The world is full of inspirational posters, coffee mugs, and bumper stickers telling us not to be quitters. But that kind of blanket dogma—black-and-white in a world of grey—can be hurtful on occasions when giving up might actually be the best idea. Here are three reasons why we think this advice doesn’t always have to be the final word.
1. It can lead you to the path you really want
It’s all well and good to say “winners never quit and quitters never win,” but what if you’ve devoted yourself to the wrong pursuit and quitting could lead you to a better one—where you could actually win and not just slog away forever because you’ve been told you’d be weak or lazy if you quit?
If you’re on the wrong track, and you know it, sometimes quitting is the braver, nobler thing to do. And it just might be the only route to winning in the end. So have the courage to take stock of where you are and what you’re doing.
2. Sometimes, you’re just truly unhappy
There are a ton of cognitive biases that already predispose us against quitting. Like the sunk cost fallacy (“I’ve already spent so much on this hobby,” or “I’ve wasted so much of my life playing the tuba, so I can’t switch to building miniature boats”) or our bias towards the status quo (“I may have it rough now, but the unknown could be even worse”). Not to mention loss aversion and the need to hold on to whatever gains we’ve made at all costs. But none of these are good reasons to stick it out in bad relationships or careers. The last thing we need is some smarmy “Never give up” slogan making us feel even worse about our prospects.
3. You can set an example and be an inspiration
Quitting is considered weak, and quitters a failure. But we should buck this trend. Wouldn’t it be better to encourage people to be more mindful about what they do? And to check in from time to time to see whether they should still be doing it?
Next time you notice someone spewing platitudes on Facebook about quitters or inspirational gifs about never giving up, take a moment to disagree. That advice can keep people from being their best selves, and can actually be harmful when wielded willy-nilly.
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