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Be a Better Quitter

People often quit the wrong things, at the wrong times.

People abandon some things too early.  They jump ship as soon as they feel a friction point.  Things get hard.  Boring.  There is no immediate feedback or positive reinforcement for their efforts.  Discouragement creeps in and strangles potential and creativity. People tumble into the comparison trap and get stuck.  They see the success of people on a different point in the path.  What they don’t see is the hard, boring, laborious wood chopping and iterative process that led to the present picture. 

People don’t stop some things soon or often enough.  They stay on sinking ships.  These vessels take on various forms:  investments, relationships, books, projects, jobs.  “I’ve already spent this much [time, money, energy], so I may as well stay and see it to the end.”  This is not prudent action when angled on a downward trajectory.

People and things shoot up in psychological value as soon as someone has paid the purchase price to have them in their life.  The mental price tags put in place don’t always reflect real value.   Be willing to sell on sale if you need to make room on the shelf for better inventory.   

How to decide who goes and what stays? Keep going or call it done? Decision making is not simple nor is it a perfect science.

Questions to Help You Be a Better Quitter:

  1. What will I regret more – stopping now and losing what I’ve put in or not pushing to the end for the possibility of something bigger or better?
  2. Am I favoring short-term comfort over long-term success?
  3. Is my decision to stop or sell based in fear?
  4. Am I changing course or standing still because it is what people around me are doing?
  5. Is my decision to stay based in a hope that something outside of my control will suddenly change, despite a pattern of evidence that this is unlikely?
  6. Am I emotionally zoomed too far in and myopically focusing too much on my thoughts and feelings in the moment?
  7. If I take emotions out of the equation, what do the numbers say?
  8. If I take emotions out of the equation, what does history say?
  9. If I was making this choice for my best friend, what would I do?
  10. Is this bringing me joy or am I absolutely miserable?
  11. What decision will help me sleep better at night?
  12. Which option generates a stronger sense of relief in my gut?

Don’t keep doing things just because you started them. 

Don’t stay with people who hurt you or are unhealthy and believe that they may magically change.  They usually don’t.

Don’t stop just because it’s hard.  Sometimes hard is good.  Hard can lead to great reward.

Value yourself enough to keep going and pursue something great. Success is rarely achieved without persistence and patience. Discomfort in the growth process is okay, but pain is a signal to pay attention to. Carefully consider what it is saying.  

Give yourself permission to stop when you would be better served to reinvest your resources, efforts, and energy in a different direction.

You won’t always know in the moment what is “right” or “better” because ultimately you can’t predict the future.  You will – through default or change – ultimately make a choice.  What counts is being cognizant, reflective, and self-aware in the process. 

My decision making book RX: Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts (Duke, 2018), How to Decide (Duke, 2020), The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win (Konnikova, 2020)

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October 6, 2020

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