Already have an account?
Get back to the
Mental Health

How To Know When It’s Time To Quit : Experts Reveal 5 Ways to Move on + Start Fresh

Plus, discover the easy keys to making decisions with confidence — and zero regrets

Quitting. Exiting stage left. Throwing in the towel. No matter what you call it, giving up on something that simply isn’t working for you takes, well, courage. But how to know when it’s time to quit can be tricky. Whether you’re debating if you should change jobs or shift gears in your personal life, we asked top psychologists how to walk away with grit and grace — and how to forge a new, more fulfilling path.

Why quitting can be a good for you

We tend to put a lot of effort into persisting, but sometimes all that striving is merely “skin-deep resilience,” says world-renowned resilience expert Michael Ungar, Ph.D., author of The Limits of Resilience. He encourages us to look deeper at the cost of our “keep going” mentality. “Persevering, no matter the cost, can take a toll on us psychologically, physically and can even affect our relationships, if we become burned out and ‘unavailable’ for the happier moments in our lives,” he explains.

Indeed, quitting can be downright healthy, adds psychologist Holly Parker, Ph.D., who teaches The Psychology of Close Relationships at Harvard University. “The ability to walk away is connected to cognitive flexibility, the capacity to recognize when we’re doing something that isn’t working and start fresh.” In other words, don’t beat yourself up for yearning to stop something that no longer serves you, because moving on means you’re adaptable.

Keep reading for 5 ways to gauge how to know when it’s time to quit, closing one door and opening another to new opportunities.

1. Gauge your ‘quitting threshold’

“If you’re considering quitting something — whether it’s a job, a relationship or something else entirely — just ask yourself a few key questions,” suggests clinical psychologist Carla Messenger, Ph.D. “Is there any scenario in which this thing I’m thinking about quitting can get better? Can I do anything to make it better? How long have I been miserable in this situation? Do I have any ideas about what comes after I walk away.”

She says simply asking yourself these questions is more than half the battle: “If you already have specific thoughts about what you want to do, where you want to work or what kind of person would be better for you, then you’ve already begun to formulate a plan for your next steps.”

2. Ditch black-and-white thinking

Sometimes we think we need to walk away entirely, when, in fact, we have more control over a situation than we realize. “Ask yourself what kind of story you’re telling yourself — what’s satisfying or dissatisfying about a situation?” asks Parker. “Let’s say you don’t feel good at work. It’s very tempting to tell yourself that you have to suck it up or leave.”

But if you slow down and get a little curious, you might discover it’s not the job itself that you want to quit. “There may be all sorts of reasons you’re unhappy. For example, maybe interacting with a certain colleague reminds you of a painful part of your past.” When we zoom out a bit, we’re able to see more clearly if we truly need to move on, or if these problems are solvable.

Woman on beach looks out at horizon as she ponders whether to quit something that isn't working for her and chart a new course
Getty

3. Look to your past to see your future — How to know when to quit

Picture the path ahead in as much detail as you can, urges Parker. “Research indicates we’re not very accurate at predicting how our decisions will make us feel in the future,” she says, “because we tend to overly focus on only one aspect of our plan and lose sight of the others.”

For example, you might assume you’ll be happier if you quit your current job — but you didn’t gamble on the extra 30 minutes a new one would tack onto your commute. “Ask yourself if you can rely on aspects of your past for guidance,” she advises. “How did you feel when you made similar changes in your life? Were you able to accurately guess the outcome? You can draw on data from your past to move forward.”

"Woman

5. Gather your \’think tank\’ to know when it\’s time to quit

It’s a fact: We make better decisions when we consider the points of view of three to four trusted advisors. So, when you’re figuring out how to know when to quit or debating whether to walk away from something (or someone), look to your wise council, urges Messenger.

“Ask people you trust what they think, but don’t put pressure on yourself to act immediately,” she says. “Remember, most decisions in life are just temporary and are made to be changed as you change — just because you walk away now, that doesn’t mean you can’t return to this path later with new information and renewed confidence.”


For more ways to forge a new path:

Feeling Stuck? 6 Ways To Welcome Change Into Your Life” url=”https://www.womansworld.com/posts/money/get-your-dream-job” title=”Land Your Dream Job: Research Reveals the Top 4 Tips Proven to Get Results

4. Experiment with a new path

Before changing course completely, it helps to “sample” a new direction, says Parker. She recalls when a family commitment required her to take a much earlier shift at work years ago. “If someone had told me then to show up at work at 6 a.m., I would have said, ‘Are you crazy?’” she says with a laugh. But she found getting out of work earlier — and avoiding capital “T” traffic — was worth it.

“I asked my boss if I could try this new earlier shift again, and it turned out I loved it and was able to make a permanent change.” In short, if you’re curious about making a shift in life, see if you can “test drive” your new decision first.

"Woman

5. Gather your \’think tank\’ to know when it\’s time to quit

It’s a fact: We make better decisions when we consider the points of view of three to four trusted advisors. So, when you’re figuring out how to know when to quit or debating whether to walk away from something (or someone), look to your wise council, urges Messenger.

“Ask people you trust what they think, but don’t put pressure on yourself to act immediately,” she says. “Remember, most decisions in life are just temporary and are made to be changed as you change — just because you walk away now, that doesn’t mean you can’t return to this path later with new information and renewed confidence.”


For more ways to forge a new path:

Feeling Stuck? 6 Ways To Welcome Change Into Your Life” target=”” thumb=”true” imgsrc=”” imgid=”437018″ flag=””]

3 Experts Tips For Letting Go of Regret

6 Expert Tips for When You’re Starting a New Chapter in Your Life

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.