What to Do When You Want to Give Up


Remember learning to ride a bike? How many times did you fall off before you got the hang of it? And even after you learned, there were probably occasional mishaps – but I bet you got back on and tried again.

Pursuing diet and fitness goals is a lot like that. From time to time you'll fail. I have. Many times. It takes time to shop for the right food and then cook it, and more time to exercise, and often I can’t (won’t?) make the time. I have a sugar addiction, so I crave sweets all the time. My willpower tends to disappear in the face of temptation. And too often I have given up … for just that one meal, or so I thought. But one meal turned into two, then four, then more. But I always try again.

Some of y’all have given up on learning to play the dulcimer. Yes, you know who you are. The dulcimer is sitting in its stand in the corner, getting dusty. Or you’ve already packed it up in its case and slid it out of sight under the bed.   What can do you when you’re tempted to give up? Well, as usual I have a few suggestions for that.

  • Have a vision of success. The mind is such a strong tool. Use it to achieve your dreams … whether you want to lose a few pounds or play a tune on your dulcimer.

  • Remind yourself of what’s at stake. In the morning, most of us would prefer to roll over and go back to sleep instead of exercising. But sticking with it could lengthen our lives. Learning to play your dulcimer won’t make the difference between life and death, but it can affect the quality of our lives. Learning to play an instrument brings fun activities and people into our lives. Music soothes worries away, lowers blood pressure, keeps our minds busy, and gives us something to do every day.

  • Forgive yourself. Some of us may get frustrated when we make mistakes. And you’re right. It’s not an easy-peasy, slam-dunk deal. It takes patience and time to learn to play proficiently. Most of us can’t just pick up an instrument and play. We have to work at it and practice … for a long time.  Forgive yourself when you make mistakes. Consider whether you’ve selected music that is above and beyond your current level of playing. If so, put that aside for a month or two, and pick something else that is more on your current level.

  • Dump those negative thoughts. That’s just stinkin’ thinkin’. Some say that you are what you eat. I also say that you are what you think. Stop that negative, critical self-talk inside your head. Instead, keep those positive thoughts going, always expecting the best result from your efforts.

  • Have an accountability partner. My husband is still working to recover from his open-heart surgery but, left to his own devices, he tends to hang out in his recliner playing with his iPad. A nearby neighbor has started coming over about 5 mornings a week to take him for a bike ride. This morning, it was cold and rainy, so they went to a gym and used the treadmill. We’ve started calling him “Coach.” Having to account to someone else gives you a reason to hang in there when you can't muster your own determination from within. It doesn't matter where the support comes from - a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, an online "buddy," or whoever.

  • Play a tune for your cheering section. You may be playing for only one person, but it’s good to share your music with someone who will validate your efforts. We all do better when we hear a sincere word of praise and encouragement.

Finally, remember that you have to keep working at it
. Two-thirds of our U.S. population is overweight, which means it's not natural to be slim and fit. We have to work at it, keep on keepin’ on with the diet and exercise to stay in shape.  Likewise, learning to play doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just go to a workshop and nail it. (Well, I can’t.) It takes work, lots of practice. But learning to play the dulcimer is a goal well worth the effort. Whatever you do, DON’T GIVE UP!

Happy dulcimering,



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