Giving up

English is a funny language at times – sometimes in a humorous way, and sometimes in that strange kind of way. I find it interesting how we can have the same word or phrase, yet in different contexts, it can mean entirely different things. In a recent conversation, the term, ‘giving up’ stood out for me. This led me to ponder the different ways this phrase can be used.

As I see it there are three main ways of looking at ‘giving up’. The first way: there’s giving up, as in throwing in the towel. “I quit. That’s it! I’m not doing this anymore.” This way of giving up comes from a place of defeat and pain. A place of hopelessness and helplessness. There’s a feeling of disempowerment. There’s probably a lot of frustration accompanying this form of giving up. It’s essentially saying, “I can’t handle this anymore; I don’t want to do this anymore.” Very visible examples of this are athletes who hit the wall and physically just can’t go on. If they were a car, it’s as if their gas tank literally hit empty and the car just went kaput.  And then there’s the rest of us mere mortals, that at times feel we just can’t go on – we’ve hit our breaking point. And like the athlete or the car, we too go kaput.  

Then there’s a second way of ‘giving up’, as in I’m choosing to no longer partake in this thing or habit. I’m giving up this aspect of my life because I choose to, because it no longer serves me. This way of giving up comes from a place of conviction. There’s a feeling of empowerment and personal strength. There’s a sense of certainty and commitment that there must be a path towards a better version of you and that the path you’re on now, isn’t it! It makes you feel a sense of being in control, and that generates a sense of belief in yourself – especially when you follow through on your commitment.

I don’t recall who first said this, but I’ve heard it said that the fastest way to change is to stop doing what isn’t working. Hmmm, makes a lot of sense. Stopping doing something, because it’s not or no longer working for you, means giving up that particular thing.

We can drill down a little further on this perspective of giving up. We can look at this type of giving up something in an empowering way or a disempowering way. This is empowering: “I’m choosing to better my life by giving up this habit”, such as giving up sugar to lose weight or to become healthier. When I’m choosing, I’m having agency over this decision and pathway. I get to determine my chosen path and that’s self-affirming and energizing. However, we could be on the path to giving up something, yet feel disempowered because we’re doing it because we feel we have to, not because we want to. This is disempowering: “I’m being told that if I don’t give up cigarettes, I’ll develop all sorts of health problems” such as chronic inflammation, which can lead to all sorts of chronic illnesses that likely will shorten your  life. (Note: I don’t smoke, nor have I ever been a smoker, and I certainly hope that if you do smoke, you are planning on ‘giving up’ soon 😊 . Your lungs and life will thank you for it!)

When it comes down to change, we are best off looking at what is within our control. Usually, that boils down to what is the object of our attention, how we think about what we’re thinking about, and then what we go on to do. Usually, that boils down to our thoughts and actions (for those of you wondering ‘hey, Patrea, what about our emotions? Well, for most of us the majority of the time, our emotions are the result of our thoughts and actions. Develop healthier patterns of thinking and doing, and your feelings will likely follow.). As the Serenity Prayer says,

“Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change what I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference”.

When we shift how we look at things, from ‘I have to do this’ to ‘I want to do this’, we shift from being disempowered to empowered.

The Serenity Prayer, also helps us see a third way of ‘giving up’. This way of ‘giving up’ is akin to a form of surrender – giving up the struggle and surrendering to a higher power. Now, I know this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, though for some of you this may resonate. We could see this as being guided by our intuition instead of trying to force something to happen. Joseph Campbell, writer and professor of mythology and religion, describes it poetically, “when you are on the right path, invisible hands will come to your aid”. In his famously long interview series with Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell elaborates on this by saying,

“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be”.

So the next time you’re contemplating giving up something, choose the empowering pathway of looking at this choice to give up and change for the better and reap the rewards. Perhaps you’ll choose the path of surrender and be guided by invisible hands – all power to you! If there’s a need to change some aspect of your life, choose the fastest path to change, and give up the struggle and what’s not working.

If you know there’s something that you could do with ‘giving up’ and need some assistance to do so, take the first step and see where doors might open for you to make the change you’re wanting.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter