Don’t give up but know when to quit

My pointy finger hovered above the arrow. Do I send it? This letter of resignation that contained only two sentences but still took me two hours to compose (the wording had to be spot on, obviously). Do I quit? Am I a quitter? Does that make me a loser?

Many of us are told, in our formative years, mainly before we realise what hypocritical mothers we have as parents, that we ‘shouldn’t give up’ when the going gets tough? That we should persevere to get to the good stuff of life that makes us want to jump out of bed in the morning and do 20 star jumps, just for the hell of it.

But how long do we endure the depths of seven hells (slight exaggeration, it was in fact a highly unsuitable job, that I took when my chosen career was proving rather challenging) before we finally surrender and realise that this situation we’re in, this job, relationship, friendship or venture is just pants?

Biographies, autobiographies and self-help books abound with tales of individuals who have persevered, who were not to been beaten down by adverse circumstances, suffering and oppression. Who yelled up to the gods, “We will not go quietly”. They didn’t quit when things got tough.

Quitting is for losers these stories tell us. It’s just a hump, a hill, to get over before we reach golden fields and paradise. This is reinforced by theories promoted in books such as The Dip.

So how do we know if it’s a ‘Dip’? What if it’s simply time to quit?

I tested the theory to ‘not quit’, I aimed to ‘persevere’ so that I could ‘get over that dip’. It didn’t go well. It made me unhappy and frankly it just felt plain wrong. I clung tenaciously to a job that was wrong for me, in the hope of an eventual prize – my dream job. It turned out that the longer I stuck at it, the more toxic the current job was for me, and the further into the distance my ultimate dream job receded.

My pointy finger engaged. I clicked ‘sent’. I did what I’d told myself I’d never do again and I quit. Yet I have no regrets. The idea of staying in that job there another year, another month, even another week was more abhorrent to me than sticking something sharp and shit-covered into my eye.

So when the darkest times come looking for us, when it’s a struggle to get out of bed – do we quit then? No, because quitting is for losers. When the people who are supposed to support and work with us to help us grow and improve, look at us like we’re hapless losers, no matter how hard we try – do we quit then? No, quitting is for losers. When the job that had once been exciting and challenging has become a grind and drains the life force out of us, do we quit then?  No, quitting is for losers. This kind of thinking makes us feel more trapped than ever. Which is precisely when the desire to quit increases its hold over us.


All those biographies, autobiographies and self-help books also show us that quitting can lead us to a new place. Sometimes we have to let go, to create a space inside for new opportunities, to get rid of the deadwood. Yes, we need to persevere, but we also need the wisdom to know when enough is enough and not to blindly and tenaciously cling to something that just isn’t working. To get where we’re going, we first have to leave where we’ve been.

While every story of wanting to quit will be different, I believe that just because we stop doing something doesn’t mean we’re quitting, it simply means we are moving on, we are keeping our options open, looking to the horizon, being fluid in our motions (and a million other clichés that all mean the same thing). Sometimes this takes big balls. Letting go doesn’t mean we’re quitting. Quitting does not necessarily mean we are losers yet society admonishes quitters and celebrates those who endure the shit.

If you know you’ve done your very best to make it work but cannot see a future in it, don’t think of it as quitting, just be assured that you are moving forward in your search to find the job/relationship/friendship/venture that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning and do 20 star jumps, just for the hell of it.