Our society seems to have this pervasive belief that giving up makes you weak and unsuccessful. That walking away from something on something instead of pushing through, putting yourself through discomfort in the name of being tenacious or committed, makes you a less worthy person.

This kind of hustle culture would have us believe that it’s a rite of passage to endure difficulty, to put up with struggle if you want to be successful and achieve great things.

In my experience though, that attitude just leads to burnout. And if you’re burnt out, you’re useless to everyone. 

While persistence, commitment and tenacity ARE great qualities – and definitely attributes we look for in leaders – there’s also something to be said for having the wisdom to know when walking away is the best choice for everyone involved.

So how can you cultivate the skill of knowing when to quit?

Here are three questions to ask yourself

ONE – Is this project/pursuit/job/relationship taking more than it’s giving back? 

Is there some kind of imbalance where you’re giving and giving and giving, but never feeling like you’re getting the same level of input back?

This can happen in all kinds of relationships and situations, but when it happens at work, when you put in the effort and don’t get the recognition you deserve, or when you’re doing your bit and others aren’t quite pulling their weight, it’s a real energy drainer.

If this is the case, and you don’t see any indication that that might change in the future… it’s probably time to quit.

TWO – Does the result justify the output? 

Think about the energy, the effort, the time, the commitment, the emotional bandwidth… Some projects or situations just feel like a ‘hell yes!’ when you consider investing all of these parts of yourself. They feel exciting and worth the sacrifice, and you don’t mind giving your all in the name of the end goal. 

If the situation you’re considering doesn’t feel that way, you’re always going to feel resentful and wish you were somewhere else, so it’s best to quit while you’re ahead.

THREE – Does this align with my values? 

Sometimes the project or situation feels worthwhile, you can see all the reasons why it could work, and can envisage a way in which it could feel reciprocal… yet something just doesn’t add up. Usually that something comes down to a values mismatch – a disconnect between you and the culture of the organisation, or the between your values and the values of the person or people involved. 

This kind of misalignment can rarely rectify itself, and you’ll likely always feel like you just don’t quite fit in, and that you can’t quite meet expectations. In most situations skills can be learned, knowledge can be gained… but misaligned values are virtually impossible to navigate to a happy outcome.

The glorious art of quitting

What many of us forget about quitting – especially when we’re stuck in the mindset that quitting means failing or giving up – is that it creates freedom.

Quitting frees you up to move on and be available to projects or situations that are more in alignment with your values and that will allow you to bring your best self and do your best work. But not only that, it frees up the other person or people in the situation to do the same – to replace you with someone that will feel in alignment and eager to bring their best selves.

Taking back your time, your energy, your emotional bandwidth, your wellbeing… quitting allows you the autonomy to ‘own’ these parts of yourself again, and to pour them into things that feeds your soul instead.  Perhaps that means time with your family and friends, or perhaps it means hobbies or pursuits that you didn’t feel able to when you were committed to something that was draining your energy.

By taking a step back, evaluating where you’re at, prioritising yourself, and respecting the right of anyone else involved to also benefit from being in a relationship or situation where values are aligned and expectations can be met… it’s not a failure and it doesn’t make you weak. It’s a power move, and one that needs to be celebrated.

Transition gently

I would just caution though, that knowing you should quit something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ok to just drop everything and run.

I would always advocate for safety cushions, and as gentle a transition as possible. Change is difficult for all of us, so it’s important to respect your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of anyone else in the situation by handling the situation gently, transitioning to your next project or job carefully, and being considerate of the effect that your leaving may have on those around you.

If you or your team need help navigating the change that comes with quitting, I’d be happy to help. Click here to get in touch.