Blog Post: When Is It Time to Quit? 



Sometimes otherwise positive messages get absorbed too deeply into one’s psyche.  Here’s an example from my own life: “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”   

I grew up playing sports.  So have my three children.  I must have heard this saying over a hundred times in those contexts, and, for the most part, it was well-intentioned, well-received, and well-applied.  But it can also get over-applied.  After all, “never” is a strong word.   

Last year, one of my coaching clients was struggling with quitting.  He oversees an enterprise with five divisions, two of which were poor performers in shrinking markets.  My client also played college football and has the “never quit” mentality infused to the marrow of his bones.  So to even consider “quitting” the markets in which his two under-performing divisions serve seemed blasphemous to him.  He wanted to win in those markets, not quit them.   

But there is a time to quit.  And we need to give ourselves permission to quit when the time is right.  The better we understand quitting as a sometimes necessary aspect of life, growth, and success, the better we can employ it in our own journey and with our coaching clients.  So let’s outline four times when it’s the right time to quit. 

Quit when you’re going in the wrong direction. 

Sometimes we take a wrong turn, and we need to quit moving in the direction we’re headed so we can move in the right direction.  I heard an author recently who talked about quitting law school because he knew it wasn’t what he was supposed to do with his life.  He was talking to another author who finished law school and later had to quit the legal practice because he was called to be a therapist.  In both cases, the person needed to quit because he was headed in the wrong direction.   

Notice that neither man quit so he could stand still or remain stuck.  It’s no good to cease heading in the wrong direction if you don’t also start heading in the right direction.  This is why the Bible talks about repentance as a change of direction.  As Jesus says, it’s no good to make a clean sweep of a demon in your life only to leave your house empty and available for more demons to take up residence.  The need to quit heading in the wrong direction mandates heading in the right direction.   

Quit when you’re working against yourself. 

A life well-lived involves discernment of what is best for us and quitting the rest.  There are many examples of habits, thought patterns, attitudes, sins, and peccadillos that limit our well-being.  One of my clients quit smoking last year.  Another quit procrastinating on tough conversations.  A third client quit listening to the negative self-talk that contributed to her being too hard on herself and the people in her life.   

It’s time to quit whenever you recognize you’re working against yourself in any way.  And it helps to be specific in naming that which you are quitting.  A friend recently told me he was going to quit being on his phone so much.  He realized that choosing to be so connected to his smartphone was working against him and it was time to quit.  Of course, I kicked into coaching mode and asked him what that would look like.  By the end of the short conversation, he determined to quit looking at his phone first thing in the morning and to wait until after 8AM to even pick it up.   

Over the years, I’ve noticed that many coaches need to quit being diffident.  The lack of self-confidence works against them in so many ways.  It takes confidence to get coaching clients.  It takes confidence to provide high and lasting value to clients.  It takes confidence to bounce back from a lackluster coaching session, losing a client, or not getting a client.  Confidence is the fuel for serving your purpose as a Christian coach.  Being diffident serves no one, so maybe it’s time to quit it. 

Quit when you’re settling for too little. 

Often in life, we can choose good at the expense of great, or even just “better.”  When we settle for too little, it’s time to quit.  Of course, it’s usually difficult in the moment to know we are settling. This is why it’s important to take a time out, to step back, to unplug, and to notice life from a bigger perspective.  Settling for too little makes an unnoticeable daily difference. Settling has a compounding effect that is most clearly observed over longer periods of time.  This is why it’s crucial to work with someone (like a coach!) who can help us take a helpfully distant perspective on life.  

My coaching client I mentioned in the intro to this post was settling for little.  Through our conversation, he discerned that staying in the two under-performing markets was a case of settling because not quitting those markets prevented him from allocating resources toward better options.  Quitting freed him up to give time, energy, personnel, and capital to an emerging market that has far greater potential. 

Settling for too little happens at the business level and at the personal level.  Sometimes we can settle for too little in our marriages, in our spiritual walk, in our health, our finances, or our personal development.  When I settle for 3 hours of Netflix every evening, I miss out on the bigger things that can come from quitting such a mind-numbing practice.     

Quit when you’re being too selfish. 

A final time that is ripe for quitting comes when we catch ourselves being too selfish.  Self-care is great.  Selfishness is not.    

A good friend of mine was playing it safe in his career.  He had the opportunity to step out of a safe job making decent money to do something of greater impact and greater income, but that would require greater responsibility.  He said he didn’t want to risk stepping away from the paycheck that provided for his wife and children, but really he was just being selfish.  He didn’t want to endure the discomfort of more responsibility.  He needed to quit shirking responsibility, quit playing it safe, and quit hiding his vice behind a virtue.  Ouch. 

Selfishness doesn’t just afflict clients and friends, it’s something we are susceptible to as coaches, too.  One of my challenges is that I often go over time with my coaching clients.  I give an extra ten or fifteen minutes, but I don’t give out of kindness or generosity, I do it out of selfishness.  I don’t want to pay the price of ending on time and my tardiness costs my other clients, my business partners, and the other responsibilities I have.  It’s selfish and rather lazy of me to not end on time, and it’s something I need to quit.   

What about you?  What level of “winning” is out of reach for you because you haven’t quit?  The truth is that winners do quit.  They are smart about quitting.  They are discerning and diligent about quitting.  A smart coach knows that what got him here won’t get him there, so he quits.  He quits going in the wrong direction, quits working against himself, quits settling for too little, and quits being selfish.  It’s time you quit.  What do you need to quit? 

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