Part 2: When Is It Time To Quit & When Is It Time To Persevere?
In part one I discussed my thoughts on the meaning, we often attach to the words ‘quit’ and ‘persevere.’ In summary, I believe it is important to understand that ‘to quit’ something is not a sign of weakness, and therefore it shouldn’t be used as a reason or “fear” not to pursue something in life. Secondly, the act ‘to persevere’ is challenging and it is natural for most of us to steer away from a challenge as it is human tendency to prefer pleasure over pain.
I say “most of us” because some people who are already in good practice understand and know that in struggle or difficulty magic happens. We’ve all heard that significant growth and transformation occur outside our comfort zone. In perseverance we are more likely to experience progress while quitting has adverse effects, resulting in a lack of growth, acceptance of the status quo and even stagnation! Quitting can, however, also prevent us from spending much time and energy on futile pursuits.
You may be wondering how this helps you decide when to quit and when to persevere. I believe it does in two ways. Number one, by reminding us not to stop in the face of challenge. Even when in perseverance when nothing seems to favour the desired expectations or results we need to remember hard things often create more ease in the future. Keep going! Don’t give up!
However, if what we continue with doesn’t lead to the desired expectations or results despite challenge or even when things are easy, we must know that it is okay to quit. Time is too precious in this life and to spend it on the unessential is not a wise use of time. Quitting is not a weakness. If something isn’t working or doesn’t feel right, quit!
I acknowledge that this is a rough guide, but it’s a start. The real challenge is being able to differentiate or identify those moments when it’s better to quit or persevere. The mind often plays tricks on me. When things are challenging, and I should stick with it, the mind creates reasons why I’m better to give up! I think we all do this. I find the mind creating convincing reasons why it makes better sense to quit despite that fact that I just wish to avoid the challenge, pain or fears I face.
Alternatively, the mind also is great at creating a disillusionment. At times when I should quit but don’t because I have become convinced of a different reality that doesn’t exist. I’ve attached myself to an ideal vision or expectation of something that doesn’t exist and consequently find it hard to let go. I know this yet still I persevere regardless of any evidence of desired results or expectations. I continue in hope.
It is beautiful to dream, but if your current ambitions are having, you miss out on the pursuit of new dreams and opportunities that may be more plausible, possible and realistic, then why proceed with those that are going nowhere? Sometimes we do because it simply makes us feel good, and that, I believe, is a fine reason.
It reminds me of the analogy of trying to push a boulder up a hill only to watch it come back down. This comes from Greek mythology whereby the kind of Ephyra, Sisyphus was punished for ill acts he committed to repeating this action for eternity. Constantly pushing a boulder uphill only to watch it come down again.
It is not because something is arduous that makes it futile as it is often in the difficulty or challenge of activity that incredible growth occurs. The issue comes from the purposeless nature of the action. Society as a whole seems to be obsessed with consuming time with tasks that are non-cognitively demanding, repetitive, easy or of little value – these are good signs of things we should quit.
If what we pursue doesn’t have purpose towards helping us achieve our desired results, we should quit doing them. A purposeful life comes by knowing your ‘why.’ I discovered meaning simply by following some of my passions. I continue to find purpose in this way. The more I do things that matter to me the less I do of things that are wasteful or unnecessary. If we are not clear on our ‘why,’ the how and the what will be fruitless.
If you want to understand the importance of this idea more thoroughly, I think Simon Sinek does an excellent job in this TED Talk he did.
Know the why. This is your reason or purpose for doing something, for doing anything. That is where motivation rises. Without it, we reduce our ability to persevere in tough times.
In an interview I did with Danny Dover, he found purpose by creating a bucket list or as he calls it a “Life List.” A list of 100 things he, not anyone else, wanted to do over a ten-year period. He picked one, the one that made most plausible sense to start with based on his current situation and began. That became his reason to get out of bed each day.
When you find what it is that you want to do with your time, with your life, you will find a way. The how and the what will show up. What is more critical that it comes from a place within. If it doesn’t, you might find yourself starting and then stopping half way either because the inner motivation doesn’t outweigh the challenge or that there is no challenge or lasting interest and you are bored, so you move onto other things.
This is a great formula for knowing when to quit and when to persevere. How much do you want it? I have started so many things and found myself in the thick of it wondering why the fuck I’m doing it. I quit! Sometimes it can be a hard decision to make, but seriously if it has no meaning to you personally, it will have no meaning to anyone else. And why continue with shit that doesn’t make you feel good, doesn’t bring any benefits or reward and is just chewing up time?
I think it is important to understand the “sunk time cost.” I invested three years of my life to becoming a real estate agent before I quit that and that wasn’t an easy decision to make. I got to a point where I just couldn’t make sense or meaning of why I was in the game. To walk away from three years of disciplined effort knowing that the fruits of my labor would continue to accumulate and likely pay off in dividends was tough. That is the sunken time cost.
However, if I continued for another three years or even for life in a career, spending my time doing something that wasn’t fulfilling to my ‘why’ the sunken cost would grow steadily greater and future decision to quit even harder. But what I connected with and felt more significantly about was the regret I would live with if I didn’t follow my heart and a life I desired. To give up three years over a lifetime of regret became a relatively easy decision.
Everything I do now, from the very large to the very small of tasks, I ask myself, “Does this serve a purpose to my greatest goals in life?” Derek Severs is famous for saying, “If it’s not a hell yeah! It’s a hell, no!”
I still often find myself veering off in tangents, partaking in activities that are unimportant to my why or lacking purpose. I often question whether the things I dedicate my time to matter. Constant reflection and contemplation help me align myself with greater purpose, a purpose that is integral to my values and what I want in life.
Know that it is okay to quit. Persevere through challenge when you see it as a worthwhile use of your time and energy. Try to avoid abandoning those things that may take you closer to your ambitions and dreams in life and try to avoid persevering when what you are doing matters very little in the grand scheme of the life you truly desire to live. Contemplate the trickery of the mind by becoming aware through mindfulness and meditation, and most importantly know your ‘why.’