Do Resilient People Quit?

Is resilience the same thing as not quitting? Would people who don’t quit be classified as resilient people? 

Recently, I was organizing the files on my computer, and I came across a document I created with notes from the book The Dip by Seth Godin. I recall reading and rereading this book – well, actually repeatedly listening to the audiobook – at a time when I was trying to decide whether or not to quit my master’s program.

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Why on earth was I entertaining the possibility of quitting my masters? Well, what it really came down to was that I couldn’t afford the tuition. I had already completed all of the coursework and had completed the research for my thesis – I was just beginning to write the chapters at that point. But, I didn’t have the money to pay for my tuition. So, before hunkering down to write the thesis, I had to make a decision, and the points from this book really helped.  

The Dip introduces three curves we can consider when making a decision to quit an endeavour or stick it out. 

One of the curves is called The Cliff. Sometimes, the only logical decision a person can make is to quit – especially in cases where the likely outcome of continuing on a course of action will be falling off a cliff – when you stand to lose everything. The example he uses is choosing whether to quit smoking or not. 

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Another curve is called The Culdesac. This is a curve where you go round and round but don’t make any progress – don’t make any forward momentum. Sometimes, we stay stuck in culdesac endeavours instead of quitting out of fear of the unknown or even out of pride – or even complacency. An example of this is staying in a dead-end job or relationship. Something tells us that we’re not making progress, but maybe fear holds us back from making a change. 

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The third curve is The Dip. The dip represents the tough times people go through during an endeavour. This is where the hard work and effort live. He highlights how common it is for people to quit at this stage of the endeavour because the project has stopped being fun and exciting.

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So when we start a project or relationship, and at one point or another, we are faced with these three curves: the cliff – our endeavour is heading for a crash landing; the culdesac – our endeavour is just taking us in circles; or the dip – the new car smell of our endeavour has worn off and now we’re just stuck with the maintenance and gas expenses.

In each of these situations, we may want to quit what we’re doing. Seth Godin presents us with three questions to ask ourselves before deciding to quit. 

Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Quitting

  1. Am I panicking? We may be experiencing pressure so quitting may relieve that pressure, but is it the right thing to do?
    • One point he made here really resonated with me. He said, “When the pressure is greatest to compromise, to drop out or to settle, your desire to quit should be at its lowest.” This applied to me. I really didn’t want to quit. My desire to quit was at its lowest. 
  2. Who am I trying to influence? Are you trying to influence a person or industry or market?
    • If you’re unsuccessfully trying to influence one person – maybe you’re persistent romantic efforts have gone unreciprocated – quitting those efforts may be the only logical choice.  On the other hand, if you’re, say, seeking employment and have experienced a lot of rejection, expanding your efforts might be a better choice than quitting. It may just be a matter of time before your resume comes across the desk of the right person – a person who has no idea who you are right now. 
  3. What type of measurable progress am I making? Before quitting your endeavour, ask yourself, are you in fact making progress – even if the progress is small. 

If you find yourself in a dip, you’re trudging through the weight of an endeavour, he suggests asking yourself the question:

Is the pain of the dip worth the benefit of the light at the end of the tunnel?

For example, if the light at the end of the tunnel is receiving your college diploma, is the pain of attending classes and doing your assignments worth it? 

And when it comes to quitting, he suggests:

Never quit something with long term potential just because you can’t cope with the stress of the moment.

And while you may quit trying to influence one person, don’t quit trying to influence a market or strategy or niche

Have You Reached a Deadend?

On the other hand, recognize when there isn’t actually any light at the end of the tunnel. 

If you realize your efforts have reached a dead-end, compared to what you could be investing your time in, quitting is smart.

He even introduces the concept of strategic quitting – having a quitting plan. Before you start a project, decide at which point you’ll call it quits if you’re not making progress. 

So to answer the question – is resilience the same thing as not quitting? The answer is, no. Sometimes quitting something is the only logical choice. Perhaps facing the adversity of having to make such a choice could imply that in some cases, it takes resilience to quit, and in other cases, it takes resilience to stick with something. 

Ultimately, I stuck with my masters and happily completed it. How was I able to make that decision? After sharing my dilemma with a dear old friend of mine, he offered to help me out with my tuition. In fact, I ended up dedicating my thesis to him as a thank you. 

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So, perhaps if you’re struggling to make a decision right now, talking it out with a trusted friend may help you find the answer you’re looking for. 

If you don’t have someone to confide in, consider getting your hands on the book, The Dip by Seth Godin.