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Mariah's avatar

Depressing question: To what extent would you give up on difficult goals, if you knew the odds were against you?

Asked by Mariah (25831points) July 1st, 2011

Specifically, if you had to overcome large obstacles that other people don’t necessarily face. Say you had a disability, for instance. You have a goal that is hard for even a “normal” person to achieve, that is fairly stressful to strive towards. You know the payoff is unlikely to occur, and your life would be easier if you weren’t working towards it. But if by chance you did achieve your goal, it would be extremely fulfilling.

How readily would you “give up;” acknowledge that the payoff is unlikely and your life would be easier if you didn’t bother striving towards a nearly impossible goal?
Or, do you think you would refuse to allow your disability to defeat you, and continue to strive against the odds?

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28 Answers

everephebe's avatar

I’m a stubborn twat…

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I am a stubborn person and refuse to let any “disability” dissuade me from doing or at least trying to do the things I want to do.
Sometimes the journey is more satisfying than reaching the goal.
You are stronger than you think @Mariah :)
@everephebe XD

MilkyWay's avatar

I’m a very determined person.
Classic current example: My foots in an aircast, due to my ankle being broken couple of months ago. I still played badminton today at school. I’m not gonna let it stop me doing what I want to.
Same goes for anything else.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

I pull my shit together and do some work.
You’re the best! Around! Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down, @Mariah

Ajulutsikael's avatar

I’m pretty stubborn and hard headed. If I realize that what I might be trying to achieve hurts others I might stop. If I realize it hurts others in the short term in order for me to be a better person to them then I keep going.

Aethelflaed's avatar

It really depends on how badly I want to achieve the goal. I changed what I wanted to do in life a couple times because I didn’t want to do those careers badly enough to put in all the effort it would take every single day to do it.

funkdaddy's avatar

If there are meaningful steps between here and my ultimate goal, I’d focus on those knowing that at some point I might divert for a different path that took advantage of the things I was able to do.

I don’t think it’s necessarily always giving up a goal. Sometimes it’s just evolving in what you want to do. Being obligated by plans you made for yourself is kind of silly.

If it’s still something I wanted badly after looking at the obstacles, then it’s worth it.

Mariah's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille and @Michael_Huntington Thanks.

This is not so hypothetical for me. I am increasingly aware that getting a bachelor’s degree is going to be a huge challenge for me, yet my dream involves getting the most difficult degree my school offers. And even if I manage to complete the program, the “dream job” is still rather unlikely.
I could major in computer science. I’d be good at it and it’d make me plenty employable. But it doesn’t light a fire in me the way robotics engineering does. Part of me just wants to resign myself to an easier life rather than continuing to struggle my way through such a challenging degree just to give myself a small shot at fulfilling my dream. The other part of me thinks that that attitude is just awful.
I have always been very goal-oriented, but I’ve had to learn that spending all my time planning for the future can definitely harm me in the present. Why make that trade-off when I’ll probably never succeed anyway? I’m just getting to the point where I really want to cut myself some slack and strive for normal rather than extraordinary. Is that bad?

I’m stubborn too…I just think that life has worn me down a lot.

yankeetooter's avatar

This is a good question (okay, a “great question”, and I noted it as such). I think it depends at least somewhat on what other issues I may have going on in my life at the same time. If I am faced with a difficult challenge, and am already stressed about other things, that may make me less capable of facing that challenge, although normally I am able to grit my teeth and face it.

It also depends on if I have someone believing in me…if even one close person believes I can do whatever this difficult task is, then my own, normally low, self-confidence soars, and the task seems much easier. (That demonstrates the importance of us encouraging each other in our daily lives, I guess. You never know when that one kind word from you or me may enable someone to face the day…)

funkdaddy's avatar

@Mariah – correct me if I’m wrong, but most of the struggles you’re having with school don’t have much to do with curriculum or the learning aspects… they’re more to do with the fact that you have so much on your plate other than college right now.

If that’s the case, it would seem the effect of changing majors would come down more to which choice motivates you. Either way is going to be challenging, and computer science isn’t exactly an easy major either.

Would it be a load off your mind to take something a bit easier, knowing it’s still going to be challenging but at least you’ve made some concessions to get through?

Or would be it more motivational to stick to your dream with that dream job in mind?

What gets you up in the morning ready to go and keeps you up late willing to study? Either one is going to be hard and honestly I think you know you can accomplish either.

Bellatrix's avatar

Despite the obstacles, I would still go for it. The thought of giving up on something because other people say “you can’t do that” would be far worse to me than not getting what I wanted. I am a stubborn cow. If you say no, I will say yes and I will go to the ends of the earth to get what I want. I don’t give up easily either. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I have read your second post now too and let me say, you have never struck me as a woman who gives up. Yes it might be difficult to achieve. Yes there might only be a small field of people who make it but who the hell says you can’t be one of that small field? My sense is that you are not only a lovely person, but you are a very smart person. So why can’t you be one of the world’s top robotics engineers? Go for it! If it doesn’t work out, something else will possibly in an associated field. I can promise you this though, if that is where your passion lies, that is what you should be going for. The very fact that you love it and are committed to it will give you an edge over those who are doing the work for some other reason.

If I can help, let me know. Even if it is as one of your cheer squad. On a practical note though, speak to your professors. Tell them where you are aiming. Speak to support services (especially with the other challenges you have) and make sure you get them on your side. Take any help along the way you can get. It isn’t charity, it isn’t giving you something you don’t deserve, they are your support team so use them to help you achieve this goal.

You also have all of us too. My son (18) is interested in working in robotics engineering. You have to succeed so I can put you forward as his mentor (when I get him off the sofa!).

marinelife's avatar

I hate it about myself that I give up too easily. So I would try not to give up.

roundsquare's avatar

@Mariah It really depends. From your posts, its not clear to me what the challenge to overcome is. If you can do well in CS I would imagine you’d do fine in robotics engineering.

Mariah's avatar

@funkdaddy You make a good point: it is true that when I am doing school work in a subject I love, it doesn’t really feel like work so much. That makes life much easier at times. It is also true that many of my challenges are not related to the nature of my work and will plague me regardless of what major I’m after. However, I’m nervous about approaching robotics engineering, because although I find it extremely interesting, I know that my hands-on skills are very lacking. This is why I think I would be better at just writing code. I have yet to even take the intro course for the robotics major, so I don’t know why I’m getting so down on myself now. I’d hate to give up before I even start.

@Bellatrix I got a bit teary-eyed at your offer to help. That is so sweet.
No, I’m not a quitter, at least I haven’t been in the past. I know that I am capable of a lot if I keep trying. I was ridiculously ill for most of high school, but managed to graduate at the top of my class anyway. It is probably a form of denial: despite being sick I’ve been trying to go on living as though I’m not. But this is very tiring. I’m just starting to feel very worn down from fighting and fighting. I’m not sure if I can maintain that high level of drive. I elected to have surgery thinking it would level the playing field for me. I’m realizing that the surgery couldn’t fix everything and I’m still going to have significant obstacles. I don’t know if I have it in me to keep going like I’ve been. It sounds awful, but that’s how I’m feeling. Tonight, anyway.

@roundsquare I have a lot of health problems. Maybe it is erroneous to think that I would be more successful in CS; I just think that major plays to my strengths a lot more than robotics. Though I find robotics engineering very interesting, my “hands on” skills leave a lot to be desired so I don’t know how good of an engineer I’d make.

I just want to say, thanks to you three for giving me some personalized advice on this. I think it’s very sweet that you’ve taken interest in my situation.

Bellatrix's avatar

I think “tonight” is the key here too @Mariah. Okay, so let’s try to be practical here, perhaps you can’t keep studying at the level you are, so cut the level down a bit. Can you study part time? That would give you more time to do the same work at a high level but less of it? Have you spoken to a counsellor at your uni? The truth is universities want high achieving students. They want you to keep studying with you and if you are sincere, they will work with you to try to find ways for you to do this.

When did you last take a break and give yourself some Mariah time? I think I have said here before to you, surgery can leave you feeling very depressed. It has an emotional as well as a physical impact on you. You have to be kind to yourself. Can you have a holiday? Even a short one? Some time with no study and where you just relax, meet some friends, smell the roses? It sounds to me like that would really do you a power of good.

I was serious in my offer. I am in another country but I have a good ear and I have done quite a bit of studying in my time while experiencing my own life crises. Any time you need an ear, to vent or otherwise, drop me a line. Hugs!! Sounds like you could do with a really, really big hug too.

CaptainHarley's avatar

In Vietnam, my counterinsurgency ops team had this motto: “Never give up! Never surrender! Never say ‘die.’ And take NO prisoners!” Other than the “take no prisoners” thing, I’ve since then adopped it as my motto. I don’t give up easily.

Mariah's avatar

@Bellatrix You know what’s really silly? I’m not even at school working right now. I’m still going through the surgical process and am at home healing up. So I’m having no shortage of Mariah time. I’m just having all these nervous thoughts just from imagining being back at school working my butt off. How stupid is that?
I know I’m not in my right mind tonight; tonight is not the night to be making any major life decisions. I’ve got an extremely painful respiratory infection that puts me completely out of commision for an entire week and I’m just having stupid doom thoughts because I have no idea how to handle it if this happens at school (we are on a quarter schedule so a week is SO much material ).
If there’s one thing I was good at in school, it’s asking for help. They do have great help resources at my school.
Bleh. I’ll come back when I’m feeling more sane. I really, really appreciate your kindness, @Bellatrix.

Bellatrix's avatar

You are very welcome .. sending you a HUGE hug… feel better soon sweetie and NO BIG DECISIONS!!!! Just go with the flow until you are feeling stronger. I have a type A personality and I remember being sick and just thinking there was no way I could continue with my studies. I was physically and emotionally drained and burned out. Forget your studies for a while. They will be waiting for you when you feel stronger. Wish I was closer I would come in and let you beat me at scrabble or something .. HUGS.

Cruiser's avatar

My motto is…If you never give up you can’t possibly lose!! Plus it is one of the reasons God gave you 2 middle fingers!! ;)

JLeslie's avatar

It depends on the thing. I definitely sometimes give up. Not sure it has to be called giving up if it is taking a realistic view of a situation and deciding to take a different path. I will say that most of the people I know who really pursue their goals hard, tend to be more ambitious than me and more successful in some ways. But, for the most part I am ok with it. I am ok with mediocrity for many things.

Giving up is different than being lazy. No point in beating your head against a wall.

But, it seems you are just having a tough time right now for several reasons, so probably don’t make any hasty decisions.

Mariah's avatar

@JLeslie I largely agree – I think it would be viewed by others as giving up, viewed in a negative light, but I don’t think it would necessarily be such a negative thing. I think the worst possible outcome in this situation would be to spend one’s whole life striving and struggling towards this goal, at the expense of spending time on other meaningful projects, or at the expense of getting to relax, but to never reach the goal. And since the goal is so unlikely to begin with, this outcome is very likely if one just refuses to “give up” for any reason. Employing a realistic view will help a person avoid this scenario; he might decide it’s time to quit when he sees that there would be more to be gained by settling on the more reliable road that virtually guarantees a more comfortable, easy life, at the expense of a bit of passion.
I agree that my current situation is clouding my judgement a LOT, so I’m not going to make any decisions until I am feeling much, much better.

Mariah's avatar

I guess I have always believed that my goals (may as well define them now – I want, so badly, to work for NASA) are difficult enough that I’m not likely to succeed unless I throw my whole self behind them. So, I did. I worked my butt of in high school. Things got complicated after I got sick. My disease was aggravated by stress, and my heavy courseload was stressful. I made myself sick with stress more than once. But I worked towards the goal anyway, at the expense of my health at times. Is it clearer now why this is a bad trade-off? I eventually learned my lesson, and I took easier classes my senior year, and damn it was nice to have some free time during the week. I can’t help but wonder if I’d be better off just giving up now and getting to enjoy the small comfort of having less stress, instead of just pushing myself past my limits all the time in a probably futile attempt to achieve this unlikely dream.
Okay, my apologies for my very emo moment here, fluther, I’ll try to stop asking questions that are just thinly-veiled opportunities for me to bitch and moan. :)

Cruiser's avatar

You would have to remove my arms and legs to get me to give up on anything I desired…and even then I would still KYA in Twister!

downtide's avatar

Depends on the disability and the situation. Take me for example – I’m partially-sighted so it’s pointless me even attempting to learn to drive (it would be illegal) or learning to play a sport like tennis (I can’t see the ball). But that doesn’t mean I can’t do other things. I would just change my goals.

mattbrowne's avatar

I believe in perseverance and yearly reality checks. Not every goal must stay shock-frozen for eternity. Goals can evolve and change. New goals can enrich our lives.

hobbitsubculture's avatar

If I had a disability, I would give up on anything stressful and unnecessary. It doesn’t take a lot to kill my motivation. Indigestion is excuse enough to keep me from doing anything useful for a day. You sound more driven.

Time is valuable. Will you enjoy your time studying robotics, even if you can’t make the career you hope for? Will your time spent on that degree be a waste if you can’t attain your ultimate goal, or do you have a lesser goal you can apply that robotics knowledge to? I am still working at my novel after two and a half years. I’ve made it through the first draft, and I’m on the second. Getting published will be difficult, and if I manage it at all, it could take years. But I enjoy writing and revising, and I know I will be happy even if just a few friends read what I have written. If I hated the work, there is no way it would be worth it, not with the time it takes.

Don’t let your worries that you aren’t good enough at hands-on work stop you. Your education should fill in those missing skills. If it doesn’t, that’s a fault with your curriculum.

mazingerz88's avatar

@Mariah Here’s to you feeling much better when you return to check this board. : )

“Just fight a good fight and know that no matter what happens, you have already won.”

JLeslie's avatar

@Mariah is there any reason you can’t continue working towards your goal at a slightly slower pace. I know how hard it is to do things “half way.” I think for many people, including myself, we are full force, killing ourselves, and then burn ourselves so badly we can’t do anything. Whatever your degree is that you are going for, even if you never get into NASA, most likely you will be glad you completed the degree if you push through. What year are you in?

My dad used to say getting from point A to point B is not usually a straight line. Meaning sometimes the goal is out there, and our oath getting to the goal might have more turns and dips in the road than we ever expected. So, if you really want NASA, but your health and other things have slowed you down, so the fuck what?! So you’ll be two years older when you finish school? Or, you could revise your plan a little, get a different degree and later go back to what you are studying now. I know several women who went back to school in their 50’s and got new degrees.

I once saw an interview where this man had written a book about changing careers. The statistic in America is something like on average American have three major career shifts during their aduthood. We have no perperations for it. When we are young we are supposed to pick the one thing we want to do for the rest of our lives, instead of thinking about the 3 or 4 interests we have and growing all of them, some slower and some faster. Anyway, my only point is try not to feel so much pressure about a single decision right now. Have you spoken to anyone at NASA? Do you feel you have the full scope of the positions available there? Usually not until one is inside of an organization do they really understand all of the different jobs there are. Maybe there is something at NASA, something else than what you originally thought that might be a better fit for you at this point in your life? Just a thought.

I think there are many things I have done that have shortened my life. Stress, and even putting my health at risk physically, I won’t get into it. When we are young there is a little bit of needing to pay dues and overworking ourselves, it is true some of it has to be done, but many times we exhaust ourselves more than was necessary. Adults you trust can help guide you in that balance.

So, I did not really help at all becajse my answer is all over the map, but I hope maybe it helps with the brainstorming.

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