Firstly, anything that is about “always” or “never” is bound to be bad advice.
Actually, that might just be it. There doesn’t have to be a “secondly” and “thirdly”.
But well, a two-line blog article is a bit short. So, let me elaborate of why I hate people telling me (or anyone) to “never give up”:
1) We change
What did you want to become when you were a kid?
And after school?
And all the times in between?
My guess is that for the vast majority of people this changes. Just imagine if every child who wanted to be a princess at the age of 5 was told to never give up and keep going until they reach their dream?!
2) What are you sacrificing?
I studied European Business at uni and one of the terms that stuck is opportunity cost: “the benefits an individual, investor or business misses out on when choosing one alternative over another”. Everything we do has an opportunity cost. Everything we do happens at the
expense of something else – cause we simply cannot do it ALL. Thus by holding on to one objective, we are inevitably giving up on others. That in itself is just a fact that cannot be avoided. So, given our limited resources, we need to make a choice. And yes, we might have already invested a lot in that one objective, so giving up so far down the line seems to mean that everything we put in is going to waste. But it’s not really. Cause you will have learned something along the way and (hopefully) also had fun. To me it would be a tragedy though
to keep going and waste even more resources just for the sake of it and for the sake of energy already invested.
3) What price are you paying?
Slightly different from opportunity costs: how much energy (time, money) are you spending on this? How many challenges and pain are you enduring? What are you sacrificing, neglecting, giving up on for that one objective? And ultimately: is it a price worth paying? Or is there something amongst the alternatives that you may be better off pursuing?
4) Giving up is not weakness
And to keep going is not an achievement per se.
In fact, in my world, giving up sometimes takes more strengths and courage than
giving up. Giving up doesn’t equal defeat. It’s a valid choice amongst many choices we have.
Obviously, I am not saying: don’t bother at all. Give up whenever it gets difficult, etc. As with
anything, it’s not just black and white. So, how can we decide then when it’s time to give up? And when it’s time to keep going? Here are some thoughts that help me decide:
1) Be clear on your objective
What are you actually trying to achieve? What is your goal behind the goal? Does that still light you up? Imagine having achieved it. Allow yourself to feel it. How does it feel? If the goal is still worthwhile for you, you will just know.
2) Get clarity regarding the obstacles in the way
How “real” are the obstacles? Are you holding limiting beliefs around achieving the objective? I always ask my clients: Do you believe you can achieve your goal? If there is any hesitation, it’s worth checking in with that. Cause if you don’t even believe you can get there, it’s likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3) Are you having fun?
If the answer is “no”, there are of course more options than just throwing in the towel. What would help you re- introduce some fun and ease into the project? Again, going back to the vision you have: remind yourself of your “why”. Maybe it’s not the goal you need to change but how you are approaching it.
4) Trust your intuition
It’s easy to be influenced by those around us and/or by society at large and this can introduce self-doubt. But I truly believe that deep down we know what is right for us. Connecting back with our intuition is something we can learn. We all have a gut feeling – learn to trust yourself again.
5) Nothing is final.
Remind yourself that nothing is final. You can always change your mind and you can always change direction. There’s no such thing as “too old” to start over. Nor is there shame in overturning a past decision. Yes, people may tell you “told you so” – but why would we care about that? Relax and take comfort in knowing that everything happens for a reason and at the right time.