The Fine Art of Quitting While You’re Ahead

In addition to yoga, working out, writing and cooking, I also love movies. A good movie with some great character development (and popcorn) and I’m happy as a clam. My latest movie night featured one of my all-time favorites, “American Gangster,” with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. It is packed with thought-provoking quotes — but the one that stuck out the most was: “Quitting when you are ahead is not the same as quitting.”

As a perfectionist who has lived off of the mentality of never quitting, I have found myself hitting the same wall in life, time and again. I give all I have to a job, or to another person, and before I know it, I have nothing left to give. I have given 100% of myself. While going all-in to something or someone can be a beautiful gift, what you must understand is that just because you are what someone or something else needs, it doesn’t mean they can return your energy. As the Chinese general told Frank Lucas in “American Gangster”: “Everything has its season, and everything has its ending.”

Your gift of hard work — or always wanting more or better — can become your demise if you don’t learn when to let go. After a lot of thought, I put together a few tips for preserving your precious energy while still being the best you can be.


Constantly check your happiness pulse. Being happy tends to come easily when we have a purpose or direction. Without purpose, we’re like tumbleweeds at the mercy of unpredictable winds. Letting go of something is much simpler when you know it doesn’t align with your purpose — or with what makes you happy. Of course, life isn’t always black and white, and we often don’t realize something or someone doesn’t make us happy until some time has passed.


Something I struggle with most is accepting that saying no is not always selfish. If I have nothing productive or positive left to give a situation, I’m not going to stick around and become a burden. One of the worst things you can let into a relationship is strife. Strife builds when we forgo ourself to provide for another. If you lose yourself in another person, or in your career, you are saying that person or job is more important than your inner peace. Whether it’s long walks, praying, reading or meditating, find something you enjoy doing alone that recharges your battery. Don’t always allow yourself to run on empty in hopes someone or something will refill you. Only you can refill you.


> How to Use Pain and Discomfort to Your Advantage
> Conserving Your Energy Is Simple But Not Easy
> The Art of Turning Tension into Power


I wish I could take credit for this quote because it’s so powerful! We have come full circle to the inspiration for this article. It’s like the guy at the blackjack table who doesn’t leave with his mountain of chips because his greed pushes him to play, ‘just one more hand.’ Though I have never gambled, I am the queen of the, ‘just one more hand,’ excuse. True strength comes when we know we have the ability to do more, say more or be more of something but we choose not to. We choose not to, not because we are settling or because we are quitters, but because we know true peace is found in moderation.

On the threshold of not knowing when to let go is where angst and anxiety are found. It’s in ‘just one more mile’ when we sprain our ankle. It’s in ‘just one more hour at work’ when we miss one of our kid’s games. And it’s in ‘just one more time’ when our heart finally breaks.

Always remember this: You are worth it. You deserve true and incomparable happiness. You alone, stripped of all relationships, accolades, titles and careers, are worth it. Let go while you are ahead, trust the process and let the peace of moderation warm you like the sun hitting your skin.  

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