The hustle culture has fueled a belief that quitting is a sign of weakness while failure is a sign of strength. People who fail are seen as heroes while “quitters” are antagonized. They’re seen with sympathy, scorn, or worse — indifference. And given a choice between dying a hero or living as villains, we’d choose the former nine times out of ten.
This is why we’d rather burn out than rest. We’re okay to break our bones by jumping off a cliff instead of aborting the jump. And we’d rather go down with the sinking ship than take the lifeboat.
We stick to anything that keeps us in motion because we equate motion with moving forward. But motion is not the same as moving forward. Even if it was, forward is not always the best direction.
A backward step is progress too.
When forward becomes the only direction to move in, you rarely stop to assess whether you’re on the right path.
As a result, you work harder when you should actually walk away. You make promises even when you know they’ll cost you your sanity. You stay in disrespectful relationships and jobs way past their shelf lives.
Such a mindset creates myriad contradictions in your life, all of which become the roots of misery. You feel sour when your efforts don’t bear fruit or when you don’t get appreciated. You have no idea what “enough” means or where the boundaries lie. And even if you cross the finish line, you’re almost dead, or you’re not satisfied with the results.
Thus, hanging around when failure is clear as daylight takes a terrible toll on your mental and emotional health.
On the other hand, quitting, walking away, or giving up, seems like a backward step. And it is. But it’s not a sign of weakness. In fact, knowing when to quit can actually be more advantageous than sticking with something.
Knowing when to quit is a superpower. It may not help you make the world a better place, but it will make you a better person for sure.
You’ll take better care of yourself. You’ll dedicate more time and energy to the people and actions that truly matter. And you’ll keep getting better at what you do, which in turn, makes life meaningful.
Here are four times when it’s totally okay to give up, even if the world calls you a “quitter.”
1. You’re Not Improving
According to Mark Manson, a crucial question to ask yourself is, “Am I improving with each failure?”
Failure is integral to learning. But if each failure doesn’t teach you something new, if it doesn’t make your next attempt better, it’s futile. Such repeated failures will only leave you tired, drained, and pessimistic.
You want to be failing in ways that let you witness a distinct improvement in output or make you devise a change in strategy. Such failures are excellent lessons and are worth repeating.
It’s not reasonable to give up at the first sign of failure. But neither is failing over and over again if you don’t improve.
2. Your Return on Investment Is Poor
Imagine a scenario where the returns on the funds you invest aren’t just less than what you hoped, they’re less what you get if you merely park your funds in the bank. Would you stick with the fund?
The same holds true for other assets like your time, energy, attention, and effort. (They’re probably more valuable than money in that how you invest these assets affects how much money you make.)
Track your return on each investment. Does the former justify the latter? Even if you do hit your targets, how much does it take out of you? And does it get in the way of you doing something better?
The Pareto principle states that roughly 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of the causes. This principle applies to your decisions and actions too. That’s why it’s better to double down on the 20 percent actions that yield exceptional returns and walk away from the rest.
3. You’re Not Enjoying Yourself
Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you will end up working on activities where the investment is disproportionately larger than the outcome. At such times, a useful question to ask is, “Am I enjoying myself?”
If the answer is yes, you’re more likely to stick to the task even if the results are not positive. If the answer is no, you won’t feel happy no matter what you do. You’ll feel demoralized by your failure and dissatisfied with your successes.
I was good at building websites, ghostwriting, and making videos. I was even ready to take the business to the next level. I published a free ebook, wrote two blog posts each week, and got a business partner on board.
But soon, the work began to feel draining. Each task made me wish I was elsewhere or doing something else. Even my successes felt like failures because despite clients being happy, they were not the results I wanted.
It didn’t take long for my partner and me to fall out. And I realized that the only possible consequences of me staying around were burnout, failure, and misery. So I bit the bullet pulled the shutters on my content marketing business.
Throwing away the basket I had put most of my eggs in was tough, but also liberating. I’ve found a freelance gig I enjoy, and I get time to pursue my own interests. Plus, I’ve become better at living with the consequences of my actions.
Prioritize your self-worth over your external image. Focus on tasks that fill you with joy. No amount of accolades, money, or recognition can compensate for a lack of fulfillment.
4. You Become A Liability
When we’re exhausted or when our hearts are no longer in what we do, our performance drops. And we turn into liabilities for people around us.
When I lost interest in content marketing, I did less than good work for many clients. My friend and I would’ve been better off acting faster instead of living in denial.
You don’t have to give up if you feel like you’re not giving your best, or even if your best is not enough. Rest. Reassess. Sometimes rest is enough to recharge your batteries. Sometimes, reassessing your work could signal that it’s time for a change in course.
Either way, you can invest more energy in what’s important.
The ability to know when to walk away saves time, instills confidence, and transforms your life. And mastering it is not as tough as it appears. Each time you feel stuck between the tough choices of carrying on or walking away, ask yourself four simple questions:
- Am I improving? Even failure is a sign of improving if you’re failing differently each time. If you’re not improving, you’re probably not cut out for the task, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
- How good are my returns on investment? If the returns are disproportionately lower than your investment, then walking away might be a good option.
- Am I enjoying myself? If your heart is not in what you do, your failures will sting harder and even your successes will barely move the needle for your happiness.
- Have I become a liability? You can tell when you’re not giving your best. Instead of denying it, use it as an opportunity to rest and reassess. The time-off will either recharge your batteries or signal whether it’s time to walk away.
Your life is the sum of the tasks you work on. Give the ones that matter your best and walk away from the others, regardless of what society says.
After all, only you are responsible for your life.