Quitters Are Winners: When Is It Okay to Give Up?
I know. It’s not lost on me that I’ve been an abject failure on the “writing new content” side of things. If it’s any consolation I’ve also been lackluster on a few fronts:
- Calling my mom.
- Avoiding pizza.
- Not (not) being jacked.
My free time has been monopolized by what can only be described as entrepreneurial shenanigans. That being said, this afternoon I have a few hours of free time and will be working on a new T-Nation article! That’s something, right?
Nevertheless, thankfully I have a few people willing to pinch-write for me of late and to provide some excellent content for this site.
Today is another gem on “goal setting” via Paul Levitin I think will resonate with many of you reading.
Quitters Are Winners: When It It Okay to Give Up?
“Quitters never win, and winners never quit”
It’s the motivational cliche to end all motivational cliches.
You’ve heard it before, hell, I’ve said it before.
There’s a lot of truth in that statement. It’s true most of the time. It’s true, except for when it’s not.
The unfortunate reality is, the only fundamental truth of life is that nothing is set in stone. The one rule that will always hold true, is that there are exceptions to every rule.
Woah, how’s that for a mind fuck?
I do agree with the sentiment behind the “never quit, never give up” mentality. I love me a good David Goggins or Andy Frisella rant as much as the next guy.
It gets me going!
I mean, it’s just the truth.
Gonna be pretty hard for you to win a race, if you stop running before the finish line. It’s going to be pretty hard for you to be the past person standing in the battle, if you give up and sit down.
If you don’t quit, eventually, you will find success. “Consistency is key,” is a law that supersedes fitness, finance, relationships, and all life success in general.
But what about when it doesn’t?
If there are exceptions to every rule, that means that there are times where quitting is necessary. Not only is it not simply something you should avoid, but in reality, when the time calls for it, quitting is the only logical choice, and to keep pushing forward with a plan of action that ISN’T working, actually can be detrimental. You end up spending time, energy, possibly money and other resources, on something that even if “successful,” doesn’t get you the desired result.
That’s no bueno.
In reality, it’s not “never quit! Quitters never win!” but more “Most of the time, quitters never win, and winners seldom quit. Except when they do, which isn’t as often, but it definitely happens, and is certainly worth mentioning.”
The latter just doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as nicely.
So never quit, except when you should. Giving up is bad, except for the times when it’s the smartest thing you can do.
The question is, how can you tell the difference?
Here are three key questions to ask yourself to know if you should soldier on, or give it up and move on to your next pursuit:
1. Is It Impossible, or Improbable?
Often, we confuse one for the other, but they certainly are not the same. Improbable can FEEL like impossible, but that doesn’t make it so. However, some things just are impossible, and no amount of wanting it not to be so, can make it that way.
For example, if I want to play basketball at a high level (not professionally, just becoming a good player), that would be hard. It would mean me, at the age of 32, picking up a sport I’ve never played, learning skills, building athleticism. Those are challenges, but if I am dedicated enough, and I put in the time, energy, and effort necessary, I invest, I get the coaching, I could see it happening.
It would probably take years, but it exists in the realm of possibility.
If however, I wanted to become a 6’7” jacked brick-house black man, and rename myself LeBron Levitin, I might be in for some disappointment. Even if I have been training for years already, fighting for an impossible goal doesn’t make it any more likely.
This is known as a “sunk cost”. (listen to me talk about sunk costs here)
2. Is It a Bad Goal, or Is It Just Hard?
Sometimes when you set out for a goal, you don’t realize just how hard it’s going to be. Often you can’t, it takes diving in with both feet to really get the full magnitude of the experience. What comes next is usually a feeling of regret.
“Oh shit, what did I sign myself up for?”
“This is dumb, I can’t do this!”.
These feelings are natural, and the harder the endeavor, the faster they’ll come on, and the more intense they will be.
You don’t want to do hard things. No one does. Even if consciously you do, at a subconscious level, all living things have bred into one key desire: survival. At a purely biological level, anything that is hard for us to do, that makes us struggle, or really in any way uncomfortable, sets off alarms in our brain and body.
These alarms say “STOP THAT! Get to safety, quick.”
When you feel the desire to quit then, you have to be able to discern: am I wanting to quit because this goal is actually not ideal for me, or is it just hard?
The latter is your biological defenses coming in, and need to be disregarded in most circumstances.
- Some goals though, just don’t work out.
- Some projects that you start aren’t worth finishing.
That’s ok, as long as you are sure that you’re stopping because it’s actually going to benefit you in the long run, not because it’s hard or scary or uncomfortable.
3. Have I Given It Enough Time?
Time heals all wounds. Time is our most precious resource. I have father time tattooed on my forearm, because time is an infinitely interesting concept to me. We don’t want to waste time on things that aren’t beneficial, however it also takes time for things to play out, and for the trees of our labor to produce fruit.
If you’re thinking about quitting something, you need to be honest with yourself and ask: is this really not working, or have I simply not given it enough time.
If you’ve been doing a workout program for three weeks and not seeing your ripped abs yet, then chances are you just haven’t given it it’s fair shot, and you need to stick it out a little longer (shiny object syndrome anyone?).
If however you’ve been working on the same program for eight months with no results, and are thinking “maybe month nine is when the gains kick in!,” then it might be time for you to reevaluate.
Unfortunately, there is not one rule for how much time to give.
It matters what the goal is, and in what area of life.
If it’s a fitness goal, a few months is usually enough time to judge. But if it’s business, or a relationship, sometimes it can be years or more.
Refer to questions one and two and decide if it’s something worth sticking it out for. If it’s an impossible goal, or a goal that isn’t worth reaching even if you get there, then move on. If it’s just really freaking hard, like frustratingly hard, but you still think the goal is worth working for, then stick it out.
This is a good time to recenter yourself with your why (Find your “why” here).
My point today is simple: you are not broken for wanting to give up or quit.
It’s human nature, and 100% of the time, it’s going to happen.
You can persevere, you can do hard things.
Sometimes though, the answer is to move on, and explore other opportunities. You don’t have to feel bad about it, and you definitely don’t have to just stick to things because “quitting is for losers!” Be honest with yourself, and be open to exploring the deeper questions of why you’re wanting to quit and move on, and I’m quite sure you’ll know what the right answer truly is.
About the Author
Paul Levitin spent a decade as a personal trainer & strength and conditioning coach, becoming the number one trainer in his entire company, while collecting over 30 certificates (CES, CSCS, PRI, PN1, FRC, & many more).
Wanting to better serve his training clients, he began to study behavior change, and eventually became a Board Licensed Health & Wellness Coach (NBHWC). This led him to create his education and mindset coaching company “The Healthy Happy Human Academy,” where he now helps clients deal with things like self-sabotage and perfectionism, to allow them to build a healthy, happy life.
He seeks to bridge the gap between the worlds of fitness and nutrition, and the frustrated, overwhelmed masses who just want to move more, feel better, and live a little longer.