4 Ways to Know When It’s Time to Move On From an Idea, Project, or Goal

Here's how to decide whether to try again, or to finally move on.


Not too long ago, I wrote about the science-backed key to achieving your goals–to resist the human tendency to throw in the towel too soon when we fail to achieve an interim goal. Understanding how to push through fear of failure is critical for this as well.

But when is it time to actually move on from a goal? When is it time to actually throw in the towel or at least adjust course dramatically?

That’s a tougher question.

Research shows we tend to get caught up in this decision and can over-analyze to the point of paralysis. We can get stuck in pursuing a no-longer-realistic goal simply because we’re afraid to quit what we started or don’t have a process for figuring out if it’s time to move on.

The key is to have a simple method focused on just a few key elements. I offer that process here.

Undoubtedly, you can come up with other signals on when it’s time to move on, but again, research shows the importance of keeping your evaluation process simple.

In addition to simple, I’ve made a process that is memorable through use of an acronym: NOIR. As in film noir–a style of film known for its pessimistic undertone. I like to think of this process as the healthy pessimism required if you’re at a point where a goal is seriously in doubt.

You should move on from that idea/project/goal if these things are true:

1. Not passing the smell test.

When you step back, does the idea simply seem to not be a big one anymore? Were you persuaded by a trend that is no longer relevant? When you check with potential users/customers of the idea, are they, in truth, less than jazzed?

2. Opportunity cost is too high.

When fixing the idea, reiterating it, overhauling it becomes so time and resource intensive that you can’t get to other mission-critical things, it might be time to walk away.

3. Interest is waning.

In your heart of hearts, when you’re honest with yourself, even though you’ve put so much into it, are you no longer as passionate about the idea? If not, it makes it very hard to usher it to true success.

4. Risk is greater than the reward.

Is the risk of proceeding (financially, socially, mentally, resource-wise, time-wise, health-wise) simply become so great that it outweighs the reward of sticking it out?

It’s hard to say goodbye.

Use this simple test to help determine if it’s time.

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