“Winners know when to quit or when to grit.” - Dr. Kristian H
It’s okay to quit. Quit the job you hate. Leave the relationship that isn’t serving you. Quit the friendships that are draining. I am not sure exactly when we are taught that “Quitters never prosper” or “Quitters never win, and winners never quit.” I am not sure why we were taught that there is honor in finishing things that are unfulfilling, toxic, and stressful as long as you don’t quit.
Here’s the danger in being fearful of quitting. You can get stuck. Instead of focusing on what is important to you, what makes you feel happy, healthy, and free, you just focus on not quitting. You stop being strategic. You stop thinking about whether your decisions will lead you to the life you want to live.
I had to learn that quitting wasn’t the problem, quitting is a very necessary part of life. I made so many decisions in my young adult life driven by one factor and one factor only – I didn’t want to quit. I didn’t want to be seen as a failure. My biggest fear in life was failing, so anything that looked or smelled like failure, I didn’t want to have any parts of. So if that meant I was in an unhealthy relationship, I wanted to fight it out to make it work, because I didn’t want to fail. If I had a toxic friendship, I didn’t want to cut it off, I wanted to figure it out, work it out, and make it work. No matter the stress, the pain, or the tears that I had go through, I would put myself through it, if it meant I wouldn’t fail.
What I didn’t realize then, is that by not quitting, I was failing. I was failing to put myself first. I was failing to follow my dreams. I was failing at having enough confidence to walk in my own path. I had to learn the difference between necessary and unnecessary quitting. Sometimes, quitting is absolutely necessary. Take addiction, for example. If you have an unhealthy addiction – drugs, alcohol, or gambling – almost everyone would agree that you should work on quitting and breaking those bad habits. But, there are a lot of other bad habits outside of the typical that we need to let go - unhealthy relationships with food, unfulfilling jobs, or toxic relationships. Research from Carnegie Mellon found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response which can promote the development and progression of disease. In other words, stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body. We have to take care of ourselves, and sometimes that means knowing when to call it quits.
Here are a few tips to help you determine if it is time to quit something or someone.
When you find yourself in a stressful situation, start by asking yourself a few questions. What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Why do I want to quit? The two why questions are probably the most important. Why are you doing what you are doing? Does it bring you happiness or does it put you on a path that could bring you happiness? Do you even know what happiness is for you? Is the action part of a larger strategy? Does it improve your health? Are you being driven by external or internal forces?
As you work towards crafting your ideal life, everything won’t happen overnight. For example, if you decide you want to open a fitness studio, there are several steps you must take to ensure your success. For starters, you may need to get certified as a fitness instructor, then teach classes in a fitness studio to build your clientele, and work with and manage an existing fitness studio to learn the do’s and don’ts of the business. But, if you are struggling with passing the test to become a fitness instructor, and you want to quit, you need to ask yourself if opening a fitness studio is still your dream. If it is, quitting isn’t an option.
Please read this clearly, hard work is a must. You shouldn’t quit things just because they are hard or challenging. But if you realize that you do not want to open a fitness studio, because you are actually passionate about ballet, then quitting may be the absolute right thing to do. Only you will know if you are being strategic or lazy. You have to be honest with yourself.
Next, ask yourself how the action or person makes you feel. If the thought of doing something or seeing someone brings on intense anxiety or makes you feel physically ill, it may be time to reevaluate. If your dream is being a physician, and medical school is intensely stressful, the stress may be worth it to get to the end goal of practicing medicine. But if you aren’t passionate about being a physician, and you are only doing it because it sounds good, then the stress is absolutely not worth it. But once again, only you can decide the right path.
Finally, make sure that you aren’t just facing a challenge you need to push through. If you want to lose weight or change your eating habits, you are going to experience moments of intense cravings when you just want to give in and eat what you want. These are the moments when you want to try to push through and not quit. When you are on the treadmill, and you set a goal of running a mile, don’t get off that treadmill just because you are tired. When you are an entrepreneur at heart, and have started five companies that have failed, you must still start the sixth.
Sometimes quitting is the right answer, and sometimes it is not. Sometimes you need to preserve, and sometimes you need to let go. You may need grit or you may need compassion. The goal is balance. The goal is to figure out the appropriate time for each response. So maybe the new saying we should teach kids, is “Winners know when to quit or when to grit.”