Knowing When to Quit by Janet Shlaes, Ph.D.
“Sometimes walking away has nothing to do with weakness and everything to do with strength. We walk away, not because we want others to realize our worth and value, but because we finally realize our own.” ~ Robert Tew
If you came of age within the last 30-40 years, you most likely were raised with some version of the philosophy: quitters never win and winners never quit. Embodying this attitude results in experiencing quitting as a sign of failure - an action reserved for the weak, unskilled and unmotivated. You’ve probably even heard numerous media stories regarding perseverance leading to success. These types of stories take on an almost mystical quality, coupled with a dire warning regarding the cost of quitting; what they fail to consider are the potential gains.
I propose that quitting is a highly underrated undertaking. There are times in your life where the decision to quit is ultimately a highly strategic and empowering choice, one that can lead to a myriad of potential gains. These rewards directly result from self-awareness, inner strength and a commitment to creating the life you want to live. Not quitting, when you know that a situation, job or relationship is not working out, is generated out of fear of change and the unknown and a lack of faith and trust in the world and yourself. Removing yourself from a destructive situation provides essential space for new opportunities and challenges more aligned with your passion, skills and values to enter your life.
I am not advocating quitting each time the going gets rough and you feel extremely challenged, depleted or tempted to withdraw from a professional or personal setback. What I am recommending is that you utilize these times to evaluate your options from an alternative perspective. Specifically, when you are feeling drawn to quitting, consider whether doing so is in service of your highest values and overall goals? If the answer is yes, then the next step is to work out a viable strategic plan to do so; generate a plan that honors you and empowers you to withdraw with integrity.
Quitting a toxic situation or one you have outgrown is an act of courage, strength, wisdom and faith in yourself. Where in your life might the choice to quit serve to move you forward toward a life more aligned with your passion, skills and gifts?
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