What I’m going to say here is probably a bit controversial: It’s OK to give up.
Yes, you heard that right, it’s OK to give up. When you look up any motivational videos on Youtube, you will hear the phrase “Never give up” a lot. In fact, I even made a video on how to not give up easily sometimes ago.
So, am I contradicting myself? Isn’t persistence a virtue of being successful?
Let’s look at this image.
Most people would probably think, it’s a shame for that person at the bottom! If only he could have worked on it a bit longer, he’ll hit the jackpot!
Call me pessimistic, when I first saw that image, what came to my mind was, what if that was nothing on the other end? Not giving up means he’ll be digging in a deeper hole, and god knows what could happen inside the tunnel.
He might be dehydrated.
The tunnel may crumble and trap him if he didn’t leave earlier.
Being persistent doesn’t always come out smelling of roses. In my opinion, if you want to become happy or successful in life, knowing when to give up is equally, if not more important, than knowing how to stick to your goal.
So, how to tell if it’s the right time to give up then? It’s a million dollars question, and I’m going to share my approach on how to decide between giving up or keep going whenever I feel lost.
Is It Still Working?
Duh. Of course, to begin with, what you do has to be effective. It’s common sense, but it’s not as simple as you think.
Always remember that people can change, the market can change, the environment can change. That means what has been working yesterday might not work today. It’s also possible that what you have been working so hard on has become less and less relevant.
Say you want to learn how to make animation, it would be a huge mistake to spend lots of time studying Adobe Flash. Why’s that? Because this product will reach its end of life by the end of 2020, and it’ll be pretty much useless no matter how good you became.
Forgive me if that example is a bit too nerdy, but it illustrates the fact that you need to make sure your direction is right. Otherwise, might as well just give up because it’ll get you nowhere.
There are three things you can do to find that out.
First would be taking a step back and analyze the situation from an objective perspective. You can go fancy by using tools like SWOT analysis to find out where you are at in the broad scheme of things, or if you find it too overwhelming, justify your reason of being persistent on what you do. If you don’t have a legit answer, then maybe it’s time to give up.
The second approach is benchmarking. Wisdom saying is, if you can’t measure it you can’t improve it. To know if you are on track, you should be keeping records of your performance often, so that you can compare. If you are not seeing even the slightest improvement for a few months, then maybe you are not born for this. Or maybe you should try a different approach.
The third thing you can do is gathering perspectives from other people. When it comes to listening to advice, you want to be more selective as I’ve mentioned in this article. But, it doesn’t harm to gather other people’s thoughts so you get to see things you have overlooked.
What you do no longer align to your value
So what I said earlier would be a few good indicators if your approach is working. That being said, even you might have all these checkboxes ticked, it doesn’t mean you have to stick to it.
You might have heard of stories where someone had a prestige job, everyone is so jealous of his achievement but somehow, he gave up everything all of a sudden and pursue his passion.
When people ask him why, he’ll probably say things like he wants to leave no regret or he wasn’t happy with his old identity etc.
As I grow older, I begin to see the reason behind it. I still remember in my 20s, having fun was all that mattered, whereas now I am more interested in personal development and building a personal brand. Maybe in the future when I have a family, I’ll focus on making them happy.
As times goes by, our priority will change as we move to a different stage of life. It’s natural. There’s no need to be ashamed of giving up, in fact it’s probably correct to move on.
What even worse is, you hold onto it because of your ego. You thought you are persistent, but actually you are being stubborn. It’ll only get you nowhere and make you feel even more miserable.
That’s why it’s so important to have inner conversations from time to time so that you know what really matters to you.
Let me repeat: It’s ok to give up. Giving up does not necessarily mean you failed, instead, it could be a strategic move that brings you success and happiness.
But of course, you need to find the balance, and don’t use that as an excuse of giving up. You shouldn’t be giving up just because it’s too hard or too stressful.
Usually when you have thoughts of giving up, most likely because you are struggling and feeling lost. To begin with, you should find out if your approach is effective. To get a brief idea, try these three things: analyzing the situation, benchmarking and ask for other people’s opinion.
Even if you are making progress, you’ll also want to make sure what you do align to your value. Listen to your gut. If other things matter to you more, it’s ok to change your priorities.