. You don’t just drop 3 dress sizes in two weeks. You gain weight back on the way to losing. You don’t need to be the world’s perfect friend to be a friend. Perfection is the arch enemy of progress. Come up with small, realistic goals for each area that really matters to improving your life and aim for those. Figure out how to get there – if you need to ask others for advice, do. Remember to reward yourself for every small step towards progress. Going to the gym is a major accomplishment. After you go 5 times, you won’t get the same natural reward when you go the 6th time, so you have to remember to reward yourself, even on the 100th time. Write down your structured mini goals and don’t give up, even if you miss a deadline or part of your plan.

  82. avatar

    I can identify with this person. Thing is, it’s not ADHD or that she’s depressed or she lacks motivation or is a loser or whatever. I mean it could be, but that’s just jumping to conclusions.

    Here’s what you do: step 1, find common ground. “If it was me I’d probably have the same trouble.” Step 2, tell her how I overcame that trouble.

    What has worked for me (whenever I’m able to see things through to the end) is keeping a narrow focus. There are tons of things I want to do, but sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. If she picks out just ONE THING that gets all her attention, she’s much more likely to see it through.

  83. avatar

    Good job Aaron, I think this is one of the better responses.

    I decided to read this section only because I think we all can say from time to time, that’s me which is why I am sure Ramit posed the question.

    I would only add, if you were compelled enough to stop and write something here maybe you should also go find that person in your life, could be yourself and go help them.

    Might be worth more in Karma credits…..

  84. avatar
    Kim Taylor

    I remember the story from the woman who chose to leave law school just after starting her second year. She didn’t quit law school, she left and chose to do something she actually wanted to do. It will be important to ask this young woman what she really believes about her behaviour. Does she “quit” or is it something else? She may find it helpful to differentiate between the idea of “quitting” and “deciding to do something else instead”.
    This partial completion appears to be a pattern she wants to change however, so there is an underlying belief that she has that influences this repetitive behaviour. She is the only one who knows why she quits when she quits. She also holds the answers to how to overcome any blocks that arise to prevent her from reaching her stated goal. Encouraging her for me means helping her to figure out what those blocks might be. Too often we assume we know what the issue is, but really, the “psychic hotline” into someone else’s brain has not yet been installed as standard equipment!
    A discussion with her about times when she has achieved a goal or completed something that was important to her can be useful in identifying strengths she has that she can apply to new situations where quitting may become an issue for her. Together, setting up some next steps utilizing those strengths to be applied when she is facing something she is concerned she might not follow through to completion can be helpful. We can look to her to tell us what might work for her, whether that is checking in with someone to hold her accountable or some other form of support. Small, achievable steps to build successes can work well. What can she achieve today or what is one small step that she can achieve of whatever the larger goal is she has set for herself. Being aware of what is getting in her way and having control over her own choices are helpful choices in encouraging this woman to complete the goals she has set for herself.

  85. avatar

    Studies have shown that children who were told how smart they are or how good they are doing do not try as hard as children complemented on how hard they work. I believe this same idea can be applied to adults. I would guess that this person is being told how good they are at every thing they do and that lowers their desire to continue. I would praise them for how hard they have worked and the progress they have made due to their hard work.

  86. avatar

    I’ve thought about who I want to be and what this person would do and how would she think.
    I started changing my habits to habits that my ideal person would cultivate.
    I’ve started REALLY slow on everything that I’m doing (for example, my first goal was to go a whole month without skipping one shower – that’s how depressed I was at the time) and have gradually built up.
    I am now running to lose fat and following Tim Ferris’ slow carb plan, and my actual first step was “do not go one day without showering”.
    I still have a lot of things to do and probably always will, but I guess this is the easiest most efficient way to do it.
    Have a good weekend, Ramit!

  87. avatar

    Personally I find this one of the most challenging of situations. First, being close to someone makes it more of a challenge to avoid sympathizing(not good). Second, some of us have difficulty challenging those close to us(self included). I feel like the heart of this matter is, “quitting” anything, or everything, especially just as things seems to be going well. Somewhere under this is a self-esteem issue, and just perhaps a lack of direction issue too. Not feeling worthy of having good things and not answering that epic question, “What do I really want out of this(particular situation) or even in general. I takes patience, empathy, honesty(from them) and a lot of digging.

  88. avatar

    I’ve been that quitter. And I’m happy to report, I’m doing better. (I had to earn a degree in Psych in order to get there, but that’s a different story.) I’ve learned that the motivation absolutely must come from within, but that being said, outside encouragement is appreciated in the form of someone, anyone, paying positive attention to me (the quitter) and what it is I do, the effort that I actually put forth. This is a tall order in today’s world, but I’ll venture to say:

    #1 Give your proverbial quitter some positive attention, an “atta-boy! way to go! keep going!’ It matters not that you know them well or don’t know them at all. Just notice and acknowledge the efforts of a stranger, even. [Note: I am not fishing for feedback here, I’m referring to holding and verbalizing a positive regard for the other person as a basic therapeutic approach.]
    #2 Lead by example. Shut up and lead. Get up and do something hard. Don’t talk about it so much. Run 3 miles. Make something beautiful. Post a picture of whatever it is on some social media. I personally no longer listen to anyone who isn’t in the trenches in one form or another.
    #3 There are good reasons to quit. However, they are usually fairly far down the road from when a quitter actually quits. Instill the motto “No matter what” to small, important, definable goals. I will enter this competition no matter what. I will complete this task, no matter what. Small “no-matter-whats’ add up to larger gains that the quitter can internalize and grow from.
    I can’t wait to read everyone else’s answers!

  89. avatar

    As Utsav and others have pointed out, this is classic ADHD behavior. From personal experience, I can tell you that if that is indeed the case, getting it treated (with or without medication) is the FIRST thing to do. Only then can you start talking about other stuff.

    I would not have ever gotten treatment for my ADHD, and thereby made some amazing changes to my life and career, if it weren’t for a friendly colleague who discreetly suggested it.

    Once you know that the person is actually capable of focusing and doing what they intend to do, it’s a matter of painstakingly developing the confidence that they can actually follow through, and the right systems and habits. This is not easy, but focusing on small wins helps a lot.

  90. avatar

    Seduce the client. Get them to give you a measurable goal.

    Her [after a long conversation]: “…just want to be HAPPY, you know?!”

    Me: “What was the last good summer you had?”

    Her: “Summer?”

    Me: “Yeah, your most memorable summer.”

    Her: “Oo…when I was a camp counselor in Minnnesota.”

    Me: “Oh yeah?”

    Her: “Yeah. God, that was great. I was making money, I was with Brian, I was a size 6…”


  91. avatar

    “Smart and capable enough” in the eyes of others doesn’t mean that someone has the self-esteem or self-efficacy to follow through on their abilities or good intentions.

    It’s obvious that if the lack of follow-through is consistent in many areas in a person’s life, as is the case here, then the problem is deeper than HOW the person is doing things. Think about a guy who is outwardly put-together, smart, and good-looking but fails miserably with women. Telling him how to act with women won’t make up for his crushing self-doubt, unchallenged assumptions, and the self-victimization that allows him to continue to coast on the path of least resistance.

    This comment section is full of redundant oversimplifications and untested assumptions, so I’d be surprised if Ramit gets to this comment. But my overall point is that this person doesn’t need verbal “encouragement” — being told what to do is disempowering unless its about filing taxes. If someone wants to help a quitter, it would be by modelling high self-esteem and self-efficacy themselves and positively reinforcing any progress they see in their friend… Ideally, while presenting opportunities for them to progress towards goals together to build in support and accountability.

  92. avatar

    Use mentors, friends, advisors, experts, or whoever you trust to motivate and push you to complete tasks. Trying to be completely self-sufficient may stroke your ego, but does little to help you get ahead or overcome the myriad of life’s challenges. Reach out for help if you are serious about moving ahead.

  93. avatar

    Don’t waste your time to change a loser that doesn’t want to change. Only that person can motivate themselves to change, or be forced to change when they run out of money & can’t borrow/mooch from any of their “friends” or relatives anymore. If they come to YOU for help, then you can give them your best help and guidance. Until then, put your efforts into someone or something that is worthy, usually yourself. Sorry this is harsh, but this has been my experience for many years, also the advice that others have given me, proven to be true.

  94. avatar

    “What’s the worst that can happen? Look, you have made it clear to me that this job/gym/thing isn’t working for you. You’ve convinced me that you mean it. I was surprised because it was going well for you. I mean from the outside things looked REALLY GOOD for you. But you are quitting: Therefore you’ve already lost it, right? No, hear me out. You don’t have anything extra to lose so hear me out.

    “I’ve seen you do this before. Something is going well, then whatever it is inside your head reemerges and you back off again. I know, I know, you are always tired of hearing all my stoic bullshit but listen to me anyways. I kid you not, our judgment of the world is the source of our distress. We confuse our thoughts with ourselves. I think you get so worried when things start working out for you and you become afraid you can’t maintain that good feeling forever. I am convinced that in your head you are telling yourself ‘If I can’t maintain this 100% good feeling than it must be 100% terrible. And if 100% terrible is likely, then I need to escape this situation NOW’ or ‘I’m afraid this wont’ last, so it isn’t lasting and I need to abandon ship or go down with the ship.’

    “My goal tonight my friend, is to convince you that 100% terrible is unlikely to happen. All I’m asking from you is stick it out for one more week, and HONESTLY list things that are working well now. Don’t worry about the future, you can always quit if I’m wrong. Worry about the now. Right now, things are going well for you. See, I knew you’d agree with that. Yes, you are very good at job/gym/thing. So for one more week, stop thinking about two weeks from now. Focus instead on awareness in the moment. Being afraid it won’t work out is not the same as it not working out. Spend one week, without changing anything. BUT when you catch yourself beginning to despair, see if you can tell the difference between terrible in the future and terrible in the now.

    ” See, I knew you could give me on week. I haven’t asked you not to quit after a week, right? OK, I want to have lunch with you or maybe drinks – whatever I don’t care – I want to check in with you in 3 or 4 days. I have a lot more ‘stoic bullshit’ I’d like to bounce off you. Oh, screw you, if I thought you were actually venerable this would have been a very different conversation. Give me more credit than that. I’ve seen you go through this cycle before. I know you see it too. I’m just jumping in now because it doesn’t have to be this way. Start by giving just one week, and try to be conscious of what you are afraid of happening and what is currently happening. Deal? Yes I love that Indian restaurant; Wednesday lunch it is!

  95. avatar
    Stephen Harbort

    Talking to you I see that you make fantastic progress and then do not seem to finish the job. I at times have had similar problems and it was explained to me that I have a subconscious fear of success. Sounds like BS I know. To overcome this I use the buddy system. I have a friend who is a pain, always does lists and must succeed at all costs. When I start to slow down and backflip we have a chat and he reminds be of how much better off I will feel when I finish. When I get there we have a party. I help him to better relate to people. I am a big boy. I started at 127 kg at the end of January and have now got to 116kg and I will not stop until I get to 100kg. Then we might chat about 95kg. We have a target of 110 kg by mid June.

  96. avatar
    Edward Snelling

    How would I encourage a quitter? Hmmmmmmmm — good question!!

    I have a friend whom I have attempted to help her speak English better as well as to write better.

    We began with her writing to me and I would correct her spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. The problem early on was that she didn’t keep up the correspondence regularly and never responded to the specific corrections I’d suggested. Over about eight months her compositions did improve but some errors never seemed to be considered.

    Each time she would write to me she would apologize for not keeping the correspondence going. My response was to ask her to not apologize but just write regularly, daily preferably, and send me a message as time permitted. Didn’t happen.

    Now the correspondence has dwindled to one letter in six weeks or more.

    I have always written encouragements for her to continue, made several suggestions about how to incorporate the suggestions I made, and wrote examples of the suggestions. Nothing seemed to work. Her compositions did show improvement at times and a couple of times there was such a severe lack of progress that I told her I didn’t want to correct that particular composition.

    When we first began I would award her with a gold star for a well written sentence or correct grammar. She seemed to be delighted with that sort of reward system remarking not to deny her a gold star when she would insert a Spanish expression for emphasis. I complied and encouraged her to continue with that bit of humor. It seemed to work favorably.

    During the course of the relationship I would also send her essays and articles about how people, who don’t have a degree in education, teach English classes at private schools, company sponsored classes for employees, and private tutoring for students who want to learn English or Spanish. She never made any remarks about the material I’d sent other than to say she’d read some of it.

    Whenever I’d receive an e-mail from her I would respond the same day or no later than the next day with some comments about her letter. I would then do the analysis of her composition, making comments and suggestions. If there were no corrections required I would award that sentence or paragraph with a gold star, of varying sizes, in keeping with the complexity of the sentences, spelling, and grammar.

    In addition in the comments I would also point out where she had done a good job with her composition. Thus, whether the composition was correct or not, I always made appropriate comments. When the composition was done well I always complimented her as well as awarding the appropriate gold star. When there were errors that needed attention I would point out those errors, make suggestions and/or corrections, then include the corrected version.

    In all of my comments I never scolded her for not following my suggestions or corrections. I would simply point out the error as though it was the first time she had made that error.

    There was one exception: She always used a capital “K” when using the word “know.” I pointed the error out to her each time and reminded her that the word as used was not a proper noun and did not require a capital “K.” She never changed.

    Self motivation is something that cannot be taught. It may be encouraged or instilled by example but it must come from within the student. They must be the one to initiate the desire to accomplish something and demonstrate the willingness to follow examples and instruction.

    How do you encourage a quitter? I wish I knew!

    Criticism does little to encourage them to continue. A 2X4 upside the head to elicit attention seems as though it might work but usually is counterproductive.

    Frankly, Ramit, I don’t have a clue.

  97. avatar

    Rather than embark on a rant about what other’s should do, I’ll give you a brief history of how I went from being a serial quitter to being someone who hammers it out till the bitter end every time.

    Firstly, I changed the story I was telling myself about myself. I stopped beating myself up over things I had quit in the past, realizing that some things we undertake in life are dead ends that need to be quit in order to commence something better. Seth Godin’s The Dip helped me with this mindset. The trick is in knowing what to quit and what to stick out. Had I gone on beating myself up over past false starts, I would have strengthened my identity as a quitter and would likely still be the same.

    Secondly, and I believe most importantly, I let go of the outcome and embrace the process. Of course it’s important to have goals which motivate, but it’s the process, each little micro-step along the way that is the focus of my attention. I do this by being completely present and one hundred percent committed to this very moment, and nothing else. I would even say to the extend that I am obsessive about the process and completely independent of the outcome. This also allows me to enjoy the process much more, making it far less likely I’ll quit.

    This is how I get my best results and stick with what’s important.

    Thanks for not quitting on us Ramit.

  98. avatar

    First it would be best to drop all ideas of what you might say to influence them, because 99 times out of 100 it’s your values and frame you’ll speak from. So instead of talking ask questions and listen. Ask questions that uncover 3 key pieces of information.

    1) what is their idea of success and failure, what logic are they using to decide from (information)
    2) how do they feel about success, failure, quitting, what emotions influence their decisions. (inspiration)
    3) what’s most important to them, what and how do they define themselves or who do they want to be, what self-image do they have, etc. (identity)

    Once you have this info from a casual conversation you have everything to influence and persuade. It’s

    – information – logic and reasoning
    – inspiration – emotion and feeling
    – identification – self image concepts

    I call this the 3I’s to influence (self and other). It’s highly effective.

    Step 2: Next create leverage aka Tony Robbins Neuro Associative Conditioning. By that, I mean it’s time to bring the pain. Use their logic, emotions, and most important identification to pile layers of concern.

    For example, Suzue believes quitting isn’t a big deal, she feel it’s ok, however she feels strongly about being a GOOD person, she identifies with being a caring and loving person. She identifies with being a mother. A single mother!

    You might say Suzie quitting isn’t a big deal and you’re right (subtle warfare is best for novices) but let me ask you, has anyone quit on you that you cared deeply for? (Sure they have we all have had someone let us down). Well how did you feel when they quit on YOU? Well it may not have been a big deal to them, but was it a big deal to you? I see, well each time you quit something it’s a big deal to someone. So that means you’re hurting someone. The people you love, you’re hurting them. That’s not something a GOOD person does. Your a good person, right? Plus each time you quit anything your daughter is watching and learning how to let others down JUST LIKE YOU’re letting her down. Hasn’t she had enough quitters in her life? So just imagine what you’ve lost and who you’ve hurt by quitting (past)? And who are you letting down now (present)? And Suzie if you continue this quitting, where will your daughter be 10 years from now – who will she quit on?

    Slowly unfold a different side to HER story that shows her actions working against her values (incongruence – dissonance, etc)

    You get the picture. Keep at it until SUZIE tells you she wants to change or she asks for advice. You should see a pronounced emotional state change. If you don’t, then don’t offer any help, suggestions, or solutions Why? Because she hasn’t reached her pain threshold (this is important because often we give people an out by offering help before they actually want and value it – take note here if you’re in sells and get a lot of objections – you’re selling before they are ready, dig for pain first)

    Without making this too much longer.

    Step 3: provide alternative and associate to pleasure (remember things Suzie values not yours)

    Step 4: test for acceptance and agreement.

    At this point the battle has been won you made the sell. But the war (Suzie staying with it) requires more work.

    Then you might help set up a BJ Fogg setup for Suzie, or create a simple checkin process where she confirms her identity as a Good person by calling people she cares about to tell them she’s no longer going to quit (social pressure). Make the solution easy to execute, with tons of reminders (triggers), and high degree of identification and inspiration. This is of course if you want to maximize Suzie’ continued success.

    Now that sounds like but it could take as little as 5 minutes.

    From iPhone so please excuse typos…….

  99. avatar

    Shirley, darlin’, I don’t have any earthly idea why you’d ever wanna do that exercise nonsense anyhow. You done it fer, what, a few weeks? All them experts say, “Yeah, it’ll make ya feel better, it’ll make you lose weight”…all that baloney. I say it’s a buncha crap. What’d you lose, maybe a dress size or two? Got all sweaty and stuff and fer nuthin’! You come over here and have some of this pecan pie and watch Wheel of Fortune with me. Ain’t Pat Sajak cute?

  100. avatar

    I love this answer. The only things I’d tweak: I’d start by asking, “Do you seriously want my help with this?” I’d call the next day and ask to see the money. Maybe have a third party hold it to increase the social pressure. And I’d drop a few text messages during the two weeks as accountability/reminders.

  101. avatar


    Seriously buddy. In a hetero way tho.

  102. avatar

    This subject is important to us all; to our children, to ourselves and friends. How do you effectively communicate, inspire and motivate? Capture the moment, show people vs. telling them…a good start. I defer to a quote from long ago attributed to Lao Tzu, “In the end we will conserve what we love…we will love only what we understand…and we will understand only what we are taught”.

  103. avatar
    ajay singh

    1.) Belief, She must believe in her abilities. It is important that her immediate boss, or other important person in her life should believe in her. She should be able to trust them, that they would not judge her actions and provide unbiases advice.
    2.) Habits: We become what we continuously do. So, it is important that she build good habits. She must be made to realize that all her efforts are worthwhile. As everything is measure in terms of tangible things. Sometines, It becomes difficult to measure your output. So she should somehow know that she has made a significant contribution. We all want to know that our efforts are worthwhile, otherwise it becomes difficult to keep performing.
    3. In relations trust is most important. Can she trust her friends, are they keeping their promises. She should not invest too much in a relationship, that a bad relation leads her to question her other relationships.

  104. avatar

    My advices for a quitter:

    – point the goals already achieved
    – show as exemple someone or something the quitter admire a lot
    – encourage the quitter even for the small steps
    – fix new goals

    This is what I will do for anyone I want to help, but that being said, there’s a very strange behavior I notice (and actually work for me):

    1 – The case of parents who denigrate and insults their kids :”you’re stupid! You’re not smart enough! you will never be someone! you will never get a job, etc” it often creates a reaction that push the kids to work hard and excel. I’m sure everybody knows somebody it this case.

    2 – An other strange exemple is the benefit to have an “enemy”. With this term of “enemy” I want to say someone that you’re jealous of (work, life, body, etc) it could be anyone, but very often it’s someone, a relative, a friend who is not nice, who doesn’t help, or who is snob, ignorant, pretentious…. but who is definitely damn good in what this person does… To have an “enemy” you want to “kill” create an extraordinary motivation. It gives the strength and the ability to keep going and achieve goals. You feel also in a competition with this enemy.

    3 – When anyone starts to congratulate me about my job done, I feel confidant so I release the pressure, and I make less effort. So always I keep the idea in my mind that I’m not good enough, that I could do better.

  105. avatar

    I am that person. The quitter. I have the quick-burn syndrome – I get very excited by new ideas and projects and lose interest and enthusiasm rapidly. So here’s what I do with myself.

    I don’t try to encourage myself anymore. I have given up the idea that I have to feel enthusiastic about something 100% of the time to do it effectively. What I do instead are the following.

    1. Allot small intervals of time – say 10 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening to work on a project I want to quit. The only deliverable is that I spend the time. Things get done. Or at least I go past the slump.

    2. I give myself permission to complete work badly. Right now I am getting into the habit of finishing. And that takes precedence over good quality.

    3. With habits and regular practices: I get credit for getting back on the wagon. I feel good about not breaking a habit. But when I do, I really applaud myself for starting again.

  106. avatar

    I’d ask her what she wants her life to be like and have her imagine what it would be like if she really followed through. Then I’d ask her when she feels like quitting what does she say to herself. We’d write all of those things down on a small piece of paper. Then I’d ask her to consider that all that stuff is just a bunch of thoughts and she can just put them aside when they come up and remind herself what she is committed to for her life. Then I’d have her create a structure to support her in accomplishing her goals and offer to help her be accountable for keeping her promises.

  107. avatar

    Sometimes a “quitter” will convince theirself that they “don’t really want to do that” when really they just don’t want to be a burden and they feel like that’s what they’re doing because they’re not experts yet. Find a way to show them that their contributions are valued. Sometimes it’s also beneficial to make them aware of the real reason behind their decision first.

    Other times they may feel like in the initial learning phase that there’s “no point” because they’re just practising and what they do doesn’t get used (in the example of a new blogger who doesn’t get views, or any kind of creator really).

    One approach, depending on what the person is trying could be to join in. Grow with the person. Make sure that the quitter knows that they’re helping you as much as you’re helping them. Often we’ll do for others what we can’t do for ourselves. Also, make sure it’s fun.

    A similar approach would be to find a way to have them do for you. Keep setting them little challenges, but don’t let them know you’re doing it. It might seem obvious to you, but chances are they won’t notice it until they’re too successful to care if at all.

    If they start to act as if they feel “like a fraud”, find a way to tell them a story about someone else who felt that way but ended up hugely successful anyway. This shouldn’t be too difficult because pretty much everyone who’s hugely successful has felt this way. Bonus points for having the hugely successful person tell the story! Even better if that person is successful in the field that the “quitter” wants to enter or somebody who the quitter admires. Often these people will be happy to help out with such an endeavour due to remembering what it was like for them!

  108. avatar

    You wrote “Your spectacular failures have nearly convinced me shut down my email list, turn my blog into a private community of 1…”

    Please do this and spare us the melowdrama. Talk about putting oneself above others. Oy! I’m off your list from here on by choice. Last words: Grow up.

  109. avatar

    Ramit…if people are reading your blog for years and still giving weak answers, it does not mean necessarily that they are clueless. People read your blog to help themselves. That does not mean they are qualified to advise others. They can say what has worked for them, but that does not mean they will be able to say, or even have the inclination to say, what someone else should do.

    One of the things you do, which I love, is you give people the thinking behind the concept. You give them the “why”, so that they can understand how to apply the concept across a wide variety of situations they find themselves facing.

    But your delivery is very sage-like (high level) and very linear. You have not experienced many of the things that we have, so you have to keep it high level. And you deliver it in linear fashion, because that is what lets you produce a lot of material at the right cost.

    But this means the hardest thing to do with your material is use it as a reference; to go back and find a specific answer to a new problem. This can make it difficult for people to take your material and advise others with it, because they never really internalized it. They went through it with their own situation in mind, recognized items that helped them solve their problem, and moved on to the next thing.

    No, this does not reduce the immense value you provide. Your work is life changing. But it does impact the answers we give back to you on these fun little problems.

    Let’s see how I do on this one. Hopefully I have the challenge right. You are asking what I would do to advise a quitter that has complained about not being able to follow through and wants help.

    If someone with the behavior you described comes to me for help on following through, I would tell them to stop listening to the glib advice of so called experts and their friends. I think it is pretty clear that this person is using up all their energy early in their quest, and then fizzling out due to lack of results and overall lack of sustainable energy. They are trying to start by building a large snowball and then show everyone they succeeded, instead of starting with a small snowball and letting it build up to success by rolling it downhill.

    OK, clumsy analogy…but they are making the classic mistake of thinking about effort as a solution instead of a system-based solution that will deliver repeatable results. And I do not mean they should be doing years of analysis to develop a system. Just that you don’t find the lever points by doing what everyone says is obvious or common sense. You find them by looking at things as systems, and seeing what happens to the system when you change something…something small maybe. That is how vaccines work for example…how all levers work in fact.

    So back to our friend. I would tell her not to spend all of her time doing all the big things she thinks are part of the end result. Going out and buying expensive gym memberhsip, expensive clothes, and water bottles and fancy shoes and haert rate monitors. Instead, focus on what she wants to accomplish; the “why” of what she is doing. Then pick the small things that can move her on the way toward the end result. What do people do that are successful in the gym? They hire a trainer for one, because it greatly speeds things up because they design your program, and you have someone you are answerable to. Big factors in getting results fast enough that you stay motivated and can form good habits. This beats the hell out of setting goals before you have any performance to measure. That can be really demotivating and it sucks. Over time and after many failures, you start to feel like a loser.

    So don’t burn out by fanning the flame as fast as you can. Light up your quest by starting with a spark, and give it some fuel. It will burn like crazy after a while, and there will be no stopping you.

  110. avatar

    In my opinion it seems like she has problems forming habits. It’s the typical scenario where there is no system in place so the first two weeks are easy but then because she is solely relying on willpower all it takes is one little hurdle and she falls off the tracks. My advice to her would be:

    Think about one tiny habit you’d like to form. Makes sure it’s incredibly easy to follow. And I mean really easy. Like doing one pushup when you get out of bed, or flossing one tooth after brushing your teeth. Once you’ve done the push up or flossed your tooth or whatever you’ve chosen to do, do something to reward that positive behaviour. Something as simple as giving yourself a high five and saying ‘I’M AWESOME!’. The point here is to learn how to formulate a habit. Once you do it once you’ll learn how to create systems in your life that hell prevent you from failing when challenges come up in your life. Starting is easy, it’s consistency that makes it tough.’

  111. avatar

    Hire a personal trainer or become her personal trainer. Why do people hire personal trainers or life coaches when 99.9% of the time they can probably get the info themselves or already know what they need to do? ACCOUNTABILITY. When you are forced to account for your actions it makes if more difficult to quit. Find a buddy or hire someone that motivates you to get off your ass to do something.

  112. avatar

    I would have a conversation with my friend after she was seeking my advice for help. It would sound like this,”Friend, don’t make yourself wrong for not finishing things. But how does that make you feel when you don’t finish things? Do you feel empowered when your gym clothes are sitting in the back of your car untouched for a month? If not, you need to do things that do make you feel empowered(happy,productive,accomplished et al.). Start in one area, be it writing in your blog every day, or going to the gym 3 days a week, and keep your word to yourself. Just one area. Have someone who has something they want to complete work with you so you can keep each other accountable, like, I will read a chapter a day in my book, and you blog everyday this week. At the end of each day we can give each other progress reports. Pay attention to the way you feel at the end of each day with each completed task. Do you feel good? Elated even? Keep that feeling. And remember you can feel that way after every task is completed. And who wouldn’t want to feel like that? If you mess up, it’s ok. Recommit to yourself the next day. You are literally dealing with long engrained brain patterns that you are needing to re-write and overcome. It’s not changing its re-writing. We can talk more about brain patterns another day though. Love ya!”

  113. avatar

    I myself have quit many things. I have insecurities and fears just like anyone.. One of the things I recently changed about myself was starting a workout program. i looked at what my obstacle was: not knowing what gym to go, where the heck to start with on exercise, etc. For me it was about finding the right person who could give me the advice. After seeing a Groupon special for a gym with the most intimidating name ever, I decided that if I could do it and if they could help me, then I might just be able to do it. I signed up for a personal trainer. That was my gift to myself after paying off debt. This wasn’t your typical gym. We did Kettle-bells, flipping tires, etc. Lets just say my confidence soared.. My energy level also went up. So much so that I took up running and I could never run before.. I have been running since Jan and decided to now use a running coach. I dont belong to a gym. My goal is to try new and different exercises each month.

    I would use my story to show her how I changed my habit.. Yes, I knew before that working out was good for me but I didn’t know about core and strength training or how to get my metabolism up. I knew I needed someone that was patient and a teacher at heart to train me. Sometimes its the person with the knowledge she needs AND what person she will receive the advice from that will make a difference..

  114. avatar

    If the person has asked for help, and only if……
    1) find out if there are commonalities in the projects the person has started(ie same time of year, reason for deciding on particular idea)
    2) what is the driving force behind wanting to make the change (ie self-motivated,or outside directed —you should be instead of I want)
    3) how long the improvements have lasted (not necessarily important, but will make person think you are really paying attention)
    4)how they have successfully changed previously, as there are things that they would have accomplished and completed in their life to date. (ie school, career,)
    5) what they do want to accomplish
    6)choose a goal that is motivating and break it down
    7) take action every day
    8) write it down, tell someone, find a coach or mentor to model the behaviour
    9)keep taking action, if heading sideways just recalculate and keep going…

  115. avatar

    We are conditioned to think that quitting is adverse to success, but quitting well and often is one of the most important skills a person can have. Many people never succeed because they don’t quit doing things that they’re terrible at. I hope the quitter starts a blog about her quitting experiences and counsels others about when to quit and how to quit well.

  116. avatar

    Sure, you can do it.

    You can do just about anything, if you want it badly enough.

    1. Start with a specific goal.
    2. Set a date to achieve it.
    3. Decide what you will do to achieve that goal.
    4. Make a daily plan of action, and start immediately.
    5. Write it down.
    6. Read it out loud to yourself every morning and every night. See, feel, and believe yourself already in possession of your goal.

    It might help you to know that this 6 step formula was given by Andrew Carnegie, to Napolean Hill, who spent the next 25 years writing the book, “Think & Grow Rich”. It was used by many to achieve great things, including Thomas Edison who said it was not only the 6 steps to achieve riches, but to achieve any goal.

    If you focus and just do today what needs to be done each day, you are as good as there already.

    But, if you quit, know this: you didn’t want it badly enough.

    Don’t worry if you have failed in the past, keep trying. Unexpected setbacks and temporary defeat happen to everyone. It is not failure until you quit.

    To better understand how and why this formula works, I recommend reading the book. It is the most complete philosophy for success ever written for the common man. Read it, learn it, and apply it.

    “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, he can achieve”, Napolian Hill

    That is what I tell myself. That is what I would tell her, and anyone else who wants to achieve any goal.

    There is no reason to reinvent the wheel.

  117. avatar
    Raymond Huang

    To stop a quitter from quitting, I would join the quitter with whatever activity he or she would quit. I think having someone to work alongside with and talk to is helpful. Schedule weekly or daily meetings where you can talk to the quitter and keep the quitter encouraged. Avoid showboating and ask for help if needed. If quitter seems to be having trouble, talk to the person and swap strategies and tips with them.

  118. avatar

    “Stop screwing over your future self!”

    alternately, as I just saw on ‘Barking Up the Wrong Tree”

    “Do something good for your future self!”

    This is not hypothetical – I’ve discussed this with a friend and try to keep it in mind for myself and it’s helpful. It is not a complete fix for not doing the things we should, but it helps us to try to keep doing the right things.

  119. avatar

    To sorta plagiarize Merlin Mann: Adderall, a referral to a therapist, and a hug.

  120. avatar

    (under the care of a psychiatrist, etc., blah, blah, blah)

  121. avatar

    Firstly, let me say it is near impossible to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. Best case I think is to try and find some way to inspire the person to want to. Given that family members often have additional layers of relationship complexity, one always has to tread carefully. Nothing worse than accidentally burning a relationship, and then having to front up to the next family dinner!

    Without all the details, my approach would be to create some sort of joint challenge and goal that you both work together to achieve. You can certainly couch it using the angle that you would really appreciate some support in sticking to a goal. Then select something that each of you want, create a visual chart to track your progress, and regularly check in to provide support and encouragement, and most of all celebrate your success together.

    I also like to talk it up, tell people what you are both doing, and the fabulous job your doing on the progress. Give the other person a positive reputation to live up to. Be very conscious of not over stepping the mark and coming off as pushy, and also not setting the person up for failure. You really want to build a sense of accomplishment, and have an opportunity to expand the goals to be a bigger stretch next time.

  122. avatar

    Step away. Motivation and change comes from within and our ability to effect change on others is severely limited, especially those close to us.

    As much as we want to give advice to others, they just won’t take it outside of very few situations. Those are:

    Mentor type (not personal, professional)
    Supervisor/Superior at work (again professional)
    Parents (only years later when it finally sinks in)

    Any time someone asks for advice, we should point them in the same direction we came from and to the same materials that lead us to our moment of self realization. It comes from within and no amount of words of wisdom will change a person until they themselves are tired of the outcome they get and change.

    The world is full of quitters. Move on and be a success. That often times is a bigger source of inspiration to others rather than to waste your energy trying to change them.

  123. avatar

    5 points I would discuss with this person in order to encourage / inspire them:

    Perfection is not necessary – like investing, it’s about the long term, not short term

    Willpower alone won’t cut it – have a support team

    Come up with a motto – memorize it and live it

    Look to the past see how far you’ve come

    Be a role model to someone else – continue to stay inspired

  124. avatar

    This worked with a friendI. Too much planning made her feel defeated before she even started. Just make a date to go for a walk on a free track at a school. Play anything that gets her up and moving, like badmitten. Go for a walk through a zoo, on a beach or go on a nature hike and/or photo shoot. If she wants to complain, let her get it out of her system, then direct the conversation in a more positive direction. Make a date to do these things twice a week to start. Maybe there is a walking or exercise club in the area she can join once she gets started.
    Remember, you can’t force someone to change. They have to make the choice themselves. But you might be able to make it fun and then you’ll both want to do it and be happier and healthier as a benefit.

  125. avatar

    I would ask her for advice on the topic that she quit about. I would ask “You have experience with x…how do you get started at x?” Then I would follow her advice and keep her in the loop showing my visible progress.

    After a while, I may ask more tactical questions relating to her existing experience:
    “Hey, thanks for telling me about x…now that I’ve done x, I’m wondering about y. I’m thinking of trying a or b or c. Which one of those would you recommend?”

    At this point, SHE IS THE EXPERT and she may feel compelled to remain consistent with her thinking she is the expert by making progress in the area that she (temporarily) quit. Of course, this isn’t necessarily an overnight tactic, but a worthy strategy worth trying over time.

  126. avatar

    From your material, Ramit and the things that I tried and found useful

    -Read “The Power of Habits” by Charles Duhigg (got this from the habit-changing program), first two-three chapters
    -“The magic of thinking big” David J. Schwartz, first chapter

    -Set stimulating large goals (what do you really want that could rock your world).
    -Set ridiculously low threshold goals on a micro-scale/daily level (e.g go 10 minutes to the gym) (e.g. using the power of habits, I started with running 6 minutes as a starter, ridicilously low, but it helped me getting into the habit of running)

    -Keep diary of when you went running
    -Specific for running: get Nike+, and set a low goal e.g two times running in a week, I think this is one community that has got it down on how to stimulate people to continue to run.
    (this mold can then be flexed to the particular problem)

  127. avatar

    I would list the person’s past accomplishments to them. Give them encouragement & inspiration. List examples of accomplished friends similar to her. Help her recognize what caused previous shortfalls & offer suggestions on how to bridge her weaknesses.

  128. avatar
    David Vallieres

    Her beliefs are stopping her from finishing what she starts.

    She believes she is a quitter so she quits. That’s who she thinks she is: A quitter.

    To stop her from quitting things she needs to believe she is someone who finishes what she starts.

    The only way to change someone’s belief system is to provide evidence that is contrary to what they believe and then get them to accept it.

    No one quits everything in their life. Give her evidence that there are some things she does not quit (think small steps).

    Examples: When she brushes her teeth does she stop in the middle and go to sleep with a mouthful of toothpaste in her mouth? No, she finishes when her teeth are brushed and rinsed clean (the goal).

    Probably not. So she is not a quitter at brushing her teeth… so she is not a quitter – at least at one thing.

    When she eats does she stop eating before she’s finished? No, she will finish only when she is satisfied (the goal).

    She might argue that these don’t count but you can explain that each of these activities have both a beginning and an end to them and a goal that was achieved.

    Yes, small steps but important.

    Find more examples of her not quitting. After she receives enough evidence that she doesn’t quit everything she will slowly start to believe that she is not someone who quits everything.

    Then she is ready to accept the truth that she is not a quitter of everything- only some things.

    Slowly give her things to do that are more complex and take longer to accomplish. Stay with her while she does them and remind her that she is not a quitter.

    It may take time but she will start to believe she is not a quitter. Once she believes it she will no longer be a quitter.

  129. avatar

    SInce this all I know about her.
    The following.

    1) Give her something to lose or gain. Sometimes we only act when we know something is going to be taken away.

    2) Have her create simple but powerful habits in her life. Using the motivation from #1 to kickstart the process.

    3) Do not overwhelm her in the beginning focus on building volume not power to start. Trying to get powerful to fast can lead to burnout. So try and keep everything at it’s proper dosage.

    4) Feedback is important it how we know are going in the right direction.
    Set the proper feedback loops that encourage growth.

  130. avatar
    Darren McKenzie

    People tend to do whatever allows them to get what they want in a way that confirms a belief about themselves and their world. So start by looking at the benefits of quitting. What does your friend get to have or confirm by giving up? Almost without exception, people do what they believe to work – even when its counter to logic or potential results. Keep that in mind.

    Building specific strategies to overcome the moments where quitting becomes an option. Approach it from 3 key angles: right thoughts, right feelings and right environment. Chip and Dan Heath reference a change model based on riding an elephant along a path. The rider is the logical mind – influenced by factual evidence and logic. The elephant is the emotional mind – powerful and impulsive – where our fight or flight mechanism comes from. And lastly, the path is our environmental conditions – does it support our effort to change.

    Logic and environmental conditions aren’t anywhere near as influential as the emotional aspect so I’d start there by creating an emotionally compelling reason to continue – that’s going to be personal to your friend. Next I’d back that up with evidence to prove that not quitting is the only way to succeed and bring about the emotional result you’ve created. And then setup the environment, through incentive, limitation, accountability or some other device that corrals the range of behavior.

    Go for a mixture of quick wins (hey you sent an email – awesome – have a cookie) and longer range goals (hey we hit a our financial goal – lets take a holiday to wherever) and try to ritualise and reinforce the behavior as much as possible – something as simple as writing things down and checking them off is a great start.

    I worked as a personal trainer and managed to help many of my clients lose upwards of 20 to 30 pounds average with this approach. Hope it works out for you.

  131. avatar
    Bonnie Johnston

    Ramit, I almost didn’t reply because I didn’t want to be the reason that you stop blogging.

    But…I think I would start by picking something that I have a problem sticking with, tell her I wanted to keep doing it but that I’ve been struggling to keep the habit going, and ask for her advice.

    I would probably also be prepared with some psychological study on motivation that includes tips on forming habits, and would tell her I was thinking of trying a couple of those tips, and again, ask her what she thought about those things.

    I’m sure that this conversation wouldn’t be a total turnaround, but it might be the start of a longer discussion about things she’s struggling with and put me in a position to offer to help her out in some way.

    There’d also be the opportunity to come back to her later and say, “Hey I took your advice–and that led me to this other resource–and it’s helping me stay on track.”

  132. avatar

    Talk with your friend about signing a contract with herself, with a goal like losing 10 pounds. Break down how to accomplish that, with backup plans. “I will go to the gym 3 times a week for 30 minutes. If I skip the gym, my dinner will be salad with low fat dressing, steamed broccoli and fish.” Or, for the first week, just agree to walk for 5 minutes a day – them 10 minutes a day the second week, 15 the third, etc. Just like learning to read music, break it down to the smallest component. If you mess up, go back until you master the past level. Move on when you are ready.

  133. avatar
    Swati S

    I would start by asking her what goals are immediately important to her. What has she identified as goals that would improve her life or set her on the path that she wants to follow. Aim: to bring the conversation to examples relevant to her and get her thinking and engaged in that moment.

    Next I would ask what is holding her back. What the fear is or the stopping point ends up being in each example. I might relate it to things I have done myself and how that situation panned out for me (what did my quitting lead to vs. what i wanted to achieve). Aim: figure out what the obstacle is in her head and then point her to a 3rd person situation. Take her out of her own head and look at it as if she were giving advice.

    I’d then ask her to identify again what the most compelling goal she has at that moment is. Once we have this goal identified, i’d talk about what the achievement here is / what that goal would lead to and why does she want that to become reality? Aim: close the loop and get her convinced of her own desires.

    Lastly, i’d work with her to lay out a bite-sized piece by piece workflow to actually accomplish this goal. This way we can make a routine out of it and decrease how much willpower will need to be used in every step. Aim: less opportunities to quit and more to take action.

  134. avatar

    New York Bachelor Kills Himself After Reading Urban Baby? This really isn’t a man bites dog kind of story.

    However, I would discuss with the potential quitter why it is this goal is important and what’s the ultimate objective. Then, I would suggest taking the smallest step possible toward obtaining the objective and to incrementally build from that point. If possible he/she can seek out a buddy which can hold them accountable or joining a group involved in the activity. When there are setbacks, assess what the barriers were and ways to get around them and try again. Also be sure to celebrate small wins. It builds momentum.

  135. avatar

    I liked the answers that were self-referential. I, too, have been tempted to quit just as things were *about* to turn around!

    I would ask the potential quitter what’s at risk if she succeeds. Something’s kicking into gear when things start going well; her inner risk manager is sabotaging the progress. And there could be all kinds of legitimate things that keep her from persevering to success, such as fear of being attractive once the weight is lost, for example; fear of losing losing friendships based on shared commiseration, fear of not fitting in with family members who are overweight, etc.

    Once the fears are examined, they can generally be addressed and put to rest, and progress can then proceed without so much struggle.

  136. avatar

    The solution is easy. I have used it more than once, including on myself.

    You make it too painful for the person to quit.

    For example. If you really want to change and get a goal done, write me a check for $1000 (or some appropriate amount that is just affordable but very painful). Tell everyone you are going to do this. If you achieve the goal you get the check. If you don’t I get to cash it.

    If you are not prepared to make the commitment you don’t really want to change. If you do you are hugely motivated to get it done.

    Never fails.

  137. avatar
    Vicky Lau

    I would say “You know one of your strengths is that you’re really good at starting things. Everything you start turns to gold. Have you thought about getting someone to help you become just as good at the next phase?”

    That’s simple and gets her talking to get and idea of her baseline. Gauge what would be a simple and easiest change to take a step forward and suggest that.

  138. avatar

    In the book Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, he writes about how investing and changing Keystone habits make huge impacts in other areas of your life. (excerpt here:

    Duhigg focused on how people who invested in these keystone habits saw other areas of their lives improve as well. For example, in a diet study, a group of people who were told to Food journal at least one day a week saw twice the weight loss as others in the study who did not journal. The discipline trait is like a muscle that needs to be worked out.

    I would ask the quitter what a small commitment was that she could make. Flossing every night. Food journaling. Doing dishes before bed. Something that would invest in a keystone habit, not some big new routine that she would get burned off from. Best of luck to her.

  139. avatar

    First, instead of judging, I would try to have empathy. I mean, we’ve all been there and I am sure we all are still resistant to change in at least one area of our lives. Lack of motivation is not usually the reason someone is resistant to change.

    I would use an evidenced based tool called “motivational interviewing”. Motivational Interviewing has been defined as “a collaborative,
    person-­‐centered form of guiding to elicit and strengthen motivation for change.” It’s a conversation style often used by social workers or health professionals when working with individuals facing significant barriers. Google it.

    In this scenario, I would engage her in conversation, without bringing forward any questions until she herself had elicited some sort of “change talk”. She would have to guide the conversation and her own choices because if I try to pressure her into change, no matter how well meaning my queries or encouragement may be, she will pull away and then bolt like a deer.
    (Have you every preached the negative health risks of smoking to a smoker? Yeah, like that works.)

  140. avatar
    Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD

    This reminds me of a famous Mahatma Gandhi story.

    A lady reached Mahatma Gandhi with her 10-year old child. She told Gandhi, “Sir, my son has a bad habit of eating a lot of sweets. I have been telling him to reduce eating sweets, but he does not listen to me. Sir, the whole nation listens to you, and you are a revered personality. I am sure my son too will heed to your advice. Please tell him not to eat too much of these sweets.”

    Mahatma Gandhi thought for a while and asked the lady to bring her son again after a week.After a week, the lady again took her son to Mahatma. Mahatma Gandhi put his hand on the head of the boy and told him, “My dear child, don’t eat jaggery too much. It can be harmful”. The conversation ended.

    The bewildered lady asked the Mahatma, “Sir, this was simple. You could have told him the same thing last week itself! Why did you have to make us come again after a week?”

    Mahatma told the lady, “I myself used to take these sweets till last week. I needed a weeks’ time to quit eating sweets so that I could counsel your son with conviction.”

    The lady bowed in reverence to Mahatma Gandhi and took leave of him.

    This story from our side of the world exquisitely suggests the profound difficulty of merely preaching behavioral change or, for our purpose this afternoon — discipline.

  141. avatar

    It is your choice, but really do you beleive you have reason to complain?

    When I were child my father used to said me when I cried: “I will hit you in order to give you a real reason for crying”

  142. avatar
    Nicole E

    Personally, I don’t understand the “abandon quitter friend” technique I saw in several posts. Isn’t that a strategy for people who would rather “quit” friendships than try persuasion?
    Here is a conversation I imagine happening:
    Friend: Blech, I should start going to the gym. I feel soooo fat.
    Me: Didn’t you used to go to the gym?
    Friend: Yeah. But I got tired of it [insert many excuses here].
    Me: Well if you went back, what would you do differently so you wouldn’t quit?

    Then the friend can start coming up with her own solutions. Maybe she wants to try a trainer, or the anti-charity idea. It’s more powerful if she comes up with a solution for herself, but if she’s stuck I would ask if I could suggest some ideas (and then ask if she would like to try a trainer or anti-charity bets).

    It’s important to start out by asking the friend what she wants to do differently (encourage her to start “testing” for herself), because I’ve noticed that just telling her to join certain programs results in the friend instantly swatting my ideas away because she is still in complain mode (no, I couldn’t try that, I don’t have enough money, etc etc). Asking her what she wants to do differently breaks away from complain mode and starts problem-solving mode.

  143. avatar
    Tara Imani

    Dear Ramet,

    Thank you for your recent email; it was unusually pithy and made me laugh- although you’re raising serious issues.

    My advice to Urban Baby:

    I would ask her why she is not being true and committed to herself.

    I would recommend she journal around questions such as: when I reach my ideal weight, I’m going to ___________ ( fill in take a trip, buy a new wardrobe, or go after that job I’ve always wanted,,etc.)

    I would also recommendshe get a copy of the CD audio series The Psychology of Winning by Denis Waitley and challenge her to implement his strategies and perspectives.

    Lastly, I would ask her toseek counseling to explore underlying causes of self-sabotage,co-dependency, or simply why she is afraid to win or lose.

    Final book I’d offer is Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception.

    Quitting should not be rewarded by babying nor by shaming. Truly, self-motivation– like happiness– is an inside job. No one can give her this. She must work for it herself by surrounding herself with people who truly care about her and want the best for her.

    Thank you

  144. avatar

    Anyone here reading the Heath brothers’ new book “Decisive”? Great interview with Derek Halpern here:

    Reading “Decisive” and some of the research about our eagerness to make decisions, when really we have too little information, has made me skeptical about this kind of “Be the expert!” thinking. This scenario is ridiculous:

    “She has started exercise programs–done really well, and then quit right as she was making progress..She starts out strong and then abandons ship. No one knows why.”

    So this person quits all the time and that’s all the information we have…yet Ramit is like “What would you do to help?” as if there is one course of action for any quitter? Shit, maybe this person had someone close die and they’re depressed. The scenario states her best friends don’t know why she quits–but somehow as strangers on the internet we are supposed to prescribe something?

    I think it would be much more interesting to see a blog post, with the same person with the same dilemma–but instead have the audio of a conversation or even an interview in text where Ramit or somebody gets them from A to B by asking the right questions…I know my first step would be:

    #1 – Resist the universal urge to be an expert and dole out advice, and ask some good questions to get a more complete picture of this person and their habit of quitting.

  145. avatar

    I’d invite the person over for a quick chat. Maybe some coffee or tea at a park or by the waterfront. Or somewhere where the other person would feel at ease, a nice comfortable setting.

    Then, I’d compliment them on how well they’ve done each time they’ve started something, but also, without interrupting them, try to find out a pattern between why they chose to stop. Like starting off with, “Oh, I really liked your ideas about this time you did this and this. How did you come up with it?”

    Listen without judgement, try to see things in their perspective, and understand how they feel via their voice inflections and context. Reiterate what they say to let them know that you do care throughout the conversation.

    The reason is because they might not feel that they’re being a chronic quitter. And maybe that’s true or maybe not. Maybe they’re just searching for something? Or maybe they wish to hide something? A weakness for consistency? A fear of failing? Or maybe, it just wasn’t something they desired enough to sustain the momentum. It could really be anything.

    Lastly, I’ll close the conversation by gifting them a journal. Not a blank journal though. I’d probably have the cover detailed with some sort of quote like, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ― Winston Churchill. Then write down my contact # or email in it, so they can feel free to reach out to me and follow up next week. There’s no rush in prescribing a treatment plan until you know what you’re diagnosing.

  146. avatar

    “Hi [Flaky Friend Name],

    “It seems you get excited at the beginning of projects and then they fall by the wayside. That must feel crappy to go to the effort and nothing good materialize after all the work you put in. Just know that it happens to the rest of us too, and if you actually want to increase the chances of a new habit or goal working out, there’s actually a better way of going about it in a systematic way. Do you want to hear how I managed to [outcome X/ benefit Y] for myself?

    Flaky Friend: “Sure, go ahead.”

    “Specifically, the way I start new habits, such as starting and sticking to an exercise program or starting a new project like a blog is:

    1. I think it over for a few days and decide if this is really a project worth undertaking. In my humble experience, it’s better to totally commit to a project or not start it at all. Getting the the middle and quitting sucks, don’t you agree?

    2. Plan out the simplest baby steps at first and avoid going overboard. For example, if you want to run 5x/ week, start off with 30 minutes once per week.

    3. Keep track of progress in a daily journal, and better yet, send me an email once a week letting me know that you went for your run. This keeps you accountable and helps with the next step.

    4. Analyze the “leaky” parts of the system to discover why you failed. If you start seeing that your journal has too many empty gaps in it, it can help to analyze what exactly prevented you from accomplishing your habit for that day.
    And by having to e-mail me each week after your run or after you write a weekly blog post, you reduce the chances of skipping out.

    5. Resume, optimize, and apply a “Tuner Strategy” as needed. Once you have a minimal habit FIRMLY in place, you can start tuning it up until you reach your bigger goals of running 5x/ week and writing one blog post per day. Doesn’t it make more sense to start small and work your way up like this?

    These steps worked for me, so if you want help setting this up and getting started, let me know.” (= Do it for them method.)

  147. avatar
    Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey

    When I was teaching in a community college, a student whispered to me that some of my students will be dropping out of school because they are having difficulty with their subjects. I called a meeting and simply told them, “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” It has been my guiding motto since younger days. I would not have been what I am now if I quit school and contented myself with working in a fast food chain.

  148. avatar

    P.S. For those who didn’t notice, what I wrote above is not only a conversation between friends, but a pseudo-sales letter using copywriting techniques meant to identify with the target audience’s frustrations and ideal outcomes, remove some key barriers, and gently persuade for an action.

  149. avatar

    All of us are quitters, in fact is one of our brain specialties. Provide a motivation higher than the instinct to quit, together with the mechanism to test it works, enlarge the reward in comparison with the effort to achieve the goal.
    A natural quitter.

  150. avatar

    Robert Cialdini wrote an excellent book on persuasion (Influence: the psychology of persuasion). And it has six strong factors at play:
    1. Liking – people like those who like them
    2. Reciprocity – People repay in kind
    3. Social proof – people follow the lead of similar others
    4. Consistency – people fulfill public written commitments
    5. Authority – experts provide shortcuts to decisions
    6. Scarcity – people value what’s scarce

    So the first thing that comes to mind is that this girl needs to be talked to by someone who can demonstrate social proof. A person who can say that I was in your shoes and this is how I got out. (People follow the lead of similar others)

    Second, gain some trust, as it is probably an issue here. Many people have tried to tell her to get off her ass and do something, and now she’s tired of the same old advice. Demonstrate that you know what you are doing and aren’t yet another person with opinions. (And with trust comes liking, and knowing what you are doing gains expert power/authority)
    Thirdly, once the girl is willing to change, get her to write it down with people present. (it HAS to be voluntary! She must want to change, writing it down just anchors the commitment)

    I am sure there are better answers to your challenge Ramit, but this was what came to mind when I gave it some thought. I have used it in similar situations before for a low self-esteem person with good success.

  151. avatar
    Michael Leading Horse

    Oooh, this will be a real test of how internalized your teachings are for me. Scout’s honor-not looking or scrambling through your site for the “right” answers. 😀

    Okay, first establish that she actually wants to change with a question. Most of these folk don’t and are just addicted to their drama-I can think of an acquaintance or two… Then start probing for barriers, whatever they might be. Maybe she doesn’t want to “commit” to something because that will curb her life towards something she might not want? Maybe she just loses steam like we all do? I’d also suggest picking up some friend groups around whatever change she’s looking to make and then set a friendly bet in each one. So workout group, with folks who might be a little more fit than her, then set up a betting pool around whatever standard she wants and can get the group to agree too. I’d encourage starting small, say… doing a 4square check in at the gym twice per week. Sans friend group, give cash to her friends as “referees” and tell them to keep it if she fails.

  152. avatar
    Terry Gillespie

    For quitters, I suggest finding one tiny step that they can do today. Yes, I know their task is overwhelming to them, like clearing a huge paperwork jam, but one step done successfully can lead to another. I think many quitters are perfectionists and fear it won’t be done perfectly so they don’t start.

    For weight loss, I suggest making one behavior change per week, something easy, like using lowfat milk this week, walking a mile each day, swapping out water for soda next week, and to write down what she eats… just to be mindful of consumption.

    Sometimes people just complain to hear themselves process. That is important, but when the same stuff cycles over and over with no change it is time to say, “hey, I’ve heard this before. How can I help?” and change the subject.

  153. avatar
    Michelle Z

    I would ask this person to envision their goals – whether weight or financial and figure out why they want them. Then work on 3 – 4 specific roadblocks to reaching that goal to have a action plan to succeed. This should also include tactics to overcome the typical barriers that are faced.

    If that fails, move on, you can’t help someone that does not realize there is a problem.

  154. avatar

    We are motivated to do something to avoid pain or gain a reward. As her friend, you can ask her to tell you or write it down what does she gain by continuing to quit successful endeavors. What is her fear of succeeding? What pain will it cause? What will she gain by not quitting? If she can focus in on these answers maybe she can find the answer for herself. If she is reluctant to do so, then she needs someone besides her friend to help her. A friend can be a sounding board, but can’t act as a professional. Story telling and writing your own obituary have been ways to have people see patterns in their lives whether good ones or bad ones. Self-discovery is more powerful than friendly advice.

  155. avatar
    S Gupta

    I find being held accountable to another person motivating. It is easy to let yourself off the hook with excuses, but if someone else is involved it’s 1) more embarrassing to fail and 2) easier to succeed with support. So perhaps this friend could offer to take a gym class with her or collaborate on the blog or help her find other people with similar goals/interests.

  156. avatar

    I was that person, FOR YEARS!!

    If she is complaining and wants help, that is half the battle won. If she can acknowledge and admit that she has these tendencies, then she can be honest with herself and say to herself that she KNOWS that she is going to get to a point where she wants to quit and can be on the “lookout” for a shift in her feelings/enthusiasm about whatever it is that she is doing and have a plan to combat that.

    What got me over the hump was to plan out the process, in advance, step by step, writing it down, then referring to that list when I felt myself losing enthusiasm, energy or just plain ole didn’t feel like it. This list eliminated a “failure point” by circumventing the downward spiral of decision making procrastination. All I had to do was focus on the next step on the list.

    I found that focusing on the list was a very effective method of “retraining” myself and my habits until I got my 2nd wind and became re-enthusiastic about the endeavor at hand.

    As time went on, I needed the list less and less, boosted by each success I had in pressing past my “failure point”.

    This is nothing new but it definitely worked for me.

  157. avatar

    I’m with Anita on this one. Most often, the best way to gain a new mental and philosophical perspective is to change one’s physical perspective. There are so many real problems in the world that middle-class Americans have no clue about. Spending time with people who have no idea where their next meal is coming from gives one a chance to think about how much they eat and why they feel compelled to over eat. Living with people who can put all of their worldly possessions into a shopping cart helps one realize that most of what we pile up in our homes is just junk. Etc.

    Often when people are serial-quitters, it’s because they are not pursuing their own goals, but those that others have imposed on them and the quitter realizes the goals are hogwash, but doesn’t yet know how to break free from the influence of others.

  158. avatar

    Honestly, I did not read all the posts, god if I know how you read and pick out what you want from this sea of insightful and yet at times contradicting ideas.

    I’d invite them to have lunch with me to talk about this issue they are having in their life. I would use the experience of having lunch to tackle it because my experience has shown me experiential solutions have power than abstract verbal diarrhea. I’m paraphrasing this because it’s abstract, but I would handle things this way or another way. I would meet them outside the restaurant/cafe.

    Hi XXX,

    Thank you for meeting with me for lunch. Are you excited? I’m excited. you know me. I love to eat! Look I want you to know before we go in this is not going to be your typical lunch. This is your life in front of you.

    You complained to me about your issues. You get excited and start, but you do not follow through. You do not finish strong, well I wanted you to know you are already a success and finish strong, you just do not realize it. I wanted to meet with you to show you what you are not aware of.

    There are so many choices on the menu. Will you go with what you know or try something new? Let’s decide and go with it. As they start to eat, I will tell them you do not realize how accomplished you are. You are starting to eat this meal right now, do you plan on finishing it? I’ll tell them, “We’ll see.”

    I’ll ask them, “did you brush your teeth this morning or take a bath this morning?” I may say, “Wait do not answer that!” I do not want to know. I would ask them you did finish what you started, didn’t you? You do that everyday, well mostly every day and you do not think of it as an accomplishment or a success, but it is for you.

    What I want you do to is start tracking your success that you start and finish, no matter how small or mundane. Take a note and save that for later. Let’s eat!

    As we are eating and talking because we can eat and talk at the same time, we are evolved to that level of multi-tasking. Look the problem you are having is your starts and finishes have long gaps of time between them, so you get ideas or feelings about what you are doing them drop them. I wanted you to look at this lunch as your life because it’s a shorter period of time. You start then we may not finish it, we can stop right here? Why do we just leave and go somewhere else? We do have to pay don’t we? They may object and say it will cost money or blah, blah, who knows what they will say in that situation.

    I’ll tell them I want you to know I suggested it because this is what you are doing in your life. I only suggested it because I thought that’s what you want, but it would cost you money and perhaps even more than that.

    Look I do not live your life, if you want to start and then not finish, that is your business, but doing so will cost you your time and your money, so what I suggest is first recognize your small success that you are ALREADY starting and finishing NOW then work your way up to things you start and finish with larger periods of time between them. Build on your success. Look I believe in you. Keep this idea in mind: Finish strong.

    Enough of that, let’s continue eating, but be forewarned. I may grab and eat your food too. Yes, I know that’s why I am fat, but hey, I’m honest. As we are eating, I’ll tell them to finish strong, but who knows I may eat that last piece for them?

    Afterwards lunch, I would say I would call them in a few days to see who they are. In about a week I would see where they are. I may recommend them hiring a coach, if I felt it would be helpful to them for what they are tackling, but aside from that I’d be planning where to eat my next meal.

  159. avatar
    J. Louis

    I agree with Patrick. Best answer is probably to don’t get involved if you don’t need to. If this person is a very close friend or immediate family, it might not be that easy though. I like the idea of having an incentive for change. That’s only a short-term solution though. If this person has been repeating a pattern their entire life (i.e. quitting), then they need to break the pattern. First step is to determine what they’re doing that leads to their quitting. Are they maybe pursuing the wrong projects? Are they not growing beyond the immediate results? For instance, they get a job and do the bare minimum. Have they considered joining professional organizations related to it? Have they considered going to networking events? Are they reading about the industry? It seems like quitting is a lack of motivation. Motivation can be instilled (I learned that in the military), but lasting motivation has to come from within. Self motivation is a habit that is developed and ultimately affects the patterns in our lives.

  160. avatar

    You know, I wrote this long thing and realized it was bullshit.

    What’s worked best for me is indirect encouragement and regular schedules. Some folks above have suggested reverse psychology, but when someone tries that with me I generally blow up then withdraw even further.

    I would also remind them that there is momentum in quitting but there is also momentum in continuing something healthy. I’d ask them to consider whether they are carefully and decisively quitting, or whether they are just passively giving up in the face of something scary.

    Some examples of indirect encouragement:

    1)I really ought to be going to physical therapy at a local pool, but I stopped for various reasons. It is helpful when my friends invite me to gently physical things, like hanging out at their pool, helping with yard work, going on short walks.

    2)I’d ask friends that were struggling in school if I could have some quiet time to study with them. Not the same subject- something totally different. This has also worked for any other quiet indoor thing either of us is trying to learn- you cook while I knit, read while I program, whatever.

    3)I try to hangout with my alcoholic/addict friends while sober and invite them to social events that aren’t focused on drinking

    If they resist the encouragement, I suggest something smaller/simpler/easier.

  161. avatar
    Matthew Palfrey

    I’ll try to answer this from the perspective of someone who has spent much of their professional life encouraging others to make positive changes to their health and fitness. Firstly, it’s important to realise that your personal perspective is not necessarily one that is right for others. Secondly, that individuals come with their own individual idiosyncrasies, personalities and reasons for doing what they do. If you don’t first figure out what they are (or at least have an appreciation of them) then it is unlikely that any lasting change will occur. As an example, in my professional life I encourage people to improve their diets and do more exercise – it really is pretty simple when you look at it. My blueprint for improved health, fitness and wellbeing is:

    1. Lift some heavy stuff. As you get stronger, lift some heavier stuff.

    2. Get comfortable lifting your own bodyweight. Work out increasingly cool ways to do this.

    3. Move around. A lot. And every now and then do this like your life depended on it.

    4. Eat a predominantly unprocessed diet. And don’t eat too much.

    5. Don’t worry about small details. If you just do these things consistently then most of your questions will start to seem quite silly.

    So I’m honestly pretty baffled when people struggle with this stuff. But it’s not that the mechanism is difficult to understand, it’s all the other nonsense that is piled on top of it.

    Finally, I believe that empowerment is the only sure fire way to really achieve lasting change. People have got to really want to do things for themselves and associate massive pain to the alternatives.

  162. avatar

    Sometimes, it’s better to quit than to keep going with something that ultimately isn’t good for the person involved. It’s all about what the so-called quitter really wants.

    If I was approached and asked for advice, I’d tell the person that now they’ve identified that there is a problem somewhere, they need to stop complaining and actually do something constructive about their problem. There’s always a solution somewhere but they must open their eyes and think for themselves instead of playing the victim. They are responsible for the choices they made, regardless of the reasons/excuses behind them. They need to take action because, without action the root problem isn’t going away.

    I’d also want to show them certain tools that are there to help them identify certain things that will help them to refocus. I’m a great fan of hypnosis. It really works as long as the desire for change is present. I’m also a fan of self-evaluation and introspection. But it requires a real desire to change whatever needs to be changed, and absolute honesty about the issue at hand. Hypnosis, for example, will not be effective in the long run if the person isn’t open to change. There are plenty of people out there who constantly complain and create drama, but deep down their seemingly crappy situation serves them in some way. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves.

    It often is very difficult to look in the mirror, recognise your own flaws and their role in the problem at hand, own them without playing the victim and then take action to change whatever needs to be changed. It takes real balls to do that.

    So there’s nothing wrong with quitting a situation that ultimately is no longer beneficial to you, as long as you take decisive action to correct your course.

    For example, if one of my friends took a job and found that it was totally wrong for him, I wouldn’t think any less of him for taking the time to figure out what he really wants to do, and then achieving that, which would involve quitting his current job.

    On the other hand, if it was just a glitch… perhaps he is in the right job, but he feels stressed out from working too hard, then quitting his job would probably be overkill. I’d advise him to do a bit of soul searching to find out where the real problem lies, and then figure out his options, then take decisive action.

    One thing I would not want to do is to call him a quitter and bully him into taking action he isn’t comfortable with by telling him that if he doesn’t take action right now then he doesn’t really want success. In the past, that was the approach I would have taken, but I’ve learned since then that it’s better to walk away from someone who constantly complains without taking action because, it’s their journey and it’s not my place to judge and reform them – I’m not in their shoes.

    One size does not fit all.

  163. avatar

    I think, if I had the time, I would encourage her to team up with me or I would ask for her help just as she thinks it’s time to quit. I know that I am less likely to quit (or at least hold out a lot longer) if there’s somewhere there with me.

  164. avatar

    I would ask her to pick one or two things she wants to begin working on and then would have her focus on those things for the next month. I would tell her to not worry about anything else, just focus on building a routine/habit around these two things for the next month. Print out a calendar or some way to keep track and mark the calendar every day that you work on your projects. After a month, you can evaluate your progress and make adjustments, but commit to doing one or two things for a month, no more.

  165. avatar

    I would ask her about her last ‘thing’ that she quit, what is was, what was her goals, etc. Then say, “Well that sounds really interesting. I’m going to do that but instead of this X I’m going to do Y because that would be better for me.” Then I would proceed to hit it out of the ballpark all the while updating her on my successes and challenges and anything that changes during the journey. I would try to include her in the process and gradually (sneakily) start giving her more and more responsibility. If she wants to change something let her and finally say at the end, Wow you did a great job.

    This would obviously take more time than just a conversation so the person would have to be more invested in her than myself. But for mini projects I know this works wonders because sometimes I do this with my husband, start something then give it over to him and I wind up on the coach reading while the project is being done 🙂 Even just starting with a little project can help boost her knowing what she wants than starting with something big.

    “It’s like a good Asian father surprising you before dinner with an unannounced math test. “But daddy,” you might say, “I already took math today at school!” Asian dad laughs, then pulls out an apple and a banana and demands you demonstrate how to rotate conic sections.” Oh Goodness! I laughed my ass off, and dammit if I’m not going to do that with my kids when they’re older.

  166. avatar
    Susan H.

    NOTE: I’m having trouble with your assumption, Ramit, because the person posting never states that this individual has complained nor that she has asked for help. I’m a person who bores very easily and constantly needs new stimuli. While I’ve had a successful education and career (perfect grades, then perfect performance scores), I constantly explore new interests. I jump in with both feet, learn all I can, then lose interest, then stop. Before long, I jump into another interest. From the inside, it feels like “I’ve exhausted this topic.” To the outside, I’m sure it looks like I’m a quitter.

    If the person really wants help, though, I’d try to hook her at the point of her highest motivation. I’d help her set up a system to keep the new endeavor going when motivation wanes. I’d offer to help her review her system periodically to make sure it’s still working. And I’d offer support and an ear to listen if she feels like quitting, in spite of the system. I’d even encourage her to try a stepped down goal, in place of quitting (for example, exercising 3 days a week, instead of daily).

    If that’s not enough to continue her endeavor, she may have to rethink the goal she is attempting. Maybe it’s simply too ambitious and she burns out.

    Maybe she does have a problem that can benefit from some form of professional intervention. But professional intervention would be my last choice because medications don’t work for everyone and the skills of professionals vary widely.

  167. avatar


    I can tell you what my sister would do since I have acted like the very frusterating person you describe. My sister gave me some advice just last night. It was not so much what she said to do as it was her observations of how I don’t value my past contributions in my former role as a wife and the years of dedicated motherhood. Her love and concern is sincere and she pointed me toward a possible career path that would embrace the things I value. With her as my tough love mentor I can’t continue to make excuses or hide. If I am honest and clear with myself and her about the end goal, she will help me over the mental road blocks along the way.

  168. avatar
    Gui Coelho

    Ramit, since I saw you for the first time at Creative Live I thought I have found the answer to all my problems.
    But your emails are increasing on my inbox because I want estou read them carefully. So I would suggest that you put some practical action so we can make things happen.
    I’ve been searching and my conclusion is that I’m a lazy guy who thinks he works hard. Haha the main problem is lack of energy and willing to do anything and I think the main cause is anxiety and problems with time management. I have friends and when comes to their problems everything is so easy to understand and solve…

  169. avatar

    You don’t persuade a person to do something they don’t want to do. Instead, you would encourage them to figure out what benefit they get from quitting. Our psyche always has a positive goal for us, even if it seems like the behavior is bad, or if it takes a long chain of behaviors to get to the benefit. Once a person understands the benefit, then they can work towards the benefit without the bad behavior.

    I suggest Connirae Andrea’s book, Core Transformation, to get the details on the process.

  170. avatar

    Before assuming that she is a “quitter” I would try to find out whether she just loses interest in the things she starts. I can very much relate to that, because I was also labeled as quitter in some instances, when I just discovered that I don’t want to pursue that particular oath anymore.

    But I do sense she has a problem, a mental block that is stopping her; she is afraid of something. I would say she is afraid to be who she really is, find out what she can actually do; if you never try to go over some point, you can still say (to yourself) that it could possible. But if you try you could fail.

    So my advice would be:
    1. When you come to the point of quitting stop and ask yourself “Why do I want to quit?”. Be completely honest. Are you scared of failing? Of succeeding?
    2. Consciously do it anyway. You keep repeating a pattern of quitting out of habit and you have actually never experienced what would happen if you tried. To break such a pattern will require extra energy, but once you break it, it will be like breaking a chain that has been holding you back. And you can step over the invisible line that you set for yourself.
    3. Remember: only YOU can define what you can do. Failure does not exist, it is all just a learning process.

  171. avatar
    James Lett III

    Ask her why she stops turns away from ideas and regimens that are otherwise running well. You can give her all the advice in the world, but none of it will matter if you don’t learn what specific problems she’s facing and how you can help her address them. Once you know what’s in her way, show her one, MAYBE two things she can do to grab meaningful results (You’ll know what she considers a meaningful result by asking about her problems and LISTENING to her.) in a short time-frame – quick wins. She hits one or two goals, feels great about herself and continues those practices, then comes back to you for more info, which you can slowly feed her and direct her along the right path. Maybe she goes and gets a trainer. But the important thing is that you’ve given her a framework to succeed which she can apply elsewhere, and which she will apply elsewhere the more she uses it, to succeed in other areas of her life as well.

    It would seem that helping people with their problems isn’t difficult, listening so that you learn their true problems is.

  172. avatar

    Find out why SHE wants to do those things.What’s her outcome? Gain a real understanding of why she’s quit in the past. Encourage her to brainstorm ways to achieve her true goal without incorporating the elements that got her stuck before.

  173. avatar

    first you need to understand why she’s quitting everything! Is it because she thinks progress is too slow? or the activities aren’t enjoyable? or someone in her life is discouraging her? or a lack of time to remain committed? or a lack of energy to persist? Once you know why, then you can hone in on what is going on inside her head that convinces her that quitting is the best solution.

  174. avatar
    Jean F

    I am certainly guilty of not following through on some areas in which I would like to improve my life. What would help me is someone who would provide positive feedback whenever I made a step in the right direction. For example, I have issues with clutter in my home. I formed a clutter clearing club with a friend who has the same problem. Whenever either of us does something to remove clutter, we report it – and then the other person gives a thumbs up and is inspired to do something themselves.

  175. avatar

    First listen. She may be complaining but is this a situation she really wants resolved or does she need your sympathy. If it’s sympathy, confirm you love and accept her just as she is and move on to what you enjoy as friends.
    If it’s about changing a pattern, listen some more. Apply the above confirmation that she’s okay as she is and help her determine where she would like to focus her energy for change. One thing only. Then ask “Would you be willing to do X (a single baby step toward the goal) for the next 21 days? If it’s a “yes,” and you think you’d enjoy doing this, you might want to offer to be an accountability partner for the 21 days. Celebrate the daily successes and be prepared to offer advice along the line of “pick yourself up and start all over again.”
    At the end of 21 days evaluate. She may be ready to fly on her own or may want to do another sprint of 21 days with the next baby step. And she may go back to quitter mode. That’s okay too. Confirm your belief in her as a good person and move the conversation to things you enjoy together.

  176. avatar
    mike mizzi

    If you love this person don’t quit on them. I see comments like “don’t get involved”….wow…that pretty much describes this current generation ( I call it the douche bag generation).
    Anyway….there is encouragement and empathy…..see what they see through their eyes and try to figure out a path of enlightenment….and let them know that they can at least come to you for encouragement and a game plan …to help them help themselves. I know I am talking in generalities, but that is what I can think of right now…. I am going through this with a friend who lost a job and her self confidence with it……

  177. avatar
    judith a shimel

    influencing a quitter depends on the quitter’s personality. different people respond to different thing.
    some you can pat on the arm and inspire them with a bright idea; some you have to kick in the bum
    for instance … i had two staff members. both behaved as if they felt aspects of their work was demeaning.
    with the young man (a twenty something father with three small children who was very quiet)… i told him i read a story about a bank guard who became wealthy by using his gift of cleaning things very well and turned it into a side business where he made lots of money.
    the quiet young man did cleaning as part of his work. the next day he took a new pride in cleaning and worked to do it well.
    the other worker complained about various ailments but was hostile and passive aggressive. her world view was very closed and she thrived on personal drama.
    so i gave her some in a humble but confrontational way. through a series of communications i expressed the need for her to improve her performance.
    when she tried to throw in personality, i let her know performance, and not personality.
    i ended with a detailed memo pointing out specific actions that had to be taken. it was a long list, followed by a brief comment that failure to improve would result in specific consequences.
    one week later, she seems to be responding to the directive.

  178. avatar

    Hm. There is something getting between this person and her goals.

    1. Does she want her goal enough? Is it clear?
    2. Goals are a lot like babies, aren’t they? As a “parent” to the goal, what does this person need to do to demolish obstacles and otherwise get the “baby” what it needs to thrive?

  179. avatar

    Suggest small steps (I very much like your floss 1 tooth today approach, LOVED that!)
    Suggest only Positive feedback. You worked out by lifting hand weights at home for 10 reps? “You’re going to be amazed by your increased strength”; “People in great shape start that way” (you’re part of a group), “You do more than I do” (comparison that makes them feel better), “it’s really going to look good on you”, “I can’t wait to see it”. “So you missed a day, it’s okay to miss one day, it’ll make you feel better when you do it again today” (or tomorrow).
    Small steps. Have you heard about the $5 investment (I guess you could call it strategy). Each time you receive a $5 bill you put it aside and save it for something special. Take it and hide it in a special area of your wallet or the purse that I’m certain you carry ; )
    Also, somewhere here in Illinois is something I heard about – an award-winning fund called ‘young investors fund’. I don’t know much about it as I do a lot of investing on my own.
    Hope this helps.

  180. avatar
    Steven Leconte

    I have learned from reading your blog and buying some of your material that everyone has an excuse for not doing the things gs that they say that they want to do.

    However, if they start with manageable actions steps they can create new habits.

    In a situation like this I would help the person come up with a goal so small that they would feel ridiculous not to do it. It could be as simple to going for a 5 minute walk once a day.

    Over time I would suggest that they increase the amount of time they spend walking or suggest that they walk once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

    It may not sound like much but if they are able to format the habit then we can start talking about workouts and food intake.

    However, if they are not able to commit to small goals their objective will remain out of reach.

  181. avatar

    Let’s call our “quitter” friend Kim. Kim is really good at one of the toughest parts of the behavior chain -> getting started. As Ramit often writes getting over the fear of taking that first step is huge. So fear of trying new things and procrastination are not Kims problems. It appears likely that Kim’s problems are largely situational (not personal). She needs help on how to design a better path to make the behaviors she wants to perform easier.

    First we’d look at what triggers the “quitting” behavior. What happens just before she quits? She likely runs up against some barrier (time, fear, confusion, frustration, stress etc…) caused by the situation.
    By helping her identify the concrete barriers (that trigger quitting) we could test ways of increasing her ability to overcome them (or reduce and remove the barriers). In the case of her workout program, we could focus on elements that make it easier to be “active”. Getting her to focus on tiny aspects of her routine, like putting her exercise clothes + shoes in a gym bag each night after she brushes her teeth. Then putting that bag in front of the front door so she has to see it every day is one baby step to making it easier for her to exercise. The basic recipe is to help her identify the situational barriers making it difficult for her to continue. Experiment with ways (even tiny ones) that would reduce those barriers and increase her ability to keep doing her target behavior. The key here is that Kim doesn’t seem to have a motivation problem. She needs help recognizing barriers, and designing and testing ways of reducing those barriers. In Kims case she should be shown that her problems are not fixed personality problems. She can change her environment to make the behaviors easier to perform and ultimately automatic at some point.

  182. avatar

    I would develop small and achievable goals, ones that are short enough not too lose interest but long enough to create a sense of actually doing something. These goals need to be a successive series of short term goals that may relate to something bigger than this person realizes. Just like training a dog, I know it sounds awful to compare a person to a dog but, a person wants to feel pride, acceptance, and knowing that they’ve done right by somebody. You should never expect a dog todo anything with out giving them assurance or treats that say “good job!”. As a human being I have to admit I love leaders that treat people like the best dogs around. I like treats, which could be a raise, a pat on the back or just taking me out to lunch to say, “We like what your doing.” This creates a sense of belonging which this person in the question is lacking. You need to create small goals not only for the persons progress but goals that create a sense of being apart of the family, the office, the lives of others, and making them feel that if they left they would be sorely missed. After saying that you still need to give them the opportunity to grow beyond your goals or exercises. Actually letting them know its ok to leave may give them a sense that there is nothing to fear by continuing or leaving. This person may suffer from a debilitating world view that they will be trapped if they stay too long. A scary but real world view shared by many people.

    I am not precisely sure of what a good example of goals would be for this person because I do not know their personality or passions. Please give me more details on this person real or not that I could use to formulate a plan that works for them. A GI Joe is going to need different goals and guideline than an Andy Warhol.

  183. avatar
    J J Kosmac

    I would encourage ACCOUNTABILITY by offering my mentorship. I would help her develop goals both personal and professional with benchmarks that move her forward, that keep her focused on achieving short term goals and give her a sense of accomplishment. Once the “ball” starts moving and she gains more momentum then she will gain increased confidence and success.

  184. avatar

    Help her keep track and quantify what she’s doing to show progress, and provide encouragement by “joining in” yourself.

    A family member wanted to lose weight– so I put a calorie tracker app on her phone, encouraged her to log in her meals, checked in on her progress, and joined in by doing it myself*. She dropped 12 lbs in a few weeks.
    (* or so she thought. I wasn’t trying to lose weight)

  185. avatar
    Don't call me Shirley

    If I knew how to encourage a quitter, I would be on my private yacht in Palau feeling the salty breeze in my hair instead of reading self-help blogs and doing my shitty job for my shitty boss on a Sunday.

  186. avatar

    She hasn’t created the appropriate leverage or systems to help her take actions. For one to maintain progress towards the formation of a new goal or habit you need sufficient leverage either something very painful or pleasurable and then the right systems to ensure she will stick with it. Hiring a personal trainer which costs a lot of money would be a good example. It would be painful for her to waste the money by not going and she has already put a system (via weekly appointments in place to help her stick with it). This seems to be Ramit’s approach to saving money as well….imagine your life down the road if you don’t save money (pain) or picture what you really want that you can’t afford now (pleasure) and then put a system in place that won’t let you fail, that you don’t have to think about (having funds transferred automatically into separate savings accounts for your new car, next trip, etc)/

  187. avatar
    Deepa Daniels

    There is no silver bullet, but here are some things I would do.
    1. Listen and give unconditional love and support. Find out what is causing the self sabotage, get to the root of the self defeating thoughts, why they have them, etc.

    2. Help them to grow in self confidence. Practically, I’d find an area of their life where they are most likely to succeed, and give them all the support they need. Break down the bigger goal into many smaller goals, and tackle them one at a time. Celebrate each victory. The goal is to give them a feeling of success, and make success a habit.

    3. Make the what, why and how, so clear in their mind that it is impossible to forget. Dig down to the motivation. Why do they want it, what is motivating them. they need to want it bad to get it.
    4. Allow room for failure. They might not win every battle, but they can still win the war.

    5. Have them read or watch media that can give them positive reinforcement. Give them positive role models or a mentor that “gets”

  188. avatar
    Sarah Arrow

    Okay working on the theory the person has asked for help here is my advice.

    1) Go to the doctors, see if you have ADHD. Plenty of adults have it and work within their limits. Knowing if there is a medical problem or not is a good start.

    No medical problem: You’re just like the rest of the population – lacking in focus unless you really, truly, madly desire something. I suspect you’ve never really known what you want from life or have suppressed it for some reason or other.

    We have to be adults here; not everyone is going to be paid a heap of money for laying on the beach all day. But there will be things you enjoy that will take you on the pathway to doing the things you love. Make a list, write down what you need to get to where you should be.

    Promise yourself you will not to fall in love with the shiny, and remember nothing feels as great as a completed task – the sense of achievement is far stronger than starting and failing to complete a million different things (these are a small rush, go for the big rush when you complete a task).

    Remember that quitting can become a habit too, and that it’s a choice you’ve made. It doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. You are allowed to change your mind.

    Medical problem: Take the meds. Sit down and decide what you really want to do, set in place small achievable goals to get you where you need to be. Stay on the meds.

  189. avatar

    I would first ask her why she thinks she quits. We all have different things we tell ourselves about our situations and finding out her scripts surrounding that one may lead to a simple solution. One that can be implemented over time, or remove part of the block.

    Failing that I’d look for one thing that would help (not be ideal, just help) for her to do each day and ask her to commit to that. Make it so small and simple it seems stupid not to do it. Like Leo from Zenhabits example of committing to flossing just one tooth; its understood that you can do more but one is all it takes to fulfill requirement.

    In this example it would probably be something to do with fitness or sustained effort; basically something she can point at for herself and say, “See? I didn’t quit this”. Once she knows she Can follow through itll make changes in the rest of her life.


  190. avatar

    This person must form habits starting with small increments. Help this person write down a specific, measurable, and realistic (small) goal that gets them closer to success. Further, have them make it public by socializing it to friends/relatives/internet—this will help change their psychology and make them accountable.

    Next, have this person identify all passive barriers that have held them back from forming the habit/activity they’re going for—Ramit had a good example about making sure your Gym Bag is ready and packed with fresh clothes every workout day. Help them create a system to minimize those passive barriers.

    Help them set up a system of tracking their behavior to keep them honest and once again, accountable for their success/failure.

  191. avatar
    Rachael Rice

    Fuck goals. We’re not really chasing the goal, we’re chasing the feeling we want when we get the goal. The “goals” are often more about some external motivator (a parent’s dream, society’s expectations, etc.), rather than a core internal motivator. So it’s important to identify how your core desired feelings. Often the goal isn’t actually related to the deeper feelings we want (fitting into your skinny jeans as opposed to feeling less stress TODAY because you worked out). Then identifying doable steps that support the feelings you want to have, and making choices that support your feelings. Not the goals themselves.

  192. avatar

    Bingo – the key is to ask questions not to tell the person anything. The Socratic technique… People are concerned that you don’t seem to be able to follow thru with any of your projects/goals Ms X, but what would you say? Hmm, and why would that be? How do you feel when you stop doing Y? Relieved? Sad? Disappointed? Angry? and then go from there

  193. avatar
    Ariadne Fay

    “is there something that hold you back? A fear, perhaps? You know when I was ___ I too feel ____ ” (sharing similar experience from my own that she has and telling how I can relate her, how I’ve ever been in her position so I understand if she’s taken back). Telling her this is not the end, and she has more capability than she thinks, then telling her past success in the area as a proof and to give a little push.

    (p.s. this is what I usually did too in the past….^_^)

  194. avatar

    Sounds to me like she needs 2 things before she starts any endeavor. One, she better know why she is doing it and it better be something that actually means something to her. Whys of I want to be really rich, I want to look good naked are not enough. A why needs to get to the heart of why she is doing whatever she is pursuing and if it does not have meat she will never be able to stick to it. Second, she needs discipline. Most people think motivation is key but its not. Motivation wanes, it is self discipline that makes people successful. People who lose interest and motivation in what they are doing never bother to ask why they were doing whatever it was they thought they wanted to do. And second they dont realize that the key to achieving our goals is discipline not motivation. If you are really trying to achieve something that you have personalized (not lame reasons like impressing others, being famous, blah, blah) and you learn the art of self discipline then it can be accomplished.

  195. avatar

    I’m feeling like emotional abuse right now. What I’d do is skip all the mumbo jumbo about what to do and what not to do. This person probably can figure out that going to the gym again is the next step, or writing another blog, or getting up again. Any idiot can finally figure that out. The problem is what’s stopping her. This must be removed.

    There are a whole bunch of reasons why a person stops mid-sentence and runs. There’s no one reason and no magical way of solving this. This person might be sadistic, for example, when she was little, she was sent to her room. Then her mother felt sorry, and bought her some icecream, but she smacked it out of her mom’s hands. Then later on in her life, that’s what she does… she smacks the icecream. It could also be a control problem. The person wants to feel like she is in control of her time by having things to do lined up. Waiting on her they make her feel powerful. However, real power is in accomplishments. I have this problem where I have stuff lined up waiting on me and it’s addicting to let it sit there. I’m terrible at this, however.

    Besides figuring out what’s really going wrong (and introspection), two things for her to help. 1, every time she repeats a bad habit, she must stop and think about how she feels. Is there something bothering her? The second thing she must do is right a list of anything she wants to do. It could be anything like, “Clean room,” or, “Get icecream.” Then as she accomplishes these things, she crosses them off of her list. In time she’ll see a list of things she’s done. This will train her to go for the power of accomplishment, and not the power of having things needing her attention.

    Failing that there’s

  196. avatar

    Oh, another thing. The problem might be that she’s hanging out with toxic people. That’s a true motivation killer. It might be possible that the person posting the question is really that toxic person trying to get control of her. Might be sabotaging her success deliberately, or just being irritatingly invasive. So, one good thing to do is just to get away from them.

  197. avatar

    Lead by example and hope they see the results.
    Other than that, I’m not going to say much here because I don’t know people who are quitters.

  198. avatar
    Liz G

    Love that you asked us Ramit! Finishing things or following through is something we all have problems with! I know I do.

    1) Ask lots of questions – Why does she want to exercise more? Try to find out what is motivating your friend. This also might give you insight into why she does not finish things.

    2) Praise what she IS doing. Praise the small incremental changes. Many people try to complete a big project and never finish. However, they can finish smaller projects which overtime could be even bigger then the big project they originally tried to finish.

    3) Show don’t tell.
    In the past 6 months, I have stopped smoking marijuana. I was a regular marijuana smoker for years and years. I have a friend that smokes both weed and cigarettes. They often talk about trying to stop smoking. I used to nag this person that they should stop smoking cigarettes. I noticed that they would smoke more cigarettes when they smoked weed. Since, I stopped nagging about the cigarettes and stopped smoking weed with them, I noticed a renewed effort by my friend to stop cigarettes. She may never be able to fully stop because they are so addictive. However, she has decided to work on being much healthier.

    A few years ago I was talking with a musician about some unfinished poems I had. He told me maybe they weren’t supposed to be finished and to perform/read them anyways. This was probably the single best advice I have ever received. I now have many more ‘finished’ poems that I can allow to change or morph overtime.

    Thanks for asking Ramit!

  199. avatar

    I would use small, incremental changes. Instead of goin to the gym 5 days a week for the first month, purposely limit it at first to one day a week with a journal of what they did and how they feel. This way we know when they get discouraged, and they don’t get burnt out. Thanks for writing your site. I can tell you put a ton of time and effort into it and I really appreciate the high quality content I get. Keep it classy, Ramit.

  200. avatar

    I would ask them “What do you find that keeps getting in your way?” And help them find ways they can overcome the smallest obstacle first giving them small early wins.

  201. avatar

    Thank you Andrew…I wondered when someone would finally post the “seriously…” comment. It’s the first thing that went through my mind 🙂 Now I can get past it and move on!

  202. avatar

    Two words: Man up.

  203. avatar

    At most times, I wouldn’t say anything. But when she hits the ‘motivation wave’, I will try to find out why she quits. Based on the reason, I will tailor my answer. In general, am advice to her will include the following:

    1. Talk to people who have succeeded in the activities your friend quits. For example, she can talk with people who have lost weight, or become successful bloggers and ask them the secret to survive the difficult moments. That way she will know it from the expert how to tackle these tough situations.

    2. Get professional help even if it means spending some cash.
    For example, if she wants to lose weight, its best to higher a personal trainer that will make her accountable and stick to her routine.

    3.Take one step at a time.
    Instead of having ambitious goals like losing 10 pounds a week and going to gym everyday, She should start slow and go to gym 2 times a week and build up slowly.That decreases frustration and will lead to higher statisfaction making her stick to the activity.

    In the end, I will tell her and others that quitting in general is not bad. There is stigma associated with people who are quitters. If you explore careers of successful people, they have been very good quitters. Majority of the population don’t have the courage to quit their job even if they feel miserable day in and day out. So I will tell her she has a head start and with few chinks ironed out,she can become extremely ‘successful’.

  204. avatar

    We quit things because the short term “value” of quitting is better than the long term “value” we associated with whatever we are quitting. We want instant everything.
    So.. with that said.. I would appeal to the persons dreams/fantasies. What really makes that person go. If they had the ability to do anything tomorrow, regardless of money, kids, jobs, etc.. what would it be?
    To “sell” or to persuade someone means you must know what they WANT.. what they DESIRE? What they DREAM about. Once you know that; every statement you make to them ties back to their wants, desires and dreams. Nothing is negative, about the past or present.. its about tomorrow and seeing the value in taking a step. The value in seeing what I see and trusting me enough to let me help you. It about the stories of “regular” people who wake up one day and believe enough to change their lives. We see stories everyday of people making a decision to change one thing and “test” the results.. often leading to life changing transformations. All with one step.. and usually a little help.. help from someone who has their back..
    Here are your wants, desires and dreams… here is one step towards getting that. Must create short term value while stressing long term change.
    Incentives work..
    People will transform and do things they would never do for things like..
    money, sex, power, chocolate, love, acceptance. You will need to find out what turns them on. Provide the road map. Make it rewarding from the start.

  205. avatar

    She has asked for help which is a great start. It does not however, guarantee any success.
    Firstly, take the opportunity to discuss with her and try to find if there has been a trigger event for the repeated quitting, an early failed attempt or negative experience.
    Next, review her failed attempts. What has been unsuccessfully tried? What was the motivation for the attempt in the first place? Is motivation lacking in previous attempts?
    Encourage her try again. What is something she is passionate about and wants to do? Investigate the claim and ensure that she herself is determined and actually wants to achieve. Ensure she has specific reasons why she wants to achieve.
    Work with her to develop a plan of milestones for her success in the attempt. Meet regularly with her to have an open and frank discussion about her progress. If she is not meeting her own goals, why and where is she lacking? If she is, reinforce that and ensure the good results are identified.
    Follow through with her to achieve her goal. With one success she loses a whole book of excuses, and gains apparently much needed confidence.

  206. avatar

    Key to understanding this is why she keeps quitting, especially after she sees progress. Self-doubt, perhaps, or her initial motivations are fear-based (I have to lose weight because I can be unhealthy) rather than positive/outcome/goal-based (I want to live a healthy life..). after identifying the reason for quitting frequently, we can find ways to overcome them. or try therapy if they are deep-seated issues.

  207. avatar
    Eric Landen

    Your scenario is particularly timely for me, as just yesterday I was confronted with exactly the same situation from a family member who gave up too easily on a job opportunity. At the exact time the situation arose I didn’t respond with the advice that I felt that I needed to give because it took me by surprise, but that’s good because now I can have you and your community vet my idea on how to reply.
    Here’s what I thought I would say-
    “I know that you are discouraged by the lack of response and feedback from the
    guy that is running the screening process. The way that they have the process set up is not ideal, but it is what they do in response to having probably hundreds of more applications than available positions. You need to be persistent. You need to risk being considered a pest. You need to demonstrate not only your interest, but you need to demonstrate your passion for the opportunity. It’s only by being the squeaky wheel that your gonna get the grease.
    You’ve already gotten started with the process that will lead you to a new job, the first job you will have after getting your degree. So you have started to invest yourself in a process, a process that you don’t want to skimp on. You don’t want to sell yourself short on. You don’t want to give anything less than your best effort.
    And if you still don’t get anywhere with this opportunity, move on. Assess what else is possible, and remember that anything is possible- if you can dare it, if you can dream it, if you can believe it. “

  208. avatar

    There are many reasons why someone may be a “quitter”. For myself, it is a case of lack of confidence. Ever since I was a kid (about 10) I can remember when asked about something, I could not give a definite answer. I would always say “maybe it’s this or that”. This was pointed out to me by a friend of the family. Even today I some times avoid giving a definite answer to a question. I know lots of people who are very intelligent but for some reason fail to convert or apply that intelligence to having a rich life. In my case I have the voice that says “you’re not good enough yet” you have to get better before you can strike out on your own. I also have this precocious kid inside of me who will give anything a go. It is this part of me that has got me through life.
    So, to encourage a “quitter”, I would speak to that person in him or her and say to her that she can do. Stay with her, be her friend.
    Show him examples of how others in similar have made it.
    Give her small actionable to move forward.
    Most importantly be his or her friend and keep encourage (give courage) them because that’s probably what they are missing.
    Ramit, thank you this exercise. It has helped me lot.

  209. avatar

    I’d go with Baby steps, focus on the small tasks. Or I’d tell her to quit, depending on my mood. That might trigger an “I’LL SHOW YOU” attitude.

  210. avatar

    I would first start trying to get this person to admit the he/she really wants to change. After all, a person cannot change another person; a person can only influence another person to change themselves. Once this happens I would suggest employing the Influence tools as outlined by Robert Cialdini in his book.

    If you can convice the person that they want to change, and that the pain of staying the same is GREATER than the pain of changing, I would help them to see where it is they are right now, and where it is they want to be. This will help in creating a roadmap to getting from A to B.

    Use the principal of ‘Commitment and Consistency’ to convice he/she that in order to be the person that they want to be (successful, healthy, wealthy, organized, positive, etc) they will need to behave in certain ways, and put certain principles into practice. The more the person can identify with being the vision that they have of themselves, the more likely they are to adopt the habits, mindsets, and practices required, AND NOT QUIT DOING THEM, to become that person.

    Once the mindsets are there, it’s time to create a roadmap (as mentioned in paragraph 2) for the person to follow. This includes the starting point, specific milestones which include time-frames, and the end goal of becoming their vision. It’s important to mention that when creating these milestones, everything needs to be broken down into small enough changes and commitments that the person is more likely to do them and not reject them. As the saying goes, “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” so you have to help ensure that this person won’t be taking on goals and action steps that are so grand and lofty that they quit because of how hard they are to accomplish. Make sure that the action steps needed are small enough that they can integrate them into their existing routine w/out changing up too much. Large amounts of small, minor changes that are integrated on a daily basis have a far more successful and compounding affect than a couple huge, overhaul-like changes that someone is less likely to stick with because of the radical change taking place.

    If you’ve gotten to this point, it’s time to let the person start the new behaviors as outlined in the roadmap. Be sure to check in w/them at regular intervals to ensure they they’re sticking to it, but not so much that you’re acting like an overbearing life coach or accountability partner. In the end, this person will truly change only when it feels worse staying the same than it does changing themselves for the better. However, I believe that provided you have taken the time to help them see for themselves how much better it will be once they start the journey, the minor successes they achieve each and every time they overcome a new (small) challenge, the more they will want to keep pushing forward and using it as a snowball effect to their advantage. Good luck to all the influencers!

  211. avatar

    If I knew someone that’s a quitter… well, for starters, I’d be able to empathize. Although my boss thinks I have “remarkable follow-through,” I know myself how many goals I want to set & achieve, but wind up backing down on. It sucks & it’s frustrating to be “a quitter” …and I can’t imagine how much it must suck to be a quitter when everyone else knows you are one.

    (I’d verbally empathize, but I wouldn’t put it quite like that.)

    I’d probably start out by pushing the person toward B.J. Fogg’s “Tiny Habits” page. For someone in a rut, building self-efficacy is probably key.. and succeeding long-term at something (even something small) might help. It prevents the person from trying to not be a quitter starting with something grandiose… and someone besides me would be providing accountability.

    Naturally, I’d provide accountability, too. In fact, I’d pick some Tiny Habits thing to change, as well. That way, the person & I could be accountability for one another, too.

  212. avatar
    Mary Catherine


    Thank you for challenging me with this potential case – The issue is that not only do I have a friend who has struggled with this issue – starting out strong only to throw in the towel – I myself have found myself in similar circumstances.

    For my friend – I recommended that we both describe what is her reality. Really get into the seriousness of what it is that is who she is and then discuss the “Why” of whatever the endeavor is that either she or myself want to accomplish.

    Getting to the core of the “why” is essential. For my friend the core was to recognize that her essence was one that wanted comfort. Her past had been to provide herself comfort through food. I totally recognize this and we had a huge discussion about comfort. So, I recommend that for the next 28 days – whenever she would recognize she needed to have comfort to track it – we talked about her using the app lift – and if she chose to eat to track what and when she ate. I shared you can’t change what you don’t recognize. Once you recognize what your behavior is then the next 28 days – when you are tracking her need for comfort – see if you can introduce one simple action that doesn’t involve comfort but something else – maybe a hand massage – a facial – or getting our nails done – even the simple action of having a soft feather or powder puff to stroke her arm or face. Once, the “core” issue is identified such as comfort or a desire to communicate an idea or an enthusiasm for sharing a talent – tracking what bumps me off – is it some internal negative thinking I need to address or am I being influenced by what others are saying? or does my physical surrounding create a conflict to my desire to achieve a specific goal? I am so fascinated by tracking my behavior – right now – I am tracking two things – meditating and am I drinking enough water..

    Change requires acknowledgement of where I am or where the person is – once acknowledge – engage in the smallest step in the direction desired and track it – I totally know I can’t change what I don’t measure..

    thanks Ramit .. continue giving your challenging good info –

    Mary Catherine

  213. avatar

    Obviously, “more willpower” isn’t the answer. At a high level, this kind of change requires making the Right thing the Easy thing or making the Wrong thing too painful to do.

    In this case I would go with the second approach. We’re assuming the person is willing and looking for help. I would set up penalties for not following up on whatever behavior and have a credible third party carry them out. All this would be spelled out on the front end.

    As far as the penalties go, they would likely match the goal. If it’s fitness, have an embarrassing “before” (bikini?) picture ready for public viewing . If it’s business, have the friend pony up some painful amount of money/cherished items/obligation to do unpleasant things to be held in escrow, pending meeting agreed-upon milestones. Both of these would have the checkpoints spaced out far enough in the future to ensure the person has to “stick with it” to avoid the punishment.

  214. avatar

    1. I would look for her invisible scripts — Why does she start so many things and then find reasons to quit? Why does she think she should quit? What does she think might happen if she doesn’t quit?

    2. I would then ask her what she would tell a friend in the same situation.

  215. avatar

    Such a difficult “mental barrier” to overcome yourself, let alone a friend. I think you first have to encourage them to take really small steps – as to not burn out, be overwhelmed, etc. The steps need to fit into their lives, their routines – so they don’t stick out of the norm, they get habituated into it. Coupled with that, you have to encourage thinking long-term. It is a life-change rather than a “diet”. It is committing to lifelong, overall wellness rather than getting a six-pack by next week.

  216. avatar

    UrbanBaby needs to read this sweet IWT blog. 🙂 Ramit, how often do you get involved in the conversations you find during your research of the human psyche in action?

    If UrbanBaby came to me and told me that she really wanted my help I would have to start by telling her that I would, but that my investment is going to be minimal, she’s going to have to make her own goals a priority.

    I would engage her in a conversation to try to uncover her “hidden scripts” driving her decisions to begin, excel at, and then quit projects.

    Hopefully we could begin to touch on what she has really been looking for when she starts her projects and focus on an activity that would generate the best outcome (health, family approval, money, whatever it was we could focus on a project to bring her to her real desire in a constructive way).

    Hopefully we would have also identified, or began to identify, what was scaring her or discouraging her. What is her off switch?

    We could develop a plan and a system to ensure she does what she needs to for success that also safeguards proactively against her off switch.

    I would ask her most of the questions and just guide her through her own thought process. I feel like most people know what they need, sometimes they just need a nudge to stay on track or find direction.

    Peer pressure, accountability, and shame are big motivators in relationships. We could develop an accountability check in to keep her on track and build in a safety net to redirect her when she is most certain to drop the ball.

    If she stayed serious and kept up with her system and met her micro goals at each check in (coffee date, phone call, even a text or email) then I would continue to help her out. I would tell her the first time she slipped I would be done, but I would tell her it was because I believed in her and want her to succeed, and also that I value my time and myself. I would want her to honor her goals and desires as well. I would also encourage her when I knew she was going to need it most, just when I could see her ready to quit.

    So the simplified formula:
    1. Set the tone that I am serious about my commitment and expect the same from her since she came to me for help
    2. Dig for hidden scripts about her real desired outcome/ experience
    3. Dig for hidden scripts that hit her “off switch”
    4. Create an action plan to put into action immediately that would keep her on course and counter any self defeating thoughts bound to arise
    5. Stay committed as long as she does but be willing to push her when I know she’s going to quit
    6. Continue the consistency and encouragement and remind her that this is her goal and she is doing exactly what she set out to

    I hope I don’t make you quit writing, Ramit! If this is totally wack, I’d love to be on the table for a Ramit-tear-down. 🙂

  217. avatar

    People like this seem to have spread themselves too thin. They try to do so many things and be everything to everyone that they lose site of what actually moves them. Where is their passion?

    I try shit all the time then I realize it was not all its croaked up to be ani wasn’t passionate about it. Perhaps I fell for the marketing hoopla, maybe I was railroaded into thinking it would be awesome, or in all likely hood I just just got lazy.

    I could only say to anyone asking for help that if it is truly something you want to do but have lost your way along the line, take a break, go on a trip, watch some comedy or anything else to get out of your head.

    If you don’t reconnect to your previously mentioned task, then you were not very interested in it to start.

  218. avatar

    Advise the quitter to regard the behavior as normal. The quitter may be dedicated to finding something personally appealing and is testing the waters pragmatically. If she hones this into a system instead of randomly starting and quitting new projects and jobs, she may find a way to turn her willingness to change into an advantage.

    A neat way to do this is to advise the quitter to do more research /before/ she starts a new project. This way, she can decide early on whether she’ll stick to the process or not.

    To accomplish that goal, if simple advice doesn’t seem to help, ask the quitter specific questions about what she plans to do and why she plans to go with that option. If you can afford to be a bit pressuring and intense, do so: don’t let the quitter get away with ‘I’m still figuring it out’ or ‘I just want to try this!’.

    Also importantly: don’t get too caught up with trying to help someone else. There’s only so much you can do for a particular person.

  219. avatar

    This person can do it, so focus on what they have already done, or are already doing, maybe they are walking to the bus, start little and build, and then help them to learn to trust themselves. Start with a simple daily practice that they must commit to everyday. Make it small but make it compulsory, something like 10 sit ups and 5 minutes of meditation every day. Eventually they will be able to trust themselves because they can see through their past actions of doing it everyday and they will slowly commit to more and more. This is what happened with me, and it worked, now I commit to lots of things, like regular yoga, volunteering for an entrepreneurial board meeting for young leaders, other fun and exciting things because I trust that I can, because with a simple daily ritual I committed to myself.

  220. avatar

    I would ask her what she wants to achieve from trying out all the different activities. Both she and the people around her might assume that jumping from activity to activity are signs of a “quitter” but what if she is just figuring out what works for her? It may be presumptious but I would give her the credit of trying these things out and find out whether it pushes the right buttons, we must remember she had the choice of not trying anything at all. If not, move on to the next activity of interest and rinse and repeat. If however, she is 40 and above and still bumming from job to job or interests to interests then it is time to nail down what she wants to achieve, work out what her real passion or passions are and get her to come up with a plan for realising those passions. It would be important to figure out clarity of her goals/achievements, the obstacles hindering her from realising her true passion/s, how she can overcome them and also draw out a plan to get there.

  221. avatar

    People NEED to be SHOWN actual results. QUANTIFY her/his progression, SHOW them that they are on the right path and ENCOURAGE them. Some people need outside motivational factor like a bet (20$ each time you don’t come to work out with me) or (200$ if you stay at your job for over 6 months)

  222. avatar

    I know Ramit is going to hate this one. But I would take that person that I love them. That I care about them, and that I’m there for them. I would try to empathize with them, sharing examples of when I wanted to give up sometimes, or times when I started something but never finished…
    Then I would gently tell them to not give up. Never give up. Keep trying. Keep picking yourself off the ground and try once more…
    The reason I would do this is because it’s the only thing that’s kept me going, and has help me not give up.

  223. avatar

    Sounds like the person isn’t realizing the outcomes that they expect as quickly as they’d hoped.

    Identify the small wins that they’ve achieved and then extrapolate those wins out for them to show them what the future might look like.

    When managing sales teams a yearly target can seem ominous and actually de-motives the individual, but when you identify the daily target and show what that will look like after 6 months or a year and suddenly they can relate.

    In this person’s case they may “see” the 5 year goal as the “win”, but not recognize that short term successes are on the path to that goal.

  224. avatar

    What NOT to do: Don’t waste your time trying to figure out WHY she’s a quitter, regressing back into her childhood to find that one time someone made a comment that’s haunted her for the rest of her life etc. etc……Please. People think that finding the source of their ineffective attitudes will solve the problem – “if I only knew WHY I ate so much cake and watched so much TV, I’d be able to stop doing it”. No you wouldn’t. Take the focus away from the problem and become solution oriented – which leads me to – SPECIFIC ADVICE: Recommend her to a business bootcamp program that is proven and that you trust. Get her in there to follow their system to the letter. It should be a program where she doesn’t have to think about her next steps. This solution has the added benefit of accountability to her peers and a mentor, plus, she should have invested a reasonable amount in the course – an amount she’d find painful to lose if she quits (e.g. a course where you still have to pay even if you don’t attend). When she’s paying for the advice and guidance, she’ll pay attention. It’ll also allow her to benefit from being around other people going through the same process as her. If you didn’t know a course immediately you could recommend her to, I’d suggest hitting up your LinkedIn network and any email contacts you trust. Would you personally bother trying to unravel Lindsay Lohan’s past to stop her from getting wasted? Would she listen? Or would you just throw her in a program that’s proven to work? (& before anyone starts ranting about how rehab programs don’t work, watch Russell Brand’s doco on the subject – it’s tasty in both its visual appeal and thought-provoking content).

  225. avatar
    Wen Nee

    i’ll probably ask the person what she was feeling and thinking when she started on her projects. why did she start them in the first place?
    then i’ll ask her what she was feeling and thinking when she decided to stop her project. and if she’s open enough i’ll probably say something along the lines of “i noticed that you’ve done blahblahblah, and then quit when you start making progress, did you notice the same thing?”
    maybe it’s fear that’s stopping her. fear of failure. fear of success? if so then we can address her fears/ whatever reason she has and then work on her goals together. when we’re more aware of the motivation behind our actions then it’ll be easier to choose what we want to do and take responsibility for our own choices.

  226. avatar

    We all seek experiences of being alive. The things she did and quit, were those experiences. Quitting them means they halt being experiences of being alive, to her. It’s the result of a combination of habit and lack of self esteem.

    Nearly always, that lack of self esteem stems from a situation where one is full of dreams and actually takes a lot of entrepreneurial actions, but is halted by the peer group, either by being discouraged or outright thrown down. Hence, the experience of being alive she was seeking, the dreams, do not feel reality anymore. It was a dream, and it didn’t become reality.

    Seeking for reasons further than that, reverse psychology or laissez faire, don’t work, but history tends to repeat itself: she’ll always eventually quit. She needs to be encouraged that her dreams CAN be reality (she already is doing them but she doesn’t believe it) and her perseverance needs to be reinforced: the lack of finishing something keeps her going around in circles.

  227. avatar

    If advising the letter writer: KNOCK the little rah rahs OFF. You will drive her into quitting her improvement efforts. You are treating her like a 5 yr old but she is an adult and too well mannered to slap you silly.

    Assuming the person with finishing problems for my advice. I would assess what the person really wants and their style. Do they really want this change? Or are they doing it for someone else or have been nagged into it? If for someone else, cut bait and find something else that they want. Has the challenge gone away? If so, help them find aspects that can make it harder? New targets.

    Are they a rah rah person? If so, setting small goals and tweeting or facebooking success might be away to go. If not, a nice quiet, private good job might be the way to go.

    Help them identify what is the real issue? Too big of steps? Use smaller steps on that section. Dislike of people involved? Change them; sometimes personality conflicts can be resolved except by changing them out. Afraid of failure? Ask them what is the worst thing that could happen if they accomplished it. This can lead to a discussion of the real problem but look for signs that the person does not want to talk to YOU. Be willing to help them find someone they are comfortable talking about this with. Stuffed animals and puppets as well as dogs and cats are great non-judgemental listeners.


  228. avatar

    Perhaps exploring why she wants to change, why she started the exercise program, blog etc in the first place, what are the benefits and costs of not seeing it through but most importantly what would life be like for her if she did see it through? How would she feel better?

  229. avatar

    i will tell her quit is fine
    everybody is quitter
    and probably i’ll tell her quit more often
    if she start to blog,
    I will tell for a week start to make quick & dirty draft just for 2 minutes
    and then quit get rest and have some fun.
    Next week write for 5 minutes

  230. avatar

    Show that you are disappointed.
    There is nothing that makes people feel more guilty/realise their mistakes than feeling they have disappointed someone.

    Then explain the benefits of NOT quitting and all the rest.

  231. avatar

    I would try to find out what things in her life did she not quit because I really doubt she has quit everything. Then the question becomes why didn’t she quit those things. Was there something different about her approach to the activity? Was she more passionate about it or was it a more structured program? Is that something that she can recreate in the thing she wants to succeed in now? I would also advise her to only take on one thing at a time if she is trying to break this pattern. She needs to pick one big win and focus on that.

  232. avatar
    Trevor B

    This person already knows she has a problem finishing, so telling her to stop quitting will not work. Instead, look for bright spots where she has succeeded in finishing and then use specific questions investigate what was different those times. With this info, help her craft scripts and actions she can utilize to overcome the real reason she is quitting. (Essentially using a lay persons version of solutions-based therapy)

    Specific questions to ask her:

    Question 1: “Tell me about a time when you finished a project without quitting?”

    Question 2: Follow up with, “What do you think was different about that project/situation that made you finish?”

    Question 3: “Imagine you waved a magic wand and you didn’t have any difficulty finishing projects. When you are working on your next project, specifically how would you know things are different? What would you be doing/feeling differently?”

    From these answers, you will uncover actions that she took previously that helped her finish. Using these previous successes, map action steps she can use next time she starts a project to help her finish. Use her answer to Question 3 to help replicate the actions/feeling she had imagined when working on a successful project.

    By allowing her to remember previous times she was successful, you show her that she has already overcome this problem in the past and she can do it again with deliberate actions.

  233. avatar
    Philip B

    So much talk! So many offers to talk!

    When my car breaks, for example, and I ask for help, there are those who offer to talk, and those that grab their tools. Its those who are actually willing to move their hands and feet, not just their mouths, who are providing help. Advice is not help.

    Take the woman to the gym. Make a schedule to work out together. Or if you’re not prepared to offer real help, just say so. Recommend she find someone who is. After a period of working together, the woman will have practiced the appropriate habits, developed the new “scripts”, altered the “negative self-images”, or all the rest discussed ad infinitum, above. All with no useless talk. All without pretending you are a psychologist.

  234. avatar

    “I notice you continue to talk about investing but you seem intimidated to start…what’s up with that?”
    “So you feel as though investing is challenging and only for a select group of people? Hm. I wonder what makes you say that?”
    Drill down, so to speak with questions to try and determine what the person’s barriers are. Honestly, it matters very little WHY they are a quitter. Good for context, but once you know why, then what?
    Get an action plan going. “I wonder if we brainstormed together on a way for you to get your feet wet with investing, you could check it out without really committing just yet.”
    Revisit old failures and/or accomplishments “Was there another time when you felt like you couldn’t do it? What happened? What got in your way? What moved you to action/completion?”

  235. avatar

    I would buy him Seth Godin’s The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick).

  236. avatar

    She sounds like me – ADHD. I would acknowledge her realisation that she needs to change and then point out the things she does well. Since she is successful at starting projects, relationships, etc, I’d find out about her strategic goals, knowing she probably doesn’t have any. Since she’s a great starter, she needs to add new components to her “projects”, the things she changes often, so it will seem to her she is starting again or engaged in a project that can have a successful outcome. She seems to need the stimulation of starting something new, so she needs goals and excitement within her life. She also needs to get a payoff somewhere and be able to start another phase or project that complement the one she’s completed.

    If she is talking about leaving her job, I’d find out what about her current job she liked when she started and what she expected to get out of it. Most likely it was just a pay check and she doesn’t have a career plan, she’s bouncing from job to job based on her impulses. Impulses can be curbed when there is an overriding goal that supersedes the impulse. Someone that moves from job to job needs goals that allow for change, but for planned change. Find out what the average amount of time she spends at a job is, (is it a matter of months or years?). With this information she can be helped to plan a series of moves that will give her something to look forward to, let her see that progress is being made in her career, and will also appeal to her need for change. When making career plans, she should look at various aspects of her personality that might push her impulsive nature. With me it was travelling and seeing new things – I’d quite my job and buy a one way ticket to a different State or Country for an indeterminate amount of time and just stay there, until I found a new goal and moved somewhere else. That was in my late teens and 20’s. When I was older I realised that all my jumping around was great fun at the time, but put me seriously behind on education and career opportunities. Friends with similar characteristics took jobs with Travel Agencies, on cruise lines, with Air lines, etc., careers that allowed them to explore and travel, but that also provided the security and stability of a job and skills they could build on. I learned late, but at least I learned.

    Regarding her relationships, if she’s 30, maybe she simply was not ready to be in a relationship yet, or was still trying to discover who she is. She probably has never sat down and thought about what she wants and how to go about attracting someone with those characteristics, but rather bounced around from boyfriend to boyfriend. I have to say here that even though I’m a Westerner, I greatly admire the process by which cultures that involve the family as part of the marriage planning process handle this, such as that of Ramit’s Asian father. The term “planned marriage” as opposed to “arranged marriage” is indicative of a modern process by which someone sits down and gives serious thought and planning to deciding what they want in a partner and how they intend to get it. It probably doesn’t hurt that if you are Asian you have a multitude of family and friends actively interested in your pursuit of happiness and eager to help you find a mate. This girl most likely has never had a plan or a cohesive idea of what kind of person would fit well with her personality and goals. She may find it beneficial to have a frank honest discussion with those in her life whose judgement she can trust about what type of person could be a good match for her. She doesn’t have to accept everything they say, but it could be eye opening if she gets similar responses from more than one person. It’s a shame that those of us from western cultures seem to openly shy away from seeking advise and support from our families about potential marriages; we place so much focus on “love” and “happily-ever-after”, that we overlook the fact that most things in life that we achieve come through a process of planning and acting. An ad-hoc lifestyle leads to a haphazard life. Too much influence from Hollywood.

    What I’ve learned in my 50 plus years of life, is that in order to get anywhere, you need to plan for it. I used to feel like a plan limited my choices and held me back. What I’ve learned is that by having a plan I can decide where I want to go and how I can get there. In addition, I can always revise my plan whenever it suites me. Clearly, from my perspective this girl lacks a plan for her life and needs to be encouraged to decide what she wants and how she intends to go about getting it. Once she realises she is the master of her destiny and not just a victim of chance, she will feel the control she lacks in her life. A favourite quote of mine “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

  237. avatar

    Working with this person to find some measurable indications of her successes would be valuable. Everyone gets disheartened when they’re working hard and not seeing the outcomes. Focusing on the great things she’s already achieved, prior to quitting, is how I would start.

  238. avatar
    Austin Mullins

    They absolutely must set stakes. Let’s be honest, the feeling of being truly inspired isn’t going to be there all the time, so we have to make stakes to keep ourselves from becoming victims of our own psychology. For instance, when Ramit was working on gaining weight, he simply made a fake wiki page, then proceeded to talk shit, a lot. This was a motivating factor because now he faced negative social implications, instead of just disappointing himself, if he failed.

  239. avatar

    Here is my approach to helping a “quitter”

    First of all no one is a complete “loser” or “quitter” in everything. We all are guilty of quitting on one thing or another, but everyone has accomplishments as well. So my first piece of advice would be to make a list of accomplishments. These could be big or small like finishing school or calling a friend every Sunday. Looking back the so called quitter will realize that how much she has achieved and will help build self confidence. Second step would be to look at these accomplishments and figure out what motivated her to stay on the track and get it done? Was it something internal or external? Was it commitment to herself or the fear of an Asian parent, or multiple factor. This will help her realize what has helped her get things done in the past.

    The next step is to make of list of what things she failed or bailed out on and why? Sometime we start things without being 100% committed to them based on pressure from friends or family, or start projects without thinking them through. Often projects require more effort than we estimated and we end up leaving them in the middle. Having a list of abandoned projects and why she quit will give her an insight into her own decision making process. Understanding why she started a project, job etc.. and why she quit is important in the next step of the process.

    Take small steps, Ramit you are found of giving the example of “flossing one teeth”, take one step, do one thing but on a regular basis. Although it might seem trivial or pointless, but this will help her build what I like to call the “commitment muscle”. Once she is able to make small commitments and follow them through, she should gradually take on bigger challenges. There are a number of things that can help her stay on track, like keeping a journal, making a public declaration of her commitment or asking friends or family to keep her honest.

  240. avatar
    Mike Brown

    Assuming that she has complained and has come to me for help:

    1. I’d tell her is to first get the mindset that she CAN achieve what she wants, but to divorce herself from seeing immediate results. You can only control your behavior (within certain boundaries), but you cannot control your results. However, you can use the results you get as feedback to make adjustments to your behavior.

    2. Advise her that she is not broken because she can’t achieve this or that. Drop the label of “quitter.” It’s not a matter of willpower or discipline. It’s instead a matter of finding the method(s) or system(s) that work for her. If she’s not achieving what she wants, then she just needs to change what she’s doing.

    Encourage her to see what she’ll be doing as an experiment with herself as lab rat; don’t get hung up on what the results “mean” to her emotionally or what they “feel like” — we’re just setting up experiments with her environment and habits to see what happens.

    Relatedly, lose the idea of going for perfection. We want the 85% solution that will at first work most of the time. We hope it will be enough activity to just get her started and get that boulder rolling downhill.

    3. Ask for clarity on what her goals/objectives are. I like using the Inverse Principle of Goal Setting here: if her goal is to “lose weight,” then I’d ask her to be more specific — I’d suggest 1 pound/week. If she wants to “save more money,” then quantify that with a number that feels comfy to her — maybe $10/wk. Set micro-goals that will be easy to attain and provide encouragement as she moves forward.

    But if she says she wants to lose 25 lbs or save $1000 by July 4, then I’d ask her what is her goal. What does she want to do these things *for*? If it’s because she thinks she “should,” then that’s the wrong reason and it’s unsustainable. That’s depending on willpower and it becomes a club to beat herself up with. Use the old coaching strategy of asking how does she want to feel when she’s attained these things, and then ask her to feel that feeling NOW. And then move forward with smaller, more attainable goals that will keep up her positive feelings.

    4. Don’t tell her what to do — instead, ask questions about what’s worked for her in the past, what hasn’t worked, etc. Suggest alternatives. Have her come up with 3 strategies/tactics that resonate with her (on the theory that she’ll be more likely to stick with an idea she thought up on her own).

    5. Play the devil’s advocate and start throwing rocks at her idea. People usually assume that all will go well when they implement a new plan. ASSUME SHE WILL FAIL and ask her what her plan would be to recover from falling off the wagon. Use the implementation intention format of “When I do x, then I will do y, so that I can achieve z.”

    Help her examine her environment and identify the places where she might fail. Use the 20-second rule: if it takes 20 seconds longer or 20 seconds less to do something, then that might affect working around an obstacle that’s hindering her or putting in place an obstacle that will prevent behaviour she wants to avoid.

    6. Ask her if she wants you to be her accountability partner — all she has to do is email you or tweet you every day with a report on what she did. You do not need to respond unless asked. Her only job is to report the activities she decided to do in to help her achieve her goal.

    7. If she does not want a partner, encourage her to open an account at They use a daily graph she can use to track her data and view it HISTORICALLY so that she can see her progress dispassionately. This is why quantifying her goals (even if it’s just assigning a number of 1 to 10 to describe her feelings) is important.

    That’s a lot, but it’s a start.

  241. avatar

    She’s getting something out of being a quitter. Is it attention? Is it self pity? What is the payoff for this behavior? Her reward would dictate the advice I would give her specifically. I think the fact that this person has someone else on message boards trying to help her says a lot – the “quitter” really has people working for her instead of her doing her own work!

  242. avatar

    Well, I think I’d start by asking her if she thinks it’s an issue. Maybe she likes learning and doesn’t see it as a failure more like an opportunity to explore what she likes and takes her learning and applies them to other areas. It doesn’t really matter whether you consider her life successful it matters if she does.

    Then, if she said she thought it was an issue I’d ask if she wanted my help in finding out what her reasons for losing interest or motivation. I’d explore with her the criteria she applies in deciding what to do, maybe the issue starts in the selection. Or, I’d ask her what she parts of work she most enjoys and perhaps she should start to construct her work or exercise around constant innovationanc change. So she’d change the bits she’s bored with but recreate the core challenge or purpose. I think the core of it is if she doesn’t see an issue there is no point in proposing change and if she does to help her find a way to change herself by being honest (but sensitive) with her. It’s a balance between the fact that you may not be the ultimate authority on her life but at the same time helping her see that you may provide her with excellent advice or a sounding board to help her progress.

  243. avatar
    Peter Himmelreich

    I. Identify any underlying issues that can repeatedly sabotage even the most serious efforts:
    -mental health or self-worth issues (refer to counselor)
    -poor sleep
    -toxic environment (living with a bully/abusive relationship)

    II. Triage–Determine, out of all the possible long-term and short-term goals, what are the 1-2 most important changes which give you the most bang-for-the-buck in their lives now–including understanding what a good life is to their specific personality. (Usually this would start with exercise, self-worth, money, social/relationships, job.)

    III. Lead them into habituating those 1-2 key behavior changes into their life, through:
    1. Coach and step-by-step walk them through getting started (“Hey here’s Ramit’s book on how to get your money under control–money used to really stress me out but now it’s easy. Let’s sit down and set this system up together…”).
    2. Weekly check in with them and do the activity with them (e.g. if it’s getting in shape, go exercise with them)–keep the message consistently positive, celebrating each effort they make.
    3. Introduce them to meetups/groups that do the activity, so you can implement a level of accountability, support, and make a habit of attending the class/group.
    4. Encourage them to see themselves with a new identity (see James Clear on Identity-Based Habits)–going from “I’m so out of shape” to “I’m a runner” (even if they only run a mile a day).
    5. Let them know when they are still in the enthusiastic phase that there will be emotional ups and downs–but that you went through those same ups and downs and paint a picture of how good it feels once they’ve succeeded (… “it’s worth it”). Instill the idea that daily habits are what is important–not relying on motivation alone but habit.

  244. avatar

    Its typical for someone who is trying to develop a self improvement habit to wonder whether it’s worth the effort and/ or eventually quit when the juice doesn’t seem worth the squeeze.

    Here are some techniques I use to trick myself for riding out the dip.

    Baby steps – break the task down into micro steps and achieve quick wins.
    Measure – you can’t improve what you don’t measure.
    Trick yourself – your brain is less rational that you’d like. Find techniques to trick it from self sabotage.
    Act – start now. Don’t wait for the new software or sneakers or app or workout video or whatever.

    Baby Steps: Set realistic weekly goals, breaking the task into micro steps and hot those targets. Feel free to make the first few very easy. Quick wins are key to momentum. Commit to each baby step.
    Eg. For weight loss, commit to a new diet and/ or workout program for a month. JUST a month. You can decide after the month whether it’s worth carrying on, but for that one month, be fair to yourself and your commitment to yourself and stick to the plan. It’s only a month..

    Measure everything: measure your progress on excel or even a paperpad and record all factors that play into your progress.
    Eg. If its weight loss, take daily measurements (weight, body fat%) and also record the exercise and food intake.
    Keep it simple and don’t worry about counting calories etc initially. Just collect the data points.. You can dig deeper into the details like calories burned etc (feel free to use estimates) when you’re reviewing the data at the end of the month.

    Trick yourself: find short term tactics that aid your motivation. Think about that moment when youve previously decided in favor of skipping the workout or having a burger instead of a salad… For me, I think about the mountain bike races I have every other week and how crappy I feel when my lap times suck.

    Act now – don’t wait till you have all your ducks in a row before you start something. Starting now is more important than starting correct. Your path will correct itself once you’ve started. Whereas you may never get started otherwise.
    Remember.. Barely jogging may not be as fast as the others on the trail, but it’s a lot faster than others on their couch.

  245. avatar
    Lori B

    I’d start by finding out first of all what the persons core interests are. Clearly you’re asking them to fill a life of something they’d rather not do. Find out what they enjoy doing and try to find employment and hobbies around that. Happiness is quite important when it comes to holding down a job. Too many people out there doing what they hate just because they have to.
    Just my .02

  246. avatar

    Since you said the person is asking for help/input, I would get them talking about it…what they have done; what they have done well; when they stopped; what was going on at that time; what kept them from restarting right away, etc. People not only have a fear of failure, but they often have a fear of flying! Once I felt comfortable with the information about the situation(s), I would help them regain that position and commit to something different this time, that could either stop them from derailing themselves or allow for course correction. I would have to be certain, however, that there wasn’t an underlying cause — not yet known — that precipitated the change. A mental block or a personal success demon could be their derailing factor. Anyway, after “we” came to the conclusions, I would offer to mentor them (not nag) to make sure they don’t get too far off course…and, if they did, set up another session like the first.

  247. avatar

    If they’re really a quitter, I should move on and find somebody I can really help!

    Tony Robbins once said that to motivate you need to change someones perception and show them the instant pain removal and the longer term pleasure improvement.

    So I would try and find their HOT SPOT.

    I think most people are just lost and confused, and that’s why most they don’t achieve anything.
    If I can show that person that it is worth changing, I believe they will find the way to change on their own.

    And that’s probably the best use of the 4 minutes and 19 seconds that they will get from me, before I move on to someone who is really dedicated to going to their next level.


  248. avatar
    Richard Doi

    Well, affirm what the man already has. Suggest change in a positive way. Instead of saying, “don’t be doing this” or “you shouldn’t be doing that,” try, “try it doing this way instead.”

    Consider what the man is already doing. It could be a low-end job at a restaurant, and I would affirm that as an achievement. I would suggest as a next step that he could invest in something, let the money be flowing in, passively.

    I am not an economics expect, but I think affirmation and positive suggestions are key things to consider in persuading someone to do the right thing. I might alternatively talk about it and see if the young man can form an interest, let it become his idea and his plan, somehow.

  249. avatar

    I am this quitter. I do it for attention. Ramit, I know you don’t want the B-team trolling your site. I’m not trolling. Allow me to explain.

    I am a whiner. I have a new complaint every day. I can come up with excuses for everything. I want to change. I really do! I try to change. I bite my tongue and when I surprise myself by holding back, I tell myself, “YES! Good job. Do that every time.” But then I don’t. I don’t have the follow through. My life is good enough. (* a lie) I don’t need to impress everyone. (* a diversionary tactic).

    What has worked for me in the past? Anger and profanity directed at myself, in a mirror. I only seem to be productive and make an effort when I am so sick of my own failures that I have to do something. A day of productivity, a week of sloth. It is a crappy cycle.

    When I whine, I want attention. No wonder – I have a crappy attidue that nobody wants to hang around, and so I have few friends. I give vague answers to continue the conversation, to milk the attention that I’m getting.

    I want the easy life. I want to quit my job, and live by myself, … doing very little. I am a disgusting example of human mediocrity.

    I want to improve, but only to achive recognition for being an awesome human being. Why do I need that external recognition of inner value? Well, if I don’t value myself, but want to feel valuable, I would seek external validation. If even one person, even a homeless dude, said I was worth something, I would feel better about myself.

    I read books. I read a new book every week. I am one of those compulsive consumers of information. One of those people that just wants one more tip on how to live a good life. I do try it out. I have tried it out. I have made every effort to make personal improvements into a habbit. “28 days makes a habbit.” On the 29th day, I never do it again. Sure, I liked the results that I obtained, but I didn’t value them. Why go through all that effort for someone else? I liked the end result, but I didn’t think that it was worth the effort. How does one reconcile that?

    A whiner enjoys the attention. Thank you!

  250. avatar

    The short answer – gamify her “program”.

    The slightly longer answer –
    We see that “she starts strong”. So this person has not problems getting started, eventually quits because her behaviour is not sustainable. Why isn’t it sustainable? Well, she might be taking on too much or she is getting bored with her routine or she is not able to sustain her motivation.

    I’d tell her to write down three things (low scale incentives ) that she really loves – her favourite cupcake, tv show, whatever – and a mid scale disincentive – perhaps at the start of her “program”, she can let a friend hold onto some cash that she will lose on wussing out.

    As the cost of failure is higher, she will be forced be on track. Also, the positive reinforcements from small successes will keep her motivated.

    In either case, motivation just comes from within and what she needs is a continuous channel of it.
    Eventually, it will be a force of habit.

  251. avatar

    Better to start with a very easy goal: “I want to lose 1lb this week.”

  252. avatar

    ask them if they quit b/c they don’t want to find out if they will fail after trying. if that’s the root cause of the problem then it’s not laziness but just plain fear if facing disappointment. after that’s been established then we can discuss how disappointment or failure is not that big of a deal – everyone fails at something at some point and they continue on afterwards

  253. avatar

    Having read all of the comments, and feeling smugly superior for trying out nearly every recommendation at some quitting point in my past, the following still resonate:

    * Picture your future 6 months from now. What is the range of possibility if you quit, and if you don’t quit?

    * Avoid toxic people. (ironic)

  254. avatar

    Carrot and stick.

    Carrot => What/who/where you will be if you persist with activity. Successful/happy person, entrepreneur, in shape etc.

    Stick => What/who/where you will be if you don’t persist with activity.
    Stuck in same daily pattern, wage slave, fat slob.

    Still not sure if one should use a 50-50 ratio 😀

    I do think we tend to be too sensitive when trying to help other people (and our self…). Sometimes you have to jump-start people into action or else they won’t ever get going.

  255. avatar
    Cliff Samuels Jr.

    I would have her select something that she wants to do like exercising. I would have her go to the gym for and pick a machine or exercise she likes and have her do it for only 5 minutes. Once she has done this for 3 days in a row, I would tell her go go celebrate her victory in deceiving her goal of exercising. The next week she repeats this task but for 10 minutes for 3 days in row. And again she rewards herself for a job well done when this task is completed. We use small victories and rewards while slowly increasing the time to where she is up to an hour of exercise a day for 3 days a week. We use a gradual curve of increasing her achievement level and rewards to build a sustainable habit that she find fun and rewards herself for each level of achievement.

  256. avatar

    Are the goals her own goals? Or is it a case of:
    Concerned Person: “You should x” (repeat many times)
    “Quitter”: OK OK OK (does x for a while) Now I’ve proved I can do x, but I don’t really want to. (stops doing x)

    So my advice to Concerned Person would be, encourage “Q” to find her own goals, even if you (CP) don’t like them or didn’t think of them first.

  257. avatar

    Instruct this person to read “The Dip.” Some of the examples should really resonate with someone in that situation.

  258. avatar

    1) Get her to commit by writing out a check for, say, 3-4 months salary to a person/organization/political party that she utterly despises.
    2) Get her to set quantitative weekly goals (“go to the gym for five total hours”, “write 3000 words on blog”)
    3) Monitor her closely to make sure she is making her goals.
    4) If she quits (or quits earlier than planned at the initial commitment), or does not meet her goal for two consecutive weeks, mail the check.

  259. avatar

    In my experience, there are a few reasons that people quit and they all relate to the feeling of failure (But, not necessarily an actual failure). And, for each there is a fairly simple way to encourage them.

    1) Misunderstanding or the Mystery Factor (ie. Failure to understand content, instructions, etc.) When a person comes across something they don’t understand, they tend to skip over it and try to forge ahead. Unfortunately, the human mind is a wonderful problem-solving machine and hangs onto the unknown in an attempt to understand and fix the mystery of what they don’t know. That leaves a person hung up on this point which inhibits any useful forward progress, leading to a feeling of “failure”, boredom, confusion and frustration. The end result is that the person quits.

    One way to help a friend fix this is to help them trace backward to the misunderstanding or mystery that originally got them hung up and obtain that missing bit of information. It could be as simple as going back through a text book to find out which word or concept they didn’t understand and looking it up. Or, getting clearer instructions from their teacher/boss/instructor about a task that needs to be done. Some times, a person needs to see something done to understand the “How” so finding a way to show them (ie. an instructional video, live demonstration, hands-on model or diagram, etc.) is of great help. Once the mystery is resolved, a person generally gains renewed interest in their activity.

    2) Failure to perform to expectations (their own or someone else’s). Most people are just too hard on themselves and expect too much too soon. Others have ridiculous expectations placed on them by someone else (ie. parent, spouse, etc.) Either way, I’ve found the best way to deal with this one is to sit down in private with the person and do a “stealth reality check”. I ask questions like:

    * What is your goal? Are you doing this to impress someone or are you here to have fun and learn? If it’s to impress; are you sure it’s worth your time and effort? If it’s to learn and have fun, what can we do to help you achieve that goal?

    * What would help you feel more confident and competent at this task? Which one of those things can we do first? How can we achieve that?

    * If your child or a friend with the same level of skill and experience that you currently have were doing this task, what would your level of expectation be for them at this point? Do you feel that it is a fair expectation to put on them? Are you being fair in your expectations for yourself in comparison? How can we adjust your expectations for yourself? What would you tell your child or friend to encourage them to continue?

    * What would you tell me if our situation was reversed? Good! Are you willing to follow your own advice? (This one is great because you let the person solve the problem for themselves by digging to the root of the situation and allowing them to brain-storm ideas to fix it without focusing on themselves.)

    3) Failure to complete a task or reach a goal. I’ve noticed that these types of “failures” are often caused by interruption from someone else. This falls into 2 categories: The first is where the person is involved in some way with someone who literally interrupts them by stepping in front of them at the wrong moment or cutting them off when talking. This includes someone physically removing items (ie. tools, phone, camera, paperwork, sports equipment, etc.) from the person’s hands to “help”. I’ve often been shoved away from my computer by someone who took over the task in an effort to “help” me. These kinds of actions inhibit a person’s ability to finish what they started which in the human mind equals failure … which leads to feeling bad … which leads to not wanting to participate.

    The second is seen in relationships or work situations that involve “teams” where the individual must rely on someone else to do part of the task. In school, I had to partner with someone for a project. I did my part (and most of hers). Because she wouldn’t go her share, we failed. It was my only D in school and I ended up being grounded a whole month even though the failure wasn’t y fault or anything I had control over).

    We all know someone who is great at this kind of interruption. Somehow, they never managed to complete their task and always have an excuse as to why they didn’t, couldn’t or “shouldn’t”. Worse, they often fool us into believing that the failure is our fault for not doing more, not reminding them more often, not stepping in to do their task as well as our own, or for simply coming up with the idea in the first place, even if the idea was well planned and would have succeeded if they’d done their part.

    When confronted with this type of “failure”, there is very little a person can do to fix it. Mostly because you can’t fix someone else’s lack of integrity, concern, ability or whatever else causes people like that to screw others over – intentionally or not. In this type of situation, I often encourage the person to quit; quit teaming up with the interrupters and find better partners for success. Then, I help them succeed.

  260. avatar

    So I just spent the past 2 hours soul searching and came to the conclusion that my government job is killing my ambition and dampening my defintion of success.

    Too much stability in being mediocre, and negative incentive for innovation.

  261. avatar

    Failure is a way of learning but she does not fail, she quits but she was on the good way.
    There is no reason underlined on the text or the “help message”.
    Her acquaintances seem to be more bothered than her at first but she asked for help.

    She quits and used to quit… to escape from her own success. It makes me feel she thinks too much, lacking of confidence, in the same time caring very much about other people feelings about her.
    1 – Will I finally do it ?
    2 – Will I be better than the next door girl ?
    3 – What people are goign to assume about me if I fail ?
    and so on…

    She carries too much doubt for me, and my first words would be “Come on and tell me what you like” to give her pleasure about thinking & speaking about something she loves and getting more confidence. Lists and things like that won’t do anything for her. It must come from her heart and I will just plant a seed in her (no joke 🙂 ) and help/support her to grow on her own way.

  262. avatar
    Mary Lynn

    1) Unless a person is asking for your advice, don’t give it. So I wouldn’t say anything to this person. Also, if she’s a serial “quitter” and a constant whiner I’d want to minimize my contact with her. Life is too short to hang out with people who aren’t positive.

    2) Realize that there are lots of people in this world who just want to vent and have someone listen to them. They want to be heard – they don’t want to change.

    3) Anyone who wants to change needs to replace one habit with another. One way of doing this is to ask “what am I gaining from my current behavior?” and “what do I want to do instead?”.

    4) Realize that maybe now isn’t the time to be making a change. Maybe later the person will be ready. Until they’re ready, nothing will happen. And, that’s OK.

  263. avatar

    Hmmm, assuming I’m an intimate friend with this person and they’ve honestly asked for help, I would ask them, “what exactly are you afraid of?” and branch off from there with challenges for overcoming those fears. People who quit are obviously afraid of something; most often, it’s simply the fear of failure.

  264. avatar

    First, I’d do some investigating so I can help her from where she’s at, not where I’m coming from. There’s something behind all that self sabotage that no one is seeing on the surface. So I’d find out…What does she like about blogging? Why does she want to make new friends? Where is her head (and heart) at when she gets motivated to start a new project? And what is happening (internally and externally) in the moments she decides to jump ship?

    For the purpose of this response, I’ll assume that she gets overwhelmed and discouraged somewhere along the line, so I’d help her break it all down into small pieces that she’s confident she can rock (I’d probably just refer to them as ‘steps’ since that tends to paint a different picture than calling them ‘goals’).

    So I’d help her brainstorm a few small steps she can follow through on and suggest that she objectively observe how she feels once she does so. Maybe that’s writing for 30 minutes every Saturday, doing a 20 minute workout every other day, going to a Meetup event once a month, sending one resume a week…whatever it is that she’ll enjoy and that won’t become a mountain of obligation. It might not be the ideal scenario yet, but it will give her a sense of accomplishment each time and will hopefully get her excited about taking bigger steps as she goes. Once she gets some momentum, she’ll probably start to raise the bar for herself.

    Thanks, Ramit!
    Please don’t kill yourself 😉

  265. avatar

    First, I would congratulate her on asking for help instead of offering yet another seemingly endless chat about how horrible life and everyone in it is to her. Then I would tell her to be prepared for my honest opinion. I wouldn’t berate the person, but some people have an uncanny knack for only seeing what everyone else is doing wrong and need to see their own missteps more clearly. Then I ask what she really wants to accomplish. “Losing weight” or “starting a business” or “get another degree” is usually only part of the real goal. And sometimes people aren’t honest with themselves about those. So when they get headed in those abstract directions, their heart is whispering “this isn’t what I wanted” and then quitting follows. Find the true need, want, or hole that their trying to fill. Then I point to articles, posts, books, or people that can offer step by step advice for accomplishing those things. Then it gets hard. They have to make a plan. They have to start that plan and then stuck with it or make adjustments. My job as friend is to encourage them through the rough spits and celebrate the “wins”, no matter how small. I may not be a part of the goal but that doesn’t mean I can’t be on the team. When her energy starts to fade, I Dont tell her “its ok, you tried your best.” I tell her the truth. That she’s quitting and therefore the dream wasn’t important. The goal was a joke. In the military, I learned that live or die the battle was won because we were there to fight. Same goes for personal battles. You Don’t give up on friends, your family, your kids, or your dreams. Ever. Point is… no one accomplishes anything alone. If your friend loses motivation, your job as their friend is to help them or push them. And not just listen to their sad babble or repetitive excuses. Direction + passion + encouragement + honesty = accomplishment.

  266. avatar
    Shanae Simmons

    OMG: this is me….

    I have always been told I can do whatever I dream of. I am a Million Dollar Idea Girl. Every morning I wake up with a new idea, a new innovation, a new career path. I am queen of the novices. Though not perfect, I generally perform highly at most everything I do for having no prior experience.

    In this year, I quit hypnotherapy school, I am in the midst of quitting a women’s retreat, I start banjo lessons, which I am already going to renegotiate, swim lessons, tennis, voice lessons (before it started), and job after job (because people often scout me, and I take the out).

    Funny thing is, I am a master at manifestation. If I have an idea, and need the resources to get started, it comes easily. I am (was?) making a Microsoft Phone Ap for mountain bikers, on a Tuesday I found investors, on Thursday I met a guy who works for a GPS company, two microsoft employees (one of which was a developer), and another guy who works for a Satellite imaging company (ALL IN three days!)

    I blame my family for saying I can do anything… so I try everything and then go.. bleh, next.

    So for this I called my Grandmother.. the matriarch Yoda of our tribe. Her solution for me is to never quit anything I start (especially in regards to classes). Easier said than done.

    Her advice was to write my goal on my bathroom mirror, in my car, in my room and with it write “I finish what I start, I apply myself to make it happen.” She also said that I only do ONE course at a time until it is complete. THEN move on to the next.

    It’s ok to not start something up again if I brought it to the point of fruition, but until then, plod it out nice and slow, step-by-step. She also gave me spiritual advice as well, lending more of my burden on a Divine source, and make space for naturally occuring answers to reveal themselves.

    I am tired of being a Jack of all Trades, and a master of none. I am tired of being a ball of potential that rarely gets the place to release and create.

    So my advice is that passed down from my grandmother with a few additions.:
    Look at your life, what are you doing? What did you jump into? What does past experience reveal? What do you want to quit? New idea: Sleep on it for a week! If the passion and zeal is still there, go for that ONE thing, write it on your mirror and other places with the mantra that “I finish what I start, until it reaches its completion,” and set a timeline in which it will be executed.

    Do not stop until it is met, do not take on any additional mind bog, and learn to say NO!… You may be a badass, who everyone wants to work for them, or who everyone wants to hang out with; the queen of charisma. But just say NO!.. especially when you are already in the mix.

    Here is my horoscope for today:

    “In the mythical race between the tortoise and the hare, you are surely the speedy rabbit that races ahead to achieve an early advantage. However, you can beat the game by role-playing the part of the steady tortoise that continues to plod along. If you don’t slow yourself down to a sustainable pace, circumstances just might do it for you. Ironically, you may be pleasantly surprised by reaching your goal sooner than you expect if you take your time. Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint.”

  267. avatar

    A quitter is usually someone who is afraid of their own success. Right before they reach the breakeven point, they quit. I would suggest to a quitter that instead of aiming for the big goal or looking at the big picture, to create small goals, take baby steps, and enjoy accomplishing small victories. Sooner or later when you look down the road, you’ll realize that you made it to the top!

  268. avatar

    … you don’t write code by meeting programmers.

  269. avatar

    If you are continually not following through, you need to change your approach. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

    1) Be honest about the time and energy you are willing to put into the project, whatever it is. Write this down in a tangible way. For instance- I am willing to commit to working out 30 minutes a day four days a week. Or- I am willing to allot 45 minutes in the evening after work Mondays and Wednesdays for planning my investment future.

    2) Next, make a detailed plan. This may take some research. Find out what successful people in this area do. Example: for the next 4 weeks, I will research a different investment opportunity each Monday and Wednesday, taking detailed notes. Or, for the next week I will compare 5 workout plans to see which best suits my goals.

    3) Put your plan into action. Be accountable. You can mark down what you have done on your calendar or call a friend each time you have scheduled a session with yourself.

    4) Reassess. After your initial period (4 weeks for investment example or 1 week for the workout example) evaluate your progress and take it to the next step. Start the workout plan you have chosen or hire a personal trainer if you think you need more professional guidance. Begin investing or consult a financial advisor to help you make sure you are making a wise decision.

  270. avatar
    Catherine Harrington

    I believe the pattern comes from lack of self confidence and conviction. Simply saying, “stick with it” isn’t going to work on this person until they get to the root of the problem. I’d say some counseling would be in order to find out what is holding them back. Work through the underlying issues, so that on the other side they will recognize the successes they achieve. Maybe being able to pat ones self on the back for a job well done will heep them “at it” long enough to to enjoy the real riches in the long run.

  271. avatar

    People quit for different reasons, but a common one I see (and do) is taking on too much at once. The person described makes a good start, and then quits right when an outside observer sees that they are making progress, which can be a sign of doing too much at once and then running out of steam. Willpower is a finite resource, and every new habit consumes some willpower to sustain until it is routine. Adding several new habits together makes it more likely that you will fail at all of them, than if one habit were added at a time. For example, going to the gym isn’t necessarily one habit. It may actually involve going to bed early so they can get up early, then going to the gym, doing a specific rigorous routine, eating a healthy breakfast, showering, etc. I would recommending adding these habits one or two at a time, and waiting a few weeks until they are routine (no longer consuming extra willpower) before adding another. Start getting to bed earlier and getting up earlier. Then add a healthy breakfast. Then include the gym, and just start out doing whatever exercises look interesting. Then introduce a more rigourous exercise routine. The type of person who wants to do all these things at once will potentially feel some frustration forcing themself to wait to add these other habits, but that is actually a potential benefit. When you are just getting up early and eating a healthy breakfast, the idea of adding the gym to your morning routine has now become a reward in itself. You will look forward to having accomlished the full routine.

  272. avatar

    if you don’t try how can you know if you can’t

  273. avatar
    Straight Up Talk Education

    Hi Ramit,

    Great exercise. It sounds like a person who keeps starting and quitting at a variety of tasks has a core issue to deal with. Maybe it’s lack of support. Maybe it’s fear of failure, of success, of change. The reasons why are infinite. And they are different for each person. So, the best thing to do is to start out by asking questions about what s/he wants to do and why. But you often have to dig deeper to get to the real emotional trigger that is driving the desire to make the change or preventing him or her from making the change. For instance, if someone wants to lose weight or go to the gym to please a spouse or partner and the desire doesn’t come from within, they won’t stick with the program. You have to find the emotional trigger first, then you can work on the motivational point. But you can’t just rah, rah, rah someone into doing something unless they have a very good reason to do it and stick with it.


  274. avatar

    I would talk to the person about taking baby steps. Start with a little tiny goal of doing one small thing a day or a week. I would recommend attaching the new habit to a routine they already do. For instance, if they drink coffee every morning, then right after the coffee they jog in place for 30 seconds. After they do it, they say something out loud , like “Yes, good for me!” Or whatever floats their boat. Maybe they could make themselves accountable to someone else. Or they could do like Ramit did and pay for a gym. Don’t want to waste the money so, they go. Hopefully, the new habit would stick.

  275. avatar

    Well it sounds like the person does not have a problem starting out but in carrying through. So the part where I would come in would be when they are thinking about quitting. Brute force will not work. I would try to find out why they want to quit. I don’t think I could convince them to stay or follow through…at least not for the long haul. I would try to get them to arrive at the answer themselves. That way they would be self motivated.

  276. avatar

    The best to deal with a quitter is to quit being friends with them.

    I once told a “friend” that wanted to drop out of college that I could no longer be his friend if he dropped out. Eventually he dropped out and I stopped talking to him.

    The great thing about giving up on people that quit is that you end up hanging around people that are not quitters. Winners want to hang with winners. Quitters want to hang around whiners.

  277. avatar

    Assuming she has complained and wants help, I would first try to help her find the root of the problem. Maybe she just gets bored and all she needs to do is shake up her successful routines a little (like maybe trying some new exercises if she’s trying to lose weight) instead of quitting. Maybe she just needs something to re-motivate her after the initial passion wears off. Maybe she needs to quit, but more frequently and on a regular basis because she gets sick of what she’s doing and needs an occasional vacation. I am not good at giving this kind of advice at all, but I would try to find out why she behaves this way first, tell her that her current pattern is likely fixable and that she is not failure, and go from there.

  278. avatar

    Is the person frustrated, bored, or something else? For the first two, here’s an approach that might work–get her talking and excited about how she got started, what worked, what didn’t, and then ask ‘What’s next?’
    From the description, she sounds like a motivated person–at least at first, so some effort had to go into clearing the initial hurdles. Frustration and boredom occur when a person gets stuck in a pattern. To get out of the pattern, it sounds like she quits–drastic but effective. Focusing on that initial challenge/excitement can help regain perspective on what she is doing and then intending to do.
    Maybe she planned out steps 1-5 and then reached #5 without thinking about what’s next. If she regains enthusiasm, then prompt her to plan out steps 6-10.
    For the something else, it might be important for the ‘concerned’ to ask if she’s doing these tasks for the sake of trying them or with the intent to become an expert. Sometimes it’s just about testing the waters and not about building Atlantis.

  279. avatar

    The key is to stop trying to force someone else to “progress” and be at a level that you personally think they should be at. Never attempt to live vicariously through another, but rather encourage them to take whatever steps are necessary for them to become fully responsible for their own life. People change when they get the DESIRE to change. A lot of times when people start something and quit, they find they might have enjoyed the activity at first, but it was ultimately something that didn’t captivate them enough over the long-term to stick with it. A lot of times people like that need a profession that will allow them to face different challenges regularly to keep things fresh, so it may very well take her a while to discover something that suits her.

    Now, when you try to force anything on anyone, all you do is create rebellion. What she needs to do is be encouraged to look within herself and to find something that she enjoys doing. You also have to take her personality into account. If she is someone that is quickly bored of doing the same things over and over, then don’t suggest her to engage in activities that require her to do just that. You have to suggest her to create a plan that incorporates her need for variety into it.

    For example, if it is her goal to lose weight and she finds it hard to stick to any one thing, then well why should she? She can do dancing one week, playing volleyball the next, go jogging the next, doing kickboxing the next, etc. The fact that she is staying active will cause any necessary weight to come off naturally and it will also satisfy her need for variety.You have to take the person into account before recommending any kind of program to them. The program should be tailored to the person and never should the person be force fit into a program if you want to achieve maximum results.

  280. avatar

    If you know she is about to quit, you can do two things. If she is about to quit a class, or something you can participate in, start taking the class with her. After all this is family we are talking about. This will hopefully strengthen your relationship with her and you can even figure out why she quits. Two, persuade her to do the activity less frequently, but keep it up. Like Ramit’s posts, you have to start somewhere. Also, make sure she has someone she can just talk to, not someone that talks down to her and nags her about quitting.

  281. avatar

    Before talking to the person of interest I would have to think about why the person might be a quitter. I my opinion there are multiple reasons for a person to be a quitter. So if I really want to help this person which in this case I would because it’s a beloved person I need to get a clue why she doesn’t get things done.
    1) One reason could be a lack of confidence. The person starts something enthusiastic but then quits after some time because she feels to weak, or not skilled enough to go till the end. In this case I would try a pep talk in which I would remind her of earlier successes or situation in which the person grew over herself. Also I would offer her my help. That could be to do some practice with her to make her feel more comfortable with the whole situation. It also could be to join her in whatever activity she attends.
    2) One more reason for her to quit could be anxiousness, the fear to fail or social pressure. This is kind of tricky because you really need to know the person very well to tell how she is feeling and what troubles her. In this case I would try to find out what makes the person more comfortable to work out strategies which the person can rely on when everything gets to much. Also I would talk with her about the pros and cons of quitting and not quitting. One very important argument in this conversation would be, that you will learn as long as you stay on track even if you fail a test in the end or you’re fulfilling all your expectations. But if you quit you won’t have the chance to learn and grow. So however your experience is you will grow from it as long as you don’t quit.
    3) There are for sure many more possible reasons for the person to quit. But in my opinion the most important thing is the way you talk to the person:
    Let her tell you about her situation and listen carefully to her. Cause she’ll be grateful for a good listener. Then you sympathize with her e.g. Oh yeah, that’s really hard, if been there before, too.
    Try to steer the conversation so that the girl finds a solution to her problems by asking the right questions and giving hints. And always remember to ask her for her opinion. This way you have the chance to understand her deeply.

  282. avatar


  283. avatar

    “follow my advice and fire your fucking ass, because a loser is a loser”

    its nobody elses job to persuade someone else not to quit or live to their potential. all you can do is inspire by meeting your own goals.

  284. avatar

    Assuming that I considered the relationship to be worth the amount of effort required, I’d try a few approaches, but first I’d set some clear expectations up front. For example, “I can help you only to the extent that you commit to the process. I can help you only the extent you act on the plans we develop together.”

    To start, I’d help him work through figuring out what’s actually important to him. There are a bunch of tools for this, but having a written list of priorities listed by importance will help when we start to work through deciding what to cut.

    Then I’d have him talk about the projects he’s bailed on. And help them categorize them into three categories.

    1) Projects which should be abandoned. The starting was important, but the completion is not, as in the case of project started to help learn a new skill. If there are too many of these types of projects, nothing will ever get done. I’d ask him to try for a period of time to limit himself to one such project at a time. At the end of that period of time we would evaluate how he felt about that, and whether it helped him achieve his goals. I’d ask him whether he wants to continue limiting these types of projects.

    2) Projects which should not have been started. Some projects are just more ambitious than the person’s passion can carry them through. The final product does not hold enough value in the person’s eyes to justify the effort. It does not achieve a goal or prevents the accomplishment of a higher priority goal. I’d have him talk about how well he’s estimated the effort project will take. I’d have him try tracking his time spent on projects for some period of time. At the end of that period of time we’d talk about whether he expected to spend so much time on each project. We’d talk about for each project whether the time spent was in line with his stated priorities. I’d ask him whether he wants to continue tracking his time.

    3) Projects which are important. But some projects were just poorly planned and executed. These are the ones which we’ve determined together deserve to be finished. I’d have him talk about projects like this that he’s quit, listening for the phrases he uses so I can help expose his code words and the lies he tells himself. Depending on what those are, we would have to do some experiments to expose those as lies, getting some quick wins in projects that show him what is true. I’d also help him break projects down into manageable tasks with estimates and set up schedules for milestones.

    Finally, he’s going to need ongoing help and accountability, so at the end of this process, I’d ask him if he wants to set up a regular meeting with me to talk about his progress.

    If however, he quits on me as well, I’d show him how he’s broken the agreement we made in the beginning, then give him the numbers of some life coaches that I know and trust. At this point I walk away from helping him.

  285. avatar
    Lisa Hoffman

    Quitters loose sight of their goal. The goal seems so far away, it’s impossible to reach in this lifetime. Because they have always quit, they have never experienced the satisfaction of attaining the goal. Persuasion for this individual needs to be at regular intervals to remind them to set small goals on the way – one day at a time, remind them of the feeling of success, the benefit of success, encourage them to overcome the daily obstacles to their goal. They need to see, feel and taste what their success will be like, how their life could change.

  286. avatar

    This is a challenge!

    The first thing I would do is to treat the person to lunch / coffee / beer with the suggestion that I need their help. I would sincerely ask them for help with another friend, cousin or nephew, preferably of the opposite gender, that I see having similar issues. I would say “what do you think I should say to them” and would seriously hope that she would say “he should seriously get off his fat ass,” at this point I would have some idea what her self talk is. I would point out that that was my first thought about this looser nephew too.

    I think it is frequent that what stuck people say to them selves is the same thing that the rudest people in the world say to them. That her starting things is a “get off you fat ass” reaction to her self image, but those reactions do not have staying power. So I would then suggest that it is not going to be productive to say that to the fictions external subject. Hopefully I would be able to make a joke about this that got a laugh.

    I would then suggest that I was talking to her because I thought she was very smart (which from the post is what I supposedly think) and say that what I really need is to brainstorm some Ideas as to how to nudge this person into long term action, and how to find the source of the resistance. Are they rapid prototyping, doing a “fail quickly fail often” stance? or do they need a real support system that is missing.

    I would already have a few suggestions on my list and ask for feedback on them. Perhaps being an accomplishment coach, the person who celebrates the little wins and follows up on what he (the nephew) thinks the next step is. I am guessing of course that in trying to brainstorm solutions this smart caring woman will, in-part, start to reveal what it is that she thinks she would find helpful. I have to say though that this method will also take tact not to reveal my true intention and, if I am going to follow through, a LONG term stealth commitment to helping this woman.

    This long term commitment to friendship and having this person as part of your community is contradictory to the current self focused culture that labels the person as toxic and recommends “stay as far away as possible.” This attitude is anti social and useful from a self centered point of view, though it definitely has it’s place with truly toxic people, it is too common of a disconnected social media type of reaction (screen out the person).

    So before trying this I would ask; is this really what I want to do? Is this the part of the world I want to change? or is it easier to simply send Twenty bucks a month to a kid in Haiti for me to feel good about my self. So seriously is this what I want to get off my fat ass and do? or do i like looking on this person with pity cause it makes me feel superior.

    OK I used the forbidden phrases Three times!!

  287. avatar

    I would reply with this:

    “Well, you’ve started off strong on X, Y, and Z and manage to do it for a little while before you stopped. On the days it was easy to do, what did you notice that made it easier? On the days it was difficult to do, what made it tough? On the day you quit, what made it impossible to go that day? How can you avoid the the things that made it difficult or impossible and change your environment to include more things that make the habit easier to do? Also, for now, don’t try to do X every day. How does twice a week sound? Actually doing X twice a week is much better than not doing it at all. And when you do X, make sure to celebrate or give yourself a reward, like a piece of chocolate you like. In a month, send me an email to let me know how this worked for you.”

  288. avatar
    Kim S.

    1-ask them what DID work for them [in a specific situation]. I would get them to focus on what IS working in situations, and why, and how to re-create that success. (The underlying intention is to overcome the paralysis they are seemingly facing.)

    2-use shaming (sounds harsh–isn’t) and social proof to get them to change small parts of what they are doing wrong AS SOON AS THEY DO IT, ideally…of course subtly this would be introduced to them. Maybe I am a mean friend?

    3-guide them on changing just ONE SMALL THING when they go after something (instead of everything at once). This one change should be recorded, then reinforced by who other than ME, who would also serve to be the person holding them even more accountable (and reminding them of their wins). Again, the underlying intention is to overcome the paralysis they are facing. After introducing the framework/idea, I would do the first “change” with them, to ensure they got started on the easy change THAT DAY.

    4-Pretend that I had a very likeminded problem/situation that they had, describing how “I” had quit, and then ask them for advice/analysis on that situation. Then I would draw the connection between the two, to try to utilize a shift in perspective for this person. It would also help me identify what they were feeling was “stopping” them from continuing–what barriers they had built up in their mind.

    5-I would start tracking all the times they were inconsistent with how they SAID they would be, and how they acted (specifics!). Then I would show them how inconsistent they were being (compared with who they said they were as a person/character-wise, or I how I “knew” they were). I would ask them how we could change that, together.

  289. avatar

    First question you must ask yourself. Do I have the experience to properly advise this person on how to make significant and lasting change on any area of life they are trying to change? If not, who do you know that does and could be a resource to this person? If you do have the experience, then try to figure out what is going on with this person and give them some advice.

    Okay, 2 Items I want to point out from Ramit’s post that several of the commenters seem to have missed.

    1. Assume she has complained and wants help.
    2. What would you do? Aka how would you help this person achieve what they are trying to do? If you have answered this question with any variation of “why help them, don’t get involved, make them feel better, help them search for their passion/purpose” you have already failed. And Ramit has swiftly splattered his brains across his computer screen.

    The quote asking for Ramit’s advice has very important clues that allows us to make some general assumptions. So lets pull out some of those clues.

    Here is the quote
    “How do you encourage someone who is a friend or family member who is, for lack of a better word, a “quitter”? This person is smart enough, capable enough, and has good ideas. She has started exercise programs–done really well, and then quit right as she was making progress. The same goes for jobs, writing a blog, and new friendships. She starts out strong and then abandons ship. No one knows why.”

    A. This person is smart enough, capable enough, and has good ideas.
    B. She has started exercise programs–done really well, and then quit right as she was making progress.
    C. The same goes for jobs, writing a blog, and new friendships. She starts out strong and then abandons ship.

    Assumptions based on clues:
    A. This person is not an idiot and has the minimum requirement of being smart and capable to make change.
    B. Takes action and appears to be making progress, but gets to some kind of road block and stops. What is the road block? Possibly underlying invisible scripts, doesn’t have good system they can follow to make incremental changes.

    C. Keeps doing the same thing over and over again with many different areas of life. Has all the motivation she will ever need because she keeps trying. Since she has a strong desire to change most likely she hasn’t been successful because she doesn’t have a good system to create lasting change.

    Based on clues and assumptions, possible underlying causes of quitting:
    -Possibly doing the same things but hoping for different results. Never really testing to see what works
    -Might be trying to change too many areas of their life at the same time. -Might be trying a bunch of different things that appear to be making progress, but over time looses motivation because she doesn’t know which tactics are working and which are not (doesn’t have a good system to make change) “She starts out strong and then abandons ship.”
    -Underlying invisible script that sabotages efforts to change no matter what area of life
    – Serial quitter may want every aspect of their life to be perfect now.

    I think it’s safe to assume that this person has some invisible scripts about self improvement / growing their life and doesn’t have a good system in place they trust to help them change. By trying to change so many areas of their life I would assume they think they “should have a perfect life now” I would want to change this perspective to “I will have my perfect life in time”

    First ask this person to pick one area of their life they want to change (health, wealth, relationships). Once they have picked an area (ex money), I would recommend they read Ramits book and follow his instructions step by step and write a one page overview of all the lessons they learned from that book. I would recommend this book because it has very tactical easy to follow instructions. And just like I did, if they follow the steps they will come out the other side with an appreciation of what they have just created and will want to learn more by applying these lessons to all areas of their life. Also, some of those invisible scripts will have been destroyed.

    After reading this book and applying the lessons they should start to understand what having a system really means and how it can give them their perfect life over time. After they have been successful with Ramit’s book and now start to understand the power of incremental gains and a strong systems, they have laid the foundation for taking control of their life. Depending on what lessons they took away and questions they ask I would recommend any number of other resources for them to take a look at because they have already shown they take advice and will do something with it.

  290. avatar

    Unless “Susan’ is asking for advice, I would keep quiet. Then, I’d make sure that she really wants my advice…by saying something like, “Susan, do you really mean it?” Then with enthusiasm and with words that convey I believe in her, I’d either set up some uninterrupted time to talk OR if the challenge is not a monster in a box (ie., do I divorce my husband) I’d suggest we tackle the issue together on the spot.
    There is something about other people getting excited about an issue and breathing some fresh perspective and positive feeling into the challenge. The conversation could go something like this: 1) WHY do you want this change? Really pick this one apart. Answers such as, because I need to lose 10 pounds or I feel fat, are too general and will not carry ‘Susan’ very far. Help her dig through the knee-jerk responses and face what it is that she really wants and why she wants it. If the reasoning behind it boils down to jealously (all my friends are skinny and I’m not) her life will be one huge challenge. The WHY’s need some serious navel gazing. “I always wanted to write a best seller because I know I’m a great writer.” That’s a sophomoric answer that won’t get her past the title of her best selling novel. “So I can burn through thousands and thousands of dollars on every whim (like the singers I worship),” that’s lame. It can work, but it’s still lame. ‘Susan’ should have a strong list of WHY’s that speak to her gut (not yours) and that can help her set her markers.
    2) Help her gain some perspective. Don’t beat this one to death, but ‘Susan’ needs to realistically address what she’s done before and not keep doing what didn’t work in the past. Hitting your head against a wall even harder doesn’t change the behavior, or increase your odds of success, it just hurts more and will make her feel even more like a loser.
    3) Set up an accountability system created by ‘Susan’ that works for her and her alone. For some people, it’s a reward system, for others it’s a checklist, for others it might be writing a daily log of accomplishments. One size does not fit all and this is where ‘Susan’ can get some help from me by asking her the right questions to ‘tease out’ what makes her tick. Few people will be good-to-go by knowing that in two years time they will see something for all their hard work. The ‘Susans’ of the world need to be encouraged along the way.
    4) Shut your mouth and send ‘Susan’ off like a winner. This will let her know that you are not only a good friend that wants to see her succeed, but you are a confidant that she can respect and turn to.

  291. avatar

    My experience is that 1) we try to do too much to early and run out of gas, and 2) we set unreasonable expectations out the gate, fall short, get discouraged, and give up. Worse, often we don’t even set goals. After a few weeks of progress, we just “feel” like we should have accomplished more, get discouraged, and give up.

    What I have learned is that 1) you have to document where you are when you begin. Be as explicit as possible, including the date and the specific things that make you unhappy. 2) you have to set long-term goals. 3) you have to make sure those goals are realistic by working back a bit (or even asking advice from others). Give some buffer. 4) you have to ask yourself “what can I realistically do this week?” The first week should be almost comically easy to do (I have started with “this week I will send an email”). 5) each week, you should revisit #4, setting new limited goals, focusing on taking baby steps toward your larger goal.

    Finally, when you (inevitably) get discouraged by the slow pace of change, 1) clearly outline where you are now, 2) compare where you are now to where you started, 3) note the progress you’ve made, and 4) ask yourself “if you would have told me I would be here by now when I started, how would I have felt about that”.

    Change feels slow, which is frustrating. But when we look back at all our hard work, we often have reason to be proud of what we’ve accomplished. Sometimes we realize we need to be more focused or escalate our efforts. But that’s often enough to keep us going.

  292. avatar
    Kimberly B.

    I would ask what they why they started in the 1st place and if they felt that is still important. If yes then encourage them to set mini goals that lead to the main purpose, so they can see progress.If no, tell to find something that is work all the time and effort wasted on doing something they never cared about.

  293. avatar

    For the purposes of our responses, we are to assume that the person (let’s call her “Miss X”) has “complained” and “wants help.” If this is really true, then the “encouragement” sought by the Urbanbaby query is plausible. However, before answering I want to point out that most “complainers” don’t really want help, they want someone to complain to (and commiserate with). If that is the case here, there is no amount of “advice” that will help unless the person giving the advice has a major amount of influence on Miss X. Having said the above, this is what I would do to “encourage” Miss X. Sounds like Miss X could be suffering from what experts call “learned helplessness”, which is a phenomenon in which people don’t feel they have control over a particular situation or outcome so they stop working to try to obtain a goal. If she was my friend, I would ask her 1) why do you think you quit (insert project/goal)?; 2) what feelings did you experience right before you quit?; 3) what can I do to help you during those times that you feel like quitting? (This is a variation of an intervention for “learned helplessness” espoused by the author of Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.) The bottom line is: MISS X REALLY NEEDS A “WIN” TO KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE. So far, she only knows what it feels like to quit. I can’t do it for her, but…If I was her friend, I would let her know I am here to help her succeed and bring some objectivity during those times when she starts to not follow-through. Once she gets a small “WIN”, she will get a taste of success and build to the next “win”.

  294. avatar


    I generally only ask question.
    I ask these type of question :
    -Why she wanted to do that ?
    -Why she stoped (can be feelings, difficulties…) ?
    -What made her quit ?
    -Does she still want the thing that made her to do that (i try to go deep)?
    -Is there better things to do that respond to her “why” ?
    -If yes : How to do it to fit her agenda/energy/constraints/…
    -If no : What can she adapt to prevent the thing that made her quit.

    Sometimes i throw examples of solution to make he react.


  295. avatar

    Why are they a quitter? Do they not see value in what they are doing, get distracted by newer “shinier” things, or do they get overwhelmed in big situations, as examples? Talk to them. Find out if it’s a problem they see and want to fix. If it’s not, then any action you take is likely to be wasted. COMMUNICATION is the name of the game. Then ask if they want help. If they don’t, again, your efforts are in vain. If they want help, ask how you can help. If you want to offer advice, but they need a friend to call to remind them of why this project is important to them when they are ready to quit, you will work at cross-purposes and be ineffective. Behavior change only happens when the individual wants it to happen. Be available to help, but let them drive this project. You can not “do it for them.”

  296. avatar
    Stephanie T

    I’d start by asking what they’ve already tried, AND ask questions such as “why do you want this?” “how long did you stick to it?” “what all did you try to change at one time?”

    I would also share my own experiences–failures and successes, since heaven knows, I’ve had both.

    I would end with some SMALL action item, and–if they want–a time that I’ll call them to see if they did anything.

    Accountability can be a great motivator.

  297. avatar
    OKOKON Ini

    I believe there is a lot of sense in your suggestion. I think at times it can produce the desired effect.

  298. avatar

    I know you! You send me 50 texts a day, some extremely long. You fill my email and voicemail bemoaning your worthless life and how nobody cares about you, even though a number of us have jumped through hoops to help and console you and to ensure you of your value. I have now turned off the chat on my Facebook since every time I went on for a quick look, you showed up wanting to chitchat about some new or continuing crisis or conflict and I never got to do what I wanted to do. I feel drained and used after talking to you. All my encouragement and help are worthless because you keep coming back with the exact same problems and endless list of excuses. You may have noticed you don’t see much of our old group any more as people have grown weary of your constant neediness and are less and less available to you. You may have noticed my phone is now turned off in the day because the steady interruptions at work were beginning to cause a problem, but since you don’t work this has never occurred to you.

    I know you will not change because of my words, you’ll just start crying and apologise in a very backhanded manner, attempting to guilt me into continuing to support you. You’ll either threaten self-harm or suicide again, but beg and plead that I not contact the authorities or any professionals to actually help you. Soon you’ll find new friends that you can bring into your pity-circle and use and abuse the way you have done to the rest of us. This is your pattern, use people until they no longer play your games, and replace them with new “victims”.

    I should have known better than to fall into your trap as I have fallen into this trap before. I have met many people like you, there are an ample supply of your kind around. Enjoy the attention while you get it, but it can’t last. You will not doubt find a ready supply of good hearted people wanting to help you at various times in your life, but no relationship will last. Nobody will be able to tolerate your behaviour forever. At some point everyone you’ve taken from will need something back in order to sustain a relationship, and when you can’t give, they’ll move on. Someday you will wake up a very lonely person because you have no long term friendships, nobody who will be there for you when you really truly need them. Like the boy who cried wolf.

  299. avatar
    Pam MacCollum

    Hi Friend. I know meeting a goal you aren’t ready to meet is a daunting task. From my perspective I’ve watched you put your mind to something, make marked progress and then for reasons I’m not aware of, you’ve abandoned the goal.

    I have learned and through my own experiences come to truly understand Andrew Carnegie when he said, “Anything worth having in life is worth working for.” Your goals are difficult to attain. It appears to me that the reason you have yet to attain them is because you may find yourself unworthy of the goal. So, I’m not here to help you get to your goal, but to ask you why you walk away from it. I know you are capable of obtaining it. I know you can do anything you put your mind to.

    What I don’t know is what it is that seems to be holding you back from actually breaking through and doing what you’ve put your mind to.

    Whether you say you can or you can’t you are always right – Henry Ford. Often we are our own worst enemy, letting thoughts of doubt take seed in our mind and stopping short of our potential. Often we allow other peoples insecurities to take hold of the portion of us that is fearful of actually sticking through the hard work and getting to our goal.

    Reaching a goal takes hard work. It takes grit and determination, sacrifice and gumption. All of these things I know you have because I’ve seen it in you when you achieved [tangible goal here].

    More than anything, from this perspective, it looks like you are trying to tackle too many goals at the same time, thus dividing your efforts so thinly, you can’t see the progress you’ve made on any one of them. This can make anyone tired, worn out, and want to stop all together.

    To reach a goal is a daunting task. I know how daunting it can be. I just finished my degree after 6 years of working on it. I know what it’s like to get burnt out, want to quit, want to find an easy button and make it all done. I know what it took to get it done, and I am loving the feelings of utter joy at having persevered for 6 years to get this done. Many told me I was crazy to do it. Many told me they couldn’t have ever done that. Now that I’m done, I thank each of those negative people for helping me resolve to keep moving forward.

    For you, you need to find that space in your own mind that says no matter what anyone tells me I will use it to fuel my desire and drive to achieve this goal. You need to find in yourself, the strength to achieve your most desired goal, to accept the fear of the work and do it anyways, and the switch that turns on the drive to achieve. Without this, you’ll be here in 6 months with the same complaints you have right now, and having not taken a step towards what you say is your goal.

    I am willing to be a cheerleader, help you resolve your fears and insecurities, allow you a moment to vent about your struggles, and a reminder to get back on that wagon and get moving forward again. I have respect for you as a person, and feel that our friendship is cherished by both of us. So, I feel that I would like to gently but firmly tell you that if you ask for help, I will give it. However, if you are looking for me to do this for you, I cannot. If you are looking for me to give you an easy button to get your goal tomorrow, I want to remind you that it took you years to get to this unhappy state, and it will take months to years to reverse the mental attack on yourself.

    I love and respect our friendship. Moving forward, I will help you set small attainable steps towards your overall goal, and keep you accountable, if that is what you want. Otherwise, I will ask your progress on this goal when next we speak. I will not entertain or accept the complaining without action on this item moving forward. Because I know you are sitting on a precipice of awesomeness and I would like to see you make a concrete decision on what you really want.

    Asking for help is the hardest thing in the world. Your complaining tells me you would like help, but do not know how to ask for it. It is a scary thing to admit you need and want help. I can’t change you unless you are ready for change. So, if you’d like to achieve this goal, I need to know that’s what you want. If you want my help to do it, then you need to communicate that to me. I am offering it freely, however you need to tell me how to help you.

    The first step in any seemingly insurmountable task is recognizing in yourself that you need and want help. Second, it’s knowing what help you want and having the courage to ask for it. I want to see you climb the mountain to this goal. I know you will be great! I know you will succeed! You only have to take the first steps to figuring out that you want it badly enough to put in all of the hard work, and stick with it when it feels the hardest, be courageous and ask for help if and when you need it, and know in you what is driving you to get there.

    Let’s do coffee in a month. At which time I will ask you how this goal is progressing. Please feel free to let me know you’ve chosen a goal that you want more than this one so I can feel pride in watching your face beam with the progress you are making!

  300. avatar
    Dave . . .

    What works for my son–who is 6 (and for me, at 30-something)–is 1) externally rewarding tiny daily success (I.e. a sticker on the calendar for every day he comes home from school having “stayed on green” all day), 2) frequently pointing out to him the ever-growing string of successes until 3) the tiny success has become a habit. The positive habit, over time, brings us to the goal almost effortlessly. I know it sounds hokey, but the same method has worked for me in cutting out nighttime snacks, making time for meditation and working on personally rewarding (if wildly unprofitable) projects, flossing, etc. Seeing that calander full of “wins” taped to the mirror every time you hit the john is *persuasive,* even if it is sort of ridiculous.

    D . . .

  301. avatar

    Ramit you already know the answer to the questions you are asking but I guess this is a nice way to make me feel like I am part of the process of coming up with the answers.

    Yes tiny steps and carrots and sticks are all good but in reality every person is unique and while some of the motivation tactics work with most for a while, they won’t work for all since everyone has something slightly different that will truly motivate them in the long run.

    So you might find an opinion that majority will share but it won’t apply to everyone. But hey you got me to type and rant a bit so I like you.

  302. avatar
    Matthew McNulty

    I would encourage them to visualize their future self. Say for example, imagining themselves 10 years in the future with a successful blog, a sizeable nest egg etc.

  303. avatar

    Obviously, this girl has fear and anxiety and issues that run deep. quitter is not the right adjective of her character, however it is what has manifested. I coach people like her all the time. And the way I handle it is to start to talk about the subject at hand. In this instance, I’d ask about the exercise program and how it was going. When she said she stopped doing it, I’d ask why? Is there a medical reason? By asking open ended questions and not making accusations, the girl will come to figure out her own behavior and see that she is “getting in her own way”. So lets say I asked “Did you stop working out due to a medical issue”? Girl- “No”. Me- “what was the reason you stopped exercising?”. Girl- “I am not sure”. Me- “You were getting good results. Can you take a moment to think about a possible reason why”?. Girl- “I can’t think of anything in particular. I just stopped. I didn’t want to do it anymore”. Me- “thank you for answering that question. Not wanting to do something is certainly a good reason. I’m curious, Is that the first time you stopped something when you started to achieve your goals? If not, when did it happen previously?”. That should suffice in a thought process for her and a discovery of “I have quit other things as I neared my goals- I am getting in my own way” and lead her to reflection and acknowledgement. If it doesn’t – I’d follow with continued open ended questions in a non- judgmental manner, the goal that she identifies her behavior. Of course, depending on the sequences of response, I might be inclined to paint a clearer picture by a more aggressive line of questions based on observations. This may or may not be a situation where “the light” goes off, it might take some time for that to happen for her. This much is clear- she has a deep rooted belief that she is a quitter, or a fear of achieving her goals- calling her a quitter or screaming “wake-up” will not help the situation, it will only strengthen those beliefs and behavior. She has the answers inside, they just need to be brought out in a manner that is supportive, accepting, where her feelings are affirmed (extremely important!!) and where she can be the one to discover her behavior. It may require a worksheet and asking her to write her goals down on paper for her to see it- but taking a calm, supportive approach works. Just about every time. She has to be ready to make change. And any coach or mental health professional knows that there is a small percentage of people who will not change no matter what you do or say. She might be one of them but I’d suspect not. I believe she fears success and has negative core beliefs- both can be easily conquered and changed.

  304. avatar

    Firstly , there must be SOMETHING the person likes/loves/really appreciates.

    Secondly, using positive reinforcement… simply encourage the person and reward them for their efforts/progress. The more progress, the more rewards whatever it is the person likes.

    Concurrently, use comparison techniques and enlighten the person that his/her life isn’t the worst in the world. Illustrate with real life examples- starving kids, human traffic victims et. al.

    This way, the person becomes motivated and encouraged at the same time, and does more to generate the positive feelings gleaned from positive feedback which would help the person’s self actualisation, self esteem and basic egoistic needs.


  305. avatar

    I would sit down with her and discuss her values – what’s important to her? Then I would show her how to line up her actions with her values for consistency and improvement.

  306. avatar
    Mary Floyd

    OMG! You gave us the answer: Change the xy coordinates to x prime and y prime… In other words, move on.

  307. avatar
    Brad McKay

    the quitter in your story seems to lack having a concrete, reachable goal. She should write it down, post it up at eye level where she can see it daily, and say an affirmation to herself when she sees it.

  308. avatar

    I was one of these people, I have started a billion things but rarely followed through with any. No, I don’t have ADHD (although I’m sure many people thought I did… but I don’t and I have the paper work to prove it), I did not have something contagious, I wasn’t scared or frustrated and I wasn’t afraid to fail. I can’t talk about psychology but I can talk about my own experience.
    So, My experience – I would see things and get super excited about them and then go head first into them. Cake decorating, Awesome! I love cake! I worked at a bakery at the time and would spend my free time learning to decorate cakes and make all those sugar flowers and fancy writing. Then I stopped once I learned how to do it and had no motivation to continue to learn. This happened soooo many times… (mixing vinyl, playing the guitar, learning to program a robot with C++, etc… ) that even my mother made a comment about it. After some self evaluation and analysis I realized I was I wasn’t quitting, I was actually meeting my goals. I wanted to learn how to decorate cakes, and I did. I wanted to learn how to mix vinyl, and I did. So I was actually constantly meeting the goals that I had set for myself but I wasn’t setting the right goals. It wasn’t until I started setting multiple specific goals with a bigger end goal that I started to “finish” things.
    Assuming this person came to me for help I would start of by asking the person specific questions regarding their goals.
    When you go to the gym and work out was your goal to get off your butt and do something figuring that it would eventually become a habit? okay, well you got off your butt…. that was a specific goal and you accomplished that, good job!. The habit part was left to chance…. chance wasn’t on your side I guess.
    Maybe your goal was to lose 15 pounds? Okay, how? I would help them realize on their own by walking them through the answer step by step. How long do you want to give yourself to lose this weight? What are you going to do every day/week/month to accomplish this? What are realistic mile stones that you can meet? Break it down into 10 simple, specific and attainable goals rather than one generic non specific goal. Focus on just the goal at hand otherwise it just looks overwhelming. Plans and goals don’t have to be complex. Keep it simple…
    One major thing I learned was when you have a small blip in your plan, don’t give up! So what if you ate half a chocolate cake for lunch… you have another meal coming up in a few hours don’t you? Fresh start! Start thinking about your next meal and how awesome and healthy it’s going to be.
    I would also tell them to share their success, it feels good to attain goals even if they are small and people like hearing good things and sometimes it may even prompt them to ask you about how you did it. I get a lot of joy sharing with people because if they are asking me it means that they value my opinion (because I show results) and that makes me feel good and I can help them feel good too. 🙂

  309. avatar

    1. I would ask her to write no more than one page each on the last 3 occasions when she was doing well with something but then quite. I would ask her to write a very detailed account of her though processes at the point when she decided that she could not continue. .

    I would then ask her to compare the 3 accounts and see if she could see a pattern emerging, and to consider what different thoughts or what different reactions she could have in the future if the same situation arose again.

    I might also suggest she goes on a course to help in decision-making – were these situations she genuinely chose to be in? How can she make better choices next time?

  310. avatar

    I am a “quitter.” I come up with ideas, take them so far, and then drop them. Sometimes the ideas are smashing successes, sometimes they are not so hot; I’ve never had one completely fail. I find that I just get bored and want to move on to something new.

    What works best for me is project work – things that have a clear beginning and end. This goes for exercise as much as job goals. If I’m doing an eight-week exercise program, I don’t miss a session. When I had annual fitness goals for my job, I’d make them. But if I’m doing a program that has no end date I find that I eventually start missing sessions and, if nothing changes, drop it altogether – I get bored because I know there is no end in sight.

    I used to beat myself up for this behavior, but it was really a case of needing to better understand how I work. I don’t need to be like everyone else to be happy. I don’t need to choose one thing and stick with it forever.

    So I’d be curious if she sees a problem herself or if it’s just the worry of a well-intentioned but misinformed relative.

  311. avatar

    Well, I don’t know if this approach works for everybody, but I’m SURROUNDED by quitters, and here’s how I’ve been successfully dealing with them (when they ask for advice, of course. Otherwise, they are on their own):

    “Please choose one thing, anything, and do it to the best of your ability, until you are ready to quit and start other things.”

    In my experience, quitters are people with lots of ideas, so they start off in many directions at the same time, and obviously then don’t have the bandwidth to pursue all of them, so they keep starting and stopping new initiatives.

    I did this with my mother (well, I had to ask her to choose THREE things and drop everything else — she has a serious case of multitasking) and with a friend who is a developer and kept starting and stopping new side projects, getting only to a mediocre solution before being distracted by a “new shiny object”.

    Both are doing extremely well. They know they can still quit at any time, but now they have a different framework (“I’m doing THIS. If I want do to something else, I’ll have to make a conscious decision to drop this first. The rest can wait until I finish THIS.”) This way they can really focus and maintain their passion for one thing going as they see the progress that happens when you are not constantly distracted by some other side project.

  312. avatar
    Mil T

    I will tell them first that there is nothing wrong to take things at their own pace. Then I will tell them that by quitting they waste precious resources they have already invested. Then I will advise them to pick three things from their list and concentrate on bringing them to end.

  313. avatar

    The assumption here is that “I”, the concerned family member, am NOT a quitter. I can actually relate to this because I have a younger sibling who has this tendency. My experience is that part of their problem is immaturity but I also know that at some point they will start to turn the corner, as I did a few years ago.

    My tactic would be to spend as much time with the “quitter” family member as possible. Beyond spending as much time with the “quitter” as possible I would try to have them spend time with my friends and colleagues who are committed, dedicated and successful. The end game is that by spending time with achievers the “quitter” will begin to establish different thought and behavioral patterns that would coax them out of their quitting-norm. It also helps to have someone outside of the family talk with them because it’s easy to dismiss a “concerned” family member if you’re constantly on the receiving end of their concern.

  314. avatar
    Akshay Nanavati

    First thing I would do is ask her what she is getting out of keeping things the way they are. Everything we do, we do for a reason and we always get something out of it. Most often in a case like this, she gets to be safe by not reaching the heights of success, so there is a fear that keeps her rooted in mediocrity. I would ask what is the fear? In this case, perhaps she has a belief that success equals hard work, misery, judgement by other people, it could be a lot of things. I would first find out what is the limiting belief she holds that keeps her from reaching her potential. Without worrying about why she does it, I would simply check what she gets out of it, that would then answer the why.
    I would then have her time travel to the past to look for events that created this limiting belief. Everything we do is shaped by our belief about ourselves and the way the world works, so understanding where the belief came from is vital in shifting the belief.
    Once we time travel to the past event that shaped the belief that keeps her from the summits, I will time travel with her again, but this time to previous experiences that she has had where she found success. I would anchor in that state and then go back to the past event that shaped the limiting belief and help her find new meanings to the experience, because all events have no meanings themselves, we assign them meanings and that makes it real for us.
    Once we create new meanings to past events, I would then ask her what she really wants and what she is really committed to. By shaping the future in her mind, I will create a secondary anchor to access that state of unstoppable confidence at will and have her write down what that future looks like so she can access that reality whenever she needs to.
    I would also have her time travel into a future that results from her continuing down this path to create MASSIVE pain associations to her current habits.
    So now we have addressed the limiting belief, associated massive pain to her current behavior, and pleasure to the possibility that results from shifting it.
    Finally I would just help her set up simple structures to ensure that the new belief leads to new actions so that these actions become habits.
    Some of these structures would be things like chunking time, meditating on death, bookending your days, conditioning willpower by writing down what she will do when walls come in the way ahead of time and extremely important I would have her get an accountability buddy to hold her accountable and set consequences for inaction.
    Success guaranteed!

  315. avatar
    Harper Rah

    What if the client is hostile to being motivated by aversion. You just fucked up a great elicitation of her goals with batch processing her. YOU HAVE TO ASK WHAT SHE REALLY WANTS AND HOW SHE WANTS TO GET THERE at her unconsc level, or explicitly, MENTALLY TO YOURSELF NOT TO HER!! Life cycle, your role re her, how she is motivationally prepared for this endeavor upcoming, these all change- no formulae cover the tiny details that burn the coals clean. Watch the Karate Kid with her. We act like we know all about each other but we dont listen to each other and know nothing elegant. The greatest mistake made is assuming “IT” is not happening. It’s never not happening.

  316. avatar

    I would first go through the things she has started on during the last month and what happened after she started, to point out to her what she’s doing and what mistakes she’s making. Then I would analyze what succesfull people have done/would do in a similar situation. Then I would pick out one thing that she can easily change and suggest she does that differently from now on. Later, if she has succesfully changed that thing and has noticed the positive change in her life, I would pick out another thing and suggest she does that differently from now on etc.

  317. avatar

    I’d want to understand why this person continually quits, what the underlying reason is…the invisible scripts. I would challenge this person to keep up with one task and conquer the invisible scripts or fears that this person is facing. Often, with each fear you face, the next one doesn’t see so big. Hopefully this person would be smart enough to make the relationship between this one challenge and the next.

  318. avatar

    I have known people who do things like this, and I suspect it comes from fear. On one hand, some people fear success – they’re not sure how to live with the pressure of being a successful person, not sure they can keep it up. Or they’re afraid they’ll fail – if this person quits all the time, they can say they didn’t get fit because they decided to stop going to the gym, not because on some level they JUST COULDN’T DO IT. Finally, this person could be getting something from the attention their friends and family pay them as they’re going through this quitting process, and they’re afraid they won’t get attention if they start following through.

    Ramit, I like what you’ve said to people who tell you you should quit, or that you’re doing it wrong – I think there’s a way to flip that conversation for this person. “What do you think might work better for you than what you’ve been doing – do you see a pattern here? What do you think is behind it?”

  319. avatar

    That’s a lovely answer – you’re a very insightful person.

  320. avatar

    Sounds like she’s running up against some invisible script.She’s got a ton of ideas, and is going on energetically – so why the quitting? Possible fear of success? Or the realization that she started out so strong with so much energy… that she thinks she would have to keep that level up indefinitely?

    The concerned friend/ family member could sit down with her and have a kind, but frank discussion. What *exactly* was going through the young woman’s mind, when she decided to quit each project? Does some pattern emerge? Why does she think this way?

    If Concerned is able to pinpoint some of this, she could try to get Quitter to challenge those views. For instance, if she’s afraid she’ll have to maintain a high energy level, get her to go talk to people in some of the fields she’d interested in – do they really work 24/7 and produce consistently A+ material? Do they ever feel worn down, or run out of ideas? What do they do?

    If she secretly feels she isn’t worth it… why? (That may take some soul-searching, possibly even counselling.) Is there someone whose opinion she trusts? Maybe have her go talk to them – she could get them to give her truly honest feedback on her strengths and weaknesses; why she deserves success and what she really needs to work on. I think the frank assessment would help her more than a “rah! rah! you can do it!” cheer-leading session – who would believe that, anyway?

  321. avatar


    she was wanting to lose weight I would first enchant her with what could happen

    “In 12 weeks be 20lbs lighter with my system, trust me you will lose it”

    she agrees I tell her I need her twitter and facebook password so she doesn’t get distracted.

    Then I tell her we need to take the “before” picture so when we are done she can see how much fat she has blasted off. Naturally it will be in a swimsuit.

    After all of that I lay down the law…

    Look, you have 12 weeks to lose 20lbs or I will post all the pictures of you in the skimpy bikini over your Facebook and twitter. Trust me I got some that you would never want the mirror to see. Good luck. ..

    Then in 12 weeks high five her for success or get a good lawyer and get ready to battle her in court.

  322. avatar
    Helena Gouros

    There is a core belief or emotional block that keeps the same pattern arising for this person. I would observe from a distance and then if I felt compelled or licensed to, I would have a heart to heart with them and direct them to some tools and books that may be helpful if they were open to it. At the end of the day there is my business, your business and god’s business. So who cares if that person is a quitter that’s there stuff for now. It’s serving them some how for now.

  323. avatar
    Chris Brown

    I would help my friend identify his/her “invisible scripts” that cause the repeated behavior. I’m not sure how to change those, I’m having trouble doing that myself.

  324. avatar

    I was looking through all the replies this topic generated and found this to be the one that would have the most impact on me. I am a quitter and i came across this blog because i wanted to stop quitting. The example given is spot on – i used to be an achiever and when i do stuff, im really good at them in the beginning. But when my motivation goes off, i’d quit. This happens to me in every activity, task or project i do. I dont know whats wrong. all i know is when the going gets tough, i want to escape. It might be fear of disappointing other people. Oftentimes, i find myself quitting a job because i know its not my best suit and i am failing at it. Case in point, maybe i only want to do things that i know im good at.

    This comment from amber is really different from all that ive read about quitting. It kinda makes me feel “hey, since youre good at quitting, maybe you can use it to make your life even better. Know when to quit.” Problem is, im also not a good decision maker. So this might not be enough to break my bad habit.

  325. avatar
    Tom Krause

    I once coached an eighth grade girls basketball team. One of my better players had a bad habit of covering her mistakes by asking a question as if she didn’t understand her assignment. If she was to throw the ball in bounds but forgot, she would immediately turn to me and ask a question. If she missed blocking the player she was guarding, she would ask a question. If she missed her assignment on offense she would ask a question. Every time she made a mistake, she covered up her responsibility by asking a question. Finally, one day at practice I told her to come sit next to me on the sideline. I told the rest of the girls to continue scrimmaging. After a while, she asked me when she was going to get to go back in to play. My response, “When you quit asking questions. Part of being a starting player”, I said. “is being responsible enough to know the answers.” She got the point.
    People who fear responsibility for failure quit. It is a very easy habit to get into. Learning to stick it out and persevere through failures takes a level of maturity we all must face at some time to grow up emotionally. While we all grow to adulthood physically, people must also learn to grow up emotionally.