I was struggling to decide whether to put this here or under Psychology, but here we are.

Usually when people face circumstances that are hard enough to be handled at a given moment of time. From there, they have several paths to take. They might ask someone's help, or work hard, or a combination of both to handle it in the future. But there often are some time constraints, as well as those of capabilities, talents, financial and many more, leaving the person pretty much... helpless.

This is where the two choices come in. To give up or to move on. But here's a caveat. People give up on particular things as they deem other things more important to waste time (and other resources) on the current one, hence successfully moving on. Seemingly best of both worlds, but not really.

One can very easily fool themselves into merging two very different concepts into one. They can falsely generate priorities to give up on a difficult but very important thing, leading to stress, regrets and other negative emotions in the future. This important thing can be anything, ranging from learning a new skill to cultivating a relationship, and much more. But then again, how does one decide if they are giving up or moving on or giving up and moving on.

I understand that there might be no complete or correct answer to it, which is why I came to Philosophy rather than Psychology. But please leave your thought or any additions if you like. I'd like to know more about this topic.

Thank you.

  • Giving up means stop searching the solution for problem A. Moving on means addressing problem B. What you decide depends on your resources and priorities. Eg. if you have resources (e.g. time), keep searching solutions for A and B. If not, choose, between A and B.
    – RodolfoAP
    Sep 29, 2022 at 18:47
  • "Who's moving on? Who's kidding who?" - L Cohen youtu.be/2EkydhgKUPA
    – CriglCragl
    Oct 29, 2022 at 21:37

4 Answers 4


This is more of a "personal philosophy" question than psychology, so this is a good place to ask it. But what you decide inevitably has an effect on you psychologically. Wisdom is to choose what is best for your wellbeing, not a position that someone recommends.

I suggest that you throw out your current thinking. Pretend that you just "parachuted in" to the situation and decide what you want. Look ahead, choose something, or if you don't like the alternatives you see, change something. Usually you can only change yourself or personal aspects of your situation, like location.

Go forward always. Always have a goal. Always be ready to change. Good luck!

  • Nonduality means never having to think you're sorry.
    – Scott Rowe
    Sep 29, 2022 at 13:47
  • 'Wisdom is to choose what is best for your wellbeing'. I can see a logic in this, but it's far from uncontentious; if only from an ethical point of view. Sep 29, 2022 at 14:37
  • @Futilitarian I suppose it depends on whether you think wellbeing can be a problem, or ever conflict with anyone else's wellbeing. If it is defined as, "the best overall", then there is no conflict.
    – Scott Rowe
    Sep 29, 2022 at 15:25
  • Thank you both for the replies. The insights are really helpful. But what happens when this "Best Overall" evolves into an escape route? I mean sure moving on is a wisdom when all that can be done is crying over spilt milk, but in most situations, perseverance may lead to innovations. What happens if a similar situation arises in future, or a different event/situation makes one feel the same way? Oct 5, 2022 at 14:19
  • @AnuragSrivastava: To avoid such self-deception or misdirection, we need to cultivate the skills for wisdom. Discussed here: 'What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/82911/…
    – CriglCragl
    Oct 29, 2022 at 21:45

Giving up: Declare defeat and put an end to one's attempts.
Moving on: Declare an action to be finished and do something else.

So "giving up" is a possible part of moving on, but it's not a necessary one. You could also move on after successfully finishing a project so that no further attempts are necessary, you'd not have given up, you'd have accomplished all there was to accomplish in that field, so there's nothing left but to move on.

Likewise "moving on" is a possible part of giving up, as, apart from maybe your own death, it's almost unavoidable (hence necessary) to not follow up your stopping of an action with another action. The specifics however also depend on what precisely you mean by "moving on" as "moving on" often implies some sort of progression and not just a random change of habits. So "giving up" may block the road to "moving on" as it's a necessary requirement to successfully finish a) to move on to b). Or it may be an alternative after exhaustively testing a) you moved on to b). Or it could just mean moving on with "the progression of your life" so anything but stagnation.

Meaning you could also "give up" but not "move on" as you don't consider the act of frustration over not having achieved your goal "progress" (something you've moved on to), despite fully giving up (stopping to try).

Either way giving up and moving on both imply a definitive end to something, so moving on but looking back is not moving on and not giving up.


Even if 'giving up' is the only/most pragmatic solution, it is nonetheless 'moving on'.

A person cannot help but 'move on' until they die.

Imagine a situation in which you run a business overseas, in a nation governed by a corrupt regime. The taxes imposed upon you by corrupt police and gangsters render your income so minuscule that persevering with the business seems pointless.

You give up your business.

Does life stop? No. Are you unable to move on because you gave up? No. You must move on.

In fact, any action, including 'giving up' is inevitably a form of progress; of continuation, of 'moving on'.

Perhaps the question is more usefully put as something like:

"To move on via perseverance, and/or to move on via change?".

  • 1
    Thank you for replying. From what I understand, despite the motivational stories (which are mostly fake anyways) of never giving up and keep persevering is practically impossible but knowing when perseverance truly becomes futile is difficult unless the failed results are already there. My personal belief is to move on with change, by knowing one's own limits and then working on them (Which I guess is even harder). The issue here is mainly to avoid moving on as an escape policy, as when that becomes a habit, it won't be moving on but flying over (i.e., without even trying anything). Oct 5, 2022 at 14:29
  • Yes. Trial and (frequent) error seem inevitable. To distinguish between those times when perseverance is pointless, and when it is merely difficult and perhaps fruitful can be very challenging. The idea of 'never giving up' may sometimes yield good results, but it can also prove tragic. Consider the boxer who takes this attitude and sustains terrible brain damage as a result. Oct 5, 2022 at 23:34

You can move on but does not necessarily mean you are giving up. Sometimes when I get to a point in, say writing a paper, or fixing my car and I get frustrated that I’m not making progress I move on. Knowing that I will cycle back to the task after my mind ponders the subject.

If I give up I never intend to cycle back.

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