When Is It Time To Quit?

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.

Photo by Natashha04

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?”

Photo by Gerd Altmann

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.

Photo by rBruno /Germany

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.

Photo by Sasin Tipchai
















对于那些不熟悉扑克牌游戏的人来说,这些短语的意思是,玩家必须看他所发的牌,并对他的赢牌机会做出现实的评估,也就是说,他的牌的价值组合要比桌上的其他玩家高。然后,根据这个判断,他将决定是否要继续玩这手牌(hold ’em),并下注他将会赢……或者他可以决定他有一手弱牌,可能不会赢。在这种情况下,他拒绝下注额外的钱。他选择不玩这手牌(弃牌),等待下一次发牌带来新的牌和新的赢牌机会。通过做出不打输牌的选择,他把钱省下来,当他有更好的牌局组合时再下注。

这首歌与戒赌有什么关系?我们在生活中会追求很多目标,有些是经过慎重的选择,有些是经过随机的遭遇。不可避免地,我们会做出一些选择,结果是无利可图的,或者是导致错误的方向。有时,条件发生了变化。有时,更好的机会出现了。有时,不可预见的竞争使利益太小。有时,我们在人生的旅途中发生了变化;我们的价值观随着世界观的改变而改变。或者,我们只是简单地认定,我们在选择那个特定的目标时,做出了一个原本错误的选择–就像 “我到底在想什么?”

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。

Author: Randy Green


2 thoughts on “When Is It Time To Quit?”

  1. Hi Randy,
    Glad to read your new blog, your article always give me power. It’s progress to stop moving toward the wrong direction. So sometimes we should stop and check if our direction and hard-working is right.
    Everything is going better and better in my life, I am going to buy an apartment in the city, hope you well in CQ.
    By the way, your blog page is good-looking, I like the pink~

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