Most of us grew up hearing the mantra “Don’t be a quitter,” and we’ve internalized it to the point where we feel guilty even if we don’t finish a book that’s boring us to death. Our parents weren’t entirely wrong in saying that persistence is necessary for success, but sometimes quitting is the most effective course of action. Whether it’s a failed project, a thankless job or a doomed relationship, quitting can be a virtue.
“Quitting is leading too.” — Nelson Mandela
As it turns out, some of us are really good at knowing when to quit, while others have a hard time getting “unstuck.” Research from the University of Rochester found that people are motivated by either “approach goals” or “avoidance goals.”
Those who fall into the approach camp are motivated by challenges and don’t waste time trying to solve problems that simply don’t have a feasible solution. In other words, they know when to quit.
People motivated by avoidance goals, however, worry a lot more about failing. They want to avoid failure at all costs, so they keep plugging away at things, long after logic suggests it’s time to move on. This is typically a much less productive way to work.
Knowing when to quit is a skill that can be learned. If you tend to get stuck on things long after it’s obvious that what you’re doing isn’t working, you can train yourself to do better. You just need to practice quitting. Thankfully, life provides plenty of opportunities to do this. Here are some things we should all quit doing.
1. Quit doubting yourself.
Confidence plays a huge role in success. Hewlett-Packard conducted an interesting study whereby they analyzed the process through which people applied for promotions at the company. Women, it turned out, only applied when they met 100 percent of the criteria for the job they wanted, while men applied when they met 60 percent of the criteria. The researchers postulated that one of the (many) reasons men dominated the upper echelons of the company is that they were willing to try for more positions than females. Sometimes confidence is all it takes to reach that next level. The trick is, you have to believe it. If you doubt yourself, it won’t work. Faking confidence just doesn’t produce the same results.
2. Quit putting things off.
Change is hard. Self-improvement is hard. Scrounging up the guts to go for what you want is hard, and so is the work to make it happen. When things are hard, it’s always easier to decide to tackle them tomorrow. The problem is that tomorrow never comes. Saying you’ll do it tomorrow is just an excuse, and it means that either you don’t really want to do it or that you want the results without the hard work that comes along with it.
3. Quit thinking you have no choice.
There’s always a choice. Sure, sometimes it’s a choice between two things that seem equally bad, but there’s still a choice. Pretending that there isn’t one makes you a victim who is voluntarily taking on a mantle of helplessness. To play the victim, you have to give up your power, and you can’t put a price on that. To succeed at the highest level, you have to quit giving your power away. …