Takeaway: Letting go is just as important as not giving up. Use the 4 steps below to find out if this is something or someone you should give up on.
Our culture encourages Grit!
Grit has been shown as an excellent selection mechanism for the military, be correlated with high-performers, and found to be extremely helpful in developing mental toughness.
But sometimes for our health and sanity, it is much better to let go and give up.
I mean it.
As a kid, I was obsessed with the idea of not giving up. But as adult, I learned how to give up when the time is right.
But when do you know the time is right? When stepping through this, I’ll give examples from my life when I changed my major and what led me to that decision.
Then, I’ll step you through several decisions in my life in this framework, so you can see how I use this in my day-to-day life.
4 Steps to Know When to Let Go
Step 1: Is this thing doing more damage to your life than it is helping?
It is extremely dangerous to pursue your goals in a void: it’s important to involve your friends and family in your decisions. When you decide to take extra time to accomplish your goals, this indirectly involves your friends and family. I regularly let my wife know what my focus is and how much time it may take. If it’s a serious undertaking, I’ll ask for help from her – which sometimes comes in the form of helping me with house chores 🙂
But over time, you’ll see a trend. Is this thing putting strain between you and your loves ones? Back in college, my only loved ones were my family and my 2 or 3 close friends.
I had low energy at work and was barely ever at home. I was driven to desperation. I was failing all my performance classes which caused me to stay up late practicing. I would wake up late, which would cause me to miss lectures. I would be so upset with myself, I’d be in a miserable mood when I went to work.
Over time, my friends and family started to wonder what was going on: I was mostly absent from events and they started to expect this absence from me. I didn’t realize it yet, but I was hurting my family and friends — the pain of absence can be strong.
So, yes, it is hurting more than helping.
Step 2: Is there a strong reason for going through this suffering?
Sometimes, there is a reason to hold onto something so fiercely it is causing pain. A good example of this from my life is when I went to graduate school: it put extra stress on my wife, but it was an investment in our future together. We talked about it before I took the weight on and battled through those 2 long years together.
If there is not a good reason, then consider giving it up! Sometimes simply allowing yourself to let go and release enormous tension from your life.
Step 3: Think about the pros and cons of letting go
Are there any benefits of staying with it?
If there’s no special reason your holding on, are there practical reasons? I felt this way with jobs in my past sometimes. This is because I was spending too much time at work, but I couldn’t just stop. I had to resolve issues at work or look for other work. In my circumstance, I was promising too much, So I had to scale back. I had to say no more often.
For changing my major, the con was losing all the time I put into my music degree, but the pro was I would feel competent at whatever I chose to do and no shadow of incompetence would hang over my head.
Step 4. Let Go, Keep On, or Plan Your Exit
Step 4: Either commit to the pain or commit to begin the healing.
If there are real, practical reasons to be stuck, then plan your way out. I couldn’t just quite being a music major: I had to figure out what I wanted to do if not be a band director. Oh, I WANTED to just stop going to class, but that would have been terrible for my gpa. Yes, I cared. My friend Eduardo in college would always say C’s make degrees, Ed. And I would reply that A’s make unicorns and I was a unicorn and I wasn’t going to change now.
But we as humans learn with examples, so I wanted to leave you with several examples from my life how I applied this framework:
- A Girlfriend of Mine: I realized we were just making each other miserable. I would talk about things I loved and she would think my love of those things were insulting her religious views. I realized that even though I was trying to help, I was hurting and she couldn’t hear me. So, I talked to her — we decided together that we should go separate ways. In this case step 3 and 4 work themselves out so I didn’t have to figure my own way out.
- The Warehouse Job: I worked in a beer factory during my undergraduate college days. In the beginning, it was great: everyone there worked really hard, so we often worked 20 hours and got paid for 40. But then people left, and it flipped: I was working 60 hours for 40 hours of pay. I realized I was starting to hurt my family when they said I couldn’t have time off to go to my sister’s wedding. I considered the practical implications, but I thought it was too important. I let go of the job and quit.
- Being a Perfectionist: Life isn’t meant to be perfect and you can’t always be right. I realized this. Often, my search for perfectionism would cause damage to myself — negative self-talk or self-hate. So, I let go of it. I made a plan: every time I found myself correcting for perfectionism, I would put $20 into savings. That first month was expensive, but it made me realize how much I wasn’t allowing myself to simply fail at anything. This one was more subtle, but all the more rewarding.
I hope my little parables were helpful to you. If you find yourself struggling to let go, my door is always open: don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like my help!
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