On a family vacation to a tropical location, one of my colleagues and his siblings decided to kayak out to a sandbar. It quickly became apparent that the surf was stronger than they thought. The group had a decision to make—strain against the pounding waves to make it to the sandbar, or give up, head back to shore, and find something else to do at the beach. They couldn’t agree on how to handle the dilemma. They also didn’t know how to know when to quit.

They experienced something called the sunk cost fallacy, the tendency to follow through on something after investing in it even after realizing it will cost more than it’s worth. As my friend’s family learned, knowing when it’s time to pivot is hard sometimes. There are certainly times when perseverance is worth it. But there are also times when cutting your losses is the right move. How do you know the difference? Here are 3 signs it’s time to throw in the towel.


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