Earlier this week I released a new podcast episode all about when it’s okay to give up on something. Giving up or quitting is a subject that’s struck a chord with a few people so I decided to write this accompanying blog post to lay it all out on the table and discuss why giving up could also be seen as letting go which is a much more positive way of looking at it.
For me letting go of things can be a really productive act. We can never do everything and sometimes things run their course and we need to effectively say goodbye and move on. Focussing on the right things and letting go of the things that no longer serve us is just another part of staying productive. Just like freeing up space to make room for new things freeing ourselves from obligations that we no longer want or need to keep will free you up to move forwards in other ways.
But why do we find it so difficult to ‘cut the chord’?
What do we hate about giving up?
Perseverance is really valued in our society- if people have that grit and determination to never give up we often think very highly of them. So if we feel that we don’t have that to carry a project or a goal through to the end then we might feel quite negative about ourselves. Essentially when we give up we see it as a failure or a defeat. We see it as we were too weak or not disciplined or focussed enough to see something through to completion. We often attribute it to a lack of something within ourselves and we blame ourselves for it.
Another big reason people hate giving up and perhaps a reason why they persevere with things for far too long is that we worry about what other people might think of us when we do give up, we’re usually worrying they’re going to be thinking the same negative things about us as we’re might be thinking about ourselves.
The funny thing is that a lot of the time we’re even scared of the judgement from those who haven’t even been through whatever it is we’re looking to give up anyway. They don’t understand what it takes and to be honest that’s part of the problem because they won’t have had the experience that would help them understand why you might want to give something up.
Giving up on things can in some cases become a bit of a negative cycle. If we’ve had a few instances of giving up or quitting things in a short period of time it starts to become a learned behaviour that we ‘always give up on things’. In this case though I’d argue that it’s not the giving up that’s the problem it’s probably that these new commitments aren’t well thought out enough and there isn’t a strong enough purpose behind making them.
To rest or to quit?
There’s a motivational quote that makes the rounds ‘learn to rest not to quit’ and I do agree that often when we want to give up on something we do actually just need a rest. If you’re struggling to decide whether to let go fo something the first step is always to take a break and get some space so you can start to think clearly and rationally. When we feel overwhelmed and stressed we’re not in the right frame of mind to make rash decisions
And I think we often know in ourselves when we’re ready to let go of something and giving yourself that space to make sure it’s not just the stress is a really important part of the giving up/letting go process.
Why you might be considering giving up
1. You can’t connect to your purpose anymore
When setting goals a purpose or a reason behind the pursuit of that goal is one of the most important elements you need. It might not feel so important to connect to a purpose at the beginning when you’re brimming with motivation and excitement but a strong purpose will carry you through when times get tough. If you had a purpose that now isn’t resonating or perhaps if you never really had one it’s likely that when things get tough your motivation will falter and you’ll consider giving up. But it’s not always a bad thing to realise. This process can be really helpful and shows us the stark truth of what we’re willing to do to reach a goal.
2. You’re pursuing it in a really unrealistic way
We often impose high expectations and standards on ourselves. I for one often underestimate the amount of down time I’m going to need around work and in the past I’ve been guilty of heaping far too much on myself before a deadline. Remember slow consistent progress is better than no progress at all because you pushed too hard and burnt out!
3. Pursuing that goal is inhibiting you from enjoying life and having down time
Similar to my last point often we forget that we actually need a life outside of working and pursuing things. Particularly if your goal or commitment is long term it will serve you better to implement the progress into your life and be able to actually do things you enjoy as well. If you don’t appreciate and enjoy the present Rest is productive too.
4. Because there’s something else that’s pulling you
This last reason is an interesting one. It doesn’t mean you necessarily want to give up because of the thing itself but rather because there’s something else that you’re more passionate or excited about pursuing.
The Mindset Difference
To put it simply this is the difference for me:
Giving up = succumbing to the struggle – defeat
Letting go = freeing yourself from something that isn’t serving you – self care
Giving up is defeat, letting go is a choice you make to free yourself. There’s actually nothing more I need to say right there about the difference in mindset. However I do also want to touch on how we approach that ‘lost progress’ that we might be leaving behind.
We can often jump to the conclusion that the progress we made has been a waste of time, energy, resources, finances, whatever it was that you put into the pursuit so far. This in itself might also be a big block to letting go. But even if we don’t necessarily end up with a nice complete package of progress we can’t discount the valuable lessons we learn on the way and the insights we gain from the experience. It can teach you a lot about what you want and your values going forwards into your next big project.
How to decide if you need to let go:
- Take a break so you can think clearly – when we’re caught up in the stress of something it’s very hard to think with clarity – so take some time away and step back
- Reconnect with your purpose – why are you putting yourself through this? Is there an important or perhaps an essential reason that you can’t give up?
- If it’s something that you can’t give up are there changes you can make to make it more enjoyable or at least less terrible? Do you need to step up and make an effort to make it work or make changes to the way you approach something?
- Take the time to consider giving up – journal on your blocks, write lists, talk to people (but also be mindful of their own preconceived ideas of giving up) – and this happens best when we aren’t stressed so remember to take that break.
- Finally if we do decide that we’re going to give something up examine your mindset around it – if it’s something that’s not longer serving you let go, take lessons from it and move on to bigger and better things.