How do you know when it’s time to throw in the towel?
As football season is back upon us, I’m going to talk about some old news. It was 8 months ago that we watched the Patriots pull out the ultimate comeback. It was so inspiring. They were so far behind, a win seemed impossible. At this point they could have easily given up. But they didn’t. And they won. It was a beautiful reminder that we should always keep fighting, no matter what. It’s true. In fact, it’s one of the most true things we know. Journeys can be hard, but it’s often the struggle that bring us our greatest rewards. Besides, who wants to be a quitter?
But what if there are times when it’s better to give up than to keep fighting?
Sometimes giving up may be exactly the thing we need to do. Maybe it’s letting go of having to win an argument or turning back on your climb to Mount Everest because you could die! Or maybe it’s knowing that your career isn’t working for you. Sometimes it is in our best interest to give up.
Sometimes giving up isn’t about quitting, but instead it’s about having the courage to push ourselves in ways we never thought possible.
The challenge is in the knowing. When do you decide it’s time to move on? How do you know you’ve given enough to justify letting go? I spent many years dedicated to my career, unwilling and unable to quit. I tried different jobs, experiencing different styles of practice. I spent thousands and thousands of dollars on premium continuing education that was supposed to give me not only practical enlightenment, but also personal enlightenment. I got involved with the local dental society. The crazy thing is I loved those other things… I loved all of it but the daily practice of dentistry. I loved the community, the learning, and the sense of purpose and hope that it all gave me. However, the daily practice of dentistry isolated me and took all of those good feelings away. For me the answer was clear, although not what I wanted. That conflict is what made the decision harder for me, but I knew it was time. It had to be time. I had invested all I was willing to invest to make it work, and I still felt empty. I didn’t have it in me to keep fighting anymore.
How do you know when is the right time to quit something?
I recently received an email from a client saying only this:
Quick question: how do you know when it’s time to do something else with your life other than this? I think I’m there.
He was looking for some advice or guidance, but the whole time he had his own answer. He knows. It’s that gut feeling that tells you. As is often the case, it gets difficult when we doubt what we really know deep down inside. It’s hard to decipher when we are guided by our intuition versus our fear. This uncertainty can paralyze us.
Giving up looks different in any situation. Giving up could be letting go of owning your dental practice to become an associate. It may mean we give up the push to earn a certain income, trading that in for working fewer hours per week and spending more time with the family. Maybe it means leaving private practice to teach at a dental school. Or maybe it means leaping into an entirely new career. Either way, giving up doesn’t have to mean you are a failure, but instead it can simply mean you are allowing space for something better to come along.
Sometimes we confuse the idea that fighting and pushing on is the more noble, courageous thing to do, but that isn’t always so. Sometimes the more courageous thing to do is to give up and let go of the familiar in order to create change.
When pushing and fighting is keeping you stuck, maybe that’s the time to let go and free up some space to find your win. What do you think?