Quitters never win and winners never quit was drilled into my mind at an early age. I believed it. I practiced it. I lived it. I only quit one thing in my life before age 18, my high school football team. I quit because I sat on the bench 99.976% of the time. Since, then, however, I’ve questioned the veracity of that phrase, as catchy as it may sound. And recently I heard a concept that further spurred my thinking about quitting – strategic quitting. What is strategic quitting and why should pastors and leaders practice it? In this post I define strategic quitting and suggest 5 signs that you need to quit something.
First, a definition of strategic quitting. Strategic quitting is thoughtfully and carefully quitting a program, ministry, or initiative that simply is not working, has become staid, is disproportionately sucking up resources, or simply needs to go. In contrast to reactive quitting, quitting when things simply get harder, strategic quitting is not a spur of the moment knee-jerk reaction to difficulty. Rather it is a measured decision carefully made.
It’s a concept so essential that leadership expert Seth Godin even wrote a book about about it, The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit. He says, “Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations.”
Unfortunately, strategic quitting isn’t easy because of a phenomenon called the ‘sunk-cost bias.’ The ‘sunk cost bias’ is a mental trap we can easily fall into. Because we have invested so much time and energy into a project, we would feel like a failure if we nixed it. In reality, many such projects need to go. Read more about this bias here.
So what are some benefits of strategic quitting?
4 benefits of strategic quitting…
- It can release resources (your time, staff or volunteer time, and money) for other projects and initiatives with greater potential for material, spiritual, or organizational payoff.
- It can remove the perpetual drip, drip, drip of regret that has nagged your soul and emotions for months (or even years).
- It can boost your leadership in the eyes of others when they see you muster the courage to nix that ‘elephant’ that most everybody felt should have gone long ago.
- It can develop a key quality great leaders embody, humility. It’s humbling to admit that a project you may have started just doesn’t work anymore, or never did.
If you think you may need to strategically quite something, how do you know?
5 signs that indicate you need to strategically quit something…
- When in your soul you know it needs to go. Perhaps you’ve often wrestled with this ‘thing’ in your mind and you never can seem to get peace about it. Is God saying, “Now’s the time?”
- When those you trust hint that it needs to go. Have influencers in your circle raised the issue from time to time? Have they suggested that the ‘thing’ needs to go?
- When in your mind’s eye as you envision it gone you sense deep relief. As you’ve thought about it and imagined it no longer a burden, do you feel like a weight is off your shoulders? How much influence should you allow this subjectivity play in your decision?
- When you sense the Lord prompting you to strategically quit. In your quiet moments with the Lord, do you sense Him releasing you from it? Have you spent time praying about it?
- When you begin to really dislike the ‘thing.’ Perhaps your attitude has soured on it and constantly confessing your attitude doesn’t change it. Maybe this is God’s way of saying, “It needs to go.”
Knowing when to strategically quit can be tricky. Our emotions can powerfully influence decisions, sometimes in the wrong direction. But when your heart, your influencers, and the Lord seem to all say, “Stop the thing,” maybe it’s time to.
As you read this post, what ‘thing’ in your ministry or organization came to mind that you potentially need to strategically quit?
If some program or initiative did come to mind, what steps do you need to take to discern if you need to quit it?