Personal, Stress Management

The difference between giving up and walking away

Alexander Redmon/

Each week we face struggles, whether it’s meeting our nutrition targets, getting to the gym, making time for a loved one, putting in those extra hours on a big project or chasing our “calling.”

We all fall off the metaphorical horse.

Some of these bigger decisions can make it harder to know just when we fell off the horse, or did we climb off instead? It may not always be the best choice to get back on depending on the answer, I’m learning.

The dilemma

Despite everything I’ve been told I’m talented at, reminded I excelled at while in school, skills I have which would lead to a viable career, these things do not necessarily beget a fulfilling life.

There’s a quote attributed to musician Frank Zappa which says, and I’m paraphrasing– if you have a boring life because you listened to someone else, you deserve it.

Let me tell you something. Two things: You don’t have to love or do the thing(s) you’re good at. You don’t have to be good at the thing(s) you love to do.

Carl Dwyer/

I had the good fortune of sitting down with a friend to discuss my misgivings about “true callings.” She told me a story a very rewarding, fulfilling work experience which made her list of all-time biggest accomplishments; she enjoyed this experience so much, found it so noble, she entertained making it her career and going back to school to do it.

But a few months later, before a dime was spent, she walked away. As rewarding as that job was in the short period of a few years, she recognized it was something she didn’t want, despite being “good” at it.

The epiphany

You “give up” something you want, but can’t follow through. You “walk away” when you realize something is not what you want.

You don’t have to make a career out of the thing you’re good at, I’ve learned. Especially if you hate it, and maybe even if you love it. Maybe your hobby should always be just that.

There is power in rejecting.

This message hit me like a ton of bricks. I had always pursued avenues I already felt “good” at. As I bounced from one career path to another, it never occurred to me that I could pursue something I wasn’t already good at.

I felt indebted to one of my college majors because I excelled at it. My portfolio was full of accolades. How could I leave that all behind to chase some vague dream?

But with this new perspective, the question became instead: “what do I love that much?”

So next time a challenge comes your way, or you face a dilemma, pause and reflect on whether you “can” do something or you “want” to do something.

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