Quitting your job sometimes gets such a bad rap. When you resign from your role, other may assume you couldn’t take the heat. Or that you’re disloyal. Or that you were managed out.
Quitting is rarely perceived as a positive move. Just look at any motivational movie, book, poster, quote, article, song, or any profile piece in the media. Most narratives celebrate the idea of never giving up, overcoming adversity, and staying the course no matter what it takes.
Most people I speak to are resistant to the idea of quitting. Persevering through challenges may be worth the effort. You may have heard the saying, winners never quit, and quitters never win.
But is quitting really such a bad thing? Can calling it quits actually be the healthiest professional move you could make, enabling you to avoid unnecessary heartache, stress, and pressure?
Never Giving Up Has Its Merits
On the one hand, I love the philosophy of doing whatever it takes to achieve your professional goals. I consider myself to be someone who embraces and even thrives on competition. I believe that achieving your goals is so much more about outlasting, persevering, and never giving up rather than talent or skill alone.
In my career, I’ve seen how hanging in there just a little bit longer to make one more phone call, send out one more CV, or doing one final follow-up pitch can actually make the difference between achieving my goals and “failing.” Staying the course can certainly pay off in the long run.
However, hanging on isn’t always the way to achieve your broader ambitions.
Quitting May Be Your Best Move
People often attribute quitting to failure, but walking away is sometimes the best course of action for your life and career. Sometimes, you reach a point where you have nothing left to give or prove. And staying the course isn’t actually serving your interests any longer.
I’ll share a few examples from my own life when I decided to quit. For most of my childhood, I played the violin quite seriously. By the end of high school, most of my classmates were asking me if I planned to eventually major in music in college. However, when I got to college, I remember joining the orchestra then quitting after only one rehearsal. I just didn’t want to play the violin anymore and freed up that time to focus on my other interests including psychology, my premedical studies, and even dance.
A few years later, after getting into and matriculating to medical school, I dropped out after two weeks, realizing it made more sense for me to go to business school. And later, after 10 years working in the corporate world as a brand marketer, I reached a point where I’d managed the brands, projects, campaigns, product launches, and teams I’d wanted. So I decided to walk away to start my own business, one of the most rewarding moves I’ve ever made in my career.
Walking Away Is Never Easy
The choice to quit is a deeply personal one. Walking away from anything you’ve invested energy into is rarely easy. Even if you feel like you have nothing left to prove to yourself or anyone else, you will inevitably feel torn. You’ll have unfinished business. You’ll have the next carrot dangling in the distance be it a promotion, completion of some degree, or professional accolade.
Quitting your job often means not finishing what you started and leaving behind some loose ends. However, it also creates space in your career for other pursuits that may better align with your professional vision.
Therein lies the challenge. Because even in those situations where it’s clear you’re no longer growing or feeling engaged or excited by the task at hand, there’s always something more you could do.
That’s why quitting is so hard. It often involves leaving behind that next milestone you could cross if you stick around just a bit longer. At the same time, giving up is a necessary step you must take to make room for other pursuits you feel are more worthwhile.
Tough Choices Are The Most Important to Make
Walking away is often harder to do than staying the course because you’ll always have unfinished business. We all have a natural propensity to finish what we started. To bring our projects to closure.
At the same time, experiences have shelf lives. They can and should expire when your own life and career evolves in a new direction.
You always have a choice about whether you can leave it all behind. Walking away really is okay, especially if it enables you to remove yourself from an experience that no longer serves your interests, enriches your knowledge, or feeds your soul.
Decide If Your Pursuits Are Worth The Costs
What’s the carrot you’re chasing in your career? Maybe you’re trying to get that year-end bonus. Or land that promotion that gets you the fancy title you’ve wanted for so long. Or achieve some goal you feel benefits the broader professional community you represent.
Regardless of the milestone you’re trying to reach, you should always ask yourself what this pursuit is costing you. If crossing that milestone indeed still serves you and aligns with where you want to take your life and career, absolutely do whatever it takes to stay the course. However, if the long road ahead is costing you too much, conflicting with your values, or compromising your well-being, make sure to take a moment to ask yourself whether the pursuit is still worth it.
Remember, you always have a choice. You can always walk away. And when you do, you might just be surprised what opens up for you once you create space for something else.
Originally published at Forbes.