Why It Is Okay To Quit; But Never Okay To Give Up.24 min read

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Thrice upon a time, “the toughest man alive” attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the most pull-ups in 24 hours. The initial record was held at 4,020 pull-ups. 

On his first attempt, when he got to 2,500 pull-ups, he had muscle failure so bad he couldn’t even lift his hands high enough to grab the pull-up bar. So he quit. His body couldn’t endure that much stress. (At least, not yet.) 

However, he didn’t give up. He analysed what he did well and where he fell short, made necessary adjustments, and gave it a second shot. 

On his second attempt, he managed to reach about 3,200 pull-ups, surpassing the numbers from his first try. But he got into rhabdomyolysis (an often fatal condition where an overworked muscle group breaks down) and when he took off his glove, “layers of skin came off with it”. The feat was just too demanding and his body couldn’t handle the pain. Sadly, again, he quit. He had to.

“Well, I know one thing… You’re gonna do this again”. Those were his mother’s words and she read his “damn mind”. Yes, still, giving up wasn’t part of the plan. With her support and that of a few others, he gave it a third try.

Like before, he took account of all that worked for him in his previous attempts and what didn’t. This reflective analysis helped him identify how best to strategize and navigate the challenge in front of him. So while it may seem otherwise, his failures were stepping stones, equipping him with the knowledge needed to succeed. 

Three attempts, 17 hours 16 minutes, and 4,030 pull-ups later, David Goggins broke the Guinness World Record in 2013 for the most pull-ups in 24 hours. What a feat. And he gave a first-hand account of that experience in Chapter 10 of his book Can’t Hurt Me

David Goggins is a living example of why it is okay to quit, but not okay to give up. Now, notice how I used the words “quit” and “give up”. Even though both words seem similar, they have some important differences, which if fully understood could help you achieve great feats in life, just like Goggins.

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Does “Quit” Mean “Give Up”?

 “Quit” and “give up” are often used interchangeably, but, despite their similarities, they have slight differences.

Quit means to stop doing something, mostly because you feel it is worthless, harmful, or simply not working. It can be passive but is usually a well-thought-out decision.  While, Give up means to stop putting effort into achieving a goal, mostly because you feel it is too difficult, hopeless, or impossible. It is usually associated with cowardice, defeat, or failure. 

The difference between both words is usually based on the context they are frequently used.

“Quit” is mostly used in a neutral or positive context. In such cases, there is usually no other better choice at the moment. For example, you may quit something (eg, a well-paying job) because it is straining your relationships and well-being; or because it doesn’t align with your values, inclinations, or strength. 

“Give up”, on the other hand, is mostly used in a negative context. One may surrender even when there is no impediment to continuing and a possibility for success. For example, a young lady may give up their belief in love and rather start dating for more superficial reasons like money. 

You see, the former suggests a choice for a much better option while the latter a succumb to defeat. 

Understand; 

  • You can quit a fight but not give up on being champion.
  • You can quit today’s workout but not give up on being healthy.
  • You can quit your job but not give up on working. 
  • You can quit a career but not give up on being successful in another field. 
  • You can quit a relationship but not give up on finding a healthy one. 

And so on.

“Quitting is a well-informed decision to stop doing something while giving up is a surrender to defeat”.

On this premise, I would be inappropriately nihilistic to encourage you to give up but you can quit when it is right. 

5 Reasons Why It Is Never Okay To Give Up

One of my favourite examples of someone so relentless he never gave up is Thomas Alva Edison. In his bid to make a light bulb filament, the world-renowned inventor failed, contrary to the popular belief of 1,000 times, a jaw-dropping 2,774 times before he succeeded. 

His resilience is evident in his famous quote, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

It is never okay to give up because;

1. It prevents you from reaching your potential. 

Giving up will keep you from discovering what you’re fully capable of. How do you know if you’ll succeed if you give up?

2. It can create a harmful positive feedback loop

Your choice to give up can cause a positive feedback loop of hopelessness leading to depression and making you more miserable. This can further make you anti-social and then foster suicidal thoughts. In a nutshell, giving up only makes things worse. 

3. It can foster nihilism. 

When you give up, you set a bad example which others may follow. This can create a dangerous ripple effect spreading to a lot of people and thereby create a negative impact on the world. 

4. It can lead to regret. 

When you give up, you may realize you made a dreadful decision and wish to have done things differently. Sadly, you can’t turn back the hands of time and this can make you regretful and self-loathing. 

5. It can inhibit learning and growth. 

When you give up, you deny yourself the opportunity to learn and grow because wisdom is often gotten from facing and overcoming challenges (not running away).

And so on. 

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5 Reasons Why It Is Okay To Quit

Did you know? If things had happened differently, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a renowned Nigerian writer and feminist, would have been a medical doctor. 

She was studying medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka before getting the opportunity to edit the university’s Catholic medical students magazine, The Compass. This, arguably, helped her fully appreciate and embrace her inclination to writing. You could say she found her purpose, and so after only a year and a half, she quit medicine and pharmacy to focus on writing. 

In an interview with i-D magazine, Chimamanda said, “[Writing] is the thing that gives meaning to my life, really… I have the good fortune to be published widely, to be read, but if I didn’t have that good fortune, I would still be writing, because it matters so deeply.”

It is safe to say, therefore, that if she hadn’t chosen writing, any other option would have made her constantly feel pressure, anxiety, stress, fear, and even physical pain.

If Chimamanda Adichie’s case is similar to yours, it is likely best you quit what doesn’t give “meaning” to your life and choose what does. 

Now there are two ways you can go about quitting;

  1. You can quit an attempt to continue later, as in the case of David Goggin’s pull-up world record, or 
  2. You can quit a pursuit for another one, as in the case of Dwayne Johnson who quit American football to be a wrestler, then quit wrestling to be an actor. 

In the first instance, it’s an opportunity to improve and increase your chances of success on your next try. In the second instance, not everyone easily finds their purpose, so it is okay to try and quit a few things before figuring out what not to give up on. 

There are numerous benefits to why it is okay to quit. Some include;

1. Improved mental and physical health. 

This can be applicable when you quit a toxic job, relationship, or environment; you feel like a huge burden was taken off your shoulders. The relief that comes with quitting can be refreshing, giving you the time and space required for you to focus on your well-being. 

2. Better work performance. 

A harmful condition inhibits optimal performance. Whether it’s a job or relationship, quitting what isn’t working for something that does, allows you to perform comfortably which increases your productivity

3. Improved self-esteem. 

Quitting something that is no longer worth your time and effort gives you the freedom to be authentic, to be yourself. It enables you to identify what you’re most comfortable with. And when you opt for that, you tend to perform better which consequently improves your self-esteem.

4. New opportunities. 

When you quit something, it allows you to explore new opportunities which may turn out to be far better than what you did before just like in the case of Chimamanda Adichie. 

5. Valuable lessons. 

When you quit, you learn valuable lessons that will prove helpful to accomplish your next shot or a new challenge. It gives you an edge because it equips you with helpful experiences that a newbie may not have.

Etcetera.

Now all these are valid reasons to quit. But there are surely times when you shouldn’t quit, yes?

5 Times When It Is Okay Not To Quit

I watched a YouTube video of Simon Sinek at the New York Times Event talking about the Infinite Game approach toward leadership. 

Sinek suggests there are two types of games – finite games and infinite games. 

A finite game consists of;

  1. A fixed set of rules and players.
  2. Zero-sum where one player’s win means the loss of the other(s).
  3. A clear and definitive objective which, once met, concludes the game.

Examples include football, chess, and elections. 

An infinite game, on the other hand, consists of;

  1. Flexible rules and players.
  2. Non-zero sum where a player’s gain doesn’t mean the loss of another.
  3. There is no objective or end. The aim is to continue the game indefinitely with no clear winner or loser. 

Examples include relationships, careers, and life itself. 

Simon Sinek argued that organisations that approach their endeavours as infinite games are most likely to be successful in the long run. And I couldn’t agree more. 

We’ve established that quitting is mostly a neutral/positive decision. But what if it is the worst decision you ever make? How would you know? And how can you prevent that from happening?

Here are 5 (five) times it is likely not okay to quit;

1. When you’re about to succeed. 

While you may have good reasons (especially if it’s not majorly about money or status) to quit something, it is best not to do so if you are already on the verge of achieving your goal. If you quit when you’re about to succeed, you waste all the efforts you’ve put in so far. You should see it through to at least make up for all the work you have invested over time. 

2. When you’re playing an infinite game. 

In the game of life, your true opponent is yourself. Your goal should be to become better than you were yesterday. Every other person is in their time zone. And, while you may learn a thing or two from them, you are not the same as anyone else. If you’re playing an infinite game, quitting is an absolute no-no. When you know your why, the how becomes clear.

3. When you’re just unhappy. 

It is wrong to quit something solely based on unhappiness. This is because pain is usually the cause of unhappiness and, if you’re being honest, you can’t avoid pain even when you do what you love, or are with whom you love. So quitting shouldn’t be a question about “What will make you happy?” but “What pain are you willing to sustain?” As Denzel Washington once said, “When you pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too.”

4. Having a temporary setback. 

Setbacks are inevitable in any endeavour so quitting something because of one is unwise, especially because they’re usually temporary. It’s okay to feel discouraged when you encounter a temporary setback. And the suitable approach is to take a step back and analyse how best to overcome the obstacle. On the bright side, a temporary setback can prevent you from making a long-term costly mistake. It’s like how having a flat tire can keep you from overspeeding and having an accident. 

5. Skill building. 

You should not quit something if it’s a chance to add to your skill set. As the popular saying goes, “No knowledge is a waste”. For example, while I waited to finish university and build my own business, I learned to be a barber and a writer. And those skills have served me well in earning significant income and, more importantly to me, building wonderful relationships.

10 Times When It Is Okay To Quit

Quitting is not a decision you make out of the blue. A lot of factors can foster it. For example, Dwayne Johnson quit his American football career based on a combination of several factors, but likely majorly due to suffering several injuries. Most of these include a complete shoulder separation, a torn Achilles heel, and knee injuries so bad you’d need five separate surgeries (ouch). 

This made him opt for wrestling before venturing into acting. Yes, he did quit another career. And you can say both were the best decisions he ever made. 

But how did he know those decisions would pay off? How do you know when it’s okay to quit?

There’s a popular saying by Oliver Goldsmith that says “He who fights and runs away may live to fight another day; But he who is battle slain can never rise to fight again.” 

Quitting can be quite a frightening decision. And that is understandable. You have to ensure to dot your is and cross your ts. 

It is probably safe to say, you can never be sure if you should quit or not. However, there are factors and events that suggest when it’s likely best you should make the call. 

Here are 10 (ten) times when it is okay to quit;

1. If something causes you more harm than good. 

If your endeavour deteriorates your health, it is best to quit. Health is wealth. A sick or physically incapacitated person just has one wish; to be well. It is only when you’re alive and well that you can set goals and try to achieve them. 

Also, if what you are doing makes you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious, it is okay to quit. The importance of your mental health can not be overemphasized. You should not feel guilty about protecting it. This may mean quitting social media for a while and being more present and organised in reality. 

2. If it will help your long-term goal. 

In the case of David Goggins’ pull-up record attempt, his long-term goal was to break that record. With his body failing, it was imperative to quit to achieve that goal in due time. 

3. A negative influence. 

This is usually evident in a work environment where your values and those of your colleagues or even employer don’t align to a large degree. You may find them to be frauds or toxic and try to change things to no avail. This also applies to a romantic relationship, family, use of social media or a substance. In whichever case, it is likely best to quit. 

4. If you are not making progress. 

You should quit if you have been working on something for a long time and not seeing any results. Beware of the Sunk Cost Fallacy; don’t stick to something simply because you’ve invested a lot of time and resources into it. You don’t have to see a horrible movie to the end. You can quit midway. Sometimes, it is best to save yourself further losses, try again later, adopt a more effective system, or just move on to something else.

5. Addiction. 

If you find yourself too devoted or dependent on someone or what you do, that it makes you restless, sacrifice time with family and friends, and find it difficult to go past a day without, you might need a break from it, with your routine for a healthier one, or, depending on how bad, quit it entirely. You may have become co-dependent or attached your value to that activity, thing, or person and that excessiveness is unhealthy. 

6. If you have a better opportunity. 

Do not feel guilty if you find a better opportunity than what you already have. Especially if it will allow you to pursue your passions or enjoy more freedom. Think of Kate Henshaw, who left medicine for modelling and then acting, all guided by her passion and the greater opportunities she smelled.

7. If you are not learning or growing. 

Not learning anything new or growing as a person, is a good reason to quit and explore other options. There are endless learning opportunities in life and you should not settle for what isn’t helping you reach your full potential.

8. Apathy. 

Now this is different from sheer boredom or just having a bad day where you’re too mentally fatigued or having mood swings. Apathy suggests a constant lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. If you begin to feel that way about what you’re doing, chances are you’ll just ruin everything. Hence, it’s likely best to quit. 

9. You feel lost and overwhelmed. 

This transcends just being uncomfortable. With time you can get past that. Feeling lost and overwhelmed is like a scenario of keeping a gorilla in Antarctica. That is probably how Chimamanda would have felt if she hadn’t quit medicine. 

10. Changes in circumstances and priorities over time 

This may make your actions stop serving you. As such, it is only right to quit. 

And so on.

15 Reasons Why People Refuse To Quit

“Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”

“Quitters are losers and losers are quitters.”

These are popular mantras that make people view quitting negatively. Hence, many people hesitate to quit a job or career, relationship, workout, etcetera, sometimes, to their own detriment. 

Some reasons people refuse to quit may include;

1. They seek validation. 

Most people live fake lives, wearing borrowed clothes and spending beyond their means, sometimes, borrowing money (and not pay back), and stealing from others to keep up with their lifestyle. To be fair, validation can help fuel your drive. But if you are doing it for that sole reason, chances are you’ll become irresponsible, compromising your mental health, values, and other people’s trust. 

2. Sunk cost fallacy. 

The idea suggests that most people are reluctant to quit because they have invested heavily into something and want to see it to the end when it is usually best to abandon it. This desperation only does more harm than good, especially because you tend to not consider the feasibility of your goal. 

3. Pressure. 

Folarin Falana (Falz) quit being a lawyer for a rapper. Imagine he refused to quit law due to pressure from peers, family, clergymen and even motivational speakers despite no longer being comfortable with it. This pressure usually stems from a fear of missing out (FOMO). Most people give in to it because they don’t want to feel left behind. 

4. Fear. 

This is the case among people who are scared to stand up for themselves in a toxic job or relationship. This is also evident among people who are scared of the future. They fear that the alternative of what they choose after quitting may prove worse. 

5. Emotional immaturity. 

“I just can’t leave him. I still love him.” When most women are advised to quit a toxic and abusive relationship, this is usually what they reply. This is also evident in men who simp over their partners and refuse to quit the relationship despite their partner cheating and neglecting their feelings. 

6. Fear of disappointment. 

They fear failing their loved ones. This is especially true if those loved ones depend on them. As in the case of a toxic job which they can’t quit because that is their only source of income to cater for their family. 

7. To not break a promise. 

It is understandable to feel pressure if you promised your parents to graduate with a first-class in Pharmacy at the university only to realize it would have been best for you to be an engineer. 

8. They don’t want to compromise their principles. 

Most people are perfectionists and may have kept a personal record of always completing their goals. This can be problematic when their goal tends to become harmful or unsuitable for their needs over time. 

9. To save their image/reputation. 

This is usually evident when numbers 1 & 6 are the case. If people love and respect them for a particular thing, say being a doctor, they would rather not quit to maintain their reputation even if they’re no longer comfortable with it. This is one reason quack doctors exist, complicating the health of most patients. 

10. To avoid criticism. 

Some people dread criticism likely because most of it comes with trolling, bullying, and downright condemnation. But rather than focus on the positives that it usually carries, no matter how harsh, they tend to shy away from it and refuse to quit what may be harming them. 

11. Ego. 

Many people want to feel like a success especially when it is against all odds. This will stroke their ego and make them feel like they’re fulfilling a prophecy. 

12. To be an inspiration. 

Most people are seen as mentors. So even if something like their career no longer serves them well, they refuse to quit, so they can continue to inspire and motivate others.

13. Withdrawal syndrome

This can apply in several cases but is mostly associated with quitting codependency and substance abuse. It may include experiencing mood swings, insomnia, amnesia, etcetera. 

14. Hopelessness. 

This can be seen in the case of a guy who loved his girlfriend so much but had to quit the relationship after he caught her cheating. This can make him lose hope in the existence of genuine love and loyalty in a relationship. 

15. Confusion. 

This is evident in potentially having the feeling of not knowing what to do next or having too many options to choose from after quitting. 

Etcetera. 

This is why it is imperative to know how to quit so you don’t make matters worse for yourself. 

5 Tips On How To Quit [Without Giving Up]

Let’s say you wake up one morning and just because you feel like it, or because you read Steve Jobs was a university dropout, you decide to quit school. That would be like you playing Russian roulette with your future.

Quitting is not something you do without significant evaluation. Sure, “It’s all risky.” as Jim Rohn once said, why not give it a shot? True, but you must take calculated risks because you could end up making the worst mistake of your life. That new job/career may be worse than the previous one. 

I know quitting is not always easy, so spontaneous decision-making helps facilitate the process and keeps doubt and procrastination at bay. Imagine investing so much time and effort in something only to let it go. It can be hurtful, to say the least. 

However, it is important to weigh your options, trust your gut, and make the decision that is right for you.

Here are 5 (five) tips on how to quit:

1. Identify what you’re quitting for and make a plan. 

Before you quit, determine what you want to do next. Remember I said there are two ways to quit; Are you quitting to continue later? Or are you quitting to venture into something else? If it’s the former, you have to identify what worked for you and what didn’t so you know how best to go about your next try. If it’s the latter, seek an endeavour that aligns best with your values, inclinations, and strengths.

2. Make a list of the pros and cons. 

Write down all the reasons why you want to quit and all the reasons why you may not want to. Also, consider the factual implications of your decision on your loved ones. This will enable you to see things from an objective lens and help you arrive at a more rational conclusion. 

3. Talk to someone who has your best interest at heart or seek professional/expert opinion. 

When you talk to a friend, family member, therapist or an expert in the field you are in (or interested in), it can help you process your feelings and make a decision that is right for you. Also, acknowledging a different perspective can help you see things more clearly

4. Put guilt aside. 

You have the right to quit something that is not working for you. It is your shoe and you know if and where it hurts the most. Do you for your health and happiness.

5. Don’t be afraid to start from the bottom. 

Avoid putting too much pressure on yourself. To become a master, you must first suck at it. 

On the bright side, the knowledge from your previous experience will prove helpful in your new endeavour. 

Quitting is not as easy as many people think. So taking on such a challenge shows how much of a badass you are. 

Conclusion; You Can Quit, But Don’t Give Up.

“Celebrate endings, for they precede new beginnings.” – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Contrary to popular opinion, quitting is not a sign of failure or weakness. It takes strength to quit, building your resolve in the courage and efforts to be decisive despite prior investment.  

Also, if you think about it critically, when you choose not to give up on something, you quit something else as a result. For example, not giving up on your fitness by consistently working out means quitting procrastination and being lazy. 

So don’t be afraid to quit. It could be the best thing you ever do for yourself. 

And I know life is hard – filled with problems and challenges. But, to me, the world would be worse if it were not so. This is because the challenges help us become better. And it is only best we embrace it (especially because it is unavoidable) and become the best possible version of ourselves. Hence;

  • Believe in yourself,
  • Dream big but set realistic goals,
  • Don’t hesitate to seek help, and
  • Never give up.

Suppose Edison gave up and chose to wallow in despair over his failures. Imagine a world without light bulbs that fostered other electrical functions. The thought of it sends shivers down my spine. 

“Quitting is not giving up, it’s choosing to focus your attention on something more important. Quitting is not losing confidence, it’s realizing that there are more valuable ways you can spend your time. Quitting is not making excuses, it’s learning to be more productive, efficient and effective instead. Quitting is letting go of things (or people) that are sucking the life out of you so you can do more things that will bring you strength.”

– Osayi Osar-Emokpae, Author of Impossible Is Stupid

You can quit, but don’t give up. 

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I enjoy literary works (especially in the form of books and songs) and learning about human psychology.

I’m also interested in intellectual development, fitness/athleticism, and waste management.

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