Real Life. Real News. Real Voices.
Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.
Join HuffPost Plus
thinner_close_xCreated with Sketch.

Quitting: An Essential Ingredient for Success

Becoming a great quitter is essential to succeeding at the things you find most important in life. Give up on the wrong things and start excelling at the right ones.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

This article was originally published on

Image by James Yu

Let's face it. There are a lot of successes in the world and they all have their own story, their own advice, to give about achieving what they did.

One common piece that gets tossed around a bit is the importance of never quitting.

"Set your mind to it and never give up," they say.

It's good advice.

If you want something, how will you ever get it if you keep quitting before you have it? Keeping that "can do, fight 'til the death" attitude is essential, but what a lot of successful folks fail to mention is that quitting the right things is actually an essential ingredient for success.

Better said, quitting the things that are wrong for you is completely necessary to achieve what you're really after.

So what should you quit doing?

Figuring out what needs to stay and what needs to go when you're trying to accomplish something is vital but it's often easier said than done.

Identifying the things you need to quit is really simple. Actually quitting them, though, can be incredibly difficult. It's easy to become attached to something you know isn't helping when you've been doing it forever:

  • If you want a meaningful career that brings you joy and pays you to do interesting things, you need to quit your dead end job that stresses you out every day, even though it feels like a step backwards.

  • If you want true love and a purposeful relationship, you have to give up on the abusive and degrading one that you're in even though you've poured so much of yourself into it.
  • Becoming financially independent means being able to evaluate your poor investments and dumping them like last weeks leftovers so that you can improve your position in good ones. You have to do this despite the fact that losing money is scary.
  • For any big goal you go after in life, you're going to run into plenty of "you can't get there from here" scenarios. Being able to not only identify that you're in one but also build the courage to give up on it is critical to your overall success.

    That's why it's important to know the difference between goals, strategies and tactics.

    Identifying and quitting the wrong things is critical to the success of any big plan. Getting it just right is hard, though. In order to do a better job, its worth looking at how a big plan breaks down and how quitting certain parts of it can be more effective than others.

    A very big plan can be broken down into three major components: the goal, the strategy, and the tactics.

    Your goal is the "big plan." It's the overarching thing that you really want to achieve. The strategy is your conceptual idea of what it will take to get there. And the tactics are the actual actions you take.

    Can you see the hierarchy there? Lets pretend I want to take a trip to New York. That's my goal. The most important thing to me is that I get there and have a good time. This doesn't ever change -- it's the foundation.

    Now that I'm set on what I want, I need a strategy to get me there.

    In this case, I decide I want to drive using some kind of guidance system, and I'll sleep at different places along the way. This strategy is subject to change, of course, because getting to New York and having a good time is the most important part of all this, but I won't alter it until I've exhausted all the possible tactics without luck.

    • I'm planning to drive so I need to decide if I'll use my old pickup or rent a car.

  • I'll need to sleep along the way. Should I do it at hostels, campgrounds, hotels, or Walmart parking lots?
  • Will I use a street map or a GPS system to make sure I'm headed the right way?
  • These tactics can and should change all the time as you test and discover what does and doesn't work for you.

    The pitfall that most people end up in when things don't work is that they quit their strategy before exhausting all their tactics. Or even worse, they abandon the whole goal altogether.

    Warning: It's unlikely you'll ever reach your goal if you quit your strategy before giving it a chance to succeed.

    Quitting takes practice.

    You probably don't have a hard time realizing the things that aren't working out - it's not so difficult to see the things you need to give up on.

    Like I mentioned earlier, though, lots of things that are simple aren't exactly easy. Even though you know something isn't working and you need to quit doing it, it can be psychological warfare trying to get yourself to actually quit. We motivated types are bred to "never surrender."

    That's okay. You just need some practice to get the ball rolling.

    It's helpful to try this out on smaller, less threatening goals.

    A really smart businessman, Paul Meyers, likes to talk about getting started online by building a "sandbox" to play in. Basically, it's a website you set up specifically as a playground to test out new and crazy ideas. You keep it completely separate from the rest of your life or business and just experiment to see where it takes you and what happens.

    I'd like to borrow that analogy here. While I wholeheartedly recommend diving right into your biggest goals and plans with these ideas, if that seems too overwhelming right now, try setting up a sandbox to play in.

    Pick something mildly amusing to you but you don't know how to accomplish and set to work. Spend a few hours laying out your goal, strategy and tactics and then just go crazy changing, tweaking, and quitting the things that don't work.

    Doing this with something less meaningful takes away a lot of the pressure of getting it right or worrying that you're doing it wrong, but it's practice nonetheless, and it can go a long way in helping you apply it to the parts of life that are really important.

    Basketball players don't just practice their jump shots during important games. They do it every day so that when they're in that important game, it comes naturally.

    Learning how to quit takes practice. Do it often enough and it will become second nature, too.

    Remember, quitting does not mean giving up and it's not a dirty word. You might not realize it, but you make decisions every day to start doing new things and stop doing old ones. Quitting is a part of every day life. As long as you're doing it anyway, you might as well be good at it, right?

    Becoming a great quitter is essential to succeeding at the things you find most important in life. Give up on the wrong things and start excelling at the right ones.

    Tyler Tervooren founded, where he shares research and insights about mastering your psychology by taking smarter risks. For more, join his Smart Riskologist Newsletter.