I have given up many times in my life. I have given up on relationships. I have given up on jobs. I have given up on acting. I have given up on ideas. I have given up on drawings. I have given up on photography. I have given up on novels and screenplays and writing in general. I have given up on plans and goals and aspirations. I have given up on friends. I have given up on myself.
What drives us to give up on things that once we were determined to succeed at? And is giving up ever the right thing to do?
Why we give up
There are many reasons why we might find ourselves considering giving up on something. For instance:
- We have carefully explored all the possibilities, and it is clear that the situation cannot or should not be salvaged.
- We are facing pressure and/or stress from outside sources.
- We don’t believe in ourselves and our abilities.
- We feel that others are better than us/smarter that us/more knowledgeable that us and that we cannot compete.
- We are bored.
- We have lost interest, or did not have a great enough interest in the first place.
- We are discouraged because our expectations have not been met.
Some of these reasons are positive, and some are negative.
If you are in a relationship for instance, and you can think of more reasons to leave than reasons to stay, and you have explored every possibility to the point where you know that nothing is changeable, then giving up is probably a smart choice.
If we truly find something boring, there is little sense in continuing as life is meant to be enjoyed, therefore I will say, perhaps controversially, that boredom is a good reason to give up.
If we have lost interest in something, we must ask why, and decide if that interest can be revived, or if it was ever strong enough to be sustained in the first place, if not, then giving up is a reasonable and healthy choice.
On the other hand, we should never allow the opinions of others to influence us to give up on something if in our heart of hearts we know they are wrong. Giving up because someone else has told you it is “pointless” or that you will, “never make it”, is a terrible reason to quit.
If we don’t believe in ourselves, or believe that others are better and smarter of better able to succeed than us, then it is imperative we do not give up under any circumstances, and instead work to address the issue of why. The we must learn to change this self limiting belief or we will never we successful at anything. Self limiting beliefs guarantee failure from the start.
The number one reason we give up
Without exception, the number one reason we give up on anything is because we are discouraged.
Discouragement is the result of our expectations not being met within the time-frame we expected. The problem is, and it’s a big one, is that we usually do not know what to expect, or our expectations are not realistic.
This is not a failing on our part, we live in a world that breeds unrealistic expectations. In fact, unrealistic expectations are the norm.
Infomercials promise us 8 weeks to a better body, and suggest that we’ll be able to cook an entire meal using a dinky plastic cup with a razor blade in it. Magazines show us images of tanned bikini babes and muscle-bound jocks without a word about how hard they worked for those bodies, or how many flaws were removed by Photoshop wizards. Celebrities appear out of nowhere, that they spent years toiling to get there is rarely clear. Heck, these days people even meet and supposedly fall in love during the course of a few weeks on a (stupid) TV show.
We live in a result focused society. The journey is rarely discussed.
The missing element of the how-to guide
Faced with overwhelming confusion we turn to how-to guides and self-help books for advice. We eagerly swallow it up, and the more ambitious among us quickly put the advice into action and then…
…well, we often end up more discouraged than ever.
Why is this?
Because all the books, magazines, websites and magic maps that promise to teach us how to do anything generally forget to tell us how long it will, or should take. If we do not know how long something should take, then we have no benchmark by which to measure our success or failure.
Imagine being asked to drive from one city to another. You aren’t told how far away it is, and your car is stripped of it’s gauges. The only thing you’re told is that you need to turn left twice, then go on straight for a while until you pass the factory on the left, at which point, you should veer right and continue to your destination. You’re a little nervous, but the directions seems simple enough so you agree to give it a go.
But as you’re driving you discover there are no road signs either. You make the first left turn, but soon lose sense of where you are or how far you’ve gone. You being to doubt yourself, you become convinced you missed a turn somewhere. It feels like you’ve been driving forever, shouldn’t you have reached your destination by now? You become increasingly discouraged and doubtful about your ability to make it to your destination, and eventually, you turn around and go back.
You gave up because of a lack of feedback. You had no measure of your progress, and without such a measure your natural human tendency towards self-doubt kicked in and you concluded that adequate progress had not been made.
I can share a personal example of this phenomenon in action.