The Best Way to Solve a Problem: Give Up

The Best Way to Solve a Problem: Give Up

Sometimes the easiest way to solve a problem is to stop participating in the problem. Sometimes the smartest choice is giving up.

I don’t think that giving up should be your primary method for dealing with problems. But there are certainly a lot of cases where it just seems to be the most intelligent answer.

The more I stop trying to force things to happen, the more they just seem to sort themselves out. The more I let things happen, the less time I spend trying to make them happen.

Giving up is really about honoring your feelings. It’s about giving up trying to force yourself into a mold of societal shoulds and embracing your true self.

So here’s an invitation to…

  • Give up trying to be cool.
  • Give up your golden handcuffs.
  • Give up wanting to be a famous musician, artist, architect, thinker, writer, whatever-it-is. Maybe it’s smarter to make your purpose to have an impact, instead.
  • Give up wanting to be different for the sake of being unique.
  • Give up trying to be perfect.
  • Give up keeping relationships with people you don’t really like.
  • Give up trying to be the center of attention.
  • Give up trying to be important. (Focusing on community is usually more fulfilling.)
  • Give up achieving a lot of ego-driven goals.
  • Give up trying to be super-focused. Sometimes the most compelling ideas come from the most messy, unexpected sources.
  • Give up trying to be indie.
  • Give up trying to popular.
  • Give up caring about owning a lot of cool things, which keep you distracted from acknowledging that you don’t like what you’re doing with your life.
  • Give up trying to have a perfectly organized workspace and a zero inbox.

With that said, there are a lot of ways we think we’re doing good, but we’re really not.

Counter-intuitive to what you think, it might make more sense to…

  • Give up trying to be super happy all the time. Instead, settle for being peaceful.
  • Give up needing a reason to share your love. Being alive is reason enough.
  • Give up trying to be everything to everyone.
  • Give up trying to fit the mold of your race, astrological sign, job title, religious group, political party or other erroneous associations.
  • Give up caring about being the smartest, best and fastest. At least don’t let your ego get caught up in it.
  • Give up caring about “being a man” or “being a woman.” Or doing what is expected of your gender.
  • Give up sacrificing your life for an expensive degree that makes you feel important.
  • Give up trying to be ultra productive, especially if productivity is making you miserable.
  • Give up caring about having a respectable job, a respectable resume, and a respectable life. Replace following a template, with freestyling life.
  • Give up trying to constantly improve yourself. Sometimes too much self improvement can cause you to lose sight of the present.
  • Give up caring about doing what works.
  • Give up thinking you don’t have the time or skills to make your dreams a reality.
  • Give up caring about knowing everything in advance before you take action. Put yourself on auto-response instead.
  • Give up trying to always find interesting experiences and interesting things to do. Alternatively, be interesting and be interested.
  • Give up trying to live up to the expectation of your parents, your friends, your boss, and peers.
  • Give up trying to live up to the expectation of… yourself.
  • Give up trying to have a flawless body, perfect face, or an impeccable wardrobe. Care more about beautifying your mind and being a person who takes beautiful actions.

Trying to make things happen all the time creates a lot of unnecessary anxiety. It’s stressful trying to deny what is.

When I give up, I accept life as it is. No strings attached. No wishing things were different. If an action needs to be taken, I take it. But I’ve given up letting my happiness be dependent on a thing.

Most of these problems only exist within our minds. They’re not real physical problems; they’re simply psychic, imagined obstacles.

It’s interesting how we seem to have so many problems, so many dilemmas. But most of the time the answer to solving them is doing nothing. Giving up.

So, what do you think? Has giving up ever helped you win?

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229 Comments on "The Best Way to Solve a Problem: Give Up"

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[…] Cull and remove what’s not working for you. Stop caring so much, kill your (ego-driven) goals and give up. Here’s another great resource: How to Organize Mental […]

Carla
Guest

When it comes to business, this definitely applies to me. When I’m trying hard to make something happen for my blog or website, I often feel stuck. The harder I try, a particular issues doesn’t get solved. When I relax, take a deep breath and “give up” everything falls into place.

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[…] novel you really want to write or that business you want to start up. Try to see how much you can give up caring about things that really don’t make a […]

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[…] novel you really want to write or that business you want to start up. Try to see how much you can give up caring about things that really don’t make a […]

Gagan Singh
Guest
PLEASE READ THIS CLARIFICATION: A lot of people above have commented on the usefulness of this article and some others don’t seem to get it the way I think it was meant to be helpful. Some people above are talking about “Why should I give up on making money…getting a better education…changing the world with better technology etc.”. I want to remove this confusion some people above have about giving up. PLEASE LOOK AT THE REAL MEANING of this article… IN JONATHAN’S OWN WORDS HE SAYS: 1) “I don’t think that giving up should be your primary method for dealing… Read more »
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[…] novel you really want to write or that business you want to start up. Try to see how much you can give up caring about things that really don’t make a […]

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[…] The Best Way to Solve a Problem: Give Up @ Illuminated Mind […]

Gavin
Guest
Jonathan – I really liked this post. I think it’s important to point out though that most of the things you’ve mentioned here aren’t problems at all. They’re just a result of not thinking clearly; of misperception. Trying to be cool, to be famous, unique, perfect, to own a lot of cool things etc. is not trying to solve a problem – it’s fabricating a problem that doesn’t really exist. For a more relaxed, content life, you should learn to discern what your ‘problems’ really are. You’d be surprised at how few you actually have. This isn’t giving up on… Read more »
AJ Kumar
Guest

excellent title…really caught my eye and took me by surprise ;). also a very well written article that completely makes sense.

Unless I missed this, but consider adding : give up trying to please everyone – I personally can vouch for the success of that.

AJ Kumar

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[…] list could go on and I’ve already clearly outlined much of what’s worth giving up here. What’s clear is that caring about stuff like this suffocates your dreams and drowns out the […]

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[…] two says: give up, stop caring, kills your goals and reclaim ownership of your […]

Jeff
Guest

Folks:

I am struggling with a lot of things in my life that I do not like – job, etc. But I wonder – is it a responsible, adult action to “give up” or “drop out,” not just in the sence of taking care of one’s dependents, but in terms of society at large. For example, what would happen to the country if every one”dropped out?” Are we doing our part to further our collective goals if we “drop out?” Thoughts?

pk
Guest
dropping out of a system that is harmful to find an alternative way is good in the long run. The thought of dropping out of my life pops into my head just about every day, which is why I subscribed to Paid to Exist. I would have to sell my house – which is too big for me anyway, which would enable me to pay off large debts too – but I’d have to live a lot down-sized… The lure of a stable and ‘comfortable’ existence is what’s keeping me in my job and house for now. Need to weigh… Read more »
drew
Guest

i love this, someone just put out an album i love, and this was one of the main ideas. giving up and striving, going though the ups and downs are just another form of breathing. what we want is unreachable, but it doesnt mean that reaching is not worth trying

i say, throw rocks at the moon all day if you want

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[…] novel you really want to write or that business you want to start up. Try to see how much you can give up caring about things that really don’t make a […]

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[…] di preoccuparti troppo, prendi gli ego-obbiettivi, quelli motivati unicamente dal tuo ego e abbandonali. Qui un’altra grandiosa risorsa: Come Riorganizzare il disordine […]

Alan Frost
Guest

I loved this article.

Dwain
Guest

Well put and I totally agree with what you’ve written. Shortly after 9/11 I was facing a crossroad with my business as it too was leveled during that moment of crisis.

I went quiet for weeks and simply listened to find what would grow in my life if I didn’t make it rain. I wasn’t giving up in the literal sense of the word as it is important to achieve my dreams. No, by going quiet and giving up the energy can you stop false momentum from taking you in the wrong direction.

pk
Guest

nice thought

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[…] I think this will help you several times. But remember that the kick in the ass is a powerful tool, use it with caution. Your daily bread should be passion and encouragement, if you have to kick your ass often… that means something is very wrong. You should consider starting again or giving up. […]

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[…] The Best Way to Solve a Problem: Give Up […]

trice
Guest
great list of reminders on how to focus on and find what’s really important. I spent the first 7 years after college trying to be ‘responsible’ about money, wanting to pay back some of what I’d borrowed for school before starting into what I thought I was supposed to be doing. The other half of my time I spent trying to plan so I could be perfectly prepared and would know absolutely positively that I would succeed at the next step. Those 7 years (yeah – do you believe /7/ years?!? crazy!) were some of the hardest and most miserable… Read more »
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[…] this article for a flooded itemize of things worth gift […]

Dawid
Guest

Absolutely brilliant. Thank you for this

Arne
Guest

Once you quit it becomes a habit. If there is a chance to change bad things – change them.

pk
Guest

just ‘given up’ tea and coffee for one month – just to see if I can – it’s the first day and I feel somewhat liberated already, to know that I can live outside of my comfort zone

Sandy McMullen
Guest

I declared a week of follow through to try to get some things checked off my non-existent but very long list. Ended up adding multiple extra things to do for every completion. This left me feeling both energized by the freed up space in my mind and overwhelmed by the new more to do.

Thanks for this post – perfect timing

riot-zine
Guest

You are so right. I have decided to give up to get back into a relationship with the person I deemed most lovable and compatible. And guess what: It feel much better than I had expected;-)…. this trying to get back thingy is very exhausting. Love does not saturate your needs, no it makes you even more hungry because It is only hope.

Ruby
Guest
From 2001-2006 I was obsessed with going back to college and finishing my degree. I went back to Community College for several semesters, earned a bunch of A’s and started studying for the SAT. I moved to Chicago and started visiting local universities. I even dressed up and went in for an interview. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I remembered how much I hated the idea of paying a LOT of money to read books I could read for free, and to do things that other people think I need to do to educate and… Read more »
P. Smith
Guest

How does this work for people who are married with children who would face the wrath and criticism of not only her spouse but also that of her in-laws and her own father if she should DARE to try something different and (in their minds) risk the welfare and well-being of the family. I am paralyzed by their fear and beliefs about ‘the way things should be done’ and by my own fear of their disapproval. How’s that for social pressure?

So, after all that, anybody have any suggestions?

pk
Guest

talk over your deepest feelings lovingly with your husband

Cliff
Guest

Thanks, man!

I was all ready doing some of this but there were a lot of ideas that I have yet to implement.

Christian
Guest

“Give up trying to live up to the expectation of… yourself.” This will be my personal motto for some weeks now, I’ve always beaten myself up, now it will stop! :)

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[…] over at Illuminated Mind, had an interesting post on zen and the art of caring too much.  His post really hit home as I was […]

DearClaudia
Guest

But never ever give up on life and love. ^^

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[…] ??:The Best Way to Solve a Problem: Give Up […]

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[…] to give up caring most every the footling […]

ecureuil
Guest

“Give up trying to be super happy all the time. Instead, settle for being peaceful.”
thank you.

Andrew
Guest

Thank you very much for this – it’s exactly at the right time for me in my life and reminds me of how any success and happiness that I had came to me. Thank you for this permission.

Michell
Guest
Jonathan, I think that what you are speaking to is the ability to be authentic, to pursue and realize your individual goals, and to separate yourself from the internalized expectations and socialization of an often sick society. In essence, all we have is a matter of minutes and the choice of how we will “spend our time” here. It is really an existential question that begs to be answered, who am I and what am I doing here, what is my purpose, and what will I leave behind? Giving up the egoism that steals our precious minutes, energies, and resources… Read more »
Pam
Guest

Hi,

I just found your blog by way of zen habits. Just reading this post, I could feel so much pressure and weight melt from my shoulders. It is so exhausting to keep up with the Joneses. This post is a gift. Thank you.

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[…] this article for a full list of things worth giving […]

carol
Guest

You just saved my life. I typed “giving up” in google, to find ways to give up on life, and read your article instead. Now its posted on my bathroom mirror – I’m giving up on worrying and trying, instead Im going to live to have impact, to be connected, to be truly interested in life itself! Thank you.

pk
Guest

all the best

ved sharma
Guest
hummmmmm…now that means we all should follow our own instincts and choose our goal accordingly.one should not follow a perticular path just becoze its difficult for him or her. Those who achieved geniousness are the ones who followed there interest and had a strong feeling towards there purpose in life which made the journy rather adventerous and fun without getting carried away from what others think or opine about them eg are…picaso,newton,einstine,amithabbacchan,and the latest one stephen hawkins…as is said if u realy feel the need for something the whole universe conspires to help you in getting it…the important thing is… Read more »
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[…] Turn off the internet and just go meditate, or do something – try focusing on one thing or n0-thing. See point […]

Betty
Guest

I am about to have my supplementary exam for one of my subjects today and I just wanted to give up this opportunity because I just cant do it. I feel like such a failer right now and after reading your post it made me feel that giving up so many things will make me fail more.

pk
Guest

best thing would be to try it, but don’t feel too despaired if you don’t do brilliantly. Do your best, but don’t beat yourself up if you fail. Jonathon is not trying to get you to give up trying to achieve things, but mainly to give up on the negative thoughts and attitudes

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[…] in this topic? I also recommend reading this related blog post which comes at the issue from a different […]

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[…] just read a wonderful article from Jonathan Mead on Illuminated Mind called “The Best Way to Solve a Problem: Give Up“. It had a great list of things that we make an effort on, but that we should ditch instead. […]

Rohit Prakash
Guest

Sometimes that is the only solution. Let life handle it better.

Bella
Guest

thank you I needed that.

Evan
Guest

I just stumbled across this page accidentally. I have been stressed for months and months about this economy and getting into a certain degree program. My life has been miserable with responsibilities I put on myself. I think I am following a path that everyone else has told me to pursue. But inside, I feel when im free of these normalities…Im at peace. This was weird how I found this site. But it has saved me…

pk
Guest

Yes I have noticed a trend to push people into very expensive degrees (by such means as promising higher wages for graduates, and also suggesting the prestige attached). I got mine in England when it was free, but I wouldn’t recommend it now unless you love the subject anyway. Higher education used to be about people pursuing a passion for their subject. Seems like now it’s more about colleges trying to rake in the bucks, and sometimes not offering such a great deal in return….(just my impression, though)

Conelius Lou
Guest
I was not sure what I was going to read when I stumbled onto this page earlier today. However, I am very glad I read it and all of the related comments. It was nice to know that I am not the only one struggling with this concept and it is wonderful to have someone saying, “Just feel the power to let it all go?” This was not an article about throwing your life away and living in a cardboard box at the end of your street, it is all about taking stock of what one really wants i life… Read more »
john
Guest
I have to admit that this site makes alot of sense to me. For the last one year my life has been a nightmare. I had a good life before last august. A good job, money, a good home…then everything just fell apart….and i have lived a lie for the last one year…living in debt to keep up with the lifestyle i had… in the process i have destroyed a reputation i built, relationships i had and the work i did. And as sat today feeling miserable with myself i happened to find this site….i have decided to give up… Read more »

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