Over the years, dozens of self-improvement books and articles have been written and I’m confident that every one of them contains an admonition about persistence. “Tough times don’t last but tough people do,” is just one example.
But… what about the opposite side of the coin? When does persistence in pursuing a goal become a waste of time? When do you need to admit defeat and say that it is time to quit? At what point should you admit that conditions have changed so your long-term objective is no longer a worthy goal? Or maybe you have changed.
A famous American song from long ago describes this situation lyrically:
The Gambler by …
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
For those of you who are not familiar with the card game of poker, these phrases mean the player must look at the cards he was dealt and make a realistic assessment of his chances of winning, that is, of having a higher value combination of cards than the other players at the table. Then, based upon that judgement, he will decide if he wants to continue to play this hand (hold ‘em) and bet his money that he will win… or he can decide that he has a weak hand that probably cannot win. In that case, he declines to bet additional money. He chooses to not play this hand (fold ‘em) and wait until the next deal brings new cards and new opportunities for winning. By making the choice of not playing a losing hand, he saves his money for betting when he has a better combination of cards dealt to him.
How does this song relate to quitting? We will pursue many goals in life – some by careful selection and some after a random encounter. Inevitably, we will make some choices that turn out to be unprofitable or lead in the wrong direction. Sometimes, conditions change. Sometimes, better opportunities arise. Sometimes, unforeseen competition makes the benefits too small. Sometimes, we change in our journey through life; our values change as our worldview changes. Or maybe we simply decide that we made an original bad choice in selecting that particular objective – as in, “What the hell was I thinking?”
What do you do then? The classic simile about “banging your head against a brick wall” is a splendid image when thinking about continuing some projects or objectives. If something isn’t working and a realistic assessment tells us that it will never work, why would an intelligent person keep pursing something? Let’s examine several factors.
They don’t see it. Like the fabled ostrich, they have their head buried in the sand. “If I never see the proof that I was wrong, I won’t have to make a decision about quitting.”
They won’t admit it. Ego prevails over reason. “I do not want to confess that I made a bad choice.”
Peer pressure. The guys/Mom/gf expect me to succeed. “Other people are depending on me.”
Role models didn’t quit. All the people in the movies and the books carried on until they finally prevailed.
I see no better plan or viable alternative.
Fear of ridicule if I quit.
I have too much invested now. I don’t want to lose what I have already spent.
All of these excuses collapse when closely examined. But they are seen and heard every day. Sometimes, however, the only thing a rational individual can do is quit. After a careful, objective, and comprehensive review of a situation, the only reasonable conclusion is that you should admit defeat. Any further investment in your time, energy, attention, or money would be wasted.
When you make that decision that it is time to quit and walk away, I offer three final admonitions.
1) Simplify your life by eliminating endless wondering if you made a good decision. Make a final, irrevocable decision. Spare yourself some mental anguish by making a decision, then not changing that decision. If you choose to abandon a project, do not spend any further time in thinking about it. After you make the decision, adopt it fully and without reservations. Any further self-talk is a waste of time. Indeed, it can easily become a distraction which will limit your ability to select other objectives.
2) Your friends and family will undoubtedly be curious about your choice or your reasons. Don’t spend too much time offering explanations. Don’t get involved in lengthy discussions about your choice – and trying to explain your decision. Just say, “It didn’t work out,” and begin talking about something more interesting and relevant – like your next project.
3) What should you do when someone implies that you quit unnecessarily? The fundamental principle of a reasoned choice is that you have the freedom to choose; you also have the freedom to choose to quit something if you wish. Don’t get drawn into a long discussion with someone who wasn’t there or doesn’t know all the details. If someone isn’t willing to accept “It didn’t work out,” as your explanation, you can politely but firmly state that you don’t want to talk about it – then don’t allow yourself to get drawn into a long discussion about why you don’t want to talk about it.
那你该怎么办？在考虑继续一些项目或目标时，关于 “用头撞砖墙 “的经典比喻是一个绝妙的形象。如果某件事情没有成功，现实的评估告诉我们它永远不会成功，那么一个聪明的人为什么还要继续追求某件事情呢？我们来研究一下几个因素。
3）当有人暗示你不必要地退出时，你应该怎么做？合理选择的基本原则是，你有选择的自由；如果你愿意，你也有选择退出某件事的自由。不要和一个不在现场或不知道所有细节的人陷入漫长的讨论。如果有人不愿意接受 “没有成功 “作为你的解释，你可以礼貌而坚定地表示你不想谈论它–那么就不要让自己陷入一个关于为什么不想谈论它的漫长讨论。