It’s Okay to Quit Sometimes

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No one likes a quitter.

Never give up.

The chances are you grew up with these tenets. We’re taught to keep our eyes on the prize, to persevere until we reach our goals, and that giving up is not an option.

But guess what?

Sometimes, it’s okay to quit. Depending on the circumstances, giving up IS an option. And sometimes, it is the smart thing to do.

It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s something I am learning.

I’m the type of person who likes to see things through. Once I commit, I don’t quit. Whether it’s a relationship or professional endeavor, the idea of bailing out just makes me squirm. It just doesn’t sit well with me.

However, looking back at the past decade or so of my life, I realize that I should have known when to quit. That at some points, I should have accepted the fact that giving up was what I had to do. That people can’t be controlled. That they can’t be helped if they don’t want to.

If I had done that, I wouldn’t feel like I have wasted many years of my life. That I could be in a better place, mentally and emotionally.

For what it's worth: it's never too be whoever you want to be. - F. Scott Fitzgerald Click To Tweet

But hey, better late than never, right? As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote:

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

In other situations, like setting fitness goals or professional achievements, the same thing applies. I stumbled upon this graphic outlining scientific reasons why it’s okay to quit sometimes. It may not touch your spiritual side, but it does provide a practical point of view.

In a nutshell, here are some reasons it’s okay to give up.

  1. Setting a reward-based goal diminishes motivation and negatively affects performance.
  2. Focusing on the outcome of a goal has a negative impact on your chances of reaching it. Losing weight comes to mind…
  3. Disengaging from extremely difficult goals promotes better health and improves sleep. In other words, you stress less, which in turn is good for your overall health.
  4. Keeping your focus on just one thing can prevent you from finding new opportunities.
  5. Experiencing failure after missing a goal can impact future chances of success. I believe this is simplistic since you do need to experience failure to realize that life isn’t perfect. However, if you set unrealistic goals and you fail, then it is indeed better to give up.
  6. Disengaging from a goal can improve emotional well-being and reduce feelings of depression.
  7. Persisting with tough goals can reduce self-regulation, leading to unethical behavior. OR obsessive behavior which can be harmful. (Think: over-exercising, starving one’s self, working 80 hours a week…)
  8. Persevering through unrealistic goals has been linked to increased inflammation in the body.
  9. Knowing when to move on helps build emotional agility and self-awareness.

And that last thing made something go BOOM in my head.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still all for persevering and keeping my commitments. But one thing to remember is that goals and commitments shouldn’t be made without much thought.


okay to quit

Do yourself a favor and be real to yourself and other parties involved. You’ll turn out happier that way.

One last thing: this knowing how to quit thing – it’s probably a continuous process, so don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t get it right. I sometimes still beat myself up too much because of my mistakes, but I tell myself that, for future reference, it’s okay to quit.

Tell yourself that, too.

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