How to Know When to Quit Something

Knowing when it’s time to give up can be hard, especially when we’re often trained to persevere and work towards achieving our goals, despite the obstacles. However, there are times when being practical is key, and you’ll need to accept that a plan just isn’t working out and doesn’t seem likely to in the future. 

how to know when to quit something

And while it can be hard to both not take this personally, as a sort of failure, and to let go of something you’ve been keen on doing or are passionate about, it will actually benefit you down the road, where you can focus your attention on a different goal that’s fresh and exciting.  

“It can be extremely exhausting to go back and forth in your mind, trying to decide whether it’s time to quit something and a lot of us dive into a pros and cons analysis in many areas of our lives, especially around big decisions…questioning whether you’re dating the right person, should you move to a new city, end that friendship that’s gotten super difficult, quit your job, etc.,” says Liz Traines, a life coach in Chicago. Sometimes the list helps, while other times, it leaves you even more confused than ever. And that can keep you trapped in the cycle.

“Depending on the time, energy or financial investment you’ve made in the questioned area of your life, the harder it can be to determine what to do. It may not be something you can quantify on paper and it can take time to really evaluate your decision,” she says.

Unfortunately, this process is unique for everyone, and there’s no specific method that works universally. However, here are a few steps to take to help you with your decision.

First, remember that there is never a “right” decision. 

There is only a “right” decision for you, today. And this can change in time.

“Making a decision can be daunting, but a lot of the time, the fear behind deciding is actually rooted in a fear of making the ‘wrong’ decision,” Traines says. 

“The more we can make a decision from a place of confidence, own it, and not let our mind question the decision we made, the better the outcome you’ll have,” she says.

Think about it—if you decide to end a relationship, own it, cry it out, and accept it as over; then, you will be able to open yourself up to new love. If you constantly dwell on the “What if I didn’t end it?” thoughts, you will close yourself off to new love and stay in the mucky middle, Traines says. 

Instead, think about what is right for you in this specific moment—be practical and open to new adventures. Is this draining you? Are you not satisfied? Then it’s time to try something else, where you can always come back if you feel that’s the better move down the road.

Identify what is most difficult about the situation.

Isolate the key problems. Write them down on paper so you can weigh in the pros and cons, and if you find that there are more cons, it’s time to move on and work on something else.

Also, think about your ideal scenario, says Traines. Ask yourself questions, like these, “If it’s a dream job, what would that look like? If it’s your ideal romantic partner, what are they like? How do they treat you and how do you treat them?” and then compare to what the actual situation is, she says If they don’t measure up well, then it’s time to quit and move on. 

Is it practical and solvable? 

Are you able to get closer to your ideal scenario or does it seem like an impossible dream that just isn’t happening?

“For instance, if you love the work you do, but are constantly frustrated by your boss, have you voiced the issue to a trusted mentor to see if you can brainstorm whether there’s a solution to the problem (maybe even someone outside the company)? Maybe it’s a team change? Bottom line: get more perspective before you jump,” Traines says. If you don’t see a way to solve the problem or make something happen, accept the reality and focus attention and efforts elsewhere.

Think of the solutions and new directions.

If it’s a relationship, share your concerns with your partner and take note of the following: how do they react? Do they seem like they really want to help make this better for you? Do their actions change? Can you forgive them? And ultimately, do you feel better? Give it a little time, but if you see no improvement, you’ve got more information to make a clear decision.

If it’s for a career change, consider new directions you can take if those you’ve tried haven’t worked and see if you get any positive results. If you’re still not making headway, use those clues to say that you tried your hardest, from every angle, and now must move on. 

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About Isadora Baum

Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, author, and certified health coach. She writes for various magazines, such as Cooking Light, SHAPE, Men's Health, Women's Health, Health, Prevention, POPSUGAR, Runner's World, Bustle, and more. She is also the author of the book "5-Minute Energy." She can't resist a good sample, a killer margarita, a new HIIT class, or an easy laugh. Beyond magazines, she helps grow businesses through blogging and content marketing strategy.