Why Quitting is Good For You
Society leads us to believe that happiness arises from sticking with something for a long time, plugging away at that project with passion and determination and above all, never quitting.
Quitting is seen a sign of weakness and we would rather go to extreme lengths sooner than admit that we have quit something.
Another thing that stops us from quitting is the thought of how much time and effort we have put into our work. It seems like so much has gone into the project that it would be an awful waste to throw it all away. This is something known as the sunk costs fallacy. Sunk costs is a term used by economists to describe the time, effort, and money a person has invested into doing something. It can be very difficult to let go of this and announce to the world that you’ve quit.
But is quitting always bad for us?
Having established that quitting is accompanied by stigma and made even more difficult by curious quirks of our brains, let’s look at some people who, by almost any standards were doing well but ended up quitting and their reasons for doing so.
People who quit and loved it The year is 1999: Ali is a software programmer living in Texas. She earns $60,000 a year – especially impressive considering she is 25 years old. She can afford a decent car and place to live and sustain her love for shoes. It seemed like she had the perfect life.
So why on Earth did she quit her stable, well-paying job to become a high-end escort?
Ali says her job involved staring at a computer screen all day, which proved terrible for her sociable personality. In her own words, her choice was right for her at the time and her new job made her happy.
We have already talked about sunk costs, for example, Ali was spending her days at the computer screen. But there is a slightly different concept at work here – the idea of opportunity cost – the value of something that is given up to pursue any given activity. For Ali, her job was depriving her of social interaction, Robert wasn’t seeing his sons as often as he wanted to. Both Ali and Robert came to realize that the sacrifices they were making for their jobs were not worth it and made the choice to quit.
How do I know when to quit? But how do you know “when to quit and when to struggle” as Carsten Wrosch, psychology professor at Concordia University puts it. The appropriate course of action can be really elusive.
Following that comes the actual process of quitting, and this can be long and painful. According to Sudhir Venkatesh, sociology professor at Columbia University, it’s best to “rip the Band-Aid off quickly”. People who are able to act quickly once they decide to quit usually fare better than those who take longer. In fact, it is actually healthier when quitting to quit quickly and move on. Research conducted by Carsten Wrosch, psychology professor at Concordia University indicates that people who are better able to let go experience fewer depressive symptoms and fewer health problems over time.
The process By now, we should be able to pick out and isolate the reasons why somebody would want to quit and the process they ought to follow. Quitters are not unsuccessful or weak people, in fact all the quitters cited in this article are highly successful individuals. Quitting has more in common with realistic goals than giving up. The following is an outline of the process to quitting well and finding greater satisfaction in life.
1. Ask yourself: Am I happy? 2. If not, what is it I’d rather be doing? 3. Identify what you’re missing out on (opportunity cost). 4. Stop doing your current activity. 5. Set realistic goals for your new activity. 6. Accept that it didn’t work out the previous time. 7. Move on – dive right into what you’ve always wanted to be doing.
Looking back, Ali says quitting was easy for her. Since then, she has found a companion and has left the escort industry – she’s quit once again when the couple decided they didn’t want prostitution in their joint life. In this, Ali embodies more than just a willingness and honesty to reassess herself and her goals, she also possesses the ability to rethink her plans on the go.
I completely agree with this story! Quitting is something that we take as a negative action constantly and we teach kids that it’s better to fail than to quit, but there is a certain amount of positivity to quitting. I’ve always been taught when you close one door another opens. How can you open a different door when you already have one open? It’s all about creating growth!
Totally agree with you, Teraya. I think sometimes people are so concerned about how other people will perceive their life choices that they make decisions based on those fears. Quitting doesn’t mean you have failed at something or exhausted all your options. It sometimes just means that there is more out there for you to experience and discover, requiring you to close one chapter of your life in order to make room for another.
I feel that the most difficult aspect of quitting is the emotional attachment we develop to the task or what have you at hand. It is genuinely difficult to break with something you have worked on a long time. I believe schools ought to emphasize a more balanced view of quitting, for as Jo-Ann mentioned, quitting does not mean one has exhausted all of their options.
So true! Better to embark on a new path than to drive yourself into the ground pursuing the wrong one!
I definitely agree with this article. Quitting can be very liberating, as you are giving yourself the opportunity and time to focus on what you really want to do. For perhaps the first time in a long time, you are being honest with what you want and don’t want. And this self-honesty, this fearlessness, this drive is so healthy, so positive, so freeing. I don’t regret any of the jobs or relationships I’ve quit from!