Our Doubts are Traitors

I would never have thought I’d find a quote like this in LinkedIn, but I did, and it seems quite common for inspirational messages to posted to LinkedIn. (This quote was a shared by a friend of of mine, who, I suspect reads my posts once in a while — so my dear friend, this post is not about you, but about the quote, and more so how I see the quote)

One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.


0653: Ghost of ManFirst, whoever said this in the first place was being unfair. The way it is said, it is clear that the author (is quoter a word?) feels that walking away is easy (as against trying harder). In almost all social contexts, “working hard” is a virtue that we all learn from childhood. Some have substituted smart in place of hard, yet, the value of working hard has never diminished. When I read the quote through that lens, it seems to suggest that walking away is easy. It’s not. At all. In fact, trying harder is easier; walking away can be harder than trying harder. That’s one of the reasons many people feel stuck, where they are in life.

Second, the quote has no context of what we are walking away from or what it is that we need to try harder. Different situations, circumstances, and considerations will need different responses. You’d probably walk away from a dead-end job but try harder if you are working towards excellence. You’d walk away from an abusive relationship, but try harder when your loved ones need help. The instances may seem silly as you read them now, however, each situation is unique and has its on context and variables.

Finally, in my very personal opinion: to choose to try harder is not a decision (in the way it is used in the quote). Trying hard is a natural social and cultural response for the most of us. Seldom is it a conscious choice.

Here’s another quote, while we are at it:

“Don’t turn away from possible futures before you’re certain you don’t have anything to learn from them.” ― Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

When are we certain? When can we be certain? How long should we continue with that possible future to get to the point where we can categorically say that we are certain? No one can answer this for us, but us. It is an extremely personal experience, and whether people around you agree with you or not, you are the only person who can be certain. You are the only person who has to be certain.

And finally, one last quote. One that I feel has been constructed so well, it works even if you want to walk away or if you try harder. Is it the decision that’s hard, or the act? Perhaps you will see a glimpse of the real culprit, in what is the hardest decision.

Our doubts are traitors,
And makes us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt.

~William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act 1, Scene 4


Related Post: Nothing so Certain as your Anchors


2 thoughts on “Our Doubts are Traitors

  1. I agree it’s contextual. But probably the context of the quote is implicit in the way it is framed? When one has already invested a lot (time/money/energy/sentiments/…) into something, for instance, both the “choices” are almost equally hard, for walking away means writing off that bad debt, while staying in means possibly to increase it. Then the decision becomes hardest, because neither choice is obviously easy. Probably that’s what the quote means. If one “choice” is way better than other, then choosing isn’t that difficult, is it?


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