If you want encouragement on not giving up, you can find it just about anywhere. Elbert Hubbard is often quoted for saying “There is no failure except in no longer trying.” while self help books far and wide have some variation on “The difference between Success and failure is not giving up.” espoused in their pages.
Giving up, in a society steeped and raised in the idea of a protestant work ethic, has a certain guilt associated with not following through or completing something – whatever that something may be. The sunk cost fallacy often plays into this drive as well, convincing us that those things we have dedicated energy to in the past are worth pouring energy into still, almost no matter the total cost.
Giving up can also be a freeing, empowering, or humane thing to do. The Atlantic magazine doubles down on the idea of a fallacy, calling it the fallacy of giving up. Surgeon and author Atul Gawande, being interviewed about his book Being Mortal, explores struggles to cope with the constraints imposed by flesh-and-bone biology—and the failure of medical science to acknowledge that any ability to push back is finite.
And as Danielle La Porte reminds us, giving up can bring with it benefits. When you have no fight left in you, the choice to stop fighting can be a relief. The mere choice to do something – anything – differently – can relieve a large amount of stress and pressure. It may give you more space, more time, more energy… the list is extensive.
Giving up, after all, is an ending that we have some part in choosing. And while we may not love the fact that a choice is necessary, endings of choice are endings we may have a measure of control in and ability to prepare for.