When “I Quit” is the Best Thing to Do

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” But sometimes, a situation operates firmly in the gray area; you’re not sure what the “right” thing to do is because it’s not as clear cut as you would hope it to be. So, you may find yourself hanging on to a situation because of a promise you made, fear of letting go, fear of failure, or the nagging memory of the phrase “quitters never win.”

And this is a mentality taught to young kids, too. Though done with good intention, kids are often taught not to quit when things get tough, to stay focused and work through frustrations – but the lesson often stops there. There’s often little discussion, if any, about what is too hard, too frustrating, too damaging. Of what comes after the line has been crossed. When it’s ok to say “I quit.”

There’s lots to unwrap here, but I want to focus primarily on the action of letting go because this is an important distinction. I think many of us believe “I quit” translates to “I give up.” But I think it also lends itself to mean “this is enough” or “I’m letting go now.”

I came across a powerful image that really resonated with me (see right). Can you relate? I certainly could. There have been more than a few situations in my life where letting go was the better decision, even though it took a lot of strength and confidence to first admit it to myself before I could make that move. For example, I took a job that was not directly aligned to my abilities thinking it would be an opportunity to grow and try new things. It was, however, the opposite. With little guidance and a challenging management system, I was looking for a way out after just three months. But, I convinced myself that leaving a job after three months would reflect poorly on me and my career history; no one would take me seriously if I left a job after just 90 days – that’s barely enough time for the traditional three-month review for new employees!

So, I stuck it out. And got sick. Very sick. The stress of the job did some significant damage both mentally and physically. The final straw came on Thanksgiving Eve, approximately nine months after I took the job. And that’s when I quit. Within 1 week, I felt better. And 1 month after that, I was back to my normal self.

Think about the thankless and unhealthy relationships you have been in, and how long it took to finally quit. Think about the workplace when you held onto a low performing employee, who, after much coaching and a lot of support time, still choose to do as little as possible in the job. Think about the unprofessional or inappropriate advances that another person makes toward you and you just think it’s part of how things are done.

In the end, quitting the job, the relationship, the workplace may be the best thing for you. But to get there, you have to first allow yourself to realize that there’s a line between giving up and letting go. You have to decide where that line is.

Take Action
Think about a situation you are currently in that you may find frustrating or challenging. Imagine how you want things to be instead. Now, how will you get from where you are to where you want to be? What action(s) will be required to make that dream a reality?

Parents – consider talking to your children about what is too hard, too frustrating or too damaging. Help them understand when quitting is ok and not ok. Help them define their line between giving up and letting go.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Learning How to Be Self-Managed

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