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One Question to Decide Whether Quitting Is Better Than Carrying On

One Question to Decide Whether Quitting Is Better Than Carrying On

Quitting at something almost universally seen as a negative. Certainly, there are times when quitting can be a good, like giving up smoking for example. But generally speaking, quitting something is seen as a loss. Even if it is something we don’t find rewarding, or something we don’t enjoy, quitting something always feels like a personal setback. But sometimes, quitting something can be the first step towards the road to success.

In 2016 Neil Sheth quit his job. For ten years he was a successful investment banker in Goldman Sachs in London, but he wanted more. So he launched a business on the side, focusing on digital marketing. But he found he was unable to focus as much time as he liked on it, so he took the plunge. He quit his job.
Within a few months, he had not only secured some free time (no more morning commute!) but started earning a considerable income.[1]

He isn’t the only person to quit as a way of achieving success, take for example Sarah Grove who quit her job as a kiteboarder to start a successful online health food magazine, or Catherine Wood who quit her job as an economist for the federal government to become a life coach, and in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg left his studies at Harvard to focus on a little website he and some friends were working on, a site called Facebook.[2] All these people are quitters, and all these people are happier, and more successful because of it.

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    The question to ask yourself

    Of course, quitting isn’t for everyone, and at times it can be hard to know if quitting something is even the right decision. To help determine whether quitting something will be beneficial, it is important to ask yourself this very crucial question:

    Is what I’m doing helping me get to what I want most?”

    Only you can know the answer to this question.

    Time, ultimately, is finite. So, if you have something you strive towards, or something you dream of doing or having, there is a risk that your normal 9-5 job isn’t helping you but actually hindering your progress and taking up important time.

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    That said, quitting does not need to be as drastic as it sounds, you could consider it to merely be you changing your direction. Indeed some successful people (like Richard Branson) stress the importance of building bridges, instead of burning them, staying in touch with the people you worked with instead of moving on from them.[3]

    The significance of the question

    Life, and the world is full of distractions. Unless you’re not fully focused on your goal, it can be easy to lose track of it, or run out of time to meet your goals in life. Have you ever had to cancel something you were looking forward to because work got in the way? Or put aside time to do something, only to discover that you filled that time doing other, less important things?

      You might have even dropped something you were enjoying because you had already put a lot of time into something you weren’t enjoying, but didn’t want to see that time wasted. This is an example of sunk cost bias, the mistaken belief that something is worth sticking with just because you invested a lot of time into it, even if you didn’t like it, or enjoy doing it.[4] It is the cause of many bad relationships, hurt feelings, bad books read, and years of wasted time.

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        If you’re stuck in a job you don’t like, quitting can seem a terrible prospect just because you’ve spent a lot of time there. Really, you should see that as time spent not working against your goal. The sunk cost bias then is costly. The best weapon against it is the question.

        The benefits of the question

        The above question allows you to take a step back and fully assess what you’re doing. In asking this question you’re also asking yourself:

        • “Why am I doing this?”
        • “Is this adding value to my life?”

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          It makes you ask yourself what your goal is, and whether what you’re doing is working towards that goal. If the answer to those questions is yes, then fantastic! You’re doing great!

          If the answer is no, then maybe you should ask yourself is what you’re doing worth doing if you want to achieve your goal.

          There is a much debated theory that suggests it takes 10,000 hours to truly master something.[5] If this is true (some say it takes less), if your goal is, for example, to learn a new language or instrument, then you could be losing a great deal of that time doing something that doesn’t contribute to it at all.

          The question reminds you of your true purpose, whatever it may be, it brings it back in focus, and once it is, you’ll be able to better understand how to reach it. To strive for it, and if necessary, quit or drop some unnecessary things to achieve it.

          Reference

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on October 30, 2019

          How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

          How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

          Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

          In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

          Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

          You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

          What is the Stages of Change Model?

          Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

          Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

          Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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            The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

            The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

            The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

            The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

            1. Precontemplation
            2. Contemplation
            3. Determination
            4. Action
            5. Maintenance
            6. Termination

            How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

            To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

              Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

              Stage 1: Precontemplation

              At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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              For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

              Stage 2: Contemplation

              At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

              You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

              The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

              Stage 3: Preparation

              At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

              Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

              Stage 4: Action

              When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

              Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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              Stage 5: Maintenance

              After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

              Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

              Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

              Stage 6: Termination

              Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

              However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

              How long does each stage take?

              You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

              So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

              The limitations of this model

              The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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              Require the ability to set a realistic goal

              For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

              If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

              Difficult to judge your progress

              The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

              Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

              Conclusion

              The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

              While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

              Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

              Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
              [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
              [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
              [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
              [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
              [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
              [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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