Six Ways To Stay Motivated When You Really Want To Quit

Often when you feel like quitting, what you really need is to reframe the way you approach your work. Here are six ways to do just that.

Six Ways To Stay Motivated When You Really Want To Quit
[Photo: Flickr user Garry Knight]

We all hit a wall–a place where we feel like quitting because things get difficult or boring–but quitting isn’t always the right answer. Instead, you have to find internal motivation to keep going when you really want to bail, and that can come down to understanding kinematics, the relative distance between two bodies, says Stanford University Professor Bernard Roth, author of The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life.


“If you quit, your new situation will most likely be similar to the one you left behind,” he says. “All you change is physical difference. If you think you belong, change the circumstances of your employment by changing how you hold it all.”

Several years ago, Roth was feeling stifled and considered leaving Stanford. Instead of changing his location, however, he decided to change the courses he was teaching, and how he looked at the situation. He rebooted his career.

“Nothing has meaning–you give it meaning,” he says. “You give your life, your job, and the people around you meaning. Any unhappiness you have comes in part from you. Realizing that you control your reaction to stuff gives you a lot of control over your job.”

When you feel like quitting, Roth says there are six things you can do to rethink or re-energize the situation:

1. Practice Looking At Things From The Other Side

If you’re accusing other people of holding you back or making things difficult, Roth suggests flipping the script.


“A colleague of mine was annoyed by an administrator who wanted a lot from him,” says Roth. “Rather than saying ‘She annoys me,’ I suggested using a projection exercise where you think the reverse, ‘I annoy her.’”

By seeing the other side, Roth says his colleague was able to understand both sides of the issue and change the situation. “We often project things on another person that we don’t want to own ourselves,” he says. “It takes two to tango. When you realize the other person also has feelings, you can change the relationship and how you hold things.”

2. Identify Your Intention

When you feel like quitting, ask yourself, ‘Do I want to get the job done, or do I intend to be an obstacle to others?’ Be clear what you want to do, then give it the necessary time and effort.

“If you’re pure about what your intention is, give your attention to it,” says Roth. “Trying to do something and actually doing something are two different things.”

3. Find A Different Way To Do Things

A hurdle can’t stop you; you just have to change how you do it, says Roth. A friend recently shared with him her desire to learn to ride a bicycle at the age of 30, but she had an inner-ear problem that compromised her balance. Instead of feeling defeated, she purchased a three-wheel bike.


“Some people get defeated and blame others without taking responsibility,” he says. “If you want to do it, carry it out. While you’re immersed in something, you often don’t have objectivity. Realize that you can go through and come out on the other side.”

4. Lose Your Ego

People get into trouble when they think the whole world is about them, says Roth.

“Very little is about us; most people are worried about their own things,” he says. “People take things personally that have nothing to do with them. Don’t bring the drama on yourself.

“You can hold a grudge or you can ignore it. I find by ignoring or forgetting about it, I get to go about life. If I harbor hostility and resentment, it slows me down and doesn’t serve me at all.”

5. Realize That Nothing Is Perfect

Your work situation won’t be perfect, and you don’t work with perfect people. Instead of letting this hold you back, act anyway.


“It is better to start to do something and fail than it is to do nothing and wait for the correct path of action to appear,” says Roth. “Often when it’s over, you wonder what the big deal was in the first place.”

6. Beware Of Your Habits

People have a tendency to fall into patterns and habits, but if your modus operandi isn’t working, it’s time to change course.

“Look at what you’re doing to see if it is functional or not,” says Roth. “Takes what works and repeat it. What isn’t working shouldn’t be repeated.

“You have more control than you think in any job situation. Remember that you give everything meaning. If you realize that, it’s powerful.”