How do you know when it’s time to quit or when you should dig your heels in and keep going?
I’m not a big fan of quitting. In my experience, most people quit way too early, before they have even a chance of seeing any progress.
Progress takes time. Much more time, in fact, than most people think or are willing to give.
If you’re trying to lose weight, two weeks is not enough to see whether your diet is a good fit.
If you’re trying to build strength, one 30-day challenge will only get you so far.
Athletic skills — and most other things in life worth pursuing — take years to master. My personal handstand journey is proof: I’ve been on my hands for over seven years, and am just starting to feel the level of control and consistency that make me feel like I kind of know what I’m doing.
But that doesn’t mean quitting is never the answer.
Trying to achieve too much at once — not quitting anything, no matter what — can be more harmful than helpful.
The truth is, we can only do so much in our short lives. I’ve learned this the hard way, previously trying to focus on too many goals at once, eventually realizing that I was making progress on nothing. As a result, I’ve since simplified my life — and my goals — significantly.
The shift from viewing quitting as “giving up” to viewing it as simplifying and focusing is a game changer. With this approach,
After all, we only have so much attention and focus to devote to our goals and activities during any given day. We all have responsibilities, and we all need to sleep, eat, exercise, and have some social interaction and relaxation time on a daily and weekly basis. This gives us only a finite amount of time to pursue our bigger goals. Which means that in order to get to know ourselves better and find what really clicks, we need to learn to quit.
As Rich Kaarlgaard writes in Late Bloomers: The Hidden Strengths of Learning and Succeeding at Your Own Pace:
“Quitting is power. Quitting, done for the right reason, is not giving up. It’s not submitting or throwing in the towel. It is saying that a job just doesn’t suit us. It is trying something and not liking it. In this way, quitting is actually part of the process of discovery. We define who we are by quitting, whether it’s a club, school, job, or hobby. Forced adherence or unquestioned devotion leads to atrophy—to slowly dying. But quitting is the process of growing, the process of living.”
Conscious quitting isn’t about giving up. It’s about getting clear about our priorities and our goals. It’s quitting one thing so that we can free up time and energy for something more important.