There’s A Difference Between “Quitting” And Doing What’s Best For You

Leadership Lesson: You need to understand that there’s a difference between quitting and situations where you’re doing what’s right for you, learning from what you’ve experienced to move forward.

Be honest: Are you a quitter?

Do you give up on things? Do you walk away from things? Do you just say to yourself “This isn’t for me” or “I can’t do this”?

Some people would say that to separate yourself from an action, initiative or plan you had previously committed to would be quitting.  You wanted to do something and, at some point, you decided it wasn’t for you and so you just backed out.

You started and you changed your mind. So, again, according to some, you’ve quit.

But, much in the same way it’s time to re-evaluate what we consider — and how we define — a failure, it’s time to reevaluate how we look at our traditional understanding of “quitting.”

Changing Our Minds Is Paramount To Our Future

Sometimes, we just have to change our minds due to unforeseen circumstances and/or unfavorable results.

Both the good and bad in our lives can impact us in a profound manner, dictating both which paths we take and which decisions we make in life.

Life is full of pressure, fear, and uncertainty. Each of these things, along with many others, impacts our lives on a daily basis. These negative forces can impact us just as much as the positive.

It would be naïve for anyone, whether by personal experience or by just basic common sense, to believe that everything will work out as planned and desired. Some things just don’t work out. And as much as we celebrate the successes, we need to take into consideration and learn from the ideas, projects, and decisions which didn’t work out.

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When it comes to things that don’t work out, if we don’t ride the idea out until the end because it is obvious it will not work out, at what point do we decide to call it “quits?” When should we decide to step away? Again, this is another point to take into account as we reconsider how the stigma of “quitting” is assigned.

It takes strength, humility, and confidence to admit that one is not completely in control and that it’s time to walk away. That stigma that was just mentioned is tied to quitting, but there’s a difference between walking away for the right reasons and merely quitting. The difference is, in quitting, you’re walking away without having learned anything.

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Leadership and professional development is not just about working toward goals and celebrating our accomplishments but also deciding when we need to walk away. It’s about the honesty it takes to admit that walking away is what is best for oneself as well as others, in some cases.

Depending on the scenario and details, much in the same way a cost/benefit or risk/reward analysis demonstrates that no further good or productivity can come from a foray into a business or technical arrangement, instinct, experience, and intuition might tell us the same in our personal paths.

What To Consider In These Endeavors

When we do get to the point where we play with the idea of changing our mind and leaving a situation, what is it we should weigh and consider?

Here are some things we can take into consideration:

  • How do you benefit? This point outlines how we are going to be able to draw from this situation or journey positivity, growth, and improvement for ourselves and our development.
  • How do you contribute? At some point and in some cases, the task that is being taken on must allow you to provide value and to tap into the best of what you can provide and deliver to others. If not, frustration is going to build up and weigh you down.
  • How does your environment benefit? In yet other cases, working off of the previous point regarding contribution, the environment needs to also be able to benefit from what you can provide. If it doesn’t, then there is no point in the work, and both time and effort may be sacrificed.

So, those are the overall thoughts which initiate the idea of walking away. These demonstrate what is at stake as you continue on, down your current path.

The following are the questions we should consider before making our final decision:

1. Have you exhausted all resources? They may include, but are not limited to:

  • Friends
  • Colleagues
  • Acquaintances
  • Family
  • Mentors
  • Coaches
  • Patience
  • Grit

2. How Will You Feel Afterward?

  • Will you feel as if you didn’t give it your all?
  • Will you feel regret?
  • Will you feel ashamed? (You shouldn’t feel ashamed, but if you haven’t gotten to the point where you can put shame or embarrassment into some kind of perspective – that you should feel little, if any, for things you’re trying to accomplish which haven’t worked out – can you deal with some negative feelings and insecurity that might arise within you?

3. Are you looking at the situation as objectively as possible?

4. Have you considered what your next move might be after you walk away? How motivated might you be to pursue it?

5. How many of the circumstances are out of our control?

6. Could you do something differently to come to a more positive outcome?

What Are Your Thresholds?

Each person will have different point at which they might be triggered to consider leaving a situation.

It is important to consider our own thresholds. What are yours? What is your threshold for each frustration, patience, and expectations?

  • Frustration – How long can you move forward while feeling frustration that you’re not in control?
  • Patience – How much patience do you have to wait for certain, desired results to play out?
  • Expectation – How locked are you into what you believe should be the ultimate outcome?

Quitting vs. Due Diligence Distancing (3D)

Keep in mind that there is a difference between quitting and distancing yourself based on doing your due diligence. Due diligence doesn’t only take place before an action is taken, but can continue through reassessment as you go. Although they may seem similar from the outside if someone on the outside doesn’t know all the facts and circumstances, quitting and distancing for the purpose of this argument, are different.

Quitting is leaving a situation before it should be done, before having considered all the points above. A person is not tapping into their full potential and resources to reach a resolution or overcome an obstacle.

In 3D, one has done his or her due diligence of the situation going forward and decided that they would gain more benefit by walking away than from staying the course. You honestly evaluate the situation and cut ties with actions, initiatives, or plans, which you feel you can’t give 100% to or which will not bring you as much benefit as you would prefer.

Leave But Learn

Within reason, it’s ok to leave or walk away from something. The most important point is that one should analyze what went wrong and why? From that, the person should then consider how they need to address their focus going forward so as to refine the criteria to be considered before taking on his or her next challenge.

This is what sets quitting apart from a more constructive exit – the ability to debrief. As with any other development of leadership and professionalism, debriefing is paramount. We need to understand, in our steps in life and in career, what it is that is working for us and what is not. As we shift from one environment, career, or endeavor to the next, this is how we refocus to make sure that we are utilizing our energy, time, and resources as effectively as possible.

If you are frivolous about taking things on and leaving them, repeatedly, without learning and understanding the takeaways, that is what quitting is. It is irresponsible and reckless, proceeding without regard for how our actions impact ourselves and our stakeholders.

Doing our traditional due diligence — before taking on an endeavor — and being honest with ourselves allows us to take a solid look at the height of the cliff before we take the jump.

How do you do your due diligence? If something doesn’t work out, do you change the way you carry out that assessment?

How you approach due diligence – learning what it is that you need to know and what works for you going forward  – is important because it is a learning and evolution process.

It’s About You

When it comes down to it, what you do in your life and career is for your own sake first. Yes, you have people who are stakeholders and who may depend on you, but if you don’t take care of yourself and give the best of yourself, they are losing out as well. It is best to put yourself in the best position to unleash your best resources.

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It is tough to have others see that, for your own reasons, the situation in question does not benefit you. We might feel like we have let others down and “failed” them. They might even actually feel that way or disappointed.

Although we do have to make sure we do what is right for us, in the end, when it comes to the role of others, we need to understand that we have to do what we can to ensure that others are not set back too much by our actions. As with our own time, we need to make sure we’re not too frivolous with the time and resources of others.

Again, we can’t pull the trigger either prematurely, or too often for that matter.

In the end, we need to make sure we’re building off of those instances where something doesn’t work out. A staple of great leadership and professional development is learning from the negative as much as we gained from the positive.

No experience should be left unconsidered.

So…What About You?

  • Were your own self-described instances of “quitting” really quitting or did you learn and take something away from the situation?
  • In hindsight, did you make the right decision or could you have pushed forward?
  • How have you empowered yourself with resources since those situations where you walked away?

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