Quitting Isn’t the Same as Failing

We are taught not to quit, that quitting is for losers.

As a young girl, I played softball. I didn’t like softball, but my dad was the coach, so I played. I did make a stand and refuse to wear pants; I played baseball in a dress with the jersey over it. Once the season started, I would beg and plead not to have to go to practice or a game. Every time my parents cautioned me that I needed to finish what I had started.

That lesson stuck with me. It’s the reason I stayed in my first marriage much longer than I should have, it’s the reason I worked as an educator for the past 13 years.

I’ve since learned that while there are times when sticking it out is important. There are also plenty of times when quitting is the right answer.

Perseverance and grit are important life skills.

Life indeed takes a certain amount of perseverance and grit to get through the tough parts. I don’t expect everything to be sunshine and roses and you shouldn’t either. Sometimes marriage is hard, and sometimes your job can be a bit bland, or repetitive.

It’s not about quitting things that get tough, it’s about evaluating your priorities, and restructuring your life to make sure that where you’re spending your time matches your value system

Sometimes we need to quit because life changes

Sometimes life hands you something that makes you question the way you are spending the majority of your time. I’ve worked in public education for the past 13 years. As a literacy specialist, my job is not as difficult as a classroom teacher, but it is high-paced, stressful, and includes a 45-minute commute. When my daughter was born 3 years ago I decided to take an extended leave to be with her, something I hadn’t been able to do when my son was born, and I was a single mom. During that time, I started a second master’s degree in Educational Administration. As of right now, I have two classes left to take before I would graduate. I’m quitting.

I’ve been dealing with something of a health crisis for a year and at this point, the doctors are ruling out things like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, systemic Lyme disease, and a plethora of other life-changing autoimmune diseases. My health challenges have been stealing me away from my children. I was pushing myself to go to work and exhausting my body and mind so there was nothing left to give my family when I came home. What I was doing every day didn’t match up with my values and priorities. Now things are so bad that I am on medical leave.

I no longer desire a life where I’m spending all of my energy and emotional resources outside the home, especially now that my health is limiting those resources. I’m refocusing my energy and time where my priorities are, on family, on health, and on my marriage.

Maybe you work in a career that is what you went to school for too, but the daily grind has worn you down. Maybe the joy you once felt early on in your business career has been replaced by a deep hatred for the inevitable Monday morning. Do you need someone to tell you it’s okay to quit? I know I did. I heard it from my husband several times, and from my therapist, I didn’t believe it either. Let me be the one to tell you, it is okay to quit.

I’m not sure yet if I’ll be able to go back to work. Right now, I’m unable to walk very much and my hands don’t always do the things I need them to do. I went from being someone who lifts weights several times a week and runs for fun to being someone who barely makes it to the end of the driveway without her legs giving out. I already know what I’ll do if my health doesn’t improve, I’ll quit.

Don’t let it take a life-altering health crisis to spur you into action.

The reason it took me so long to quit boils down to fear. I was afraid of what my family might think, and what my co-workers and supervisors might think. I’ve never quit anything I started; I was afraid. Notice that none of those statements are about how I was feeling or about what I needed. Sometimes all we really need is a good check-in with ourselves

Changing your mind is human. You were given a wonderful brain full of logic and reasoning and are expected to use it. If you’ve been thinking of a new career path for a while maybe now’s the time to quit your job. Do you what you dream about, take the leap.

Quitting isn’t the same as failing. Quitting is a choice. Changing your mind doesn’t make you weak, it just means that you realized your passion lies elsewhere.

There are times when it is absolutely not okay for you to quit. Don’t quit the things that you are passionate about. Sometimes when life gets busy and you are mid-career, there are kids at home, and a spouse that needs your support it’s easy to let go of the things that bring you joy. It’s easy to let go of the things that make you who you are. Don’t quit those things.

Quit the things that drain you, the things that you dread. Keep the things that energize you and bring you joy.


Maria Chapman
Maria Chapman
Maria Chapman is a literacy specialist turned freelance writer. Maria specializes in writing about parenting, mental health, education, relationships, and productivity. She uses her 13 years of experience in urban education, her specialization in literacy, parenting five children, her experience thriving with chronic illness, and her work as an instructional coach to write engaging, relatable content. Maria strives to help busy parents and professionals find ways to build successful lives that include time for focusing on health and wellness. She leverages her knowledge of cognitive coaching strategies to create content that is motivating and urges people to make small changes to improve their lives. Maria’s work is featured on, Elephant Journal and on several publications on Medium including The Startup, Fearless She Wrote, Every Child Matters, Productive Thoughts, The Writing Cooperative, and Age of Awareness. Maria also writes fiction, two short stories published on Medium, and she is constructing her first novel. Maria believes that the key to creating engaging and relevant content is to be a continuous learner. She has a reading list longer than her kids’ Christmas lists and is working through it with the help of Audible. She shares updates on her work and some of her favorite authors via her monthly newsletter. When she isn’t reading or writing, Maria enjoys hiking, fitness pursuits, mini-adventures, time with her husband and five children, sitting in the sand with no agenda, and creating innovative meals from the mystery produce box she gets each week. You can follow Maria on Linkedin and Twitter.

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  1. Maria, first of all, I hope you and the doctors figure out whatever “it” is. Five kids? Chronic illness? Instructional coach? You’re doing an amazing job.

    I agree completely with your message here and recently wrote about perseverance and grit:

    That said, I might use slightly different words. Words matter, and “quitting” to my brain anyway still connotes “failure” or “giving up,” and that’s certainly not what you’re doing! What about “stopping and taking a different path”? That, to me, communicates positive personal choice.

    Best wishes to you.

    • Thank you, Jeff, I enjoyed your piece, and agree that often times, the meandering course is the right one.
      The negative connotation of the word quitting is exactly why I chose it. Words only have power and meaning if we give it to them, and by challenging the readily accepted definition of a concept, we can take away it’s power.

  2. You are right Maria, quitting isn’t the same as failure. It’s actually a sign of wisdom in my opinion to be able to recognize when to stop and to know that you did the best at what you are quitting. I have learned over the years that to recognize when to quit is a healthy you!

    • Thank you, Lynn. The other thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to tell people you quit something that wasn’t serving you. This decision to end my master’s journey is something my extended family cannot understand, so, I didn’t tell them.

  3. Maria,
    Thank you for a wonderful, insightful and supportive post. My family had a stoic mentality the equivalent of Keep Calm and Carry On. Like you I stayed in a marriage too long. We need to assess when it is right to move on. I hope your doctors find a way to help soon. Thanks for sharing,