Knowing When It’s Time to Quit


image credit: protohiro on flickr

When is it time to quit what you’re doing and start something new?  When is it OK to give up on your dream?

We learn a lot by starting something new and committing to its completion.  Things like what parts of the project we enjoy doing, and what parts we should delegate.

I can’t stand accounting.  The details just kill me.  I can get so attached to completing the big picture (balancing the checkbook to the exact penny) that if it’s not working out, I double-down and start all over.  And hours later, I get so frustrated I can’t even talk with my wife.  That’s not healthy.

Being a big-picture thinker, details are hard for me.  I get stubborn when trying to manage too many details.

Being stubborn and committing to creating new habits (notice I didn’t say breaking bad habits) is worth supporting, because that commitment leads to greater things.  Replacing bad habits with incompatible good habits is worth supporting.

But what if you feel like quitting?

Quitting is not the same as lack of commitment.  Quitting is realizing you have embarked on the wrong journey, a journey that wasn’t yours to begin with.

When you feel like quitting, ask yourself some difficult questions.  Go to your quiet wilderness and ask yourself:

  1. Why did I start this in the first place?  Was it for external recognition?  Or was I internally motivated to prove my strength in this area?  Whatever your reasons for starting, make sure they are clear before you commit to making the decision to start.  Write them down and review them regularly.  This helps keep your vision focused on the end game, not the minutiae of daily operations.
  2. Who am I trying to please by doing this?  If your measure of happiness with the project is directly tied to anything measurable, make sure it’s something you can control.  This could be the number of sales calls you make on a daily basis, or it could be how much time you spend working on your craft.  You don’t get to say if somebody likes your widget.
  3. Is this aligned with my passions and talents?  Am I excited about completing the task or am I stuck in the details?  If you’re stuck in the details, refer back to your answer to the first question.

If you’re unclear about what your passions and God-given talents are, consider taking a personality index.  These incredibly insightful tools will help you see yourself as you are wired, not as you wish you were made.  I fought this for years, through several failed projects and two failed businesses before making the choice to confront fear and accept who I was made to be.

Once you have answered these three questions, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re doing there, and whether or not you should stay.

Sometimes we learn we don’t enjoy doing something because we weren’t made to do it.  Once you realize this, it’s time to move into a more fitting place.

It’s often not an easy choice, but there’s no sense in wasting precious life-time doing something that makes us miserable.  Practicality aside, of course.

Where have you struggled with quitting?

  • Teresa

    Willing to be a quitter in order to find your true ‘start’ … I’ll always support that, love!

    • Paul Sidwell

      A question that came up in today’s small group was ‘what do you need to do in order to listen to God more?’ and my response was to make more time to listen. Often, we need to stop doing the wrong things and replace them with the right (or at least better) things so we can move forward.

      So grateful for your support!

  • Marsha


    • Paul Sidwell

      Thank you, Marsha!