Everything starts with a bang.
You race out of bed each morning. Your enthusiasm flows like an endless river. Your mojo catapults you toward your dreams.
Until… you slam into the brick walls of life.
One mishap after another. One rejection too many. Each door of opportunity slams shut. Soon even the smallest obstacle leaves you defeated, powerless, luckless, and hopeless. And with your motivation dragging through the mud, you think, “I give up.”
Better safe than sorry, right?
But are you really better off giving up your dreams?
Obstacles exist. Rest assured, you’re not the first person to experience crushing defeat. Others have suffered the same downfalls. Yet they endured the hardship and persevered their way through.
And so can you.
To learn how to deal with wanting to give up and discover tools you might already possess to smash through the barriers holding you back, read on.
What is the meaning of giving up?
Giving up can have positive connotations, such as freeing yourself from unhealthy habits:
“After 20 years, he gave up smoking.”
Or relinquishing something that belongs to you:
“She gave up her day off to help a friend move to a new house.”
But, what is the meaning of giving up when you’re struggling with a goal, dream, career, venture, or relationship? In this context, you decide to quit something due to:
- The loss of hope or belief:
“She gave up all hope of winning that promotion.”
- The amount of difficulty entailed:
“She gave up trying to pass the bar exam.”
- The perceived impossibility of success:
“He gave up on his dreams of becoming a famous chef.”
Now that you’ve grasped the meaning of “I give up,” let’s discover why!
Why you feel like giving up: The secrets unveiled
Giving up is more common than you realize, but few people know the scientific reasons behind this very human response.
Biological highs and lows
When you start a new project, your brain receives a hit of dopamine, your pleasure neurotransmitter. Each success you experience as you work through your goals is another hit, playing a fundamental role in your motivation.
But that natural high crashes when you smash into your first obstacle, sparking a chemical reaction that crushes dopamine…and your spirits.
But biology is only one factor at play.
Belief systems and learned behaviors also undermine you. Here’s how:
- Learned helplessness. You think that nothing you do will change your ordeals. You learned to quit, even reject starting anything new.
- Fixed mindset. You believe in natural talent and innate abilities, meaning you stop at the first difficulties because “you don’t have what it takes.”
- Fit mindset. Nothing less than perfect is good enough, like vying for true love or the ultimate career. And if you can’t reach perfection, why try at all?
- Unrealistic optimism. Starry-eyed expectations blind you to potential obstacles, leaving you an easy target for overload when setbacks strike.
Mental health and giving up
Extreme physical or psychological conditions can also push you to give up.
Prolonged anxiety, acute depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are a few examples of mental health issues that can contribute to giving up.
And when discouragement persists, you might fall prey to give-up-itis, a complete withdrawal from life.
Personal, surprising truth
While biology, psychology, and physiology all factor into giving up, a more subtle, personal truth can sabotage your perseverance. When you give up, you’re not merely abandoning a dream, goal, or opportunity. You’re giving up on yourself.
There, I said it.
Look, if realizing a dream was easy, everyone would do it.
And those overnight success stories? They are anything but. Most are the result of years of hard work beset by setbacks, frustrations, and, yes, failure.
The most important things in life are hard. And while your struggles don’t define you, they change you. But when you accept and rise to the challenge, only then do you mature and grow into a determined individual.
So stretch yourself. Get out of your comfort zone, face your inner demons, ride the waves of fear. Greatness lies beyond life’s difficulties.
And the successful know this. They didn’t give up.
So why should you?
What are the signs of giving up: 8 sneaky symptoms
Giving up doesn’t arrive out of the blue.
It sneaks up on you.
But you can avoid plunging down that rabbit hole when you heed the signs of giving up:
- Procrastination: If you keep putting tasks off for another day and miss important milestones, that’s a sign you’re spiraling downwards. Procrastination is okay, but when it turns into a habit, watch out.
- Loss of joy: You can’t get out of bed, personal hygiene is optional, eating becomes a chore, and your social life…what social life? Face it, your dream is drying up.
- Justification: When you justify your procrastination, your loss of joy, and lack of drive, shift your perception before you’re too late.
- Rationalization: Sure, go ahead. Find those reasons for quitting: “It’s too hard. This is a waste of time. It wasn’t meant to be.” The only person you’re fooling is yourself.
- Comparison: When you compare yourself to others, you’re stealing your motivation to carry on. Each person is unique, so focus on you and ignore the rest.
- Commitment/sacrifice avoidance: You’re afraid to commit to your dreams because something or someone better might come along. Or your fear of sacrificing time and energy for a dream that won’t bear fruit holds you back. But you never know until you try….
- Complacency: The mundane tasks, the day-to-day, and the boring-yet-secure bits of life keep your goal far, far away. Time to refocus your efforts and shake things up.
- Cynicism: “Life isn’t fair. You can’t trust others. Nothing matters after what you’ve been through.” But if you can replace some of that cynicism with an ember of hope, you can spark your motivation back to life.
But what if you’re ready to throw in the towel? Is it OK to give up?
Is it OK to give up?
You’ve already heard the stubborn success stories:
K. Rowling pitched Harry Potter 12 times before she landed a publisher. And after being kicked off his high-school basketball team, Michael Jordan practiced and trained until he became one of the greatest sports stars of all time.
So, in a society that celebrates go-getters, is it OK to give up?
No one hears about the withered dreams, the trashed careers, or the failed endeavors behind most success stories.
But they exist.
And the best examples learned to metamorphosize:
- Fashion designer Vera Wang didn’t make the U.S. Olympics’ figure-skating team,
- Celebrated actor Harrison Ford started as a carpenter,
- Italian fashion icon Giorgio Armani dropped out of medical school.
There’s no magic formula to transform a pot-holed alley into a golden-paved highway. However, the right strategies can reveal your best route toward a fulfilling life and answer a more pressing question: when should you give up?
When should you give up? 3 powerful strategies to know when to quit or persist
Now that you know throwing in the towel is acceptable, when is it OK to give up? Use these powerful tactics to decipher the right time to change directions or stay the course:
1. Create a pros-and-cons list.
Write your problem at the top of a piece of paper, then divide the sheet in half. On one side, list the pros of persisting with your goal, on the other side, the cons.
When should you give up? When the sacrifices and risks far outweigh the rewards.
For example, you might do anything to reach your goal, like sacrificing your health, friends, or family. But, even if you reach that dream, what will you have left?
Instead, when the pros tip the scales, carry on!
2. Design a goal-value alignment chart.
Core values guide your life choices and act as a moral compass. So when a goal clashes with a value, it’s time to rethink your desires.
To design your chart, draw two columns. List your top-three core values in one column, and your goal with its respective action steps in the other.
If you find no conflict of interest, then persist.
But suppose your chart looks like this:
If you don’t have enough time to spend with your family because you’re working overtime and juggling multiple projects, your alignment is out of whack.
So either reassess that goal or choose another action that better aligns with more family time and a healthier work-life balance.
3. Keep a choice journal.
A wise choice is long remembered and revered, but bad choices are quickly forgotten… and repeated.
You might run into the same walls without realizing it. So recording your decisions will help you track mistakes and hone greater self-awareness for future choices.
These strategies can reveal fears, doubts, and truths you may be denying.
So when should you give up? When one of these methods triggers any relief or motivation at the mere idea of giving up, then stop…
“I’m done, I give up!” How to turn disappointment into opportunity
It’s not giving up when you change directions. Think of it as a course correction.
And this transition doesn’t have to be painful if you know how to adjust your goals:
Go easy on yourself: When you think, “I’m done I give up,” withhold self-judgment, take your time, and stay hopeful while you explore your options and calculate your next move.
Be aware: Directions can change many times over a lifetime. As you mature, so will your needs, desires, and values. Embrace the possibility of being a generalist as studies prove that versatility is the way to success.
Live with integrity: As you explore the options, choose goals, desires, and dreams that align with your principles. Walk your talk from the beginning to lay a foundation of integrity.
Be brave: It takes courage to give up on a long-hungered dream. And it takes resilience to transform that disappointment into opportunity.
Learn from your mistakes: Take stock of all the experience, skills, and knowledge you gained chasing the impossible dream. Then use them to your advantage in your new goal.
Stay grounded: Remember that transitions have their obstacles, too. Plan for them! This time you’ll be ready for the challenges.
Once you let go of the stigma and shame of giving up, and embrace the opportunities, you’ll find clarity and courage to forge a fresh path.
When NOT to give up: The bitter consequences of quitting too soon
Imagine that Thomas Edison gave up after his many failed attempts at electrical illumination. Or Abraham Lincoln stopped running for office after his first political defeat.
They probably thought, “I give up.” But what would the world look like today if either of them had quit?
Yes, you may not be the next Lincoln or Edison, but you’ll never learn what you could achieve if you give up today.
While the same strategies of pros and cons and value-goal alignment can help you stay centered, the elusiveness of success may still prevent you from persevering.
And if success is nowhere near in sight, why carry on?
Because you have a choice.
A choice to live or exist. A choice to either be the driver of your life or the passenger.
And when you’re a driver, you’ll do everything in your power to make sure you follow those tracks of hopes and dreams to the end. Even when some paths take a long time and others might lead nowhere fast, you won’t give up.
Because success isn’t about goal achievement. It’s about your willingness to try that creates effort, and effort creates meaning, and meaning is the bliss of life.
You could blossom in your dream career or help others flourish. The consequence of giving up too soon is that you will never know…
…unless you persevere.
And the same applies to relationships. So if you’re on the brink of giving up on love forever, think again…
When you want to give up on love: 3 questions to ask before closing your heart forever
Heartbreak is devastating.
One of the most arduous challenges to overcome, heartache makes you want to give up on love altogether.
But if you close your heart today, you risk isolating yourself forever.
Science proves that a healthy, loving relationship provides many mental and physical benefits. So why deprive yourself of both health and emotional wealth?
You can heal your heart if you want to.
So ask yourself the following questions before you give up on love:
1. What’s your story?
Brené Brown, research professor and author of Rising Strong, says that deceptive self-talk weakens your ability to deal with change and manage fluctuating emotions.
Is your inner narrative corrupting your behavior and decisions?
For example, if you tell yourself you are unworthy of love after a terrible relationship, then this internal story blinds you to healthy opportunities, preventing any chance at mutual understanding, support, or love.
To better discover the tall tales you’re spinning in your head, Brown suggests writing your stories down on paper, then reread them.
2. What is the truth?
Your perceptions and emotions are not the truth. And I can prove it to you.
Reread the story you’ve written, but pretend it’s a letter from a friend. Is this the truth? Would you agree with your friend’s story?
Of course not!
Your story justifies wanting to give up, but it’s not reality.
Treat yourself like your best friend. Forgive yourself for self-inflicted mental and emotional abuse. Let go of your destructive stories and past hurts. Find the facts, internalize them, and move on.
3. What do you need to try again?
What do you need to start over after heartbreak?
For example, you might require time to distance yourself from the previous relationship and reflect. Or you might want support from friends and family—having trusted people around you can help heal a wounded heart.
Even a therapist can prove powerful, depending on how deep the pain resides.
Whatever you need to start over, choose with compassion.
When you show yourself the respect and care you deserve, you’ll no longer want to give up on love. And you can open your heart again to the infinite possibilities of a healthy relationship that’s waiting for you.
How not to give up: Perseverance 101
Even the most daunting of obstacles will crumble when you make the decision to not give up. This is the power of perseverance.
In his book, The Obstacle is The Way, author Ryan Holiday shares how the barriers blocking you can reveal the way forward:
1. Have 20/20 vision
Panic, anxiety, and despair can ambush you, blinding you to opportunities and solutions. Like in a nightmare, you see no escape.
But it’s precisely in hard times that maintaining a clear perspective is important to reveal paths that could remain hidden.
For example, you’re about to have an interview for that promotion, but the case study you prepared on your computer crashes.
What do you do?
You might feel trapped on a dead-end street, but when you pause and center in tranquillity, you can detect various doorways to deliver your message:
- Ask for a flip chart and recreate key points through hand-drawn images,
- Use storytelling instead of slides,
- Roleplay the case study with the interviewers acting as your sounding board.
The key to maintaining an objective point of view when you’re waylaid is to stay calm. And to boost your level-headedness and sharp outlook, try practicing mindfulness, meditation, mantras, breath-work, or journaling.
2. Play the long game
Make every action count because you’re playing a long game, one where you’ll need strategies, skills, and flexibility to win.
Simon Sinek, author of The Infinite Game, recommends adopting an infinite mindset—playing the game for posterity’s sake and not for temporary satisfaction or individual gains.
Let’s say you want to become an entrepreneur for the independence this would provide and for the potential to earn more money.
Instead, ask yourself how this endeavor will benefit your loved ones, your community, and society. You will find answers you overlooked until now, and advantages to either solidify your goals or help identify other strategies to achieve them.
Base your decisions on the big picture. Because purposeful actions create a life of purpose.
3. Invest in your willpower
Have the will to succeed.
When your convictions are stronger than your doubts, obstacles transform from barriers into bridges. And if you cannot rustle up the grit necessary for yourself, then shower confidence on the goal itself.
For example, you want to be a writer, but believe you lack talent.
Yet you’ve read thousands of books and still haven’t come across anything like the tales inside you waiting to be told. So you trust that the world needs to hear your stories. And you breathe life into your dream through sheer force of will as you ignore the self-doubts.
When you see difficulties as signposts instead of roadblocks, you discover the will and the ways to persevere.
3 things to remember when you’re tired and want to give up
Tackling another day of hardship proves daunting. Smiling to hide your anxiety becomes exhausting. And summoning the faith to persevere leaves you heartbroken.
Sometimes the struggle crawls under your skin, latching on, draining any energy you have left.
So when you’re tired and want to give up, remembering these three truths will supercharge your spirits:
1. Your why moves mountains.
Remember why you began. What motivated you to choose this road?
You probably had more than one reason.
Did fame or fortune spur you on? Most likely a more profound, underlying force guided you here.
Suppose you became a doctor because of the great medical care that saved your life as a child and because you desire the same prestige those doctors had. But deep down, you want to save others, to give back the life you received.
When you live with purpose, you create meaning not only for yourself but for everyone. And everyone benefits.
So take stock of the progress you’ve made, no matter how small. Your dreams might take more time than expected or be more difficult than you imagined, but true paths are never straight or clean.
2. Frustration is OK!
You’re human, not a machine that needs fixing. You don’t have to be perfect, nor keep everything under control.
Let yourself go: yell, cry, stomp your feet, beat the walls. You’re not helping yourself when you bottle up emotions.
When you’re tired and want to give up, forgive yourself for your weaknesses and mistakes.
And when you’ve pushed through all that pent-up passion, remember this: if you can get through this, you can get through anything.
3. Nothing lasts forever.
Life is change and difficulties will always exist.
So those setbacks you’re struggling with now? They’re preparing you for the next roadblock.
You can choose to face your challenges or buckle. But realize this—even if you give up now, you’ll find that same challenge in your life in another shape or form again and again and again….
Until you confront it.
And when you accept the challenge, you’ll be the Bionic Woman or Million Dollar Man: stronger, wiser, bolder, and braver than before in overcoming adversity.
When you remember these hard times won’t last, you’ll find the verve to press on.
How do you deal with wanting to give up on life? A personal roadmap
Depression can crash-land you in an abyss of no return, making you think, “I give up…. everything.”
How do you deal with wanting to give up on life?
Though mental health issues like prolonged depression, acute anxiety, and severe trauma can all trigger suicidal tendencies, anyone can succumb to giving up on life.
So if you’re contemplating suicide, then stop right here and get help now. Call your local emergency number and follow their advice. There’s also the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline as well as an extensive list of international numbers here.
Then, when you’re ready, here’s a plan for dealing with wanting to give up on life and everything:
1. Know the signs
Never underestimate your feelings or behavior. Because recognizing the signals could save you or a friend in time.
Common clues include:
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Substance abuse
- Severe loss of motivation
- Extreme mood swings
- Unusual Communication:
- Talk of being a burden or feeling trapped
- Talk about suicide or researching suicide methods
2. Breathe, breathe, breathe
Stop whatever you’re doing and focus on your breath.
Breathe slowly and deeply. The boxed breathing technique—inhaling for 4 seconds and exhaling for 4—can provide calm even in the darkest of mental or emotional storms.
Remember that your breath is the most powerful tool to stay present without ruminating on the past or the future. Your breath is the greatest gift in your life.
So breathe into the pain. Then breathe it out, letting it go.
Your breath may be all you have right now, but it’s enough. Because you are enough, just as you are.
3. Acknowledge, accept, and repeat
Acknowledge and accept that you’ve spiraled into a dark place.
Acknowledge and accept the time, patience, and self-compassion needed to return to form.
Acknowledge and accept the help to recover your will to live and persevere through the difficulties.
Acknowledge and accept that you can do this. Because you’re not alone.
4. Seek help today
Vulnerability is a strength when you seek counseling.
If you don’t know a good therapist, ask a friend or family member who may already be in therapy.
You can also find local groups that can provide mutual support to sustain you over time.
5. Ask for support
Once you’ve identified the right therapy, make a list of people you trust who you’ll ask to support you.
This is what social resilience looks like.
Tell them you need their help more than ever right now. Tell them you may or may not want advice, but you need their guidance and support until you’re entirely capable of living on your own again. Tell them you want them to listen, understand, accept, and love you.
You can get through even the darkest of moments when you take the first step.
And when armed with the proper support, self-acceptance, and self-compassion, you’ll conquer that darkness and find the path to love your life again.
10 “I Give Up” quotes that will inspire you to carry on (And thrive)
When “I give up” skips like a broken record through your head, stopping that mind-numbing thought is challenging. But sometimes all it takes to find your groove again is inspiration. And these ten quotes can help reignite your inner fire.
- “Success isn’t about believing in yourself. It’s about standing there, knees trembling, certain you will fail… But stepping forward anyway.” ― Jon Morrow
“Don’t worry about mistakes and failures, worry about what you’re giving up when you don’t even try.” ―Marc and Angel
- “Focus more on your desire than on your doubt, and the dream will take care of itself.” ― Mark Twain
“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” ― Michael Jordan
- “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” ― Confucius
- “Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.” ― Jane Addams
“Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day whispering ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” ― Mary Anne Radmacher
- “Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.” ― Charlie Jones
“We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to.” ― Brené Brown
- “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” ― Vincent Van Gogh
3 potent prevention tactics to never give up on yourself again
So you’ve marched on, determined to persist….
Until self-doubt gnaws at your willpower, sapping your resolve once again.
How do you avoid self-sabotage?
When you know how to prevent wrecking your efforts, you can keep your determination, grit, and resilience alive.
And these sure-fire strategies will prevent you from wanting to give up on yourself again:
1. Burn your mental map.
Are you ashamed because you’re not where you expected to be?
If so, let that guilt trip go. Because most roadblocks aren’t your fault.
You can’t control what life throws at you, but you can control your reactions.
Forget your projections and calculations. Milestones are fantastic, but they’re not made of concrete.
Loosen your expectations and create a new map, one where you can pivot and change your checkpoints based on recent occurrences or sudden blocks.
Practice self-compassion as you remain flexible to future changes.
And remember, there’s always more than one way to bake a cake.
2. Leverage the right support.
Yes, asking for help may seem difficult.
But when you reach out to the right guides, life becomes easier, brighter, and lighter. Because the right people will:
- support you while holding you accountable,
- understand without judging you,
- listen without patronizing you,
- believe in you!
So choose trusted people who will be honest with you, like close friends or family members. Or find yourself a mentor—someone in your network who has the experience and wisdom you require.
If your family, friends or people in your network aren’t viable choices, reach out to a qualified coach, therapist, counselor, or psychologist.
You don’t always have to have ALL the answers. Self-reliance is great, but true strength means leveraging all the tools available, including your genuine connections.
3. Trust the possibilities.
Fears are mental mosquitoes.
They ambush and disarm you, buzzing in your ears when you least expect it, biting you raw until you can no longer stand it. Persistent and ever-present, yet always out of reach.
But you can catch them before they strike again.
Often, fears translate to a lack of faith—you don’t believe in yourself, your dreams, or success.
Instead, believe in your determination, efforts, and willpower to reveal the possibilities before you. This steadfast belief will calm undermining fears, reinforce your perseverance, and keep you from wanting to give up on yourself again.
Is giving up the same as letting go?
Giving up and letting go are not the same.
When you give up, you no longer take action toward a dream, a cause, or a goal.
Letting go, however, means to release something or someone that is either holding you back or no longer serves you. You might cling to a false idea or belief, or a destructive relationship, until you discover it’s doing you more harm than good:
“She let go of perfectionism because it only increased her anxiety.”
Is giving up the same as giving in?
Although they seem similar, giving up and giving in are different.
When you give up, you surrender your actions, objects, or causes.
Instead, when you give in:
- you surrender your control, yielding to another person or circumstances,
“She’s giving in to her children’s whining and is buying them ice cream.”
- you allow something to happen that you previously resisted,
“She gave in to the urge to laugh out loud in the library.”
- you deliver something,
“She gave in the required documents to process her visa.”
Is it normal to feel like giving up?
If this is the first obstacle you’ve faced in life, you might be unprepared. So giving up will seem foreign to you.
But it’s normal to feel like giving up.
You’re fallible, like everyone else. Plus, you have emotional baggage, a unique background, and cultural and societal norms that influence your actions, reactions, and behavior. So you might be more or less prone to giving up.
But don’t despair, because you’ve got this.
Explore why you want to give up. And practice self-awareness to increase your mental and emotional clarity and reclaim your personal power.
Is giving up a sign of depression?
Though it could be an early sign of depression, not everyone who wants to give up is depressed.
If you want to give up on a goal or a dream, understand why you’re demotivated or stuck in a rut.
But if you’re giving up on trying to feel better about yourself or life, then therapy or counseling can help you carry on.
Be mentally strong to carry on (And never give up on yourself again)
Yes, life has dealt you a bad hand. And when you’re so deflated and think, “I give up,” surrender seems like the only option.
But now you know why you feel like giving up and can determine if quitting is the right move or not. Once you recognize the possibilities of success, you’ll find the grit to smash through the barriers barring your way.
And you can see yourself facing future obstacles fearlessly:
Imagine rolling up your sleeves, determined and energized with the same motivation that inspired you from the start.
Imagine enthusiasm and hope filling your heart even when the chips are down.
Imagine knowing that, whatever happens, you are successful because you persevered.
You can do anything you set your mind and heart on. And when you realize this, you’ll be rocking your mojo, crushing whatever obstacles dare to cross your path.
Because you are a force to be reckoned with now that you know how not to give up.