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When is it the right time to quit?

There are always many reasons to quit when we face challenges or things don’t go as planned.  Thinking about projects I have had the privilege to be involved in, it’s interesting how the beginning is usually fun and exciting.  For me, being a starter by nature, doing something new always fills me with enthusiasm.  With lots of ideas, the future looks bright.  Until somewhere down the line, the first obstacle hits. Most people don’t give up then though.  It’s when you experience repeated knocks that the temptation to give up becomes very real.  Somehow repeated knocks in quick succession seem to be more common than stand-alone challenges.   Suddenly the excitement you had at the beginning of your project, business or goal pursuit has disappeared like the sun on a cloudy day.  What do you do then?

I like to think I am mostly an optimistic person – ‘mostly’ being the key word here. I am certainly single-minded in my pursuits and will generally stick to a project for as long as it takes to see success. Reading biographies of successful entrepreneurs, human rights activists, inventors or educators, there is often the notion that there has been a long, hard road of grit and perseverance on the journey to 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 pursing their goals. Is there ever a time when quitting is the right decision? If the answer is ‘yes’, the question that often follows is this, ‘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 can’t keep doing the same thing that didn’t yield any results in the past, expecting to suddenly see 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 continuing 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. Below are a few points to note.

Trying again does not mean:

• Doing the same thing you’ve always done (that would be stupid).

• Staying blind to why you may have failed in the first place

• Refusing to face the reality that you may have end a business venture or


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

· Have you dug deep to rediscover your big ‘why’ for doing what you are doing?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Have you sought help or advice from someone who can see your blind spots?

If you can honestly answer yes to all the above questions, then you can quit knowing that it was probably the right decision. And because failure is often our greatest teacher, you can walk away with more rather than less - more experience, more wisdom, and 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 will live to fight another day.

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