5 Times When Quitting Is Actually a Sign of Mental Strength

illustration of gymnast walking away

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

Scroll through social media for a minute and you’ll likely see some quotes that remind you that “Champions don’t quit,” and “Quitting lasts forever.” 

Some people seem to believe quitting signifies a lack of strength. And the willingness to suffer through anything in pursuit of a goal is a real badge of honor. 

But the notion that you must succeed at all costs is quite harmful. Sometimes, it takes more courage to walk away from a goal than it does to power through no matter what. Here are five times when quitting is a sign of mental strength.

1. You Discover the Risks Outweigh the Potential Rewards

If your goal is to run a marathon but two months into training your physician advises you to stop training because of a heart condition, you might decide the health risk far outweighs the bragging rights you’ll gain from finishing the race.

Stepping away from a goal because the risks far outweigh the potential rewards is wise, not weak. 

While it’s important to educate yourself on the risks before taking a chance, you don’t always know what risks you’re going to face.

If at any point along the way you discover that reaching your goal is going to cost you your health, your relationships, or your peace of mind, you might realize that quitting is your best option.

2. The Reward Isn’t Worth the Effort

Sometimes, it’s not the risks that are too high but it’s the fact that the reward is just too low. 

You might discover that you overestimated how big a reward was going to be. For example, you may have imagined that losing 10 pounds or getting a 10% raise would somehow make your life 100% better. 

As you work toward a goal, you might realize that success isn’t going to deliver the giant reward you’d dreamed of. And consequently, you might not want to invest the time and effort it would take to get there if the payoff isn’t all that great. 

3. Your Goals Changed

Getting into better shape might seem like a good goal on January 1st. But, by March, you might set your sights on getting a new job. Suddenly, your exercise program may no longer be a top priority for you.

It’s OK to shift your goals. In fact, establishing new goals (and abandoning the ones that are no longer serving you), could be the key to helping you grow and learn. 

Press Play for Advice on Pushing Yourself

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to know when you should quit and when you should keep going.

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4. The Process Doesn’t Align With Your Values

While paying off your debt might sound like an honorable goal, the process of reaching that goal might not align with your values. For example, working three jobs to pay your bills might mean less time with family and fewer opportunities to pursue things that matter to you. 

You don’t need to abandon your values to prove you can reach a goal. It’s OK to walk away from something that requires you to stop doing the things you believe in most.

5. You’ve Dug Yourself Into a Hole

Just because you invested a lot of money into a failing business doesn’t mean you should keep going. And just because you’ve devoted endless hours to a project doesn’t mean you should finish it.

It’s tough to walk away from something that you’ve worked hard on. But, saying, “I’ve invested so much already, I have to keep going,” isn’t rational. 

You’re better off to quit before you dig yourself even deeper. It’s tough to do, but walking away sooner might keep you from losing even more. 

How to Decide When to Quit

Quitting shouldn’t be a decision you make out of frustration, fear, or embarrassment. It also isn’t a decision you should take lightly.

Keep a careful eye on your ego too. Remember that you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone and changing your mind can be a sign of strength, not weakness. 

Make the choice after carefully balancing your emotion with logic. Think about the pros and cons of quitting versus the pros and cons of continuing. 

People may question your decision to quit. That’s OK. Just remind yourself that giving something up allows you to gain something else, like more time or better mental health.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.