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Is it ever ok to quit?

I quit

We’re taught pretty early on that to be successful we need to set goals and work hard to achieve them. Bumper stickers and instagram posts provide constant reminders that failure is ok but quitting is not an option! In fact, whole books have been written about “Willpower” and “Grit” – the requisite qualities for success and happiness.

It’s true that throwing in the towel when things get boring or difficult is generally not the way to achieve anything of value. Whether your goal is to get a degree, run a marathon, or finally write that book, we usually need to tough it out through that hard middle bit – after the enthusiasm of the new beginning has waned but the exhilaration of the finish line is still out of sight.

But sometimes there are valid reasons for letting go of goals, and sadly the ‘never never never give up’ mantra causes many people to doggedly stick with projects that no longer serve them. We all know someone who has continued to sacrifice time, money, and even their physical and mental health by persisting with something that clearly isn’t working. So how do you know if it’s ok to quit? No-one can decide but you but here are a few clues that might help you make the right call….

  • It’s not what you thought it would be

If you begin a project and quickly realise that your expectations were completely off base and this is literally ‘not what you signed up for’, it’s better to bail out early so you can get on with finding the right thing for you.

  • Your heart isn’t in it anymore

This might feel like a cop-out but it’s super important to be able to tell the difference between the usual ambivalence that most of us experience while working towards goals and the soul-sucking misery of plugging away at something that brings you no joy at all.

  • Circumstances change

Sometimes all the best laid plans come undone when life throws a curve ball. Your parents fall ill, your child needs more of your attention, or you suffer an injury. It can be painful to give up on goals when it wouldn’t have been your choice to do so, but accepting that life has taken a different course allows you to create new goals that fit with your new circumstances. And you can always come back to this one later.

  • You’re worried about what other people will think

If you know deep down that the only reason you are staying the course is because you are worried other people will think you’re a failure or that you’re letting someone else down, you definitely need to re-think your reasons for continuing. Being true to yourself is far more important than anyone else’s opinion of you. And here’s the thing – most people really don’t care too much about what you’re doing because they’re too busy worrying about what other people think of them!

If you’re sticking with a goal that no longer serves you, I recommend you take the liberating step of calling it quits and feeling the satisfaction and joy of creating space in your life for new goals that you know you can commit to with your whole heart.

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1 Comment

  1. Roxy on November 9, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Thanks Cass,
    A fantastic explanation and great reminder!

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Cass Dun clinical psychologist
Hi, I’m Cass.

I'm here to help you find freedom from psychological struggles so that you can live your happiest, most meaningful and fulfilling life.

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