I hate the phrase “never give up”. I can appreciate the positive vibes, but the phrase itself is so utterly flawed that it should never be used in human society.
Why? Because sometimes, giving up is the right thing to do.
Giving up means that we recognized when we have run the course and things just aren’t working as we had expected.
Quitting isn’t necessarily for “quitters”.
When it’s time to move on, it doesn’t do any of us any good to blaze headlong into the night, persisting in a lost cause because everybody told us to “never give up”. Or because we fear being labeled a quitter, lazy or unmotivated.
Selective quitting is healthy, and just like healthy selfishness, the devil is in the details.
“Never Give Up”, Huh?
“Never Give Up” is bad advice.
Actually, it’s really bad. First, let’s understand the motivations behind the phrase “never give up”. The phrase means well, and those who use it generally mean well too.
But, that’s not actually what we mean when we say it.
When most people use the phrase “never give up”, what they actually mean is don’t give up too easily, even if things get tough.
Continue to push. Persevere.
That’s great. It’s all well and good, and frankly, pushing through even when times get tough is generally great advice.
But, that’s not the same as “never give up”.
It is bad advice because we stagnate when we keep doing the same thing over and over again – especially when that thing we’re doing simply is not working.
We improve when we practice new habits. Design new routines. When we fail, we learn enormous things about ourselves. About how much we can take, and about how we deal with frustration.
Never giving up is neither smart nor practical.
This is Better Advice than “Never Give Up”
Chris Guillebeau wrote so well that you shouldn’t always stay the course through blindly following the insipid “never give up” mantra. Winners, he said, give up all the time.
But, winners give up because they know when it’s time to move on. This is the detail that’s crucial to understand.
It’s the definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results and never giving up.
And, it’s also bad advice to tell other people to do just that. After all, most of us know when it’s time. Implicitly. Our hunches tell us. We get “that feeling”.
But, far too many of us continue pushing forward because:
- it’s too challenging to change course, or
- we don’t want to think of ourselves as quitters, or
- we don’t want others to think we’re quitters
Most of us know when it’s time, but we subconsciously ignore that feeling because we’re conditioned, through the application of bad advice, to keep going. To push. To pound away at that rock, even though that rock might be impenetrable.
A better tactic – and one that makes for far better advice:
Give it your best shot, but know when to give up and move on.
To know when to give up means knowing yourself. Through our past failures, we learn how we deal with challenges and where our strengths and weaknesses lie. And, it is this wisdom that teaches us when to cut and run. When to say “Adios, amigo!” and move on.
Naturally, there won’t be one concrete “when should I give up?” answer that’s right for everyone. Life is much too organic for that.
This crucial personal detail will come with practice.
And so, the next time someone tells you to never give up, respond with something like this:
“I appreciate the sentiment, but I am not afraid to move on when I know that it’s time. But, thanks!”.