January 22, 2010

Time Wasters: The Virtue of Giving Up

We get the frequent message that perseverance is the highest virtue. "Never give up! Persist until you achieve your goal!"

I disagree.

Sometimes, we do have to quit. And I'm not talking about smoking or boozing, either.
Let me over-simplify an illustration. Lucy never played fair, and Charlie Brown never kicked the football. Any sane person would have said, "This situation never changes. I'm tired of playing the fool. Instead, I'll prop up my football and kick it. You can watch."

But it depends on your investment. Let me quote from Dee Lauderdale regarding your Return On Investment: "When you’re about to buy something, try to determine it’s potential ROI for your life. The return isn’t always financial but try to determine if this item or service will add value to your life. Will this purchase make your life easier, more fulfilled, or less stressful? Will it give you long-term happiness? Then only buy stuff that has a high ROI." Yes, he's talking about purchases, but the principle remains: Will persistence give you fulfillment, or are you wasting your time?

Now, I'm not giving any cafones reading this an excuse to bail on a marriage or serious commitment. No way! This is for much smaller stuff. Sometimes, persistence is foolishness because you are not gaining anything, not even pleasure, from what you are doing. Let me give you some examples.
  • Reading a book. If it's not required reading and you're not getting any kind of satisfaction from it, it's silly to finish it just because you feel compelled to finish this thing you started to read, no matter how much you dislike it.
  • The radio. You change the radio station when a song comes on that you dislike, yes? There is no reason to persevere, and in this case, you know it.
  • Watching a movie or television show. If you don't like it, don't finish it. Yes, I know, most people know that. But somehow, some people feel that they need permission. I just gave it to you: Drop it.
  • A bad romance. Do I have to give you permission to get out of that, too? But consider how much you two have experienced together. After all, a couple has invested time, emotions and physical activities together. Consider your overall Return On Investment. As Jude Cole sings, "After all the time we spent together, don't you think it's worth something?" Allow me one more song quote, this one from Roxette: "Listen to your heart". Yes, the romance ROI is complicated. First or second date? That may be easy to bail out on. Months or years? Think carefully, Theodore.
  • Video games. When does it pass the point of recreation and become obsession, or just something to do because you're bored?
You should be catching on pretty well. The main principle is not that difficult. Just weigh in your mind (and heart, sometimes) how much time you are spending on something, and consider what you are going to gain by continuing. Sometimes, it's more productive to quit something that is a drain on your time and resources.

But if it is worth doing, then keep at it. I am not giving you permission to bail on something important.

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