"You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em"
-Johnny Cash from "The Gambler"
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it."
I had to search long and hard for a good quote that supported the idea of giving up. The above quote is like a needle in a haystack hidden among a thousand quotes that lionize persistence.
This fact is a testament to the ongoing war that exists within almost all of us between our Now and our Next. When we lionize our Next and demonize our Now, it makes perfect sense that we would worship persistence and vilify quitting.
Persistence or giving up: either one may be the best option
Yes, in many circumstances it makes sense to keep going, to try again, to not give up. And, if we've created peace between Now and Next so that Now is enjoying the process of whatever Next is going for, then persistence in our actions will be easy, especially if it makes sense to keep going.
But in other circumstances, when we learn something new that we didn't know when we made the original decision, when new circumstances arise that did not exist previously and we did not anticipate, then quitting may be our perfect new choice. I've even coined a new word that means, "choosing to give up as the best option." Check it out: Quitaverance.
The suffering that is caused by inappropriate persistence
How much damage, wreckage, and suffering is created because of persistence?
Persistence in fighting wars
Persistence in being defensive
Persistence in unhappy jobs
Persistence in unhappy schooling
Persistence in "keeping your word" no matter what
Persistence in trying to get someone to love you
Persistence in creating expectations that others will be different than the way they are
Persistence in unhappy marriages
There's even a cognitive bias that fools us into continuing to invest in things when it no longer makes sense to invest more. It's called the sunk cost fallacy.
So much suffering in the name of persistence
My mother suspected she made a mistake in marrying my father after two days of marriage. But she believed in persistence. Persistence was everything to her. And, in many parts of her life, it paid off. But even though for decades the impossibility of having a happy marriage with my father kept staring her in the face, she kept going. Finally, after 41 years of marriage, she chose big courage and said goodbye to my father. Every time we talked after that, she exclaimed to me, "Why didn't you tell me how great life was going to be without him?!"
Giving equal footing to persistence and giving up
In order to create a life that you love the living of, maintaining Now-Next Integrity, as well as Oneself-Others Integrity, both the options of persistence and giving up need to have equal footing, to be chosen appropriately according to the circumstances. Then you can honor yourself for persisting or honor yourself for giving up, whichever you choose to create and maintain both Now-Next Integrity and Oneself-Others Integrity.
Why do we worship persistence and vilify giving up?
A major reason we humans, including and especially the experts in "how to be successful," have been consistently drawn to (and sold on) the idea of worshipping persistence and vilifying giving up, is that we didn't know of a better way to achieve that success. There are so many stories of heroes who have born the burden of persistence and finally broken through into success. What we don't get are the stories of the people who persisted and suffered dearly for it without that triumphant success. We also don't get stories of those who choose courage to give up and had a much better life because of it. We have also missed seeing...me too for most of my life...that these conclusions were based upon the acceptance of the necessity of the ongoing battles between Now and Next. We had to made Next right and Now wrong, when in conflict with Next. We had to make persistence good and giving up bad.
Empowering persistence, as well as giving up, as appropriate
Now, however, through this site, you are learning that the wars between Now and Next do not need to continue. You know that they can be good allies, with each responsible for generating happiness and avoiding unhappiness, with each being responsible for different time frames.
To the extent that we can create and maintain this Now-Next Integrity, then persistence, when appropriate and needed, is easy. It's easy because we have found ways for Now to be happy with the processes and actions that will lead Next toward what she or he wants. Additionally, Next will be empowered because it will be much easier to make accurate assessments of when to keep going or to give up (or whatever creative options may exist) because we have already won by enjoying the process and we are holding neither Now nor Next as the good guy or bad guy.
The first thing to do to ensure persistence
The #1 reason most of us don't persist when it would be best to persist, at least from Next's perspective, is because we didn't consult with our Now when Next was making his or her plans. Consequently, when we're in the thick of it and Now's not having fun, he or she either stops us altogether or makes it difficult to move ahead. It's almost as if our Now is saying, "Next, you didn't consult with me when making these plans so I'm just going to take care of myself even if you don't like it. You didn't show respect to me and what I want. Well, that goes both ways."
I have learned a valuable habit. Any time that my Next comes up with some idea of what he wants or thinks that I should do, need to do, or have to do, then I immediately start future-pacing, checking with my future Now, by asking the question, "How could my Now enjoy the process or be okay with consistently taking the actions that my Next wants me to take to get the results he wants?" I don't continue with any plan or intention for what my Next wants until I have good reason to believe that my Now will be okay with that. Otherwise I don't go ahead. I give up on what Next wants because I cannot do it with integrity.
The second thing to do to ensure persistence
Imagine that you've already started something. You've invested time or money into it. Your Next continues to think it's important. But, even though you may have enjoyed the process before, Now is not happy with it any more. Stop. Go to the NNI toolkit. Do you best to find a way for your Now and Next to both be happy. Here's an example where I solved one of my Now-Next integrity problems.
How to know when to quit
To quit a job? To quit school? To end a friendship? To quit a marriage? To give up on a project?
Four distinct conditions indicate that it's probably time to quit.
Your Now is not happy in the process of going for what your Next wants and, even after using the tools in the NNI toolkit, you still haven't found a way to create Now-Next Integrity.
Your Oneself is not happy in the process of going for what your Others wants and, even after using the tools in the OOI toolkit, you still haven't found a way to take care of Others while still taking care of Oneself.
You have new information or new circumstances have developed so that your commitment to what Next wants no longer makes sense, given the ongoing costs.
You have new information or new circumstances have developed so that you can no longer do what your Others wants and still take care of your Oneself.
How to decide whether or not to quit
Let's use a marriage-divorce issue as an example to illustrate the principle of how to decide whether or not to continue or to quit.
First, consider the likely scenarios and plans for Now, Next, Oneself, and Others all being happy if you do your best in continuing with your marriage. Consider the costs, benefits, risks, and possibilities.
Secondly, consider the likely scenarios and plans for Now, Next, Oneself, and Others being happy if you do your best in quitting with a separation or divorce.
Finally, imagine that you were somehow not married to your spouse, but you knew what it would/could be like if you were married to them, would you then choose to get married to them freshly? If the answer is no, and then after factoring in the one-time transaction costs of getting divorced, the answer is still "no," it's time to get divorced and create a great divorce, or else find a really good reason to stay married that still allows for Now-Next Integrity and Oneself-Others Integrity.