How Do You Know If It’s Time to Quit?

Giving up on your goals could be the best thing you ever do. Quitting can be smart and life giving – especially if your goals unrealistic, unachievable, or life-draining. If they’re causing insomnia, stomachaches, headaches or other physical or emotional symptoms of stress, you may consider quitting.

Sometimes goals quit you, as I wrote in When the Wind Shifts – Echoes Fading Away. Activities such as smoking, overspending, self-abuse, gambling or gossiping quit us by releasing their hold on us. Sometimes people quit us by leaving, dying, or even just changing. Sometimes they grow up and away…even when we want them to stay here and near.

I once heard Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, say that smoking quit her. So did overeating and depression — but only after she started questioning her thoughts and beliefs about herself and the world. Change — and death — is the natural order of life. I’ve often wondered why we fear change and death so much; it is the only constant thing in this world! Change isn’t just normal, it’s also healthy and life-giving. 

“I love not rushing the process,” writes Katie in Loving What Is. “Mind doesn’t shift until it does, and when it does shift, it’s right on time, not one second too late or too soon. People are just like seeds waiting to sprout. We can’t be pushed ahead of our own understanding.”

Is it True? Loving What Is

Maybe it’s time to shift your mindset and have another look at the goals you’ve been pursuing. If you give up on your old goals, you can set new goals that bring fresh life. Both change and death bring the possibility of new life. Without a change of some type, new life isn’t even possible! Something has to shift in order for something new to be born. If your goals never change — or even die — then nothing new can be brought forth.

Why It’s So Hard to Quit or Let Go Of Your Goals

“We’re socialized that we must always succeed, but we don’t always recognize that we’re limited by resources such as time, circumstance, and ability,” says Dana S. Dunn, Professor of Social Psychology at the Moravian College in Pennsylvania. “Motivation isn’t the problem. Our own infrastructure can hold us back. We don’t always have the right education, technical expertise, or resources.”

If your goals aren’t possible – if they’re suffocating, draining, and stressing you out – consider letting them go. You can call it giving up on your goals if you like. Or, you might just shrug and say your life has changed now. A new season has begun; it’s time for new goals and new dreams.

Here’s a goal I’m not ready to quit: How to Make Your RV Retirement Dreams Come True.

How do you feel about giving up on your goals?

“I have a horror of quitting, and I’ve stuck with things long after they’ve ceased to be useful or healthy,” says Rosie. “I’ve wasted evenings watching terrible films because ‘I’m not the kind of person who walks out.’ I’ve finished books that I hated from the first chapter, just so I could say that I’d given them the benefit of the doubt.”

Quitting goals – and setting new goals – can be liberating and healthy. But we get stuck in jobs we hate, marriages that are stagnant, dead or even abusive, and routines that are killing our heart and spirit. Some us just don’t know when to fold ’em.

“I’ve stuck with relationships that weren’t making either person happy, not to mention soul-destroying jobs,” says Rosie on If Your Boyfriend Isn’t Motivated, Will He Drag You Down?. “I refused to move out of a house that was costing me a fortune because I didn’t want to look like someone who’d made the wrong decision.”

Rosie’s not alone. We often have a hard time giving up or even reevaluating our goals because quitting isn’t widely admired. But, can quitting your goals actually be good for you? How do you know when it’s time to give up on a goal?

Why quitting goals has such a bad rap

Persistence is admirable – especially when you think of people who build multimillion dollar businesses from their garages, learn to walk again after paralyzing strokes, or somehow beat all odds to achieve their goals. Yet, research shows that dogged determination to achieve goals at all costs can lead to depression, helplessness, and a weakened immune system.

Giving up is often associated with failure and weakness. We hear clichés like “Nobody likes a quitter”, “Winners never quit” and “Quitting is not the answer,” time and time again – even if quitting is the only answer. Quitting isn’t just healthy – it can be joyful, refreshing, and liberating.

We think superhuman achievements are possible for everyone

The stigma attached to quitting or giving up on your goals stems from more than a few clichés. For instance, we see people accomplish superhuman tasks – such as finishing a marathon after doctors say they’ll never walk again – and we think those achievements are possible for everyone.

Remarkable accomplishments do happen, but they’re not the norm. “We tend to overgeneralize from a handful of instances in which people do amazing things,” says Dunn. “The danger of looking at people who succeeded against all odds is that we don’t know how they got there. We don’t necessarily know the steps they took, their background, or the support they had.”

The notions of persistence and accomplishment are embedded in our culture, communities, workplaces, and families. Achieving goals in life is admirable, but the price of success can be high. It’s important to know when and if it’s time to quit, and how to set fresh goals in your life.

Are you ready to set new goals? Read 10 Tips for Achieving Goals in Life – Malcolm Gladwell.

Should I Give Up on My Goals?
How Do You Know If It’s Time to Quit?

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” – W.C. Fields.


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5 thoughts on “How Do You Know If It’s Time to Quit?”

  1. I’m still learning from reading your articles, but I’m trying to reach my goals. I certainly love reading everything that is written on Quips and Tips, and found this one about quitting particularly interesting. Keep the tips coming. I loved it!

  2. Laurie,

    I really enjoyed this post, thanks for sharing. I totally agree with you about goal overwhelm. It can be really motivating to see everything you want to accomplish, but when it starts to loom over stops being fun.

    Isnt that what we’re here for, the fun?

    Anyways, from personal experience, I’ve found it best to draw a circle and put the different areas you mentioned into different parts of it. If one part of the circle is off, the entire shape is ruined.

    It can help clarify the areas in life that need the most attention. Once again, thanks for sharing your content.


  3. I love this article! I’m like Sydney because I grew up thinking that quitting is failing. But I’ve realized that “quitting” isn’t failing, it’s just reevaluating and setting new better and different goals.

    Sometimes quitting or letting go of what’s not healthy for you is the best way to achieve your goals.

  4. Great article, Laurie.

    In fact, just before I got the RSS feed about this article I was reading an email about Meeting #2 of a weight loss challenge that I “joined” just last week. I was already feeling a bit like a fish-out-of-water at the initial meeting last week because out of about 30 women, I was the only one that had less than 10 lbs to lose. Today when I saw the LONG list of activities and to-do items for the next 12 weeks I felt totally overwhelmed. With all the other stress in my life right now, this project is just too much effort for the limited scope of my weight loss goals.

    I too am one who’s been taught that giving up equals failure, but the timing of seeing this article was confirmation enough for me that not only is “quitting” OK, but in some cases it really is the right thing to do.

    Thanks. Now I think I’ll go get a Big Mac and super-sized fries! (Just kidding)


  5. Hello Laurie,

    I just saw your post and wanted to introduce a new goal blogging website which allows users to share their past accomplishments and new goals with the world.

    If you have a chance please check out our site and help support by adding in your goals.

    Thank you,