I have a serious beef with some of our tried and true inspirational sayings. It’s bad advice! In fact, I’ve discarded it for most of my life and that seems to have worked out pretty well so far. But, I’m tired of seeing others suffer needlessly as they cling to this nonsense, believing they’re doing the right thing.
So let’s debunk my two least favorite pieces of so-called excellent and inspirational life advice.
Never Give Up/Never Quit
Although I am in favor of hanging in there and persisting when times get tough, I do not believe in “never give up/never quit”. Imagine a person trying to break through a brick wall by banging their head against it. Would you advise them to never give up and keep going no matter how difficult it is? Of course not! In that situation, the head banger has given their best effort, and failed. They might even be injured. Or maybe they hadn’t realized how stupid their mission was. In any case, they can’t break that wall down.
Sometimes we try our best yet fail, and in that case, the best thing we can do is accept it and move on. Life killing jobs, broken marriages, destructive habits; these are examples of things we should quit. That sounds obvious, but we probably all know people who just won’t do it.
Maintain A Singular Focus
We hear it from sports people all the time – “that player” is singularly focused on winning a championship…. Or there’s the student who gets praised for their singular focus on academics. I don’t consider these to be good things.
What happens to us when we are singularly focused? A singular focus, by definition is very narrow. Too narrow. What if I decided to drive down the highway with a singular focus on the road in front of me? That sounds good, right? But what if a deer is on the shoulder of the road and because I’m not looking for it, I can’t react in time when it jumps out in front of me. Or how about the A+ employee who is singularly focused on doing the best possible job they can do? Maybe they bring too much work home with them, miss watching their kids grow up, don’t take enough vacations, burn out and get sick.
Focus is good but a singular focus on anything makes us blind to everything else, eventually resulting in some sort of negative outcome.
I’m no life coach, and I know my examples here may be too simplistic, but even so I offer these two pieces of advice:
First, accept that quitting can be an honorable and desirable thing to do. In some situations, it may even be the best thing to do.
Second, focus appropriately on what’s important, but expand your awareness to avoid the blind spots that over-focusing can cause.