Way back in the day, I came home from little league. My mom asked me how it was. Without hesitation, I told her that I wanted to quit. She asked me why? I told her I was sick of the coach letting his son pitch because the son was so awful. Then, when the game was nearly lost — Coach would put me in as pitcher — and he’d expect me to win the game — no matter what had to be done.
If I couldn’t pull out the win — Coach would rant and scream at me and the whole team. I wanted to quit. If I complained, Coach would stick me in the outfield swatting away at flies. I didn’t mind if I was playing first base like Frank Thomas or Jeff Bagwell. My mom told me that I’d never get as much training as I would receive pitching under that kind of pressure.
It was then that my mom threw a Vince Lombardi quote in my direction. “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” And, in case I forgot, there were also some pretty amazing outfielders I could emulate like Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwenn, and Mickey Mantle.
I gave up on my dream of being the starting pitcher for every game — I stopped resenting the coaches’ son. Instead, I focused on what I was good at — hitting and running, and I tried to make sure I helped pull out a win under stressful circumstances. And, in hindsight, that was a win-win.
I gave up on my dream of being a major league baseball pitcher.
That’s not to say it was easy to switch my mindset. No one likes giving up on their dreams. But, this taught me a valuable lesson. There are times in life when throwing in the towel is important.
The Scientific Case for Giving Up
“Realizing that an attempt to achieve something is not accomplishing its goal, and then stopping that behavior, can actually be beneficial,” writes Claudia Lopez-Lloreda for Inverse. “When confronted with a difficult challenge or obstacle, animals often ‘give up’ to conserve energy between attempts or to identify other strategies to succeed — or reassess if the effort is even worth it.”
A research group led by Misha Ahrens at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute was responsible for this finding. But, Ahrens is far from the only researcher to scientifically prove the benefits of giving up.
“A laser-like focus on one goal (like a promotion) often prevents us from seeking out new opportunities for learning and growth,” writes Jennifer Gueringer on the NetCredit blog. “In fact, a survey of Stanford Business school alumni found that those who held five or more positions in 15 years were nine times more likely to reach senior management than those with fewer roles.”
“The effects are physical, too,” adds Gueringer. “A Concordia University found that teenage girls who were unable to disengage from difficult goals exhibited increased levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory molecule linked to diabetes, heart disease and early aging in adults.”
You’ll Accomplish More
I know that sounds counterproductive. But, bear with me for a second.
Recall a time when you were procrastinating. Maybe you were dreading the task, just not feeling it, or didn’t have the skills or knowledge to complete it. Regardless of the exact reason — you stubbornly kept trying to tackle this task.
What happened next? You may have originally blocked out two hours of time to get this thing done. Now you’re approaching three or four hours. And, before you know it, you’ve screwed up your entire schedule for not just the day, but the entire week. The reason? What you have planned to do today gets moved to tomorrow and so forth.
Also, even if you were able to cross this item off your list, you’ve spent way more energy on it then you should have. As a result, you’re too drained to focus on anything else that’s of importance.
The better option here would be to move on to something else that you can actually do well. You may even want to delegate or outsource to someone else.
You’ll Be Happier and More Creative
As Raj Raghunathan Ph.D. writes in Psychology Today, there is something called ego depletion which suggests that “willpower is a limited resource.” If you’re obsessed with achieving a goal, that means you’re sacrificing other goals “whose achievement also depends on the same pool of willpower.”
There’s also hyperopia. It’s similar to the above where you “sacrifice your present-day enjoyment for the sake of a future that may never really arrive.” What does that mean? Well, “it may be more important to give up on goals that take too much out of us than to pursue them at all cost.”
Speaking of goals, if a goal is tied to a reward — it may sometimes hinder creativity and problem-solving.
“Rewards can perform a weird sort of behavioral alchemy: they can transform an interesting task into a drudge,” Daniel Pink wrote in his book Drive. “They can turn the play into work,” Pink adds. “And by diminishing intrinsic motivation, they can send performance, creativity, and even upstanding behavior toppling like dominoes.”
Besides goals, here are some other things that you should give up if you want to be happy and successful:
- Perfection. You already know that perfectionism is unrealistic, stressful, and prevents you from finding new opportunities.
- FOMO. The so-called, Fear Of Missing Out can cause you to spread yourself too thin and it diverts your attention away from your priorities.
- Negative self-talk. If you engage in negative self-talk, it holds you back from achieving your dreams — and it can do other weird things to you too. Just watch someone who loves this awful habit — you hate to be around them, huh?
- Comparing yourself to others. Comparing yourself to anyone but yourself is unproductive and self-destructive.
- Toxic relationships. Spend time with people you love and who love you back. Toxic people are a waste of time, energy, and will only drag you down.
- The fear of failure. Everyone fails. Accept that fact, and learn from each experience — or don’t learn from it — just get past it.
The End is the Beginning is The End
Do you need one final reason for quitting? How about it gives a clean slate to live the life you want?
Yes — quitting at anything is usually easier said than done. But, take that leap of faith and ditch the things that are holding you back and causing you distress. For example, if you’re miserable because you feel like you’re in a dead-end job, quit and launch your own business.
Quitting a job may not be in your future and it’s going to be hard and scary. But, this type of quitting is a better option than being stuck in a situation that is depriving you of living the life that you want. Remember, life is short. So, use your life, and spend this valuable resource however you want.
How to Know When It’s Time to Give Up
There isn’t an exact answer to whether it’s time to give up. But, Cloris Kylie Stock from Tiny Buddha has put together five signs that may help you decide if now is the time to quit — or if it’s time to buckle down and win.
- You aren’t enjoying life to the fullest because your quest to solve a problem as taken over your life.
- No matter how hard you try, you can’t visualize a positive outcome.
- You start to feel poorly about yourself.
- Even though a goal involved others, you’re the only person who has an interest.
- When you wake-up in the morning, you think about giving up.
Remember to analyze the pros and cons of what and when to give up. The “give-up” should come rarely in your life, and it should only be deployed when it will be for your greater good. Plan carefully — make your give-up a win-win.