(When) Is it okay to give up?

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When is it okay to give up?

You need to excuse me, as today I’m not in the best of moods. Things don’t work out as I want them to, to the point that it makes me think about giving up. As this thought crosses my mind, however, I’m hearing that annoying voice of the (not so) little perfectionist in me, shouting:  “Are you crazy? Giving up is for losers! You need to fight, fight, fight! Don’t you dare walking away…!!” And I immediately flinch. Is giving up really that bad? Is it a sign of weakness? And when, if at all, is it okay to give up?

I think most of us know pretty well that success doesn’t come without effort. And we are okay with that. Hard work in exchange for a salary raise seems like a good deal. Serving extra hours for the next promotion might be a no-brainer. Training for a marathon to feel healthy and fit again should be a good idea. But what if we put in the efforts, but the rewards do not follow?  

The first reaction will likely be: I need to work even harder, put in even longer hours, train even more… But the fact is, not everything is always in our hands. Think about former British PM Theresa May in the Brexit negotiations – her persistence and determination was just insane! She really did not want to give up. But was she successful at the end? Definitely not. Not all efforts lead to success. 

When all the fighting starts to be harmful, to yourself and others, and you are still not any closer to your goal, it’s time to control the damage and give up. And it’s totally okay!  At the end, everything is a cost/benefit calculation. Make sure you don’t overpay.

But I know, walking away from something you really wanted is not easy. I would even argue, giving up is much harder than fighting. Fighting gives you something to do, a variety of strategies and tasks that you can pursue with all your power, full on. Giving up, on the other hand, means passivity. Letting go. Losing control…

At least, until you have set your eyes on the next goal that needs fighting for.


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