In the pursuit of success, we often come across the well-intentioned advice to “never give up.” While it sounds like a motivational mantra, there’s more to success than meets the eye. Let’s explore why blindly sticking to this advice might not always be the best strategy.
Be mindful of the survivorship bias
It is more likely to hear a success story than the story of a person who didn’t achieve their dream. This creates what experts call “survivorship bias”, making us believe that, if successful people say we should never give up, then success is solely about grit and perseverance. However, the reality is more complex. Success involves a mix of determination, talent, setting realistic goals, luck, resilience, and collaboration with others.
Consider reality talent shows as an analogy. You may have seen people with zero singing abilities wanting to be the next big thing in the music industry. Imagine the devastating effect the “never give up” advice can have on their life. While this may be an extreme example, it parallels people entering a professional field for the wrong reasons.
What you like is not always what you want
The human brain has different circuits processing our preferences (“like”) and our desires (“want”). This affects how we make decisions because most of us think that what we like and want are always the same. For example, someone may enjoy having a social status or earning a lot of money. This could make them say they want to work in a fast-paced environment, while not liking the inherent pressure that comes with it. Granted, they may become successful, but will they ever be happy in such a job?
My personal example is this: 20 years ago, I wanted to be a full-time writer. After publishing four books, I realized that as much as I liked the idea of living off my books, it was not what I wanted anymore. My self of sense had changed; my life circumstances had changed. And then I realized I could not be one of those full-time authors who have to publish one book per year. In my mind, authorship is a creative process, not a production line. So, why not give up?
Giving up can be liberating
As we navigate through different life stages, our priorities inevitably shift. As a married man with the cutest toddler, I no longer have the same dreams and goals as when I was single.. I made peace with giving up on my childhood dream, not as a failure (I published four books in the process) but as a demonstration of self-awareness and flexibility.
Our life is too short to pursue goals we no longer feel passionate about. Discovering that goals can change is a liberating revelation because it gives us the opportunity to start with a clean slate.
“Never give up” is the secret of success for some, but for others, it can be the reason for excruciating and endless pain. True success is a dynamic and evolving journey. It requires adaptability, recognizing that it’s acceptable for goals to change as we grow, and focusing on what truly matters to us at each unique life stage. The only approval that holds weight is from those who will remain in our life in the long run. Giving up on goals that no longer align isn’t a defeat; it’s a strategic recalibration toward what genuinely matters in our evolving journey.