Life is full of paradoxes. We should work hard, but also take time to smell the roses. Put others first, yet take care of ourselves. One of those paradoxes is to persevere and not give up, yet know when to cut your losses. How do you know when to stop trying? I struggle with this too, and the following guidelines help.
How do you know when to stop trying?
1. When you reach your threshold
Negotiation experts tell us that we must know when to walk away. This is the threshold beyond which the deal is no longer worth doing to you. In investing, you need to know how much you can afford to lose. At work, know your limits of overwork beyond which you start losing your sanity. And in relationships, you must set boundaries to safeguard your safety and human dignity.
Experience teaches us our thresholds. After we exceed our thresholds and experience the negative outcomes, we will know when to stop trying in future.
2. When you have a reason to move on
You lose a part of you when you give up on something in your life. That loss is easier to bear if you have something to gain from walking away as well. For example, you may decide to quit your job because it leaves you more personal time to save your marriage. Or you may leave a relationship because it frees you to pursue a worthwhile dream.
Write down what you have to lose from a decision to move on, and what you have to gain. If there is more to gain, or even if a single gain makes it all worthwhile, consider moving on.
3. When you can hold your head high
A guideline for making hard decisions is whether you can look yourself in the mirror and be at peace. Even if you are hurting inside, you may see a certain clearness in your eyes, or feel a calmness in your soul. If your emotions are turbulent and arguments continue to rage in your mind, perhaps you are giving up too soon.
I also find that if I am too quick to defend my decision to others, then I’ve stopped for the wrong reasons. If you suspect deep down that you are wrong to give up, you will try to justify your action to make it seem more right. When you know deep down a decision is right for you, you won’t feel the need to explain yourself to anyone .
Know when to stop trying, and free yourself
Today I stopped something that wasn’t working out for me personally. It’s painful to give it up, but I feel relieved and at peace. I’m happy to be free to move on. I hope you find this peace too.
If you need more help with making decisions in general, read Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.