Opinion: Don’t be afraid to quit

Christina Bucciere is a senior journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

Christina Bucciere

Christina Bucciere

Christina Bucciere is a senior journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

I remember agonizing over the decision to quit playing softball. I started when I was 7 years old. My dad taught me how to take a practice swing between pitches, how to get in front of a grounder and how to snag a pop fly. I started pitching in middle school and continued to pitch in high school. I wasn’t the fastest, but I was fairly consistent, and I liked the pressure of taking on new batters as they took home plate. However, when I enrolled in tougher courses, joined various organizations, started cheerleading and found myself wanting to engage in the social arena more and more, I couldn’t justify spending the time on softball anymore, and that was tough. I wasn’t going to get a scholarship for softball, this I knew, but all those years, hours of practice, memories with my dad and lessons learned through this sport— how could I throw those away?

I was overanalyzing my sunk costs, the main culprits of the guilt associated with the taboo of being a quitter.

Recent research by two Northwestern University psychologists suggests a way to deal with this problem: focus on what you have to gain by moving on rather than what you have to lose. When people think about goals in terms of what they have to lose, they adopt a “prevention focus,” which makes them more sensitive to sunk costs. But when people think about goals in terms of what they have to gain, they are using a “promotion focus,” which makes them more comfortable accepting losses. People tend to use the former when analyzing life decisions, causing them to not walk away even when they should.

The psychologists’ study showed that after putting a group of people into a prevention focus and promotion focus group and asking them to write about their goals in terms of losses and gains, the people who used a promotion focus were 60 percent less likely to make a huge investment mistake because they were able to see the failed endeavor for what it was. The other group continued on with the investment project and lost out. Big time.

What this says to me is that if we can focus on our decisions in terms of what we have to gain, we have a chance to be much happier. When I weighed the pros and cons of “quitting” softball, I struggled with the term “quitting.” It made me feel as if I was disrespecting my investment in this sport, which I loved and was relatively good at. I didn’t want to let myself down. But then I saw the possibilities quitting softball would afford me — more time. More time to focus on other opportunities that would advance my high school career. And that promotion focus paid off.

I have always had a problem with the word “quitter.” And now I think I know why. Quitting is for those who make rash decisions to stop participating for emotional reasons, even when there are benefits to be gained by continuing on. But quitting is not for those using a promotional focus. That’s not a quitter. That’s someone taking the initiative to stop torturing his or herself and move onto better things.