How and When to Quit Something

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Our culture sees quitting as such a negative. To quit is to fail. To persevere against all odds makes you a hero.

I disagree. In fact, quitting might be just what you need to do in order to move on to bigger, better things.

The when and how of quitting:

Consider quitting anything that’s not in line with the person you want to be or the outcomes you wish to attain. If something isn't serving your goals and desires, if it’s not aligned with your values, let it go. Click To Tweet

If you’re struggling to decide whether or not you should quit something, simply ask yourself: is this thing I am doing in line with who I want to be and what I want to create? Does it serve the person I’m trying to be? If it’s not, why you’re doing it? To what end?

If your answer tells you that your commitment is:

  • not in line with who you want to be
  • devoid of true meaning in your life
  • only being done out of obligation…

then it’s time to let whatever it is your stressing over, go.

That may require some difficult conversations, life changes or canceled commitments, but if you don’t say no to the things that aren’t meaningful to you, then you’re saying no to the things that are.


Don’t base your decision to quit on sunk cost.

Sunk cost is the idea that you’ve already invested a substantial amount of time, money or energy into something, so you feel compelled to see it through. In some cases, this is a great motivator. I openly admit that I would have ditched my first and only fitness competition and half-ironman had I not invested boatloads of money and training into the process. I knew, come hell or high water, that I would finish that goal because the idea of leaving money and sweat on the table was unbearable to me.

But what if it’s a failing business venture that’s not working out (despite your best efforts) or a relationship that makes you miserable, but you’ve been with the person for so long, you can’t imagine life without them? That’s when it’s time to have an honest talk with yourself and consider what you’re potentially leaving on the table if you don’t quit. You could be saying no to potential income from other work opportunities or the partner of your dreams by staying the course on a sinking ship.

Think of it this way – if you didn’t quit the first romantic relationship you ever had, you may have married that person. If your first love was anything like mine, that’s a frightening prospect. Personally, had I not left a startup that was draining money and energy from me for two very long years, I would never have found my new job that offers great life balance and a generous paycheck.

I’m not suggesting that all difficult situations should be immediately ditched without a second thought, but I do think we stay longer than we should in situations, businesses or other commitments that don’t serve us because we don’t want to let ourselves or others down by quitting.

Want to be confident about quitting?  Know your values.

There are certain things I’ll never quit:

  • Working out
  • Eating clean
  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Writing

These are the functions that support my core values of looking and feeling my absolute best, having strong connections with the people I love and creative self-expression.  These things are everything to me, so I’ll never give up on them.  But with that said, I may quit training for a race I’m not ready for, ditch writing a blog that’s not getting any traction or distance myself from a relationship that’s draining or negative.  As long as I’m still focused on my core values, the activities that support them can change as often as they need to.

If you’re struggling with the idea of quitting something, but you’re beating yourself up about the idea of being a “quitter”, it’s time to stop.  Cliches like “winners never quit and quitters never win” are just platitudes.  They’re not intended to provide wisdom to guide the important day-to-day decisions in your life.

Now with that said, if you have a habit of not following through on commitments you make to yourself or others, that’s a different story.  Lack of follow through is a habit that will hold you back from getting where you want to go in life.  It can debilitate your career and make you lose credibility with the people around you.  It’s a fine line between quitting for the right reasons and not following through when the going gets tough.  Only you can decide what side of the line you’re standing on.  The best way to decide where your decisions are leading you is to ask yourself how quitting or not quitting will impact you 5 and 10 years down the road.

Sidebar:  One of the best books I’ve ever read (I mean, ever) is Essentialism, by Greg McKeown.  It’s a game-changer that will help you gain perspective on what’s important and what’s not.

Please share this with someone who’s struggling with the idea of quitting something.  Very often it’s a random message from nowhere that helps to put things into perspective.  


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  1. Thanks for this. I started a new job last week that I thought would be amazing. While there are some perks, I’m having serious reservations about it. I’ve honestly thought about quitting already. It’s so tough to quit something, especially when you put extra pressure on yourself to like it and commit to it for the sake of following through. I’m still not sure what I’ll do in my situation. Hmm.

    1. Oh, I’m sorry your job is not turning out to be what you expected it to be. If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. I’ve been there and I know others who have, too. Before you decide to quit (which is a totally legit decision), try to tease out exactly what it is that’s bothering you. Consider if it’s something that’s related to being new, or if it’s a fundamental part of the job that you’ll never be able to influence or adapt to. I’ve left a job in the past very early on because I didn’t think I’d be successful at it. In retrospect, I didn’t give myself a chance to learn and adapt. That said, I’ve also left a job because I was working for a butt hole, and that wasn’t going to change! Good luck.