Grit Versus Quit

(Estimated reading time 4 minutes)

How do we decide whether to “keep on keeping on” or whether it’s time to quit and move on?

This post is a response to the following comment I received on last week’s post about perseverance: “Yes, sometimes we must persevere. But sometimes quitting is the right thing to do … Quit a bad job, quit a toxic relationship, quit pursuing an unrealistic dream, etc. I’d like a post with your thoughts on this: How do we decide whether to “keep on keeping on” or whether it’s time to quit and move on? What questions should we ask ourselves? How do we process this decision?”

“The real answer to whether you should stick with it or throw in the towel can come only through the self-knowledge that underpins Emotional Agility.”

Susan David, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

Even the playing field

Explore what the word quit means to you. What does it mean to be a quitter? Is quit a loaded term? Is it neutral, or is it tainted with thoughts of cowardice, laziness, lack of strength or staying power? Set aside any baggage you might have with the word quit itself. Perhaps choose to reframe the word quit as evolving, moving on or simply as the things you want to say yes and no to in your situation. For example, if you want to say yes to change, you must also say no to doing things as you’ve always done them. It might involve saying no to (or quitting) holding onto being comfortable and saying yes to the discomfort of learning a new way of doing things. It might be saying yes to action, no to inaction. Decisions are really a series of smaller choices – the things we are willing to say yes to and the no’s we are willing to tolerate.

What has been keeping you on the fence?

Reflect on what has come between you and making the decision with which you are struggling? Are you are holding onto a decision you made years ago because you don’t want to admit you were wrong? Perhaps your values have shifted since you first made your choice.

Know Yourself

What are your values that apply in the area you want to make a decision? For example, if you value security, freedom or peace and quiet, each one of these values would impact a decision to quit a job in different ways. If security was your top value, you might choose to keep on with your job despite difficulties. If peace and quiet, or the freedom to make your own schedule were important, you might decide to leave a tightly managed or noisy environment. Knowing what you value and even ranking those values in terms of importance will help you make a choice. Ask yourself what values you are honouring by staying and which you might be honouring by quitting.

Cost versus Payoff

Ask yourself what it costs you to stay and compare that to the cost of quitting. Then examine the payoff you receive by staying versus quitting. The gain I might receive (besides money) if I stay with a lousy job is that I won’t have to figure out what to do next. The payoff could also be that I won’t have to change anything or that I won’t have to risk failure.

In trying to balance the “grit versus quit” equation, the economist Stephen J. Dubner compares two things: the sunk cost and the opportunity cost. The sunk cost refers to whatever investment—money, time, energy—you’ve already made in your venture that makes you reluctant to just drop it. The opportunity cost is what you’re giving up by sticking with the choice you’ve made. After all, every extra cent or minute you continue to channel into this project, job, or relationship is one that you won’t be able to put toward some other, possibly more satisfying project, job, or relationship. If you can take a step back and stop fretting about sunk costs, you can better assess whether it’s worth investing even more time and money in the same effort.

Susan David, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

In Chapter 8 of her book Emotional Agility, psychologist Susan David suggests these questions to help guide the reflection of grit versus quit:

  • Overall, do I find joy or satisfaction in what I’m doing?
  • Does this reflect what is important to me—my values?
  • Does this draw on my strengths?
  • If I’m completely honest with myself, do I believe that I (or this situation) can really be a success?
  • What opportunities will I give up if I persevere with this?
  • Am I being gritty, or am I being stupid?

Emotional agility can help one develop grit, since it allows us to unhook from difficult emotions and thoughts, manage setbacks, and identify our values so we move toward a long-term goal worth pursuing. But it also allows us to let go of those goals once they no longer serve us.

Susan David, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

You can read more about emotional agility in this post.

Even if we choose courage over comfort and engage with life at the edge of our ability, emotional agility is not always a matter of charging full steam ahead, damning all the torpedoes, and tackling your objectives no matter what the cost. If you’re making choices genuinely aligned with your values, there may come a time when the only smart thing to say is “enough is enough.”

Susan David, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

This Week’s Photos

I’m an amateur photographer. This week’s photos are in honour of changing seasons and the theme of letting go or holding on.

Sue Das, CPCC, ACC, B Soc Sc (SW)

The work I do as a coach focuses on personal growth. That could include but is not limited to: developing courage, clarifying values and honouring those values in your life, setting boundaries, becoming more assertive, developing self-awareness and confidence, setting goals, finding your inner strength, identifying and dealing with the thoughts that sabotage you, support in making changes or in going through transitions, and work on discovering your life purpose. Personal growth can have a profound and positive impact on your career, your work and personal relationships and your general satisfaction with life. Connect with me here if you are interested in coaching.

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