When to Stick with Something — and When to Quit
Surely you have heard about the modern-day myth that practice makes perfect and that you just need to put your mind (or your back) into something and voila, there you have it!
While it’s a tempting thing to believe in such happy-ending fairytales, the reality is often harder than we’d like it to be.
Practice and following through indeed have their place in succeeding in… well, almost everything.
Sometimes, however, no matter how much you try, it’s just not meant to happen… not to you at least.
It’s not to say that perseverance is not the most important aspect of success because it definitely is, but sometimes, you just need to have some talent, be born for something or be in a specific kind of a situation in order to achieve your goals and fulfill your desires.
The modern-day optimistic credo of idea + work + action = success is sometimes simply not founded in everyday existence and reality. Do you seriously need an example?
Take that kid from Somalia that digs cobalt a few miles deep within the Somalian mines for 1$ per hour every day so that you may have your lithium rechargeable batteries in your handy devices.
Try explaining to that kid how he/she can do everything they want in life if they only put enough work into it.
It just doesn’t work.
Well, that’s reality for ya… and if you think that neoliberal capitalism made it possible for everyone to bathe in riches and if this offends your subtle yuppie taste, let’s take another example, a one less drenched in the economy.
Take a deaf person and explain to that person that he or she can be a brilliant composer or a virtuoso if he or she tries enough? Rings a bell?
Yeah, sure, but a deaf person can’t hear it.
You can say that Beethoven could sure do it, but he wasn’t born deaf and besides, how many Beethovens have you met in your life?
Wake up Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Some things you just can’t do and it might be wise to know how to discern between the unachievable and achievable through hard work only… just to avoid trying too hard for nothing or quitting when you should have followed through.
THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF QUITTING
We’re all really familiar with the downsides of quitting, right?
From a very early age of our development, our parents and teachers made it sure that we appall quitting and with a good reason too.
The very word “quitter” carries a negative connotation and is used to describe someone who lacks the willpower to make an effort and succeed in something that demands a certain degree of vigor.
So quitters never succeed because only a few things in this life come free of charge (except life itself maybe) and the most frequent currency in transactions is your vital energy.
You spend it on everything that you want to get and achieve.
When you think about it, money and material goods are just a way for you to convert your energy into means of getting the desired materials and services, but in essence… you pay for energy with energy.
The point is that if you want to have something done or simply have something, you must invest a certain amount of energy.
People who don’t invest don’t get revenue and it’s as simple as that.
No money, no honey. No pain no gain. Since quitters are on the “no gain” side of the spectrum, it’s clear why they don’t succeed.
It’s easy to assume that they are the successful part of the bunch, but sometimes, it gets more complicated.
If you get stuck trying to achieve the unachievable and get too stubborn about it to admit the failure to yourself, you’re bound to waste time, nerves, energy and consequently money which is, by the time you’re through, the least of your concerns.
The people who don’t know how to quit either succeed or break being unable to bear the defeat.
If they don’t have it their way, they quit a lot more than they placed their bets on in the first place.
Some of them don’t want to lose the battle and they lose wars because of it.
Think of gamblers who keep rolling the dice until they lose everything that they’ve got.
Think of people who take away their lives because their girlfriend left them or because they didn’t have any friends.
As Aristotle said, happiness is the balance between your wishes and your potential to fulfill them. If you wish for too much and overreach, you’ll be miserable, if you wish for too little and don’t actualize your full potential, it’ll get too dull for you.
Having said that, a specific downside of being too ambitious, optimistic and bent on working hard is the possibility of others exploiting your disposition as such.
If you think about it, we were taught in schools to behave, listen to commands, keep quiet and repeat what is expected of us. We were also taught not to give up, because if we did, how could anyone ever make us do what they want us to do?
So, quitting can have its good sides. It just depends on whether you know what, how and when to quit or not.
If you do it as you should, it just might save you a lot of energy and time which all the money in the world cannot buy.
KNOWING WHAT TO QUIT
Before we start answering the question of “when”, the question of “what” should first be addressed.
So what should you quit and what should you follow through?
Depends on your criteria of course, but first, ask yourself is it life-threatening or not. It usually isn’t though and when it is, you neither have the time nor need for reading articles like this.
After you’ve established that you won’t die if you quit, ask yourself a few of the following questions:
- How important is this to me?
- How am I going to feel if I quit?
- How will this affect my future?
If it’s not that important, why wouldn’t you quit? If you even find yourself thinking about quitting you must have your reasons to do so. Make a list of those reasons.
Put together the “for” and “against” list and assign points to every argument.
Then all you have to do is put together the points and see if it adds up and you’ll make it easier for yourself to decide and end the agony of the dilemma.
It matters to a great extent what you’re quitting.
Quitting a job can be a bit tricky because you can easily find yourself climbing or even falling down the corporate ladder. Calculate your salary and expenses and be sure to have a plan B in store. Other than that, you’re good to go.
Quitting a habit is by definition a good thing. Even if it’s a good habit, it’s not advisable to be a creature of the habit.
Yes, you have to have a certain rhythm in your life and you can’t consciously steer through it all the time, but disengaging from autopilot has its innumerable benefits as well.
Quitting a relationship or in other words breaking up, whether it’s your friend or a lover can be amongst the toughest choices ever so thread carefully.
Put together the pros and cons and make sure that it’s absolutely not worth fighting for before you quit.
If your lover is a manipulative, self-centered narcissist who doesn’t value you, then you should let him/her go.
If not, don’t think that Princes(ess) Charming grow on trees, waiting for you to pick them. First of all, a perfect partner doesn’t exist.
Relationships are something that you build and work on, not something that starts off and turns out to be perfect on its own.
DANGERS OF THE URGE TO BE CONSISTENT
We were taught not to quit by inertia so we feel guilty when we’re about to back down.
People often find themselves making stupid mistakes because they think they should be consistent or that they should stick to a decision that they’ve made or keep the word that they’ve given to themselves or someone else.
It’s stubbornness and inertia that often get us into trouble.
While it’s virtuous to be a man of your word, nothing that you say is ever written in stone nor should you act as it is.
You have the capacity to go back on your word and utter something to overwrite what you’ve said.
It’s not to say that you should misuse that capacity and be capricious about it, but you shouldn’t put yourself through hell just for the sake of consistency and principles either.
Principles are there to serve you, it’s not the other way around.
People are well aware of our inertia and the urge to persist no matter the cost so they can find a way of manipulating us into feeling guilty and doing what they want.
If they insist on us persisting, we should always ask ourselves about their interest in our persistence.
One should absolutely disregard any and all insults and labels such as “quitter” and such.
By themselves, those categories mean nothing and they can be attributed to everything without ever specifying why someone quit or what or how did he/she quit.
Come to think of it, those are important questions to answer.
HOW TO QUIT
Even video games and computer programs are designed to manipulate our urge to be consistent.
Some of them are witty and even put the blame on you for being a coward.
Well, the people who hold your withdrawal against their interest will do the same.
Before you withdraw, carefully analyze your motives for doing so, explain yourself to yourself and answer any and all questions you might think of at the moment.
Think of all the possibilities and try to examine your withdrawal from as many angles as you can, including the angle of the people who would manipulate you.
That way, you will have your answers prepared in advance.
Don’t let anyone but yourself second-guess your decisions. That doesn’t mean you’ll become arrogant and self-centered.
Take into consideration other people’s opinions, but as suggestions only, ’cause that’s what they are.
If you react emotionally to those suggestions, then they’ve already destabilized you and affected your judgment. In other words, you’ve accepted them and internalized them.
In that manner what was one, a suggestion becomes a truth that you feel you should deal with.
To avoid such a situation, be introspective and self-critical so that, when others criticize you, you don’t feel guilty or like you own them anything, not even an explanation.
You’ve explained everything to yourself already and you yourself are the only person who can demand those explanations. You do what you have to do to keep your composure.
To be fair to others too and avoid being a selfish prick, offer your explanation to them, but only once. Don’t let them draw you into the whirlpool of sophistry, diversions, and deceptions.
Don’t let anyone lie to you. If you feel that you should quit and that it will bring you peace, by all means, quit.
Never let the inferiority complex biased feeling that you owe people something make you serve them… unless you actually owe something, which is less often the case than they’d have you believe.
Feeling that you necessarily have to follow through will sometimes put you in a disadvantage before others who don’t share the feeling.
Not to mention the time you’ll lose the following something through for nothing.
THE THINGS WE CAN(‘T) QUIT AND QUESTIONS WE SHOULD ASK OURSELVES
Once, people were taught how to repair and hold onto things.
Now the paradigm changed.
When something’s broken or when something doesn’t fulfill the purpose we’ve ascribed to it, we abandon it, throw it in the trash and buy a new one.
As long as you can buy a new one it sounds good, but there are still some priceless things.
Having said that, one should think about what he’s quitting and why.
There are questions to ask yourself when quitting your job, enterprise, relationship, a game, an agreement, a habit.
Think about whether you’ll be able to find a better job, game, enterprise and about all the aspects of your current job:
- What’s the root of my discomfort here?
- Which of my expectations are thwarted?
- Can I find a better one?
- Did I invest too much time and energy to simply abandon this?
- If I stick to this, will it pay off or will I be at a loss?
- What do I stand to win and what do I stand to lose?
- Is there a better way for me to spend my energy and my time?
- Is there something that would make me happy
- How long will that happiness last?
You can ask all of these questions, no matter what you’re quitting unless it’s an emotional relationship.
If it’s friendship or more than a friendship, the basic mathematics don’t apply… not 100% anyway.
People are not numbers nor they are questions that you can answer with a “yes” or “no”… unless you’re a sociopath that is.
When it comes to breaking the habit, on the other hand, go nuts. Break all the habits that you have simply because it’s healthy to sometimes bring awareness to what you’re doing and remind yourself of the reasons for continuation.
If it’s a good/healthy habit we’re talking about, by all means, reinstate it. If it’s something that causes addiction, break the cycle immediately. How? Improvise. Just don’t go slowly.
Break it immediately and break it hard. When it comes to most of the modern day’s addictions, withdrawal symptoms are mainly psychological, although they can manifest physiologically if you’re hell-bent on the habit and identify with it.
But that’s a problem of a different kind. If you know something is as bad as it gets and you can’t find a single rational reason for enjoying it, you should examine that self-destructive urges ASAP.
Take the example of smoking.
The health problems that it causes are innumerable, it stinks, it’s aesthetically detrimental and expensive… but people still do it! Now try and justify that… or don’t. Just stop.
The reasons people cling to such silly habits are efforts to contribute to something while not doing anything of significance.
In relation to our example, people were convinced that smoking looked cool via media such as movies from the 50-ties.
It’s the same marketing tricks that have been around since fascist Germany and Goebbels’ propaganda. If you want people to take on a habit, just display someone desirable practicing it and insist on it being cool.
Well, tough luck people. Stupid things that everyone can easily do, don’t make you cool, so take control over your actions.
It’s common physics that mass(es) in motion always opt for the path of least resistance.
The first thing that you need to quit is being a part of that machinery. Conformism and inertia… comfort-zone irrationality and infantile, self-destructive behavior are definitely things to quit.
GRAY ZONE OF QUITTING – CONGENITAL DISABILITIES AND HANDICAPS
When it comes to impairments and birth defects, it’s sometimes futile or dangerous to engage in activities you’re not meant to engage in.
It can really be frustrating and irritating to be at a disadvantage like that, but when there’s really not much that you can do about it, it might be for the best to accept defeat and focus on things that you can do.
Not everyone’s meant to do everything.
You’re bound to have some talents that you can hone to make this world a better place so discover them and put them to good use.
On the other hand, you should not let your disadvantages discourage you as there are many examples of people with disabilities who prove the above-stated wrong and excel at what seems to be impossible for them to do.
If you’re hell-bent on doing something and you really, really enjoy it so much that you’d devote your whole life to it, then do it! You might just defeat the odds.
The one thing that you cannot do, if you suffer any impairments, is to take pity on yourself and use that as an excuse not to excel in anything in life.
If you’re short, you might not play basketball for the NBA, but how many of us will do that?
On the other hand, you might be a great artist or a great scientist and If you waste your life just complaining about your problems, you’ll never get a chance to shine.
It’s the same for healthy people and for impaired ones.
Not everyone can do everything and it’s good that it is so. The world would be a boring place if we were all perfect and the same.
It’s very important in life to know what’s your cup of tea and what isn’t.
When you access that, start a dialogue with yourself and stop chasing for the unachievable.
Focus on what you can do and what you can do good.
Be aware of your shortcomings and work on them if you can, but don’t let them take you down and become a universal excuse for being a failure.
Focus on your advantages and change the game. You just might find that you’re great at something you never thought of trying before.
WHEN TO STICK TO SOMETHING
Remember the pros and cons list? Use it again. The basic question to ask yourself is always:
Will you have more gain than losses if you stick through?
Give it a few shots, but don’t get stuck in a loop. Before you quit, you should try your best and then, even if you quit, you do so with a clear conscience.
Sometimes, we’re nearing a fruitful end of our endeavors, but we’re unable to see it from where we’re standing.
That’s why perseverance is an important trait to develop and nurture.
However, perseverance and stubbornness are not the same and you should definitely avoid the latter.
A saying that quitters never win and winners never quit may just turn out to be untrue, at least to an extent.
It’s important to note what you’re sticking to and what you’re quitting as well as when and how are you quitting or sticking to something.
Neither quitting nor following through are good or bad per se. It’s the context that matters as well and that gives meaning to your actions.
Besides what, when, how and where, you should give some attention to the question of “why”. Always make sure it’s not indolence or pessimism that drive your actions.
If you’re quitting, analyze yourself first and make sure that you’re doing it with a clear conscience and out of rationality.
Finally, if you’re having doubts, don’t rush into the decision, but don’t hesitate too long as hesitation has a way of draining you.
Make that pros and cons list and put two and two together.
Bookmark the article and go through it again if you find yourself in a dilemma. It just may help you in your time of need.
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