Recently, I posted on the subject of failure and how a willingness to try and possibly fail is critical to success. The key difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that successful people are willing to risk failure, and they never give up.

As a general principle, never giving up is indeed vital to success, but as with all principles it can be misapplied. The word “never” should be approached with caution, as it leaves little room for growth and development.

There is a distinction to be made between giving up and letting go. We give up on things when we stop caring about them, when they become more trouble than they are worth. By contrast, letting go does not mean one does not care. Rather, it means one accepts that the desired outcome is not going to happen and that continuing to pursue it could be harmful to oneself, one’s relationships, or future endeavors.

That does not mean giving up is always a bad thing. If you decide that you really do not care about the piano, then quit the piano lessons. That is not a character flaw. If you really want to play the piano, however, but quit because you are experiencing a period of difficulty, or are unwilling to practice, then it is probably time for some self-reflection.

There are times, though, when giving up is selfish. The quitter who drops everything when the going gets tough and walks away has little regard for his longterm success and tends not to think about how his decision will affect others. Seen through a spiritual lens, quitting is a form of self-absorption.

Letting go, on the other hand, is an entirely differnt matter. It requires acceptance of the situation, which in turn requires humility. It is also painful at times, because unlike giving up one continues to care. Painful though it may be, letting go is ultimately a constructive act, because it recognizes the greater good that could come about if we clear the way.

This is true in every area of life. Letting go of toxic relationships does not mean one does not care about the people in question. Rather, it means one cares enough to not put those people in a situation that is harmful or abusive. Letting go of certain projects does not necessarily mean they were bad ideas. Instead, it frees one to focus on something else that may be better in the long term.

It may rightly be said that successful people never give up, but they also know when it is time to let go. Our success depends upon knowing the difference.

Question: Can you name a time when you let go of something in order to pursue a greater good? Leave a reply below.

Posted by Mark Zobel PhD, CFRE

I help nonprofits accomplish their missions and achieve their visions for a better world through donor-centered fundraising and comprehensive development work.

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