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LittleLemon's avatar

When do you give up on your goals?

Asked by LittleLemon (1272 points ) July 25th, 2012

When do you accept defeat in the face of something beyond your immediate capabilities?

Specifically, I’m in the process of switching my major from something very abstract and forgiving (Business Administration) to something more concrete and technical (Biological Sciences). I enjoy biology very much, but will have to truck through Calc 3 in order to reach my (admittedly lofty) graduate school goals.

Any self-proclaimed “bad at math” flutherites here that have achieved a higher knowledge of biochemistry or physics? Tell me your story.

Lastly, what difficult choices and trade-offs have you made in the pursuit of your careers/degrees?

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9 Answers

josie's avatar

Bad at math, to me is no different than saying Bad at exercise. It is mostly an attitude problem and can be overcome, perhaps with difficulty, but overcome never the less.

wundayatta's avatar

Depends on the goal and how realistic it is for me. I recently decided I wasn’t going to save the world. Giving up on that goal probably helped me save my life. I’ve also given up on the goal of becoming a writer. That is saving me a lot of angst and self-recrimination.

I try not to have very serious goals. Mostly short term things. Being goalless gives me a sense of time and happiness. I do not need to do anything. I can just be. I have nothing to prove. This is very good for my mental health.

It’s not like I don’t do things. But the things I do arise out of the moment. They are improvisations. I accomplish things. I just don’t try to accomplish anything, and I don’t whether I have accomplished anything or not. That’s for other people to worry about. For me, it’s about doing the next thing, even if that is raking my back yard, which I do regularly and I find to be very salutary, despite my battles with the mosquitoes.

LittleLemon's avatar

@josie I am so glad to hear you say that. It gives me a sense of drive that I’ve not felt in a long time.

@wundayatta That gives me an idea for another question, though it’s a bit on the personal side for me. I’m wondering if, after being diagnosed with a mental illness, it is even realistic for people to set high goals for themselves. Some days I find it hard to get out of bed. I never knew what that phrase actually meant until this last year. However, I feel as if I’m on an upswing, and would like to make use of the current while it’s available. But can one succeed where others have failed, in the face of mental trauma? My hope is yes.

Sunny2's avatar

Time to give up is when your body or your mind can no longer cope with what change you are asking of it. Only you can judge that. My opinion is that under 35 years of age, anything goes. 35 to 50, physical activity may become iffy. Mental activity can be fine up to around 75. But there are exceptions all the time. Nothing is totally impossible. It depends on the individual.
I had one profession until I went back to school and changed to another. I kept going to school to change that to a specialty.

livelaughlove21's avatar

My short answer is never.

I agree with @josie on the “bad at math” thing. I hear that all the time. You’re only “bad” at something if you’re not trying hard enough. Unless there is a medical reason you are unable to do something, then you can do it if you try hard enough.

School actually comes really easy to me, no matter the subject. But even if it didn’t, it’s all about how bad you want it. Being challenged is part of the journey.

wundayatta's avatar

@LittleLemon I think you can succeed, but you have to be careful how you think about success. It is far too easy for people with mental illness to get down on themselves for the smallest reason. It is typical to pick on anything—maybe even as insignificant as having spinach between your teeth—and use that as an excuse to define yourself as a failure who doesn’t deserve to live.

Because our standards can get impossibly high and our tolerance for problems impossibly low, it can be dangerous for us to get into the business of measuring ourselves. Indeed, for me, getting out of the business of judgment (especially self-judgment) has been crucial for my coping with the disorder.

I can’t be good and a I can’t be bad. Or rather, since no one can truly be unaware of these things, I can’t allow myself to dwell on these thoughts. I’m really good at beating myself up for mistakes. And I see mistakes everywhere, and I’m horrible at accepting responsibility for anything decent or good I might have done. It’s typical for people like me.

I have found that if I focus on what I am doing and on gaining enjoyment from it for whatever reason (not necessarily doing it well, but really more about getting totally involved in doing it), then my need for results diminishes. The doing is the result, not the result, itself.

I have always sort of know this and have always sought out things to do where this could be the case, but it hasn’t always been a matter of life and death. The mindfulness folks call this being present, and I’m fine with that explanation.

I want to point out that just because you are not focused on goals, and just because you don’t judge yourself based on the achievement of a goal or not, doesn’t mean you can’t achieve goals. It just means that’s not how you measure yourself.

It does means that goals are not something you set and measure yourself by. What then, are goals in this world view? I’m not sure how to describe it, but I will try.

I do have wants. Places I think I’d like to get to. But for me, it is fuzzier. I don’t expect to get any place in particular. It’s more like finding a general neighborhood. I expect my goals to change as I travel through life, and I don’t have a problem with that, because success or failure doesn’t depend on getting to a specific place. Or even near it. Sometimes my direction might change drastically. I let myself be ok with that. To get to Paris instead of Prague is fine. They are very different places, but they are both full of interesting things.

And to get to Huntington-over-farmstock is also fine. HoF is also full interesting things even though there are far fewer people there than there are in Paris. I read the National Geographic. The world is filled with all kinds of amazing places filled with interesting people.

A goal is like one of those flags on google maps. I can add another flag anywhere along the trip. I can add a flag at any time. Google maps doesn’t care. And if I don’t care, then I can be equally happy going wherever. Or going nowhere, because in my system, even going nowhere is going somewhere. But that’s another discussion.

LittleLemon's avatar

@wundayatta Thank you so much for your answer.

Mariah's avatar

Well, I just recently “gave up” on my goals in a sense. I wanted to be a physics Ph. D and work for NASA. But I had myself convinced that NASA only hires the best of the best and that I had to be academically perfect. After basically killing myself to become my high school valedictorian, I had had enough! I wasn’t going to sacrifice my well-being for my grades anymore. I’ve switched majors to computer science, which won’t require me to get a degree beyond my bachelor’s unless I want to. And as it turns out, NASA hires more CS graduates than physics graduates anyhow…! I think that was a reasonable trade-off. Hopefully I won’t regret it too much.

From what I hear, you don’t need a ton of math in biology. PS, I’m a math tutor at my college, and I love answering math questions on Fluther, but shoot me a PM if you want my help because during the school year I’m liable to not see it otherwise.

LittleLemon's avatar

@Mariah I’m glad it worked out for you in the end! I will definitely pick your brain sometime this fall semester.

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