Letting go is one of the hardest things to do and I think the biggest question most people try and deal with is the difference between letting go and quitting. This becomes problematic because quitting is often seen as a social no-no and many people suffer because they do not want to be judged by their peers, family or colleagues.
According to the Difference Between Net, the difference between the two terms depends on the attitude of the person. Quitting is often a negative term which occurs when the person finds the path they are on too difficult. Letting go though is an action which saves a person from misery and this can be letting go of a person, emotion or thing. .”1
Years ago, while crawling though my Honours degree in a subject I had no interest in I met a former male student who had just joined the navy. I was intrigued by his attraction to the navy and he explained that when he was in his final semester of his actuarial science degree he realised that if he finished it he would continue on a path that he would regret later. So he quit. No, wait, he let go. Why not finish the degree I asked (like any rational person)? His response: If he finished his degree he would feel forced to get a job in that field and continue his studies along that path and he would never have realised his dream of joining the Navy and while there studying (yes, he started a whole new degree) in something that he truly wanted. Either way he was a lot happier and would make the same decision again if he had to (needless to say I quit my Honours and started down a completely different path too). Yes, I said quit. Quit because it was not an easy decision and I think at the time I felt like I was giving up. I had not failed a subject in my undergraduate degree and here I was forcing myself to accept failure and defeat a year later. In the long-term did it make me feel better? Yes. Did I start something that I preferred? Yes. So was I quitting? No. I was letting go. I believe that if I had not started something new then I could 100% say I quit. I gave up. But because I started something new I was not quitting. I was letting go.
I googled the topic and discovered that so many different people have tried to solve this question (as a side note Michael Jackson’s song, “You are not alone” came to mind).
Even more difficult than quitting actions is quitting people. I had friendships that I always felt like I was quitting on if I stopped making any effort. I take my friendships very seriously (refer to my post: A Season? A Reason? A Lifetime?) and when the other person does not make any effort over a period of time I do not immediately let go. I try and try and try again until I feel like there is nothing more to be done. This is past the point of anger or frustration or even sadness. It’s at the point where there is no feeling at all and you realise that your life is no different now than when the person was in it. Yes, nostalgic feelings of sadness at the thought may pop up but the action does not have any feeling in it. So I stopped making an effort as well and the friendships disappeared. And I did not feel like I had quit. I felt like I had let go.
So maybe quitting is when you really want something but just because it is difficult you give up and try to hide the fact that you failed to continue working for something you wanted. Letting go is when what you want can no longer be achieved by continuing on the current path you are on and maybe while you were on this path you realised that you no longer wanted the same thing anymore.
So you let go and try something else.
1. The Difference Between Net. [Online: http://www.differencebetween.net/science/nature/difference-between-giving-up-and-letting-go/]