I'm looking for the best English word or phrase to describe the following concept: to recognize the existence of something, come to terms with it, and write it off.

For example, something like "I wanted to be an Olympian. I'm now a happy businessman and father. I recognize this former goal and I let go of it."

Not as harsh as "write-off", but similar in concept.

  • 1
    You've said it: let it go.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 14:42
  • 1
    "moved on" is another way... "was pulled a different direction" might be another.
    – Tom22
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 14:52
  • There are a variety of alternatives and why you've "written off" being an Olympian could make some alternatives better than others. If you weren't good enough, then 'acceptance' could be implied. If you didn't have time, maybe it was more of a choice, etc. Just a thought.
    – John
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 15:57
  • Are you looking for a replacement for the verb, adjective, or noun use of write off/write-off? That is, what kind of sentence do you want to say: V: I have written off my Olympic dreams or ADJ: I used to think I'd go to the Olympics someday, but I've accepted that that's a write-off dream or N: Now that I'm entering my nineties, I'm coming to terms with the fact that my Olympic dreams are probably a write-off. This will make a big difference to the kinds of answers you get.
    – 1006a
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 17:59
  • I wish to use it as a verb.
    – IamIC
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 18:09

4 Answers 4


I would suggest "moved on" or "was pulled a different direction"

... especially if it was a pull factor that changed the focus...but not only so.

"I'm not doing X but I'm doing Y" is far more positive that "I'm not doing X anymore" . It emphasizes that the person is still confident and striving, just in a different direction.

"I went as far as I could." is another good way of saying more that you finished after giving a full and valiant effort.

To fit your example sentence, instead of:

I recognize this former goal and I let go of it."

I would suggest:

I moved on after going as far as I could with that past goal.

I moved on to new goals.

I went as far as I could with that goal.

(the issue with "write-off" is that it sounds like the person believes that the energy put in was "misspent" ... which isn't a matter of "not being gentle" but a matter of saying the wrong thing.

While "let it go" might be somewhat better, it is still suggesting that there was a futile obsession at one point rather than ending with plainly a rational and happy completion and succession to other worthy interests)


"I accept that I will not be an Olympian." According to Wikipedia,:

Acceptance in human psychology is a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest it.


You could probably add a few more words like "Embraced the truth which is...", "Came to terms with the fact that...". They not only add to the gravity in the sentence but also profess some sense of erudition.


When you write someone or something off, you are dismissing it as not important. This dismissal is where the harshness of the phrase comes from.

"She never shows up when we agree to meet, so I chose to write off our friendship"

The way it reads is that you are angry about her not caring enough to show up. The term carries more meaning behind it than the words themselves convey.

As you already mentioned, letting go is the act of accepting and moving on. This also carries a deeper meaning, but in softer tones.

Writing something or someone off is nearly always used in the negative. I can't think of a better term than letting go of an old dream in the context that you describe.

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