Does quitting something that not working out for you make you a failure? Or does it make you smart for moving on from something that wasn’t working anyway, freeing you up to work on something that’s more in line with your skills and abilities?
Well, that depends.
It’s not as cut and dry as being solely one or the other; it’s complicated.
Really, what’s really important is the intent behind the action – why are you quitting? What’s your drive, your motivation for ‘giving up’ on your current path?
There are two different drivers behind what makes us quit or persevere with something, and they are whether or not there is a powerful ‘why’ driving your motivation to get that ‘thing’ done, and whether or not the activity you’re engaging in is serving your higher purpose.
If you don’t have a powerful reason for why you’re doing that thing, and that thing has any level of difficulty or complexity, then you will likely quit – the reward, to you, simply isn’t proportionate to the amount of effort required; so why continue? Why suffer the pain of going through this when there’s no perceived value in the reward at the end of the activity? This is why a lot of people give up on something, because they simply don’t see the reward as being proportionate in value to the amount of effort they need to exert to achieve it.
Which is to be expected – it’s part of our biology and psychology. We have evolved over the years to expend as little energy as possible when there is nothing pressing or important to be done (like hunt for food, or run from predators). This ensured we kept our energy reserves high, despite the probable scarcity of food and other supplies. If food is scarce, and food gives us our energy, then we need to preserve our energy as much as possible when it isn’t needed for essential survival activities.
This is why you need to have a powerful reason driving your actions – it’s the only way to beat our evolutionary programming that makes us a naturally lazy species!
The second reason kind of ties in with the first in that if the results of an activity don’t serve you in one positive way or another, then you’re wasting that valuable energy on it and should cease immediately. The outcome, or the results, hold little or no value to you, and so the motivation and inspiration to continue vanishes.
But how do you know if you’re just giving in to your evolutionary psychology when you should be pushing through, and how do you know when you’ve truly reached a point where something really isn’t serving you anymore? Well, it’s tough. The most important thing is to have a deep level of self-knowledge so that you know exactly who you are and what drives you in life.
Things worth achieving take a high level of skill and effort to achieve. The question is, are you prepared to put in the work? Or rather, especially in the case of business ventures or starting a new hobby, are you prepared to go all out and try anything to make it work? Because if you’re not, don’t both dipping your toe in the ocean because a toe in the water is never going to compete with the metaphorical deep sea swimmers and surfers already in the water.
Things are hard. Life is hard.
“Do not pray for an easy life, but the strength to endure a hard one”
– Bruce Lee
But isn’t that the point? We are like the muscles in our bodies; if we don’t get tested and push ourselves then we don’t grow – even worse, we atrophie and die, withering away into nothing as our courage, intelligence, resilience and fortitude wither into oblivion.
It is stress and adversity that push us to grow as human beings, the same way you destroy a muscle in the gym in order for it to have the opportunity to face the pressure and come back bigger and stronger. Adversity is your friend, without it you cannot move forward and so you must learn to embrace it, and build over the time the strength to endure it, learn from it, and grow from it.
Do not wish for an easy life, for that is wishing to banish your opportunity to grow!
So, when are you supposed to quit something? We all recognise that sometimes there are things in life that we start that simply don’t serve us, don’t build us up, and more than anything break us down into a shadow of our former selves. Are there circumstances where you should definitely quit? Absolutely. Do you need to try everything to make it work first? YES!
There are things that I have had to leave behind in life where the decision plagued me for a long time… I’d turn it over and over in my head, worrying that if I quit then I would be a failure. I tried and tried, taking every different approach possible, and each time was faced with a lack of progress. I tortured myself for a long time on the right course of action to take, and sometimes cutting loose is the best way to free yourself from constraints so you finally have the room to continue growing.
It’s a hard choice to make, giving up on something that’s been a big part of your life for a decade or more, but the fact of the matter is that in my moving on I am allowing all concerned to continue to grow; myself included.
If you feel like quitting, think back to why you started. If faced with the same choice now, would you still start?
We all reach a point in the things we do in life where we reach the threshold; this is the maximum amount of growth we can hope to achieve in a given space due to potentially limiting environmental conditions. If you’re limited by your environment, you need to grow as far as that environment will allow, and then move to one that further pushes you and provides the next level of opportunity for growth.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”
– Anthony Robbins
“If you’re ripe, you rot; if you’re green, you grow”
– Ray Kroc
Continued growth is the key to your success and your level of fulfilment in life, so the simple question to ask yourself is – are you growing where you are? How much room is there left for you to grow? Is the end result worth the effort to you?
If the answer is no to any of those questions, you need to get up off your backside and MOVE.