How Do I Know If I should Give Up, or Keep Going?
Is there a scientific or technical indicator we can use to determine if we should keep working on something, or simply accept that we failed, and let go?
Every experience is different, and each experiencer is unique. We don’t have definitive guidelines on persistence, and giving up.
The decision to continue doing something, or to stop, is part of the art of living, and that’s what makes every choice interesting.
In certain situations, you’d want to use all the motivation, willpower, and courage you can muster to keep going. And in other situations, you’d need strength, humility, and insight to let go and move on.
The only qualified teacher is time.
Only time can tell if we’ve made the right choice, or not. But here is a question that can help in leveraging our past experiences, and what time has taught us so far.
The one question you need to ask before you choose to give up, or keep going
This is not about being brave or weak. It’s about being honest. So the question you want to answer truthfully is:
Knowing what I know now, would I want to start this task today, or not?
Go with whatever comes to mind first. Then sit with the answer for a bit, and:
- Look into your past experiences and how you feel about them.
- Imagine your life without doing something, how would you feel?
- Imagine your life if you keep going, how would you feel?
- Notice your inner dialogue, is it assuring or fearful?
If your answer is no, then it’s time to stop, and cut your losses. If your answer is yes, it’s time to make your task a priority, and go for it with all your heart.
If your answer is “I don’t know”, then again it’s time to stop, if not for good, at least for now.
What happens next?
Let time guide you. Allow yourself to go through with the decision you made for a while, and then look within. Are you okay with the decision, or do you feel it’s not the right one for you?
Answer the question above again, and listen to your gut feeling.
There are two possibilities: You’re either on the right track, or you need to change course. Make the choice that reflects your answer to the above question today—not yesterday, or some time in the future.
Go with your new decision, and give it time. Then check in with how you feel about your progress, or decision to drop it.
You may repeat the process a few times before you reach a final decision. And that’s okay. It’s part of your learning and growth. No experience is ever a waste of time.
There is a point, however, when life ends up making the decision for you—if you ignore your experiences and feelings.
Answering the question and respecting the decision we’ve made is not easy. But we’re not alone in this. We can get help from resources that are available to us all the time.
Most trusted allies
No one can know for sure if they’re doing the right thing, or not. Other than time and experience, there are a few things that can be quite helpful, if and when needed.
Intuition: Your gut feeling is your most trusted friend. It’s the voice of your highest inner knowing. It’s always there for you, and within you. Being still and going within can help us immensely when we feel confused and lack clarity.
Values: What is important to you can guide you when in doubt. Also your values may change over time, and that can help you in deciding if you should keep doing something, or not.
Struggle: If I continue to struggle with the same issue, it means I’m either ill suited for the choice, or there are beliefs and thoughts that need to be brought to light, and dealt with. Struggle is a sign for us to stop and reflect on our choice and action.
Desire: If you stopped something, but your heart still desires it, you might’ve given up too soon. A genuine burning desire is your inner highest joy calling you. And you don’t want to ignore that call.
There are behaviors and habits that can block our intuition, and choke our desires. Taking note of the following can be helpful when weighing our options.
Ego: Doing something to prove a point, or to get attention might feel like a good thing. But in the long run it isn’t. If we function from ego driven motivations, we won’t feel fulfilled. There’s always going to be something missing, because we’re always looking to the outside for validation. Our ego can also stand in the way out of pride, or guilt—not the best of motivators. A tiny dose of ego can be helpful, but only when it’s supporting an underlying genuine desire.
Indecision: It’s much better to make the wrong choice than to make no choice at all. Indecision fuels doubt, feeds fear, and bruises the ego, making it much harder to look within and listen to our gut feeling.
Inertia: Not wanting to change is a natural tendency. We don’t want to leave the safety of the familiar, even if it’s uncomfortable. Inertia is a powerful force that can hold us back. But with practice, we can learn to move past it.
The above inner opponents, and more, are usually rooted in fearful beliefs—fear that we’re not good enough, or not worthy enough, or fear that we’ll fail. We don’t need to wage war on fear. We simply need to feel it, and then trust that we have within us the power to change, and make a different choice.
The dance of choice is the most exciting, and empowering dance. But it’s also the most daunting and taxing of all dances. We may stumble and fall, and look like fools. We may sway with grace and ease. We may stick with the same moves, or try something different.
Regardless of the choice, in the larger scheme of things, the outcome doesn’t matter—as long as we continue to dance to the beat of our truth. And that’s the ultimate success.