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Blind Optimism & When To Give Up

I've been running a long time (since I was 12), and I recently flipped the annual life page to number 27, which means I've been an active participant in the sport for over half my life. One thing I've seen, time and time again, is that runners are hopeful people. We set big goals and chase them with fervor, but some of us are smarter than others. Some of us train/plan/rest, and generally speaking, set ourselves up for success. Meanwhile, some of us embrace the, "I can do anything I set my mind to!" attitude that often eludes the actual work it requires to do-anything-we-set-our-minds-to.

Americans in general embrace an overly optimistic attitude that often creates passivists rather than activists. The attitude that anything-is-possible does us a huge disservice by pushing us further from reality. You can do many things you set your mind to, absolutely, but you cannot do anything. You can't, I can't, nobody can. And in the quest to do anything-we-set-our-minds-to, we often pursue things we're not good at, or refuse to give up things we aren't passionate about because, "we can do it!" Optimism is an innate human trait that helps us get out of bed in the morning and stay motivated to tackle life's challenges. Optimism keeps us moving, but blind optimism is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Giving up is normal. It's totally fine and should be just as embraced as not giving up. Here's why: sometimes, we try new activities or dive into subjects that turn out to be uninteresting. Often, we don't give up these pursuits because we feel an awful lot of shame and guilt for giving up. It doesn't makes sense to never give up. You should give up many times throughout your life, because giving up things you don't want anymore frees up space and time for things you DO want.

Below are seven signs that you should probably give up. These have been gathered from across the wide world of Google, so if you have a problem with them, you can call the big G directly (their customer support line is: 1-866-246-6453).

1. When you become genuinely, irrevocably unhappy.

Lingering unhappiness is a pretty clear sign to get out of dodge. Pursuing your goals should bring you more joy than angst. If not, you're probably doing something wrong.

2. When you don’t want that thing (or person) anymore.

Goals change because life changes. If something or someone doesn't fit in your life anymore, you have a responsibility to let that thing or person go.

3. When it isn't worth your time, or an obviously better opportunity shows up.

Sometimes, we find ourselves clinging to a dead end, sure that something will pan out yet somehow oblivious to the doors and windows opening right in front of us. When opportunities come, it's in your best interest to jump, fear and apprehension be damned.

4. When the only reason you haven’t quit is because you’re worried about what other people will think.

Trying to live up to someone else's expectation will never, ever make you happy. Doubly damning is the desire to live up to the expectations of people you don't even know. Dr. Seuss famously said, "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." You've probably seen this somewhere before, like on a commemorative t-shirt or hand-painted-art-decor-tchotchke.

5. If the thought of quitting makes you feel relieved.

Try this nifty thought experiment I often employ when deciding whether or not to purchase an item. How would your future self feel: relieved or disappointed? If the answer is relieved, you should probably give up.

6. When your intuition is pointing you somewhere else.

Our intuitions can be extremely strong and wise, if we choose to listen. Read up on how to harness the power of your intuition HERE.

7. Consider taking a break.

Maybe life isn't as black and white as we think, and quitting doesn't have to be definite. Sometimes taking a step back can help ignite the spark that drew you to your original interest. It's all trial and error, and none of us really know what we're doing.

I've started and stopped countless projects throughout my life, especially in the first couple years after graduating from college. My boyfriend at the time was extremely annoyed with my consistent waffling, primarily because he already knew (or thought he knew) what he wanted out of life. But engaging in a period of experimentation is important, and will guide you to the thing you're supposed to do. My period of experimentation led me to this blog, to ultra running, and to writing/performing my poetry.

There is an important distinction to make in all this giving up talk, though. Through my period of trial and error I never gave up on myself. I knew that if I kept trying new things, I'd land on something good. Giving up an unfullfilling job or hobby or toxic relationship isn't weakness, it's strength.

When I first moved to California about two and a half years ago, I landed a marketing job for a company that created training for body shops (weird niche, I know). The company culture was gross and toxic and misogynistic, so the entire time I worked there (about 8 weeks), I was searching for other jobs. I went on too many interviews to count, hit up networking events, and submitted countless job applications. I wanted to give up that job for a better one, and eventually I did. A blind optimist may have simply hoped that the bad employer would somehow change for the better while ignoring all signs indicating that this would never be the case.

Sometimes, giving up stability or comfortability is the only way to move forward, and if we're not moving forward, what are we doing?

P.S. Watch a TedEx video about giving up by Bri Hall, a famous artist, entrepreneur, and animator, HERE.


Sarah Rose

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