Learn to Give Up Like a Winner
The biggest dilemma of all times usually boils down to the decision whether to follow something through or to walk away from it. Be it about a relationship, a job, a career, a conflict — knowing when to give up is one of the most difficult questions we face.
And while there are signs that indicate one way or the other, there are no clear-cut rules for it, for our lives are different, our characters are different, our opportunities are different.
Moreover, in our society, we buy into the concept of struggling and choosing the hard way seems to be an accomplishment in and of itself. Just take the example of the starving artist, the 60-hour working week, the pursuit of more and more with blood, sweat and tears. We are made believe that persistence means not to ever give up and to give everything we have to an idea or a dream.
But in reality, sometimes the best we can do for ourselves is to give up, to walk away and to move on. There are turning points in our lives when the right answer is to admit that we are on the wrong path and we need a course correction. The choice is difficult, as we don’t live in parallel universes to test out a theory and choose after.
Life is not linear, nor logical. We don’t learn and then get tested — as we would be in school. We get a difficult situation — usually unprepared to deal with it, and we learn and grow from it.
The eternal question is always about making the right choice — with the information available at the time.
Giving up is not a character flaw, it’s a winning attitude if it’s done the right way. But how can you know whether it’s time to give up and move on?
Don’t give up before getting started
Sometimes we give up before even giving ourselves a chance. We give in to our limiting beliefs and we convince ourselves that we shouldn’t even try. Not trying is us trying to prevent failure, without realizing that it is a failure by default. If you don’t try, you already gave up and you failed.
If you want something, even if you are unsure of yourself, trying it is the best that you can do. Think about writing — even just publishing one article will make the world of difference. Will it mean that it’s for you? No one knows, but if you don’t try, it’s surely not going to be your path. Or think about trying a new sport, something that you think you don’t have the strength or body type for. If you don’t try it, you are solidifying a belief that might or might not be true without even knowing about the reality of it.
Starting something new can teach you a lot of things. It might not be for you or you might not be excellent at it, but you can still have fun, you can still learn and grow.
Don’t give up before making a real effort
We are also sold on easy success, this is what floods us from the media and from our peers. We are inundated with seemingly easy success stories — of wealth, weight loss, finding the perfect romantic partner. We get inspired by the straightforward results and we jump into it headfirst.
We fail to read between the lines of the real success stories — or they conceal the difficulties and jump right to the accomplishment. This gives us the impression that success is effortless, and we can expect it without working towards it.
It’s quite common to give up on our dreams before giving it a real chance. We quit after a few weeks or months because we are nowhere near our idols, ignoring the fact that they might have been at it for years or even decades.
If you really want something, give it enough time to work out. Set reasonable goals and show up regularly. Showing up doesn’t have to be an extreme effort, but it has to be something. Besides, if you never really give it a go, you won’t know whether you could have succeeded with it or not.
Don’t give up at the first difficulties
On the same notes, it’s not just the need for effort, but also the first occurrence of difficulties can make you give up on your dreams before even getting close.
Failure and rejection are part of the journey — and although they are not pleasant, they help you grow more than success would.
It rarely happens that one can sail through life without facing difficulties, so it’s better to be prepared for them in advance than to let them catch you off-guard and force you to quit.
The difficulties don’t signal the end of the road, they simply mean that you need better skills, a different approach or external help to move forward. All of these are possible and they don’t take away your success.
Allow yourself to fail and push through rejections. This is not the time to give up, but to persevere and conquer the hardship.
Give up if it doesn’t bring you any joy
There are times when the pursuit of a goal stops being a source of joy or accomplishment. Think about a career that kills your soul even if it pays the bills. Or a relationship where the love died and it makes both of you unhappy and miserable.
When you can say that you have given everything you could and it’s still not enough, when you tried everything and there is nothing left to tweak, when just thinking of it makes you feel like a failure, maybe it’s time to move on. Instead of clinging to a dream that is impossible to reach, you need to count your losses and move on.
If you fail to notice when pursuing a goal is detrimental to you, it can cause significant harm to your health and mental health.
Carsten Wrosch and Gregory Miller call it goal disengagement when giving up is the healthier alternative and it allows you to pursue other, more rewarding goals. When we are fixated on achieving something it might mean that we ignore other opportunities that would make us happier.
Pay attention to the signs of your body and mind, and learn to recognise when something is past its expiry date. Moving on is not a failure, obsessing about a lost cause is.
Give up if you outgrew the dream
We have an endless number of opportunities to choose from and as we learn and grow new opportunities arise. It happens that something that we thought to be important stops to be important after a while.
Maybe we just know ourselves better, maybe the situation changed, maybe our priorities shifted with a new life event — it is okay to admit that we are different.
Maybe we wanted to sacrifice everything for a great career, working 12-hour workdays, when we started. But it happens to the best of us that we get tired of it, we want other things, we want to have more time for ourselves or for our loved ones. It’s not a crime to admit that our priorities shifted. It’s a good thing to recognise if something is not for us anymore.
Moving on means that you open yourself up for new horizons without keeping a promise that doesn’t serve you anymore.
Giving up is not a failure — if you do it at the right time, with the right mindset it’s moving on, and it’s necessary to give yourself space to grow.
Ask yourself these questions to help the decision:
- Did I allow myself to even try?
- Did I give it a real chance?
- Do I want to give up only because it feels hard now?
- Does it still bring me joy? Can I grow from it?
- Is it still important in my life?
The answers will guide you more than external pressure would. Don’t do something just because you should, listen to your heart as well.