David Wray

CommunicationEffective TeamsGritGroup Meeting DynamicsLeadershipOvercome ChallengesPerseverancePrioritiesPurposeResilience

Working Through the Urge to Quit Something

Cartoon meeting where the leader is reviewing the urge to quit motivations
Credit: Mark Anderson

Overcoming the urge to quit and give up

How many times have you found yourself in the position of fighting the urge to quit something? Perhaps thinking to yourself: “I just can’t give anything more, I quit!” or “I’m done trying to grow a garden, everything just dies on me!” “Doing this <insert your activity name> is insane, I give up!” 

You are definitely not alone!

Over the years working with individuals in business, athletics, healthcare, and the public sector, unsurprisingly I did not find any sectors untouched by this phenomenon. Individuals who at one point or another have felt tired, stressed, and drained of energy. They each reached a crossroads: dig deep or give up now.

So, what are the skills that help us push through the urge to quit? To fight moments of near despair and frustration?

In a nutshell: grit! 

The characteristics that define grit are perseverance, resilience, courage, passion, and purpose.

Pushback – a quitting moment?

The easiest way to understand challenges and solutions is by showing them in action:

Marina is an ambitious team leader driven to make things better. She decides to approach management about her breakthrough idea: implement a new automated intelligent contract analysis solution that uses technologies to “read” contracts, prioritize areas of human focus, and draft an accounting conclusion for the contract (which the tool then implements and reports upon monthly). 

The average time savings for the accounting team is estimated to be between 15-20 hours per contract set-up and 4-5 hours per contact for month-end activities. The estimated two-year contract lifetime resource-saving is between 111-140 hours or about 3.5 weeks. The company has thousands of contracts! 

The cost to develop the solution will be financed over the three-year build and implement period at a cost of 15M US$. The project will pay for itself in 20 months. To a layperson, it seems like a no-brainer decision!

The challenge is the functional leadership teams are resisting it – their concerns are around headcount reductions in their areas and the ensuing loss of influence. Marina cannot seem to get through no matter how rational her analysis is. Her frustration is understandably high after weeks of trying and now she just wants to throw in the towel!

Before Marina tackles her challenge, let’s look at the tools that will help her to do so.

Steps to dig deep through an urge to quit!

At its core, there are three ingredients to succeed in pushing through the urge to walk away from something:

Back to Basics
  • If you struggle to give something a second or third try, change up the approach. Part of the block may be stickiness in the same routine: same location, same communication style, or the same group meeting approach. 
  • Conflict avoidance affects communication, whether recognized or not. Could the desire to throw in the towel be because you prefer to avoid tough conversations?  Consider why you seek to avoid conflict. Is it slowing you down? Affecting your confidence? Are you trying to make everyone happy (and inadvertently in the process making no one happy)?
  • One’s frame of mind also affects behaviour and communication. Might you be juggling too many balls? Juggling many priorities is not a sustainable strategy even for the heartiest person. Harshly prioritize your slate of activities! You can use the question of “if I drop this today, would I incur real financial costs, relationship costs, or other costs” to critically guide prioritization. Doing so helps establish objective task timeframes.
Energize Yourself
  • Procrastination is another common aspect of not seeing things through to their conclusion. Do deadlines drive you? Do you lose motivation after hearing “no”? This behavioural trait requires pacing. Pacing to ensure there is enough time to work through the process, accommodate time for possible changes, and bring others along the journey.
  • Energy requires stamina. Invest in yourself now! As a youngster, my father told me: “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” Paraphrased, he was imparting the wisdom of investing in my health and wellbeing so that I would have the energy and ability to do the things that matter most in my life. This is all about finding personalized balance.
  • Burnout is a risk to all of us. This occurs when we’ve run out of steam and reach a point of not caring The preventative remedy here is finding one’s passion. Some short-term reactive steps if burn-out is already present include doing the least preferred tasks first (a little like eating the things on your plate that you like least first) to get them out of the way. Focus on your sense of accomplishment rather than the activities themselves. Delegate the tasks you don’t enjoy where you can.
  • The energy you generate when you invest in yourself is the “dig deep fuel” needed to manage through life’s quitting moments.
Just Get it Done
  • Time management is an essential key in order to complete prioritized things. Use your renewed energy and do what you do best – get on with it and get each one done. 
  • Leverage the use of aids or technology to help you stay focused. The options range from low-tech whiteboards, sticky notes, or the age-old paper and pen to more contemporary approaches using voice notes, collaborative productivity platforms, or task list apps. 
  • The tools chosen should simplify your life not add complexity and stress!

Marina overcomes the urge to quit

How could Marina apply these techniques to push through her urge to quit selling her innovative vision?

Starting with the basics, Marina could:

  • Schedule one-to-one meetings with the leadership team to present the problem, share the analytics that supports the need to resolve the issue and ask for their thoughts, ideas, and concerns. Marina’s initial one on one meeting approach dials down group think and noise, particularly for sensitive topics. 
  • Self-check her own frame of mind, confidence, and reasons for wanting to quit her attempt to improve an important process for her employer. Address weak areas quickly to avoid them contaminating the vision.

Moving onto energizing, Marina could:

  • Evaluate if she’s allowing enough time for each individual to work through the change, it happens at a different pace for each person. Rushing through this step often backfires fairly spectacularly!
  • Build up other people to help them gently see the effect they are having on the discussions and the organization by resisting valuable breakthroughs.

To get it done, Marina could:

  • Schedule regular team communication sessions and actively seek input from the group (once the one-to-one sessions are complete).
  • Use a reporting dashboard to keep the extended team informed about progress to lower the risk of recurring resistance and anxieties.

In short, there are many aspects that Marina could explore to overcome her burning desire to throw in the towel and quit, all of which leaves her feeling empowered.

Practical coaching insights

In practice, the common reason that individuals succumb to quitting something is that they reach burnout without recognizing the red flags along the way. 

  • A failure to delegate manageable tasks to other individuals where they could do so.
  • Saying yes when they should have said “no” or perhaps better yet asking “which other activity/priority do we delay (or drop) if we take this on?” 
  • Failing to see that they were running at a level past reasonable capacity, even though loved-ones had often told them.

There’s no magic answer to the question “how much is too much?” It is a personal assessment so if you start to feel tired, overwhelmed, or running on empty then try these simple steps to rebalance yourself and return to being your best self. Your ideas are worth the effort to see through!

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Section or comment below to share your views, tips, and tricks on how you manage through the urge to quit.

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One comment on “Working Through the Urge to Quit Something

[…] passion, grit, and perseverance. I share several examples of this mindset in action in Working Through the Urge to Quit Something and Finding Everyday […]

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