Thoughts & Things

The importance of quitting

August 29, 2020

One way to look at our life is as a sum of our decisions and investments. At every point of time, life offers various choices and those who make smart choices and investments grab a relatively better quality of life. Of course, despite the best decisions and investments, some fail to live their dreams and plans and that may be only an exception. When it comes to the investment of our resources, the loudest advice is to stay invested without giving up. Similarly, when it comes to efforts, the advice is to continue forever and never even think of quitting.   However, this post is on the importance of quitting in life.  There are times when quitting becomes the best choice and life-saving than clinging to the Never Give Up idea.

The  never  give up  slogan

As we have seen above, there is hardly any exception to the rule that, there are no returns without an investment.  The quality of our lives is largely dependent upon the way we invest our limited resources such as money, effort and time. Among men,  the only difference may be in the way people direct these resources in various proportions while some squander away all these. From childhood onwards, we are fed with this sacred idea that irrespective of our goals, efforts are everything. This prodding makes us believe earnestly that all that is required in life is a spirit of never giving up. Pour your efforts irrespective of any positive outcome. We do not give much thought to whether we are chasing an unrealistic goal.  Though we must set a  goal, it may not be prudent to set an unrealistic goal in life and put all your resources there. Add to this our ego, pride and all in between.  When we are caught up in this vicious cycle of never giving up there is also a possibility that we become a failure as there are more than one worthy goals in life and we fail to see those diverse possibilities. We are so conditioned to the negative tone of the word  Quit and never think that it can also be an option. However, sometimes the crucial difference between a winner and loser is that a  winner knows how and when to quit.   

The  sunk cost  fallacy

As we have seen above, when you grow up in an atmosphere of never give up, it is very difficult to entertain the idea of quitting.  Quitting is termed as a cowardly response.   We will be advised, stay a little more, anyway you have invested so much. Why abandon now?  It is not a very pleasant experience to face these questions. The situation is like this. You have invested all your money and efforts in something and now it turns out that it does not yield anything and there is absolutely no hope of reviving it anytime in future.  What is your reaction to that?  This is a very important question in all walks of life. In this discussion, one important idea is sunk cost which refer to costs that have already been incurred, but which cannot be recouped. Sunk cost fallacy refers to the fallacy of honouring sunk costs whereby people continue a behaviour or endeavour as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort).   This is something we encounter daily.  Right from a  book or movie you are forcefully reading or watching just because you paid for it to the sinking businesses to which you are pouring more and more of your money we have various examples where the trap of sunk cost prevent us from quitting and saving our time and precious resources. There are many relationships in which you continue to invest your time and efforts despite knowing that it can never be sustained.   Though we discussed our obsession with suck cost mainly with respect to material investments, the same is true for the opinions we hold on to also.   The more people have invested in a particular opinion or cause or belief, the more reluctant they are to abandon it, despite all evidence contrary to their beliefs.   

Here the takeaway is simple.  At every point of your life, you need to assess where your investments are heading to.  You never have an infinite resource of anything.  More than anything else, as you age,  your time becomes your most valuable asset.  You need to decide on further deployment of your resources. Never give up is a fine slogan. However, your life is not to be spent on something which may never yield you anything.  Just because you spent some of your resources does not mean that you should continue to invest there. Your assessment of various things in life should involve a quitting option too.  If something does not work, despite your best efforts perhaps it is a signal to move on and pick up something else. Similarly when the facts change and when you are presented with contrary evidence, have the courage to change any of your beliefs and opinions even though they were dear to you for so many years or even a major part of your life.  

Life offers a  platter full of choices at every stage. There is no question of ego here.    Reclaim the time and all that is precious for you.  You have none to give account for except your conscience.  Therefore you must believe firmly that quitting from something which does not add any value to you could be the best decision you may take in life.   

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  • Reply
    September 1, 2020 at 8:09 am

    Boby, it is a very appropriate topic, “the importance of quitting” that you brought to our attention.  Your blog reminded me of Erick Barker’s book called Barking Up the Wrong Tree. Erick Barker points out that there are only 24 hours in a day. If you never quit anything, you are going to have less time for the things that really matter.

     Yes, it is true that when quitting is done for the right reasons, such as walking away from a relationship, job, career path, etc. can make not only happier but I feel it can make a person healthier and successful. 
    In the beginning years of my life here in the USA, I was surprised by the way the bachelor students switch their majoring degree during the course of their education. I was asking questions such as why one was not able to make up the mind, we’re they not value the time and money, etc. In my conversation with my colleagues and friends what I learned was that even if a goal was once a good fit, it might not be appropriate a few years later, so for the right reason, it was ok to start something new. 
    However, it is hard to make decisions to change directions in life. First and foremost, for this very reason you pointed out the sunk cost fallacy.  Secondly, I think for the fear of the unknown, we know what do we lose by leaving but we don’t know what will happen if we quit taking a different path.  Here, what we forget is that just because we have more information about our present situation doesn’t mean those facts will stay the same in the future.
    From my personal experience, I can say if for the right reason one quits, one can turn their energy to the next venture and definitely benefit better health and better well-being. 

  • Reply
    September 28, 2020 at 8:39 pm

    Thank you for this article. Years ago I let go of a poor marriage. Five years ago, I went from full to part time work. Now with the virus I gave up working outside my home completely. Yes one has to do with less, but there is the less cost of gas, clothing, and the pleasure of enjoying life at home, hobbies, animals, rearranging the garden. Reading this article, I feel good now that I made these choices. I partially gave up helping others (I had a service job) but on the other hand, as you state, time slips away and finally, one has to care for himself first. Helping can still be done when necessary, but not at cost of one’s own lifestyle !

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