How to Know When It’s Time to Quit

The greatest leaders in history all had one thing in common: knowing when it was time to step down.

amphotora/Getty Images
amphotora/Getty Images

Most of us are raised under the belief that life is about never giving up, especially in the pursuit of a long-term goal. However, there is value in knowing when to consider if this pursuit is worthy of your continued time and effort based upon the progress made and effort put in. It is a fact that our greatest leaders always knew when it was time to step down.

Here are five telltale signs it’s time to step away:

1) Misleading Reinforcers

The one thing that keeps us directed towards our goals is when we receive some occasional positive feedback, even when the overall trend is clearly negative. These occasional positive rewards can be misleading in that they keep us hanging on, stuck in a pattern which never progresses past the reality of what we are losing.

2) Emotional Investment

When we continue behaviors directed at our goal with the mindset that we cannot give up because of all we have already put in, we are not evaluating the opportunity-cost ratio logically. If there is no opportunity, we are giving up our lives at a cost to pursue an opportunity that is not manifesting.

3) Financial/Emotional Loss

When the financial/emotional investment we are putting in shows little benefit, fear and anxiety dominate our thoughts because we want to stay in control of our losses. Our rational thinking shuts down not allowing us to let go. All we see is loss and this doesn’t fit the image of the dream we had.

4) No Gain

No matter how hard we try, no matter how much effort, blood, sweat and tears we put in, we cannot effect any change in our circumstances we must look to terminating our attachment to this particular goal. It doesn’t mean there is a failure, it just means this is not the success we are meant to have.

5) Lack of Joy

When what we have been passionately loving and putting ourselves into no longer brings us joy, this kills motivation. Life becomes Groundhog Day each day. The purpose-driven emotion experienced in the beginning has worn away to mechanical, every day, uninspired behaviors.

In reality, surrendering a desired goal requires a huge leap of faith. When we anticipate an unknown future, a willingness to take a “failure,” along with the emotional devastation which accompanies our decision, requires courage. Since persistence and staying-the-course are default settings for us, knowing when to step down takes a tremendous amount of emotional and mental gymnastics to make that final decision.

Little life message

Sometimes it is only through quitting something, especially if we’ve long been unhappy, which opens up our life to fresh, positive opportunities we were blocking by staying committed to what was not working.

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