How often have you stayed with a project or activity or relationship too long? Perhaps there came a point when you knew it was going to fail, but you hung on anyway for a variety of reasons. You may have had time, emotional energy, or money invested. Perhaps you simply hate to fail at anything or to admit that you are wrong. Maybe the consequences of stopping seemed greater than the cost of continuing.
The concept of “fail fast” is popular in the business environment. When indicators begin to show that a product under development will not succeed, or that a marketing campaign is not reaching the target audience, the best course may be to cut the losses and try something else.
The same process may be useful in your personal life. You often know when a goal is no longer the right one for you, or when a relationship is no longer working. You also know when your chosen field or current job isn’t the one you should be in. Can you look at the situation objectively and start planning an exit or transition, or do you feel locked into your current life and past decisions?
This is not to suggest that you act impulsively, that you abruptly leave your job or graduate program, or end a long term relationship. Big change requires sound analysis and careful planning. You don’t want to quit or give up too soon.
Tenacity is a character trait that is generally valued in our culture. We applaud those who persevere—athletes, artists, authors, even politicians. We recognize those who overcome life’s hurdles and personal challenges, those who succeed against all odds. We admire such courage and determination.
Tenacity, however, can become a negative. It can overshadow the need for positive change. It can keep you chained to the past. It can lead to, even compound, failure. There will be many times in your life when tenacity will be crucial, but knowing when to quit is equally important.