Eight Times It Pays to Be a Quitter

If your relationship isn't headed in the right direction, it may be time to quit. Photo: Katie Tegtmeyer

If your relationship isn’t headed in the right direction, it may be time to quit. Photo: Katie Tegtmeyer

As children, we’re taught only the strong survive. Quitters are weak and cheaters never win.

Those who take shortcuts in life usually fall flat on their faces. But sometimes, it really does pay to walk away, or quit.

That seemingly perfect opportunity can come back to haunt you. I’ve learned this painful lesson far too many times. In fact, my journey as an entrepreneur has been filled with ups and downs, many of the latter as a result of stubbornness. Some of the initiatives I committed to blew up in my face, not to mention the countless hours I lost pursuing an idea based solely off how it worked out for someone else without analyzing whether it was best for me. But through it all, I’ve learned to swallow my pride and walk away when necessary.

And maybe it’s time for you to do the same in some area of your life.

Here are some situations where it’s actually beneficial to break the golden rule of never quitting:

Toxic Romantic Relationships

Are you experiencing sleepless nights and a lack of focus because you’re constantly thinking of ways to justify your relationship?

Maybe the two of you just aren’t compatible. He or she may be willing to risk it all on a business or at the casino each night while you’re more conservative. If you don’t get out now, chances are you’ll be forced to pick up their slack and end up drowning in a sea of debt. Even worse, they could become involved in risky behavior and take you down with them when the law steps in.

Does your partner have a wine budget and beer pockets? If appearance is everything and they expect you to shower them with gifts that you may not be able (or not want) to afford, express your concerns and consider getting out to preserve your finances.

Being with a partner who’s clearly headed in a different direction isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be a great learning experience before you settle down and tie the knot. But get on the same page financially before you get married, as arguments over money are a leading predictor of divorce.

Draining Friendships

If they only call on you when they need a favor, and are nowhere to be found on any other occasion, chances are you’re in an unhealthy friendship.

What you can do for them is all that really matters. To add insult to injury, when you make monetary sacrifices for them, there’s no urgency on their behalf to pay you back. It’s detrimental to fund their poor spending habits; you’re only exacerbating the problem.

Pump the brakes and find replacements who are supportive and positive if you wish to ascend to new levels in life. Placing yourself in the presence of those who are content with being moochers is dangerous and can cause you to miss out on lucrative opportunities.

It took me several years to figure this out. I have no hard feelings toward those I once called friends, but it pains me to know I invested so much in a series of one-sided relationships. As for the loans that remain unpaid, I sometimes think of the ways the funds could’ve benefited my growing business. Anyhow, lesson learned.

Shady Social Clubs

Do you pay dues to a social organization you don’t enjoy? What’s the point of forking over your hard-earned cash to be in the presence of a group of negative Nancy’s? They might only appreciate you when you meet their needs, and throw you under the rug as soon as you leave the room or are no longer needed. Don’t pay to be a doormat.

During my undergraduate years, sororities and fraternities were the main attraction. But they come at a cost, sometimes well into the hundreds or thousands of dollars. This is not an attack on these organizations; if doors have opened for you through the sisterhood or brotherhood and you can comfortably afford the fees, remain active. If not, there’s no sense paying for false friends.

Stressful Careers

In many fast-paced industries, production is the focal point and quantity trumps quality; no time for creativity. But the risk of errors is also greater and the position can eventually drain the life out of you. You may meet important milestones and make the corporation tons of money, but at what cost? There will be no time for reflection and your health may even take a hit.

We often associate stress with productivity; if we’re not stressed, we’re probably not working hard enough. If you’re toiling endlessly seven days a week to keep the piles off your desk, chances are you’re determined to climb the ranks, and you’ll do whatever it takes to get there — even if it means being a doormat or sleeping just four hours a night.

Your body says no, but all you see is dollar signs. But losing sleep is a losing proposition in the long run: Those who are drunk often outperform the sleep-deprived, according to Business Insider Australia. That’s definitely an eye-opener!

Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, but it makes no sense to spend the bulk of your day going through the motions at a job you loathe. Maybe it’s time to consider changing your job, your employer, or your career path — or even starting your own business.

Performing Meaningless Tasks

Stop going through the motions. Life is too precious to be wasted on meaningless tasks. Everything you do should have a purpose and work in some way to help you reach the next level. And multitasking is a recipe for disaster.

You have to stop and ask yourself, “What am I working for or toward?” If you can’t answer that question, it’s probably time to make adjustments, or move on.

I used to obsess over cleaning. If my living space wasn’t tidy and completely organized, I’d spend hours — sometimes days on end — until my standards were met. A bit compulsive, to say the least, but it worked as a stress reliever… until my first son arrived.

Suddenly, the messes were surfacing more frequently and time seemed to drift away. But I still insisted on cleaning. I wasted hours of my life accomplishing a task that did nothing to take me to greater heights. And my wallet definitely didn’t get any fatter. I felt good about the space, but research and development for the business I’d been dreaming of kept getting delayed, and any idle time that should’ve been used to bond with my family was wasted organizing a closet or scrubbing a toilet.

These days, I don’t clean nearly as much and my home remains tidy because I’ve found a system to keep things in check. And the small messes no longer worry me; I have bigger fish to fry.

I challenge you to let go of any meaningless task and hone in on things that matter most.

Unfulfilling Hobbies and Extracurricular Activities

Why waste time on activities you don’t enjoy? Plus, they often cost money. The point is to relax and release, not add more stress to your plate. Forcing yourself to show up for an intramural basketball or soccer game when you don’t want to be there doesn’t make sense; you’ll burn gas and money driving there and miss out on the opportunity to spend time with your loved ones.

If you hate public speaking, don’t join Toastmasters International in hopes of turning over a new leaf. And if the sound of repetitive noise drives you insane, singing in a traveling chorus probably isn’t such a good idea, either.

Maybe you’ve finally found an activity you enjoy, but your wallet is suffocating. You have a few options: Let it go and find a cost-efficient alternative, cut costs elsewhere, or let your finances suffer. The choice is yours, but doing the latter is counterproductive and a major drain on resources.

You’re Burned Out

Psychiatrist, anyone? That’s who you’ll be seeing if you don’t get a handle on your schedule and take care of your precious temple — your body.

I was beyond burned out after a few months in my last position as a governmental accountant. Things had gotten so bad that I’d developed stomach ulcers and my body ached constantly. At one point, my physician thought I had lupus. In hindsight, I wish I had walked away earlier to avoid the long-term psychological effects and excessive medical bills. And I forgot to mention that staying put hindered me from using my gifts to fulfill my purpose.

I’m not suggesting you quit your job today if you’re fed up. Instead, communicate your concerns to your employer. If they turn a deaf ear, search for other options. And if you steer your own ship, find better-paying clients so you can reduce your workload. Work smarter, not harder.

Chugging down massive quantities of caffeine keeps you alert, but how focused can you really be if you have the jitters?

Emotions Are Running the Show

At some point, we’ve all been told to pursue our dreams, no matter how farfetched they seem. Some will follow this advice; many won’t out of a preference for simplicity or pure laziness. For those who choose to go for it, our obsession with the dream we’re pursuing usually grows deeper as time progresses.

Obviously, some will reach the finish line while many others won’t, no matter how hard they try. But how can you make an objective decision to walk away when the odds clearly aren’t in your favor?

In most instances, it’s hard to do when you’ve invested a ton of time and money into something that just isn’t taking off. But you have to weigh the costs of staying in the race against the benefits of potentially reaping the rewards. By costs, I mean the physical and emotional toll. Take a step back to see if you’re really making progress or if emotions are running the show.

A few scenarios to ponder:

  • You’ve finally landed the job of your dreams, but the workload is unfathomable, code-of-conduct violations are all around you, and you find it hard to sleep. Are you willing to risk it all because you’re committed to meeting the needs of the organization and your employees, or are you sticking around and losing sleep solely because you don’t want to be viewed as a quitter?
  • Your place of employment gives you the creeps, so you quit without giving it a second thought to pursue your dreams as a small business owner. Within a few months, things aren’t getting off the ground like you expected and you’ve cleaned out your bank account. You have a family to provide for, but you maintain your commitment to the fledgling business. Returning to the workplace may be a pride issue, but you can simultaneously work on the business and give it another shot.
  • Your business thrives off the sale of a particular weight-loss product that has clearly lost steam in the health care market. Do you read the writing on the wall and change directions, or remain committed to this soon-to-obsolete item out of a personal obsession? If it changed your life forever five years ago, it may be hard to walk away.

Each of these scenarios presents its own challenges, but the smart thing to do is walk away. And once a quitter doesn’t necessarily mean always a quitter. Sometimes, it takes that failed business venture or rough work experience to help us put things in perspective and regain focus. More often than not, what’s meant to be will somehow find its way back into your life.

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