Our culture looks down on quitters. Quitting is a shameful behavior. But, at the same time, we do it every day. We hardly begin a thing before we are looking for a way out, just in case it goes sour.
In order to avoid the shame of quitting, we manipulate our perspective. We make ourselves victims of our circumstances. We blame others so we do not have to take responsibility for our own decisions.
Sometimes quitting is okay. Can we just say that? It is not always shameful to quit. Sometimes it is justified. We’d all agree that there is no persevering through abusive relationships, for example. They should be quit.
But what about more grey areas? How do we know if it is time to persevere or to throw in the towel?
The Mood Curve
First, it is important to acknowledge the Project Mood Curve as a very real part of every human endeavor. Somewhere along the way our reality won’t match our expectation.
The pit of despair is where almost all quitting happens. It is the low point on the mood curve. When things feel bleak and difficult. When our expectations are not being fulfilled and the state of the project (or relationship) is in flux.
We have two choices in the pit of despair: quit or persevere.
The Q Zone
When we find ourselves in the pit of despair, there are two realities to consider. As we’re determining the choice before us, these two considerations will help bring light to whether it is time to quit or persevere.
The first is ‘what is my vision’ and am I on the path toward it. If my vision is a healthy marriage or a successful company, naming that reality will help determine whether I should quit or not.
It is appropriate to quit when the path you are on does not lead to your most true vision. Again, it is easy for us to lie to or deceive ourselves. We’ll throw up our hands and say, ‘this isn’t getting me anywhere’. Truth is a friend of every decision. If you’re trying to wriggle out of difficult times or avoid pain by convincing yourself your vision is incomplete, you will find yourself in a cycle of unjustified quits.
But if you take time, accountability, and patience to discover the truth behind your vision, you might find that you are in an incompatible project (or relationship). This is very rare, because most problems are obstacles to our vision that require perseverance. If you have a clear vision, almost every challenge can serve that vision, bringing you closer to what you are longing for. However, there are few occasions (like physical abuse in marriage) where you are in a space that is not compatible with your vision and you need to bail.
The key is assessing the truth of your vision, with clarity and commitment, and perceiving your circumstances in light of the journey.
The second consideration is this: quitting is more difficult than perseverance. It never feels that way when we are in the pit. Quitting feels like a reprieve. But here is a secret: you are going to have to persevere somewhere, on some mood curve, at some time. You can’t avoid ‘em all. When you quit, you start the mood curve all over again and will, relatively soon, find yourself back in the pit once more. It won’t be easier or better. It will be just as hard.
We have to decide what is worth our perseverance. What is worthy of our suffering? The vision you commit to, a true vision of inherent goodness, will require you to persevere. Quitting is not a short cut, it is the long way around.
So, quit if you must. But just know, the journey continues, and it follows the path that it follows.