The Power and Importance of Quitting

People are always telling you never to quit and never to give up. Stopping a task that isn’t complete feels like surrendering and doesn’t sit easily with anyone who is naturally inclined to try and achieve as much as possible. There is honour in being a ‘finisher’, a ‘completionist’ or a ‘doer’ – nobody wants to be a ‘quitter’.

And yet, in the right circumstances, quitting can actually sometimes be the very best thing you can do and is a very important skill to learn. Read on to find out how giving up on things can sometimes be the best course of action.

Time Saved

The first reason to learn to quit is that it can often save you a lot of time. Most of us are so naturally inclined to want to finish things, that even if we’re watching a terrible movie, or reading a badly written article, we will still continue until it’s finished just because we don’t like leaving things ‘open’.

This can then end up wasting hours of your time on something that you don’t actually enjoy and aren’t getting anything useful out of. How many times have you watched the whole of a YouTube video even though it was complete drivel? How many times have you stayed up until 5am watching a countdown of the top ten ‘rock songs of the 70s’. Learn to say ‘enough’, to press ‘stop’, and to move onto something that’s either useful, or at least more enjoyable and enriching.

Your Mental State

Just as important is sometimes being able to quit on a project and start again. This is an incredibly difficult thing to do psychologically, but there are definitely situations in which is it the best course of action.

Imagine for example that you are running a website or blog. You’ve been working hard at it for years and at one point it was very successful. However, a few bad marketing strategies, some bad publicity and a period where you didn’t upload anything new for a while have all conspired to leave your site a shell of its former self – no longer making you any money or even bringing in any customers.

Now you’ve decided that you miss having a highly successful website and that you’d like to make a go of it again. The question is whether you want to do that by creating something new, or by working hard to repair your old site.

Common sense might dictate that you repair the old site that you have worked on in the past and that you’ve committed time and energy to. You don’t want to waste all that work do you?

But in fact, in such scenarios it would often be much better to start your new website from scratch with a fresh reputation, no bad incoming links, and actually less work to do (it’s often easier to make something new, than to tweak something old). In almost every situation, the new project you work on will be better than the old one because you’ll be approaching it with all the knowledge you gained from your time working on the last project.

In Life

The same can be true of many situations in life too. One that leaps out is relationships. If you are in a destructive and poisonous relationship and you are constantly fighting with your partner, then you may well find that you would be much happier if you just gave up on that relationship. It’s probably evident at this point that it’s destined to fail eventually – wouldn’t it be better to cut your losses before things get ugly? To waste less of both your time? To stand a better chance of being able to remain friends?

Knowing When You’re Beaten

Another way in which ‘knowing how to quit’ can be a boon, is when you find yourself in an argument that you can’t win. Many of us will continue arguing long after we realise we’re wrong because we don’t want to lose face and we don’t want to seem ‘changeable’ (being changeable is actually a good thing, and yet most of us want so much to seem consistent that we rile against it!). Being able to say ‘I was wrong’ or ‘I’m obviously not going to change your mind’ is an important way to avoid falling out with friends, to save your energy and to demonstrate you’re capable of being the ‘bigger man’ (or woman!).

Similarly, there’s no point pouring all your energy into becoming a singer when you really can’t sing. There’s no point in injuring yourself at the gym because you don’t know your limits. Playing to your strengths means knowing your weaknesses – and directing your energy in the most useful ways.

The Importance of Rest

And as well as knowing when to quit for good, it’s also important to know when to quit for a while – and how to switch off. If you’re someone who brings work home with them, then it’s probably because you’re leaving unfinished tasks at the office that you can’t stop thinking about. What you need to learn to do is to acknowledge that you’ve run out of time, that you aren’t going to complete that task today, and that you need to switch off and recharge.

Even our hobbies can sometimes end up eating away at us if we don’t learn to switch off. I’m almost constantly thinking about how much more I could have done at the gym for instance, and when I’m relaxing at home I’m always thinking of new articles I could write or new programs I could make. It’s not healthy – you need to learn to separate your relaxation time from other stresses because that’s what will allow you to come back to your other tasks with renewed vigour later and actually get things done.

So learn to leave things unfinished. To admit defeat. To switch off. To know your limits. And don’t let something bother you if it’s left unresolved or…

…? (Annoying isn’t it!)

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