According to career writing author, Seth Godin, we fail when we stick with tasks we don’t have the guts to quit. This made me think of both work and relationships.
Stuck in a career path
There have been times when I continued to do a job a certain way, because that is how I learned to do it, even though my efforts were getting me nowhere. I remember working late hours fielding calls from agitated clients and putting out fires on projects gone awry, when I worked for a hospital consulting firm as a young twenty-something. I never got ahead of the curve. I was always catching up with the problems and the work. The issues directed my attention and effort.
Young and inexperienced, I thought my opinion was insignificant and I did not even dare come up with proactive solutions. I was a subordinate, not a leader. Also, I did not have the guts to voice my concerns or complaints to leaders — only equally subordinate co-workers. Eventually, I had the guts to quit the job, but interestingly, I took on another one that essentially put me in the same subordinate, fire-chasing position. I did not have the guts to quit my follower behavior. I did have the guts to persevere.
My upbringing and fitness training have instilled a deep importance to persevere through difficulty. So much so, that I now recognize a strong bias in me against people who give up (in my opinion) too easily when the going gets tough. That truly grinds my gears.
Knowing when to quit
Seth Godin makes a point though when he says knowing when to quit is also a competitive advantage. Many of today’s young adults feel they have to go to college, choose a major as soon as possible and focus on filling their resumé with relevant experience to that field. For example, say a college student decides on biochemistry as their major. They take all of the required classes, do a summer internship that aligns with the biochemistry field, graduate and search for a job that matches their studies and experience. Most parents would applaud that path. But what if the student finds out during the summer internship that they are really more inclined to study physics or bioengineering? Do they have the guts to quit and shift their focus to the other field or should they persevere on the path they have put so much time into?
As a parent of college-aged kids, I completely understand the frustration of having a child switch majors deep into their college education. It is expensive. It looks like the kid is indecisive, but are they possibly just more aware of a better fit for them?
How to know when to quit
In David Epstein’s book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, Seth Godin suggests we enumerate conditions that would make us quit before we undertake an endeavor. He says the important trick is to stay attuned to whether switching is a failure of perseverance or an astute recognition that better matches are available.
Relationships and quitting
Since relationships are my biggest fascination, I had to tie the above advice to them as well. The last time I was in the dating world, I read somewhere that we should write down what we are looking for in a mate. Keep those traits in mind as we navigate the dating labyrinth. My two biggest requirements were: 1. A willingness to grow and work in a relationship (Dr. Stan Tatkin of Wired for Love recommends this) and 2. Kindness to others and positivity. If those were missing, I moved on.
My husband has both of those traits. The willingness to grow and work in our relationship demands that we both demonstrate an ability to persevere through hard times. I do not believe there is a better match for me.
Are you failing to persevere or failing to quit when necessary? Was there a situation in your life when you should have thrown in the towel earlier?
If you want to learn how to persevere in your relationships, look into my online course: Attachment: Moving from Insecurity to Security in Relationships.