Sometimes, it is better to quit

We all know that perseverance is an important quality most parents want to instil in their children to help them lead successful lives. Yet, according to a new Canadian study published in the September issue of Psychological Science, we also need to teach them to “throw in the towel” when all their efforts are leading nowhere.

We all know that perseverance is an important quality most parents want to instil in their children to help them lead successful lives. Yet, according to a new Canadian study published in the September issue of Psychological Science, we also need to teach them to “throw in the towel” when all their efforts are leading nowhere.

Setting goals for ourselves and striving to achieve them encourages us to stay passionate about our lives and fully develop our potential as individuals. And it prevents us from resting on our laurels! However, some goals are simply unrealistic and unattainable. According to the Canadian researchers who conducted this latest study, stubbornly trying to achieve unreasonable goals is actually harmful to our health and welfare.

A study had previously concluded that people who insist on pushing ahead with unreachable goals had a lower quality of life, had a tendency to be more depressed, and had elevated levels of cortisol. Cortisol is the body’s stress-fighting hormone.

The researchers in this latest study observed a group of teenagers for 12 months, to determine if those who persevered in achieving unattainable goals had higher levels of a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a known marker of inflammation.

After observing the teenagers for an entire year, researchers noted that those who tended to persist in achieving unattainable goals had higher levels of C-reactive protein than those who knew when to throw in the towel. It is a known fact that levels of C-reactive protein typically increase with age, but in this case, it happened much more rapidly.

According to the researchers, this is pretty bad news for people who doggedly pursue their unreachable goals, refusing to give them up. Actually, the inflammation process triggered by the C-reactive protein is well known for its harmful effects on human health. Notably, it is known to damage the cardiovascular system and promote the evolution of diabetes.

Does this mean we should abandon the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions? Absolutely not! Goals are excellent and quite necessary to feel successful and live life to the fullest! Rather, we should learn how to establish realistic goals, and more importantly, when it is time to throw in the towel and move on. Abandoning some of our goals does not mean we are quitters, it means we realise that certain goals are simply out of our reach. Once we learn this, we are one step ahead and can redirect our energy towards more sensible goals. So go on, revise the goals that are keeping you up at night and be prepared to give up on some of them…after all, it is good for your health!

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