What’s the Difference Between Giving Up and Moving On?

Making a fuss about perseverance…

I’ve been struggling with a job that doesn’t quite fit me. Many things about it provide the right kind of feedback – enough that I’d really like to make it work. Other parts have rubbed my nerves raw where I’d rather not get up in the morning. And so – am I failing the persistence test if I leave, or am I facing what isn’t working?


Keep on keeping on

“Quitters never win, and winners never quit”; “Edison tested over ten thousand light bulb designs before he found one that worked”; “Never Give Up” – these are the kinds of things that people say to inspire others to keep on keeping on. Even Jack Canfield who I have previously lauded for the Success Principles has a chapter titled “Practice Persistence…Never Give Up”.

How many people abandon a project just before success? Most every thing in life requires some exertion in order to achieve success. We’ve all seen people that start and stop projects at the drop of a hat – they don’t work at it long enough to see the fruits of success, and their history of abandoning projects leaves them questioning everything. And on the other side –

Moving on…

It is quite possible that we hold on to many things much too long. Later on, Jack’s book includes the “Face What Isn’t Working” chapter … Some times we should put things behind us, and face the reality of a situation. Situations like: when a relationship is over and one party just doesn’t get it; the memory of a past glory (or failure); or perhaps in my case, a job that isn’t quite right…

It is certainly possible for most anyone to do just about anything – if they’re really committed to it – but that doesn’t mean that it will happen, or that it will happen overnight. I’m pretty sure my neighbor could climb Mount Everest if he really wanted to and prepared himself for the task, but it’s not reasonable to expect it to happen immediately.

I’m not sure about the frequency of this behavior compared to the early quitters, but I’d bet that there are just as many people that cannot face the reality that the specific thing they are aiming for just isn’t going to happen.

Each in their own place

The seed to that differentiation is contained in Edison’s example above.

Goals in life are important, we need them to focus our efforts and to give us something to strive for. Without reasonable goals to work towards, we’d feel lost and adrift. But equally important to the goal itself is the path traveled towards that goal. Edison tried ten thousand different experiments before he got to the working light bulb. He didn’t try the same experiment ten thousand times trying to get a different result.

What is your driving purpose?

The one thing that differentiates between seeming foolish for giving up too early and foolish for hanging on too long is motivation. Edison wasn’t trying to perfect a single light bulb experiment; he was trying to get the concept of a light bulb to work.

And the situation is complicated when multiple parties are involved – like in a relationship. At one time both people may have wanted to commit to being together, but if one is truly no longer interested, the other can’t make it happen no matter how hard they try. (And yes, getting to the point of realizing that it is over should involve a whole lot of discussion and soul-searching, and should not be taken lightly…)

In my case, the job I have is important to my life, but it does not define my life. It is part of the path I take to achieve my goal; it’s not the actual goal. Moving on from one thing that isn’t working (my job) isn’t giving up on the goal (my life), it is realizing that I’m about to reach a fork in the path and need to choose differently…

It’s a fair question to ask – just know how you’re answering it

Approaching something that you are struggling with can be difficult, and clearly there is stress coming at you from every side. The question to ask before working through or walking out of a situation is – does this represent who and what I want to be, or is this just a milestone in the path of my life, one that I’m ready to leave behind me?

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