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How to Win More by Giving up for the Right Reason

How to Win More by Giving up for the Right Reason

One of the core practices in Buddhism is non attachment. Buddhists believe that forming emotional attachments to things, will inevitably lead to suffering. Whilst this notion has been taken to extremes, with people not forming attachments to anything, abandoning all possessions and forsaking friendship. I believe that non attachment can be beneficial in certain ways, especially when it is applied to our ideas and goals.

It is perfectly natural to cling to our ideas. To want to work day and night to see them through. This is commendable. However, it could be said, that in some contexts, the idea of never giving up on something, no matter the costs, is well…inefficient.[1]

Instead of seeing it as giving up, see it as retreating.

What is Steve Jobs famous for?

I’d bet almost all of you answered “The founder and late CEO of Apple”. I’d again bet that none of you said, the founder of NeXt.[2] This was a company similar to apple that Jobs Founded during the few years he left Apple.

The reason for this is that the company was ultimately a failure, and was later brought up by Apple once Steve Jobs returned to the company. Though Jobs spent time, energy (and $7 million) on the company, he gave it up as it was not a success. He didn’t spend years after, losing his money and the rest of his credibility on NeXt as it sank, and Apple rose in strength and influence.

Walt Disney once founded Laugh-O-Gram, an animation studio he hoped would be the launching ground for his ideas.[3] Laugh-O-Gram soon went bankrupt and crashed, undeterred, he founded another studio. Walt Disney Studios. You’ve probably seen some of their work.

What these stories teach us, is that, ultimately not all ideas are created equally. NeXt wasn’t the next Apple, and Jobs came to know this. For whatever reason Laugh-O-Gram, didn’t have that magic X factor that Walt Disney Studios came to have, and again, Walt Disney came to know this.

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Of course, it’s good to be passionate about our ideas, but that passion can leave us blind to real faults. If we take a step back at our ideas and look at them objectively, we may see things that should be changed or perhaps the idea could be abandoned entirely in favor of a better one to come along.

Ultimately, if instead of seeing our ideas as things to fight for whatever the cost, but investments of time, effort, and money. We may come to see our ideas and projects differently.

In military history, there are countless stories of armies retreating from battles in order to win more important, larger battles. There are also stories (think Napoleon’s catastrophic invasion of Russia) of armies heading into battles or campaigns which ended in disaster (Napoleon never recovered from the loss). Its the same thing.

It’s difficult to let go because we fear that we waste the effort we’ve spent.

We like to think that our value of things such as projects or goals comes from our wish to see them through, or perhaps a prediction of their later worth. However our ultimate attachment actually comes from a complex web of emotional attachments created not by our views of its worth, but the time and effort already put into it.

In many ways, one of the most powerful aspects of our attachment to things is based on fear of our loss of that thing, as much as our liking or enjoyment of it. This false attachment based on loss is the sunk cost fallacy.[4]

For example: have you ever played a video game for a while, rebooted it up one day only to discover that the save file has been corrupted. Our frustration here doesn’t come from our the way it’ll take much longer to see how the game’s story progresses, or even the fact that we have to re-play it again, instead our frustration comes from the time we have spent on the game to amount to nothing.

The pain and frustration we feel when we lose out, is the same reason why Buddhists avoid forming attachments at all, as they feel this suffering is inevitable. But this isn’t necessarily the case.

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When the sunk cost fallacy is applied to our goals and projects, its easy to see how we can become attached to things that deep down we know might not work. Again, we don’t stick with them because we know their worth, we stick with them as we can’t bear to see the loss of it, or specifically we can’t bear to see the time spent on it amount to nothing.
In this way, abandoning the idea early on in favor of a better one can be the better option.

In the end, only you will know if or when to give up on something, but here is a short list of things to think about when in consideration.

How excited are you about it?

It could be a good idea to deeply examine how exactly you feel about your idea, project, or even current job that you may give up on. Does thinking about it stress you out? When you talk about it does you mood deflate and you try to change the subject, speaking enthusiastically about other things?

If its causing you stress and unhappiness, then perhaps its a good idea to truly consider how much it is worth to you. No idea is worth you health and happiness.

Plus, if you decide to stick with it, this unhappiness is only going to grow and expand, as deep down you know the thing you are spending your time on isn’t right for you
Listen to yourself and you’ll know the answer.

“What if?”

By now you’re probably thinking or saying those immortal words.

“What if this idea proves to be a great success”

“What if I am losing out massively?”

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We can never be sure of the answer to these questions, that’s why they are so powerful. But one thing we can be sure about, is that it is impossible to know the future.

“What if my book idea is the next bestseller?”

“What if its the next Harry Potter?”

Consider how truly realistic this is. There are many successful and published writers who only earn a decent living from their books. Every failed book ever written was written by someone who fought hard for it and didn’t give up on it. What if they spent that time on a better book? What if that better book was successful? They never found this out as they spent all their time and effort on a bad idea.

Can quitting leave you financially better off?

This is best explained with a gambling metaphor.[5]

How many times have you heard of a gambler putting everything they have into a bet, for that gamble to work out and they win big and are forever successful…Maybe that has only happened a few times. There are countless stories of gamblers putting everything into a bet, ending in them losing everything. Or if they win with the first bet, they lose it all in the second. Once again, the gambler’s commitment to win whatever the cost, is the sunk cost fallacy in point of fact.

It’s the same thing. If you put a significant amount of money into something, only for it to end in failure, that money is gone forever. That loss is greater still when you see time and effort spend on something as currency too.

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Who else is supportive?

When you consider the sunk cost fallacy, its easy to see why you might be biased, why your thinking is too subjectively bent towards an idea. In this way, getting the thoughts of others can be a better idea. There is no point asking friends, because as friends they are almost honor bound to tell you its a good idea and act supportive. But ask yourself how many people are clearly and visibly supportive and enthusiastic about your project or goal.

If there are many people, then, well you may be onto a winner. But if there are few, or even nobody, then ask yourself why that is, you might think its because they don’t care. But this isn’t the case. The biggest reason they may not be super supportive as they don’t want to see you fail and are trying to hint that what you are working on, may not be worth your time.

Letting go of what doesn’t serve you returns to you your best feature, your unique selling point.

When you put all your effort into something, there is always a risk of losing your most important feature. You risk losing that one thing that is the secret behind all your successes. If you quit something and that thing is truly returned to you and is ready to work for you again.

But what is it?

Well, the secret behind all your successes is yourself. If you put everything in an ultimately bad idea then you aren’t working with your best, but are working with the sunk cost fallacy. By quitting and working on something else, you gain all your passion and ability back.

It is difficult to consider quitting. I know that this is hard to hear. Again, only you should take the leap in giving up on something. If you are truly passionate about something, and others support you and think it a good idea. If you are happiest thinking about it and enjoy working on it, then fight for it with all its worth. If no part of you accepts this article and thinks I’m right in any way, then please, don’t pay attention to me.

I don’t know you, I don’t know your goals or ambitions. If I knew what you were working on its possible I’d think it a great idea.

But if somewhere this article connects, and deep down quitting seems like a good idea. Then maybe it is. Sometimes, giving up on one thing can lead to success in another.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

More by this author

Arthur Peirce

Lifestyle Writer

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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