4 Steps to Awesome Quitting

Note: This is a guest post from Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology

Quitting has gotten a really bad rap. The Internet (and life in general) are filled with rhetoric about how bad it is to give up on something. Truth is, giving up on the wrong things is just as important as committing to the right ones. Being able to see the difference and cutting those bad pieces out of your life can help you recover a significant amount of time and energy to pour into the good parts.

The best part? Deciphering between the two is actually really easy. If something you’ve committed to is making you unhappy and you can’t objectively see it making you happy in the future, then it’s toxic for you and you ought to quit. Your gut feeling is more valuable than most think.

Actually quitting, though, is hard and awkward. Luckily, when you decide to quit something that’s wrong for you, there are a few things you can do to be sure you actually go through with it and even get something valuable out of the process.

Here’s a four-step guide to being an awesome quitter:

1. Commit to quitting

This is the first and most important part of the whole process. We all know the danger of “half-assing it” when we’ve committed to something, but it’s an even bigger problem when you’re trying to quit something.

This usually happens because you feel bad about giving up on something you think is important to you, but only half-quitting will drag you even further down.

Make the decision to quit and stick to it. Do your thinking ahead of time and commit to it. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in a self-made purgatory where something that was taking up your time and not getting you anywhere is still not getting you anywhere and still taking up your time.

The idea is to completely free yourself so that you can focus all your attention on starting something new.

2. Tie up loose ends

Of course, in order to be completely free of commitments, you’ll probably have to do a little bit of extra work to be rid of them. Don’t be afraid of that; you’ve made your decision and hopefully based it on sound reasoning. Now, you want to quickly take care of any loose ends that need to be addressed before shelving the whole project.

Look for the things that could come back to bite you if you set them aside half finished. This doesn’t mean you have to finish them. Instead, get creative about how to find an early ending point.

Remember, you’re performing triage here. If it’s not vital, stop doing it immediately. If it is vital and needs to be addressed, take care of it as quickly and efficiently as possible. No need to go for perfect anymore as done will do.

This is the stage where it’s easy to get sucked back into the project. Tread lightly and remember why you’re quitting.

3. Inform all affected parties

This is where things get a little uncomfortable and a little bit messy at times, but doing it right can be the difference between success and failure on the next thing.

Take the time to get in touch with everyone that’s impacted by your decision to quit. Be gracious and talk to people honestly and authentically. This could be team members, superiors, customers, outside stakeholders, and anyone else that has to change something they’re doing as a result.

Be firm with your decision and don’t allow yourself to be sucked back in. Guilt can play a prime role in this stage, but remember that you’re making the best decision for yourself and everyone else.

If you do this right, you can actually build your reputation by showing your good judgment and ensure plenty of support the next time you commit to something.

4. Evaluate and reflect

Once you’ve finally broken free from a toxic commitment, the last thing you want to do is tie yourself to another one with the same fatal flaws.

Take enough time to really look at all the factors that went into your decision to quit and turn them into concrete warning signs that you can use in the future to evaluate new projects and commitments.

Before you jump into the next big thing, go down your list and look for those warning signs in all the nooks and crannies. Don’t be surprised if you find some. Anything you do that’s important will come with some unknowns, but make sure that you can address them objectively.

The point is to be able to say to yourself, “I saw this problem, and here’s the plan I have to deal with it.”


No matter what it is, quitting is never easy, but it’s a lot more important than it gets credit for. Everyone gets trapped by something they shouldn’t be doing once in awhile. If you stay levelheaded and quit strategically, you can quickly be on your way to doing things that really matter to you.

Tyler Tervooren tests the bounds of reality and writes for a team of highly skilled risk takers at Advanced Riskology. Follow his escapades on twitter @tylertervooren.

Photo by movitz


  1. Hm, I hadn’t thought about quitting in this way before. I especially liked Point No. 2, because loose ends can often come back to bite you in the ass 😉

    Thanks for sharing Tyler!

    • Hey Stuart,

      Loose ends are definitely worth thinking about sooner than later. They shouldn’t stop you, but if you completely ignore them they can damage your reputation when you leave people hanging.

  2. In this world of “don’t ever give up” it takes courage to say “I quit.” But it’s important to be engaged in things that matter to us and the things we value before we blindly adopt that “don’t ever give up” mentality. Your points are well made and are a refreshing view on the art of quitting. Hats off!

    • Thanks Marion. Quitting is especially important to me, because I like to try a lot of new things and am always starting new projects. If I didn’t quit the ones that weren’t working out, I’d be totally overloaded.

      Some people prefer to just say no to new experiences, keeping their commitments low from the get go, but for me, I prefer to say yes to lots of new things and then back away from the ones that don’t fit.

  3. Very true statements. It’s always awkward to quit even if you are doing everything correctly.

    • Hey Bryce,

      I don’t think it *has* to be awkward, but yes, often times it is. That usually happens when you don’t commit to cut and run. Having one foot in and one foot out leads to a lot of cognitive dissonance that can make for a weird and prolonged departure.

  4. Quitting can in fact be extremely liberating and a great move for ones progress. However there are right and wrong ways to go about it. I think your above points will help people to do it the right way.

  5. Hi Tyler,

    Quitting on the things we are doing in life that are not productive or a bad habit, for example is crucial. It offers us huge benefits when we quit doing something that is affecting us in a negative way. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. Awesome points Tyler! You must try to inform affected parties. Because quitting without informing them is very bad. Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Quitting something that is “toxic” or not making you happy can be a HUGE relief and weight off. I especially liked your point #4 and evaluating so you don’t make the same commitment that made you unhappy in the future.

  8. Some great points for moving on in a positive way. Sometimes quitting doesn’t mean that things are bad, or that we are in the wrong place, but simply that it is time for a change, and we need to move on in order to keep growing.

  9. that’s a great post, i just left my day job one week ago :))

  10. I’m sure you were thinking about smoking or some other “bad habit” when writing this article, cause I can’t otherwise understand why you wouldn’t put “Pack up on courage” on top of your list ;). For example, I quit college in order to be able to focus on my blog. To go through with something like that, more often than not, you have to stretch your courage to its limits. Cheers.

  11. […] A few weeks ago I weighed in on the subject of quitting. Life Optimizer has an article on HOW to quit, once you decide to. From “4 Steps to Awesome Quitting” […]

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