Why You Can’t Quit

Interesting article by Daniel Gulati in Harvard Business Review on why people have trouble quitting even jobs and businesses they hate. Everything he writes would apply to activist campaigns, too, and probably relationships and other areas of life. The author neglects to mention, though, that timing a quit is hard. It’s not always obvious when to quit, and you also (of course) have no way to predict how better or worse things get in the future.

Most people, though, take too long to quit–and many take way too long.

One question to ask yourself: while you ponder or ruminate about the quit, are you inventing reasons for staying put, or reasons for leaving. If you’re expending a lot of energy trying to convince yourself to stay, that’s probably a sign you should go.

Excerpted from Gulati’s article:

You’ve been conditioned. Scientists know that the best way to train someone to perform a behavior is to reward them for doing so at random intervals….If you look closely enough, you’ll find that the corporate world is littered with hundreds of these variable reinforcement schedules.

Your losses are more visible than ever. Ubiquitous connectivity plus social media equals high virality. In other words, news now travels fast. So when your early-stage venture fails, your friends are going to know about it.

You suffer from premature optimization….This strong human bias toward accumulating small wins is what we call progress, but paradoxically, it seems to be inhibiting many individuals from reaching their true potential.

Personally I don’t think I’m prey to the first two, much–but then I read the third and I thought oy vey. Something to think about.

Link

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Activist, coach, workshop leader, and author of The Lifelong Activist and The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.

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