Why We Quit

A friend of mine – Bryan Perez – posted this question on Facebook last week: “Why do you think most people quit just about everything they start?” It probably won’t surprise you that I had some thoughts on this topic which I wanted to share with all of you. Whether you consider it quitting or merely failing to finish and achieve your objectives (or desired changes in your life), I believe there are five core reasons that we start often but rarely finish, achieve or maintain.

  1. Lack of Commitment
  2. Unacknowledged Resistance
  3. No Compelling Why
  4. Self-Sabotaging Head Stories
  5. Fear and Safety Trump Change

Let’s explore the ways that this mix of factors keeps you and I (and all of us) from making change in our lives.

No Commitment

The first reason for quitting is a lack of a true commitment to whatever it is that you’ve started. It’s easy to start, but much more challenging to commit. Rather than clearly and unequivocally committing, we tend to start with “I’d like to,” “I want to,” “I should,” and “I need to.” These are not commitments. However, once you commit, your integrity is on the line (self-integrity). For me, that means I will do whatever it takes within my values to achieve the desired change or objective.

Sneaky Resistance

The second reason is a lack of conscious awareness of (and self-preparation for) the resistance to change that always exists. It’s always easier to stay the same or keep doing the same things the same way. It’s also true that there will always be internal resistance (often unconscious) to any change. If you’re not aware of the resistance within, it will trip you up most of the time.

No Why

The third obstacle to sustained success is the absence of a deeply felt and passionate why behind the change or objective. You may think you have an inspiring why (e.g. wanting to lose weight or to be healthier), but the stronger why behind lasting change is usually deeper (e.g. living longer to experience your grandchildren, being healthier in order to enhance your life experience). Trying to change because you think you should or because someone else thinks you should usually ends in failure.

The Damn Stories

The fourth reason for quitting rises up in the form of the stories in your head – often based upon your uncertainty about your worthiness – that cause you to quit or fail without even understanding why you quit. It doesn’t make sense to fail at something you say you really want to change, but that’s why they call it self-sabotage, and it’s almost never conscious. If your desired change or objective conflicts with your self-worthiness perspective, you will typically fail or quit because achieving the objective is inconsistent with the way you see yourself and what you deserve. Your head tells you that you want something new and different, but the inner voice says “I don’t deserve it,” and you set yourself up to fail. However, if you can be conscious of this conflict, you can see it coming and move through it.

Safe Is Less Scary

The final set of obstacles relate to a lack of awareness of (and adjustment for) two key factors at work in achieving change or a new objective: 1. Fear is a natural experience and emotion, but people deny it or ignore it; and 2. Most people operate from a place of self-protection and stay in safety rather than risking change. While you may want to believe that you’re fearless, everyone is afraid and, if you fail to acknowledge the fear, it will often keep you from achieving your objectives. In fact, fear often paralyzes us and keeps us firmly planted in our current reality. Similarly, even if you want to change or have different outcomes, staying where we are or how we are is safe. Even if you don’t like where you are, it’s comfortable and you know what to expect which feels safe (especially relative to the uncertainty of change). Often without realizing it you gravitate to the status quo in order to stay safe, and the result is that you get tripped up on the road to change.

While there are other obstacles and hurdles to change, these five are especially critical  to be aware of and to prepare for whenever you seek to make changes in your life. Most important to remember is that many of these obstacles are sneaky, and you may not naturally anticipate them or see them coming. But by anticipating them and preparing for them, you will greatly enhance your likelihood of getting past the obstacles, making changes and achieving new outcomes in every part of your life. The short answer to the question – Why we quit – is that we quit because at some level we want to quit, it’s easier to quit and it’s safe to quit. If you really want things to change, prepare, anticipate, trust, believe in yourself, start and then hang on!


  1. Dave Davala says:

    Hi Jeff,

    When I saw, “resistance” I immediately thought of Matthew Kelly’s book, “Resisting Happiness.” I have just started reading this book. It is amazing how resistance is unrelenting and can take over our lives if we let it.


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