I like to think my nature is mostly an optimistic person. I am certainly single-minded in most pursuits and will generally stick to a project for as long as it takes. Reading biographies of successful entrepreneurs, human rights activists, inventors or educators, there is often the notion that it has been a long, hard road of grit and perseverance before they reached the pinnacle of success.

Quotes like ‘there is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs’, and ‘it’s always too soon to quit’, further cement this concept of persevering in the face of challenges. And yet there is this question that sometimes nags the budding entrepreneur or indeed anyone who pursing their goals. Is there ever a time when quitting is the right decision? And if the answer is ‘yes’, the next question that follows is, ‘in what context or scenario?

A much-quoted sentiment by the physicist Albert Einstein is that ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results’. Most people will agree that you cant keep doing the same thing that didn’t yield any results in the past, expecting to suddenly bring rewards. But the million-dollar question that needs answering is ‘At what point do you decide that it is time to walk away from that project or dream or partnership?’ If Thomas Edison had given up on the light bulb after a few experiments, would he ever have succeeded in inventing a phenomenon that changed the world?

As a leadership and Business Coach, one of the areas I am often exploring with clients is what they have tried before in their attempt to achieve whatever goal or dream they are reaching for. We examine what has worked and what hasn’t. This helps the client decide what their next steps will be. Many times they have to decide between continue with what they have been doing or trying something new. It is never an easy decision, to say the least. It takes courage to face up to the fact perhaps it is time to walk away from something that hasn’t worked in order to try something that might.

Before you make that decision, here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • Have you really given it your best shot?
  • Have you really done all that you could possibly do to change the outcome from failure to success?
  • Have you pulled out all the stops?
  • Have you dealt with any limiting beliefs that may be lurking beneath the surface? These may have affected your approach in some way.
  • Finally, have you used every resource at your disposal ad applied them to the right area for the right length of time? There are no absolutes here, but your instinct will usually be right.

If you can honestly answer yes to all the above questions, then you can quit with the knowledge that it was the right decision. And because failure is often our greatest teacher, you can walk away with more rather than less. More experience, more wisdom, more character. The lessons you learn from failure will impact you more and stay with you longer than any success will teach you.

Most of all, you can leave with a sense of gratitude that in spite of everything, you are still standing. And live to fight another day.