Sometimes the internet is a little too motivational.
I can find inspirational quotes, heartwarming viral stories, and articles that improve my well-being in a span of seconds (with time to spare for finding cat GIFs). Just about everyone in the web world thinks you should never give up and work really hard until you get the right outcome.
Because sometimes we try to finish projects, pursue relationships, or make commitments for the wrong reasons:
1. We want to be right.
Seems easier to force-finish a project than sacrifice the tiniest morsel of pride.
2. We want equal rewards for equal work.
It’s called the “sunk cost fallacy” in the business world. The problem is that the rewards may not be guaranteed, and the work has already been performed—so we’ll keep waiting (and working) until we see the payoff, even if it never comes.
3. We can’t deal with loss.
In fact, we would rather produce a bad outcome than nothing at all (even if it means saving time, effort, money, or emotional distress).
Your “never give up” attitude isn’t as inspirational as you think—it’s inefficient. It burns you out. It keeps you from working on ideas that set your passion ablaze. And while you should still follow through on most endeavors in your life, you should just give up in these three situations:
1. You need to focus on something more important
People love to use deadbeat boyfriends in sunk cost examples, so let’s say you have to choose between Mr. Wrong (with whom you have spent five years) and a new job offer across the country. This job has high salary and promotional opportunities, but human psychology says you would probably stay with the deadbeat because you invested more time with him and you want to believe your relationship is going somewhere.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Give up already. If you have an opportunity to better yourself in the long run, you need to prioritize it. Buh-bye, boyfriend.
2. The effort outweighs the gain
You need to lose 100 pounds, so you start running (even though you hate it). After six months of 5:00 am alarms and squeezing into spandex like it’s a hot dog casing, you have only lost about 15 pounds. Yet you continue jogging—even if a better weight loss workout exists for you—because you already put so much effort into this one.
Give up already. If you keep forcing yourself to jog, you’ll probably give up eventually anyway (and be even more disappointed).
3. It doesn’t satisfy you—and never will
In spite of your dreams to become a park ranger, your parents want a doctor in their family—so you enroll in med school for one miserable year. Can you see where this is going?
Give up already. Don’t waste time making somebody else happy, because you will all be heartbroken (even if you do reach the goal).
Even the internet knows it: plans will go awry, you will let people down, and your life will not always live up to an Instagram-able quote. You just need the personal awareness and ability to recognize when giving up means gaining more.