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Happiness Tip: Quit Something

It’s a myth that “winners never quit and quitters never win.”

From a stress-management standpoint, we need to know when to disengage — and be able to disengage — when the cost of reaching a goal is outstripping the benefit. One study showed that teenage girls who couldn’t disengage from pursuing a difficult goal showed increased levels of the damaging stress-related chemicals in their bloodstream that are linked to diabetes, heart disease, and early aging. It  didn’t matter if they eventually reached the goal or not; too much perseverance can elevate stress-hormones and extract a high cost physically and psychologically.

People tend to feel better, both physically and mentally, when they disengage from a very difficult goal and re-engage with one that is more attainable. The social pressure NOT to quit can be tremendous, and for some people will take a great deal of courage.

Take Action: Quit something. Remember that there are good reasons to quit — when the stresses and the costs of continuing out-weigh potential gains — and there are bad reasons, such as fearing failure.

Join the Discussion: Are you having a hard time quitting something you know isn’t serving you  on your journey? What is holding you back? Are you embarrassed to admit that you just can’t do  it? Share in the comments.


  1. paulakiger says:

    As a parent, I have struggled precisely with giving guidance to my teenager about “when to quit” and when to “stick with it.” It has been an uneven road at best, but we’ll keep seeking the balance. As for me, I am really struggling with the need to find a different employment situation. It has been 19 years. I am held back by my obligations to my family (insurance, money, etc.) and my fear that I can’t do anything else. Nothing like an honest reply, right?

  2. I did quit something this year that was causing more stress than the gains, but I still feel a little guilty about it. My daughter was in a co-op preschool that required a lot of parental involvement/volunteering, monthly meetings etc. It was a great preschool, but was causing me a lot of stress. I decided to put her in a drop-off program this year so that I could have more time to myself and my creative business that I run from home. I’m so glad I did it!

    • Christine Carter says:

      No guilt! A happier mom is usually a more engaged and better mom. Kudos to you for making a hard choice well.

  3. Dena says:

    Yes, I couldn’t quit my marriage. It was horrible and sad and lonely, but I couldn’t give up. I have small children, so that added to my inability to “give up,” on the marriage. Finally, my husband left. Although things can still be difficult sometimes, everything is better for all of us now.

  4. Eva Bettina Trittmann says:

    Quit something, fine, but what?! In my life, the overall costs certainly outweigh the overall gains, bringing me close to a burnout. But I find it very hard to tell, whether the actual costs of one “thing” (raising our son, working on our marriage, working as coach, studying philosophy, walking the dog etcetera) outweigh the actual or potential gains. My impression: the greater the gains, the higher the costs! So in order to “save” a measurable amount of time, energy and effort – I will have to give up some important goals. Is this just my personal dilemma, due to my negative energy balance (that keeps me from seeing the whole picture)? Well, maybe … But at least I take the advice as: Do not take up anything new unless you can afford the costs!

  5. Sheryl says:

    Quit raising my 5 children? Of course the stress would be less! Are you kidding??? sometimes being responsible means you DON’T quit but dedicate yourself to long term goals that are worthy.

    • Janet says:

      I think you missed the point. What you say is totally valid, but not what was being addressed in this article. To apply what was being said in the article, you could quit something much more minor than raising your 5 kids and then have a little more energy to enjoy the process of raising them.

  6. Heather says:

    What a great idea! So many things to quit…. I like this discussion too. I have overcommitted myself after being sidelined by illness and injury and now I enjoy whatever free time I have to the max! Where before I would feel guilty about 1/2 an hour on the couch with a magazine – now I simply enjoy the luxury of it and recognize it for the luxury it is!

  7. Irene Elisabeth Hitchcock says:

    I had a sabbatical year off drinking alcohol. I just wanted to try it and see what is does. By that time I drank about 1-2 glasses of wine a week… I told this idea to my friends and got very extreme reactions. All saying: “Noooo, you can’t do that.” I was really baffled by these comments as I didn’t say I’ll stop eating. However I thrive no negative feedback & it gave me affirmation. To be honest I didn’t even miss it. I just make sure, that when I go out I get some Irene wine. Like a smoothie, sparkling grape juice, ginger beer or something fancy to drink, so I’m partying with all others. Even the most fancy smoothie doesn’t cost a fraction of what alcohol does. I can always drive. I tried drinking like once or twice since I stopped to check if I’m castrating myself of something osum. But I have gone off the taste and I no longer like it at all. I haven’t been drinking in over 5 years. BEST OF ALL: When my daughter get older and asks me: “What did you have to quit when you were pregnant with me?” I’ll say “NOTHING gurlie!”

  8. Buffy says:

    My husband got laid off in 2009 and I went from being a stay-at-home mom for 9 years to full-time employee in the blink of an eye. (My husband got a job he loves shortly after, thankfully). It should have been an ideal situation, but it wasn’t. There was a lot I liked, but I didn’t love it and incompetent management made it hard. Add in a child with special needs and difficulty finding after-school care for him, husband’s new job involving significant travel and an ill mother-in-law with a million doctor visits. I gained 30 pounds, drove to work in tears every day because I had to leave the house before my kids were even awake, everyone’s stress levels were through the roof and every day the kids would ask “are you done working yet?” It was hell. I finished the certification that I needed and then quit. Took some time to regroup and get my health back on the road to recovery – still working on that, but at least I’ve lost 20 of the 30 pounds! – and now I’m working part-time, 12 hours a week with a very flexible schedule so I can move my hours around if kids have no school or MIL has to go to the doctor. We miss the money and we’re not saving as much as we should be, but we’re all much happier. And we’ve found that you can’t buy that.

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