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Shawn Achor, in his book Big Potential (which is one of my favorite books) tells the story of taking part in the study as a guinea pig.

He was informed that the study’s objective was to learn how the elderly fall. And that he will get a $20-dollar stipend for participating. So, for the next three hours he was going over and over again through the pitch-black corridor filled with traps, and he repeatedly fall. He wanted to quit badly, but he wanted his $20 even more.

However, he was tricked. The study wasn’t about elderly’s falls, it was about resilience in relationship to economic gains. He was the only one who persisted the full three hours. Oh, and he could have quit at any moment and still get his $20. Shawn Achor summarized this story in those words:

Quitters sometimes DO win. Defense, resilience, and grit are valuable, but only to a point.”

Why I’m telling you this story? To demonstrate how outlandish and artificial circumstances and stories need to be invented to make the above sentences right.

Think of it for a moment: where in the real life (not during the fake study with false assumptions) quitting is ever rewarded?

Quit your job, quit your relationship, quit your school, quit the competition, and what you will gain?

Nothing. Always nothing.

The best you can count on are benefits coming from alternative costs. You might have gained a better job, relationship, or education. But quitting alone doesn’t guarantee nor provide any of those benefits. You have to first invest in the new job, relationship, school or sport. Even if you “win” the cost will be higher — because the time and resources spent on both endeavors (job, relationship, etc.) will compound into a single reward.

Quitters Never Win — Not in the Real Life

When was the last time when you’ve seen a sportsman who threw the towel and won? The one who stopped in the middle of the race and won?

When have you heard of an army which surrendered and won? Or of a couple who divorced and thus had a thriving marriage together?

Quitting and Winning is an oxymoron. A dry water. A soft rock. A cold fire.

All the above can appear only in the wild human imagination. We can manipulate reality in a limited space and time to engineer circumstances where quitting is rewarded or the fire is cold. We can create the computer game with the rules that are different from our reality. But it doesn’t mean real world will change and start functioning differently.

Never give up on what is IMPORTANT to YOU.”
— Craig Ballantaine

The above quote aptly illustrates, when to quit. And it has nothing to do with resilience and grit being valuable only to a point. You can quit all day long- on something that’s not important for you. Actually, you should be quitting all the time on unimportant things. This is how you make space in your life for important ones.

Certainly, $20 was important for the poor student. Well, maybe not THAT important, but that was up to Shawn to do the risk assessment. Was his three hours of misery worth $20? He said in the Big Potential that they were worth more than that. Then, what was the break-even point for him? He should’ve decide it upfront and quit when there was the right time for it.

Calculating risks and defining “the quit point” is not quitting. It’s a logical decision. This is how you limit the costs. Quitting a job after two days when you feel in your gut it’s the wrong place for you is so much smarter, than quitting two days before the date of a yearly bonus because you cannot stand the job anymore.

But quitting on things important for YOU? It never makes sense. It is never rewarded.

Everybody knows it well at the gut level. That’s why people give their lives for their faith. That’s why they give their lives for their spouses and children. That’s why they give their lives for their country.

We have a great example of this right now in the Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands of people discovered that their freedom is important for them and they are putting their lives at stakes.

The Real Problem

So, since we know at the gut level that quitters never win, why so many people quit? Great Resignation. Failed New Year’s resolutions attempts. Skyrocketing divorce rates. The list just goes on. Nobody seems to value perseverance anymore. How come?

My hunch is, those quitters simply don’t know what’s important for them.

Photo by Anastasiya Vragova from Pexels

They never – or not often enough – try to push the pause button and reflect upon their core values. They don’t try to get to know themselves- to discover their strengths and blind spots.

They simply run in the hamster wheel of their life, faster and faster, without taking the time to pause, stop, reflect, and ponder. The pervasive state of hurry robs them from any chances of discovering what is truly important for them.

Thus, they randomly try one thing after another, and they quit all too often. They quit because the fads they succumb to are not important for them.

The Solution

Stop hurrying. If you are a Christian, I recommend an excellent book as the resource, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.

Introduce some self-reflection into your daily life. Journal, meditate, pray, set goals, take self-examination tests, define your core values. Look for feedback. Take advice from your friends, peers and mentors. Pause before making big life decisions, like relationship, education, or career choices.

What is the most common excuse not to do any of the above? “I don’t have time for that!”

However, every human being has the same 24h, every single day. Do you know what “I don’t have time for that!” really stands for?

“It’s not my priority.”

But you’d have better prioritize figuring out what’s truly important for you. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of time starting and giving up on less important things. If you are hapless enough, you may waste your entire life chasing shiny objects… and quitting.

Instead of winning, you will lose.

Where to “find” time? Average American spends about half an hour playing video games a day, watching TV for three hours a day, and wastes about two hours a day on social media. That’s 5.5 hours a day. Craving out 15 minutes a day for reflection from the above activities shouldn’t be a problem.

If you aren’t “average” I’m pretty sure you invented your own unique ways for wasting time. If you are not sure what they are, keep a time log for a week or two. Time-wasting activities will reveal themselves.

Seriously, it’s better to sleep for 15 minutes less than to lead your life on autopilot and never discover what is important for you.

So, don’t buy to the idea that quitters sometimes do win. Take my advice to your heart and figure out what’s important for you. Don’t you ever quit on those things.

This is how you win in this game called life.

Originally published at Quora.

Quitters Never Win

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