As a rule, I do not watch television, mostly because I am just too busy and I find most programs to be boring and repetitive. But for some reason, on a Saturday afternoon, in between vacuuming and dusting, I was drawn to a program about emergency rooms and the daily routine of the medical staff working in an environment of high stress , life- saving decisions, and care and compassion. In this episode, an emergency room doctor continued to administer treatment to a cardiac arrest patient for over 45 minutes and even though the medical team was exhausted, the doctor did not want to give up. The doctor shared her life experience of losing both parents to heart disease and understanding the devastating impact on a family when the loss is so sudden and unexpected. What led her to continue treatment beyond a reasonable time is because she did not want to break the news to the patient’s family that she failed to save his life. Finally, wet with perspiration, breathing heavy, and drained, the doctor stopped all lifesaving procedures and announced the patient’s time of death. In that very moment, something miraculous happened, the patient had a slight pulse and… well, then I went back to my Saturday ritual of cleaning hoping that my doctor would hold the same mindset to never give up if the need ever arises. However, even though persistence, despite obstacles and failure, often result in unbelievable success, one thing you should know is that the worst advice ever given may actually be NEVER GIVE UP!
Knowing that from a very early age, I was always told that if I make a commitment to do something, I must stay true to my commitment from beginning to end. I could never give myself an option to reconsider because I am not a quitter, or at least I thought. My inner voice would whisper, no shout, “No one likes a quitter. “Only a loser gives up.” Needless to say, knowing that I could not quit made me think twice about what obligations I wanted to have on a long term basis in my life. Of course, holding a strong value of commitment, I probably judged everyone’s behavior from my perspective. Well, not probably, most certainly I often made judgment statements about quitters. Maybe you have experienced people who give up in the workplace, you know the employee who just walks out, or in school, the student who drops the course after the first class, or in sports, after a team loss, the player who throws down his helmet and walks away. Of course, everyone knows that never giving up is a true testament of character and the secret to success. Consider that winners never give up, high achievers never give up, and champions never give up. Because I was so fearful of giving up and held true to a never give up mindset, I stayed at jobs that I should have quit, continued bad relationships because I couldn’t bear the thought of acknowledging failure, and continued to engage in habits that were unproductive and energy drainers, to say the least.
Then again, to never give up is such a noble quality and is associated with success, achievement, and recognition. In contrast, the belief about giving up is that it is such a disgraceful act that is linked to guilt, low self- esteem, and an untrustworthy character. That is why giving up may be so difficult for many people because success requires perseverance and tenacity; therefore, giving up is equivalent to failing and who intentionally wants to fail? The reason we struggle with the definition of never giving up is because of our mental model, what our mind perceives as reality learned through experience. For this reason, to never give up is such bad advice because if you have been conditioned to believe that never giving up is positive behavior and giving up is negative behavior, the ability to give up habits, thoughts, and actions that have worn out their usefulness is a struggle and downright painful. As a result of this type of thinking, I continued to hang on to what was no longer working or adding value to goal achievement because of my association with the negative definition.
After all, think about all of the famous people who practiced never giving up. Walt Disney was rejected over and over because he was told that he lacked creativity, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein did poorly in school and was labeled as stupid, and Michael Jordan did not make his basketball team in high school. Certainly, these people never gave up or did they? What did they give up that led to their success? Success occurs when you understand what needs to be stopped, changed, or eliminated so that you can pursue your vision. Steve Jobs understood what it meant to give up, “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
How many times would you need to answer “no” to change something? What could you give up in order to achieve your goal? What must you let go to move toward your vision? What is holding you back from living your dream and following your passion? If you are stuck in the “never give up” mental model, perhaps there is some anxiety, maybe quite a bit of anxiety, about giving up anything regardless of the approach, relationships, or habits that are not working. Under those circumstances, giving up is probably not a first, second, or even a third option. In my experience, giving up , letting go of the pieces of the past that have no room in the present or future, was a huge obstacle that hindered movement toward my vision. Giving up, as bad as this may sound, is really a necessary function of the transformational change process. By reframing the purpose of giving up from what I will lose to what will I gain gives your mental model a knee jerk and a new thought pattern and can lead to the discovery of hidden strengths and unlimited potential.
Therefore, “never give up” may not always be the best advice because the phrase connects deeply with our mental model of success and failure. Instead a better approach to success is to embrace your dreams, values, and people who support you and sweep away the cobwebs, tangles, and debris that are holding you back from reaching your full potential and becoming who you are meant to be. Better advice?