Quitting and giving up may seem the same but they’re not. They are two different forms of letting go.
Quitting is our decision to let go or pull the plug on something that is not serving its intended purpose.
Giving up is when we hand our decision to a voice that tells us we should stop. Even though we still value and desire the thing we are holding.
It’s Hard To Give Up On Sunk Costs
The sunk cost fallacy is the tendency to hold onto something because of the money, energy, and time we’ve put into it. Even though it no longer serves its original purpose.
It is hard to grasp the alternative options when we become immersed in sunk cost attachment.
When to Quit, and When Not to Give Up
We quit when we become aware that the thing we need to let go has given up on us. Quitting is a rational and affirmative decision to relinquish the thing in question. Despite the sunk costs that are buried within.
The sunk cost fallacy turns us into the gambler who believes that they can claw back the lost resource by using more of the problem to solve the problem.
“The big win is coming”, we tell ourselves, while sinking further into debt.
When we are caught in this mindset we see the moment we quit as the moment we lose. Rather than the moment, we lost as the moment to choose whether or not to quit. And if we don’t quit, we’ll be forced to give up when we’ve lost everything.
Quitting Is a Muscle
It’s hard to pull the plug on something we feel has been taken from us unjustly or without adequate reward. But it’s a wonderful muscle to build. We can become OK with walking away from those things that no longer make sense or serve their purpose in the bigger picture.
This is another key difference between giving up and quitting. Quitting is an act of gentleness to ourselves. Whereas giving up is a passive form of violence towards ourselves.
Building the quitting muscle requires us to know what truly matters to us. And to weigh those things against the value from those things in which we’ve invested. Knowing this stuff helps us to cut our losses. Where we are free to relinquish the attachment we have to the money, energy, care, time, attention, that we’ve spent over the years. And then we can let go.
When we know what truly matters we build another muscle. A deep sense of awareness of where we must persist, even when there are voices tempting us to give up. These influences might be internal, showing up as fear, uncertainty, or pain.
They might be external, such as another person’s decision to leave you out of something. A piece of criticism. Or injury and illness. These influences might leave us feeling like we’ve got no choice but to quit. But it’s not the case that we should definitely let go in the face of a setback. It’s a chance to listen and observe.
What Is The Message Telling us?
Our fear might be communicating how much this really means. It might be showing us something that we hadn’t previously considered. An injury or illness might be a chance to stop and finally listen to what our body has been trying to warn us about. Maybe we’ve been running ourselves into the ground. And this is a good opportunity to consider what truly matters.
We give up when we give power to those voices, without listening to what they are gently telling us. Maybe it is time to let go of this particular pursuit. Perhaps we have to. But what might we do instead?
If we hold onto the lost dream we can become blind to the other possibilities. For example, there are many stories of rugby referees who changed paths after injury or illness. They had to quit dreaming of playing professional sports. And in so doing they opened up their vision to other ways to serve the underlying desire.
Giving up is pulling out because we feel afraid. It’s throwing everything and turning our back on the dream, because of a setback, disappointment, or bad review. There’s a big difference between giving up and quitting. Giving up diminishes our power, whereas quitting puts us on a firm foundation.
We give up on what truly matters to us. We quit the things that no longer serve what truly matters to us.
If we want to build a life of personal meaning and deep sensory satisfaction, we need to recognise the difference between giving up and quitting.