What to do when you want to quit
In high school I was the worst quitter.
Not because I gave up, but the opposite: I refused to quit, at any cost.
Take running. I joined junior year, and in six months I was on a state podium. In another six months, I had chronic knee problems. Then it was the hips, lower back, shins…
By the next summer, I spent most of my time on a spin bike; everything hurt, all the time. It was miserable, but I felt I only had two options:
- Persevere. Be tough. Put my chin down and attack again with greater ferocity (to the detriment of my body).
- Throw in the towel. Walk away. Find something else to do (at the expense of letting down my team and myself).
Even though I longed for the end of the season, I couldn’t let go of the habits and practices that got me into the mess in the first place. I just kept running (or hobbling), knowing that it would be over eventually. Energy waned. Motivation lapsed. What began as a fueling activity slowly morphed into something I dreaded.
Situations like mine are ones you or your team have faced and they’re so much more nuanced than they seem. When you’re there, start by embracing the feeling behind the situation. It’s okay if there are whispers telling you to quit. Instead of framing those whispers as a binary choice (to quit or not to quit), think of them like your car’s check engine light: it could be anything from a $20 fix to a really serious issue, but you don’t ignore it, and you don’t get rid of the car until you’ve diagnosed the problem.
So if you think something’s wrong, don’t panic. Pause and reset.
Take a break. Get a good night’s sleep (or three). Share a good meal with a close friend, and revisit the thing that got you into the game. Why did you choose this path? What is your ultimate strategy? (These are great moments to revisit our Leap Kit and What’s Worth Doing deck.)
When you first began, there was a vision that drove you. That vision—financial freedom, social justice, less stress, a “State Champs” hoodie—got you out of bed in the morning. Maybe you even purchased new gear or worked with someone to help you begin because you were so excited.
That light at the end of the tunnel might feel further away now, but it’s important to keep it in focus; that way, you can use those troubling negative thoughts to your advantage.
What specifically, is worth quitting?
Let’s revisit those inner voices. Maybe the goals you set feel impossible to reach. You’re sick of doing the same damn thing every day with so little progress. It just isn’t enjoyable in the way you thought it would be. You get in a bad mood every time you think about spin biking.
There’s no wrong thought or feeling here. Bring all of them to the table to fully understand what’s happening. And use them to isolate the tactics that aren’t working, and quit those.
If your goals feel unreachable, focus on smaller, more frequent milestones—and celebrate them. Build bite-sized, productive habits into your daily routine; find a friend to hold you accountable. Develop failsafes to prevent you from lapsing into self-sabotage.
It might even be time to try something outside the scope of what you originally imagined. Maybe there are alternative, more fulfilling ways of meeting your endgame—think yoga and cross-training instead of spin biking and ibuprofen.
These changes are easier said than done, of course. Old routines and habits will take considerable time and effort to replace. Still, it’s important to be honest with yourself if/when you’re feeling reluctant.
What’s holding you back from quitting?
Maybe it’s stubborn pride, or a New Year’s Resolution, or peer pressure, or the sunk cost fallacy, or fear of the unknown. But if a critical examination says you need to quit, don’t keep half-assing it. Coping is a terrible alternative to quitting—not just because it’s unpleasant, but also because of the opportunity cost. So quit!
And find something awesome to do instead. If I’ve learned anything since I joined the Ei team, it’s that you owe it to yourself to do something awesome 🙂
Thanks for joining me.
Content Designer & Ei Intern
ps: This was featured in our weekly newsletter, Wednesday Words, along with a few other helpful notes. Follow along at http://bit.ly/wednesdaywords