When Winners Call it Quits

Winner call it success

You are about to complete the final milestone of achieving the goal you have aimed for in the past several years. You have worked for it so hard, however, overwhelmed by events and circumstances, you decide that you cannot deal with this final language exam or the pressure of another swimming competition, and you quit. Then you experience guilt and shame, since being a quitter is not the image you want in your school of top performers, or at a first interview that will get you that dream job. In this article, I will try to show that being a quitter is OK, as a matter of fact, quitting is sometimes the better decision to make. However, we need to be able to differentiate between quitting as the easy way out and quitting as making the right decision. “Winners never quit, and quitters never win” is a broad generalization that is often not quite accurate.

Let me describe two scenarios that illustrate my point. I had always known that I want to study international relations at a top university. I was developing my language skills by taking private lessons in German and Russian after school and was entirely dedicated to getting straight A’s. I was also taking singing classes, singing 1-2 hours per day which meant up to 14 hours a week. I had a great talent for singing but started to experience fatigue, I was getting overstretched. I had the dedication, motivation, and self-discipline to pursue all my after-school activities but I simply did not have enough time to. Therefore, I had to prioritize, I had to step back, and think about what it is that I want to achieve in the long-term and which activities would help me develop the skills I need. Singing did not seem as important when compared to acquiring language skills and excelling at school, and I quit. I had invested a lot of time, effort, and money, the sunk costs were high but I did not lose by quitting. I prioritized and made the wise choice to stay on my path to purpose.

In a different scenario, I quit because this was the easy way out. I was already enrolled in the International Relations degree at Oxford University but continued taking German language classes as an extra-curricular activity. I had been studying German for 10 years but never got to sit for an official exam. I did the whole preparatory course and never showed up for the exam itself! I was a victim of poor time management, felt overwhelmed and a German exam was the last thing I needed on my plate. I regret my decision to quit nowadays, and by the way, I still do not have the above-mentioned certificate!

Therefore, here are some observations on why and when people quit from my experience, and some which I found in Lewis Timberlake’s book “It’s Always Too Soon to Quit”:

Why do we quit?

1)      It is easy

2)      It stops the frustration we are experiencing in the given situation

3)      Often, quitting has no immediate consequences, rather they come back to haunt us at a later stage

4)      Continuing and not quitting means pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone, which can be tough if we have not built the psychological resilience to do so

5)      We often quit because we do not know how to proceed – we experience difficulties with time management and how to make everything work together

How can we avoid being a quitter?

1)      Avoid hanging out with other quitters, or people who generally have a negative way of thinking. Seek positive people with an “I can” mentality; sometimes it is difficult to realize what a profound impact our friends have on us

2)      Seek mentors, people who can share their experiences with you. There are great achievers out there who would be pleased to talk to you!

3)      Educate yourself in time management – putting together “To-Do Lists” where you write down everything you are meant to do the next day will relieve a great deal of the pressure that “I need to remember to do this” creates – this will help you not feel overwhelmed, you have it all in control, it is on your list

4)      Learn to analyze options and prioritise – make sure that what you are doing today will help you achieve your goals tomorrow

To finish on a positive note, quitting is not always a wrong decision. Often, you might be just a postponer who will come back and perform better than ever before. It is better to turn in two stellar performances than ten mediocre ones.

Good luck!

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