5 Times When It’s Smart To Give Up On Goals

Eric S Burdon


Persistence comes at a price.

In the self-improvement world, we are big on persistence. If things aren’t working out, you just need to work the system. Keep trying out new things. Experiment.

Eventually, you’re going to find your groove, build that business or audience or whatever you need to succeed.

We point to all kinds of brilliant people who have persisted through grim circumstances.

Steve Jobs.

Oprah Winfrey.

JK Rowling.

Thomas Edison.

Albert Einstein.

We rally around these figures and get inspired by these individuals to persist through our own problems. And that’s a good thing.

But what if — for a moment — we didn’t. What if we considered actually giving up on something. What would happen if we decided persisting through a goal or task isn’t worth it?

While there are many great stories of persistence, there are several bad ones. There were several cases where people should’ve definitely stopped persisting and moved on to other things.

There’s Isaac Newton who is famous for discovering the law of gravity. While that’s great, it is undercut by the fact that he spent years trying to turn lead into gold.

There’s also the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. Through her persistence, she created a big company that was rife with fraud and no real product.

You’ve also got the case of Donald Trump who has persisted despite the number of failed businesses and the countless scandals he’s had over the decades only to become the 45th President of the United States and cause all kinds of problems.

We don’t tend to think of persistence in this way. When our goals in sight, we tend to focus on these things and not for a moment consider whether or not to give up or pause for a moment about what it is that we’re doing.

It’s unattractive. Especially in the face of achieving something great and being recognized for it.

But persistence has a price.

Everything you do has a trade-off to it. On one hand, giving up on common issues makes you part of the regular crowd. These people aren’t aware of the complex issues that they would face later on.

It’s like giving up at the start of a video game. You’re denying yourself the tougher levels later in the game.

But if you persist, you’ll be able to overcome those challenges and progress further in the game naturally.

But it’s here where that price comes in. Say in the game you face a really difficult spot that puts you back to start every single time. With persistence alone, you’re not able to overcome it and refuse to quit.

You’re also failing to learn.

When it comes to our own lives, sometimes we don’t see our ideas or vision matching reality. And our attempts at persisting with that idea simply isn’t going to work.

A prime example is people making a Laser Eyes Campaign in order to keep Bitcoin prices afloat after Elon Musk bought $1.5 billion dollars worth. While the persistence to keep the price going up the reality is people aren’t that convinced of Bitcoin.

Even after companies are making big moves to invest in it.

And as you’d expect, the price has dropped and people wasted time, energy and money on this.

But what we don’t think about with persistence is how that persistence affects things beyond that. Maybe you don’t have a lot of money to spare and see Bitcoin as a financial out. Seeing the price drop can make you miss paying bills and regret your decision for doing something reckless.

Or maybe you persist through scam after scam trying to find the system that works in Bitcoin. You’d spend ample of time, money, and energy on this and distance yourself from those around you. That could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your situation.

With persistence being a potentially bad thing that can put us into a much tougher spot than before, it’s realistic to think there are some things worth giving up on. Even if it’s something you’ve been fully committed to at some point.

It’s something that’s difficult to do because we naturally want to push through things. We want to keep going and look for new solutions.

As unattractive as it is, here are some times where giving up to do something else might be worth it in the end.

1. You Have Other Opportunities Lined Up

No single decision is made in isolation. There is always some kind of comparison done behind the scenes. Even the idea of doing nothing is a decision. That decision merely boils down to procrastinating or doing something else completely unrelated to what you have to decide.

With that in mind, giving up in a situation isn’t that bad particularly when you have other clear and sound plans in place. You may be hitting a rough patch in your weight loss journey or in your business.

That’s okay. So long as you have some other alternatives to consider.

This isn’t to say that every time you have something else to do to go and do it though. Some rough patches may need more attention. The idea is to not immediately re-attempt something if you hit a brick wall. This sign could be a sign to slow down or set aside the problem to come back to later. After all, you have other alternatives that could help solve the problem.

2. You’ve Checked How Committed You Are To Something And You’re At That Point

Another thing to consider is your level of commitment. Commitment is something that’s definitely thrown about, but everyone has their own limits and instinctively places their own levels of commitment to it.

A business idea sounds exciting and easy to commit to, but if that business idea was shady, is a product that lacks a patent, or has low capital investment, people might not be committed to the idea.

People have limits for everything and it’s worth understanding how committed you are to something from the start.

When I started my weight loss journey, I wasn’t that committed. These days though, my level of commitment to it is high. It’s at the point where I don’t find it tough to go to the gym in most circumstances.

Knowing how committed you are to something will allow you to set boundaries and have a better understanding of when it’s worth persisting or taking a breather or give up and do something else.

3. You Think Your Future Self Will Find Relief From The Situation

This is a difficult one to interpret since you have to imagine future emotions. That is difficult to do in certain scenarios, but we’ll also have a cognitive bias and lean towards the positive — thinking we’ll get through this and never consider anything else.

But if you can get past that cognitive bias, you can tap into your intuition as well as force yourself to look at the bigger picture.

In the instances where you feel regret, it’s worth considering why you’re feeling that and what can you do to ensure you improve the situation or change it for the better.

In the case of relief, it’s worth looking at your emotions. After all, the relief that you don’t have to deal with something could be due to the fact that something about your current situation isn’t sitting well with you.

Finding relief to be away from a friend could suggest the relationship is toxic.

Relief in less work could mean you’ve been overworking or burning out.

It’s so often we get attached to our current plans that giving up is something we don’t consider. We worry that things will crumble if we let ourselves go or something.

4. The Process Itself Doesn’t Align With Your Values

Goals often shift the more you work on them. As you work on goals, new problems arise and from them you gain new insights and perspectives on what is needed from you to pursue it.

Persistence is important in this as it forces us to change and become someone greater or different to complete that goal. However, those traits linger and become part of way of thinking and life.

As we set new goals, we change little by little. And even with that change is small, sometimes it leads us down a path that we don’t want and undermines the values that we had in the first place.

Persistence in work can lead to neglecting our social life — or other aspects of life for that matter. If you’re someone who values that, giving up on that is difficult or mentally impossible to do for extended periods of time.

5. The Risks Outweigh The Benefits

There are several kinds of benefits and risks associated to our actions and it’s often difficult to weigh them properly. Some of them are deep emotions while others are tangible things that we could possibly benefit from or be hindered from.

Even so, it’s worth doing this analysis once in a while when you hit a roadblock rather than rely on sheer persistence to push you through it. Weigh out the benefits and the risks associated with pursuing and giving up on something.

Going back to what I mentioned above, finding great relief in not doing something can be a wonderful thing. It’ll give you time and energy to focus on the things that do matter.

We often don’t like to think about giving up on something since with it it can bring a lot of pain and negativity with us. To that, I think we need to consider our own relationship with those things. 

Giving up is fine if you have other plans and it makes sense to. At the very least, contemplating on this can give you the breather that you need to address the various concerns that you’ve put yourself in.

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