Can being a quitter pay off?
The notion that persistence is essential for success and happiness is deeply embedded in popular and scientific writings. However, when people are faced with situations in which they cannot realize a key life goal, the most adaptive response for mental and physical health may be to disengage from that goal. This project followed 90 adolescents over the course of 1 year. Capacities for managing unattainable goals were assessed at baseline, and concentrations of the inflammatory molecule C-reactive protein (CRP) were quantified at that time, as well as 6 and 12 months later. To the extent that subjects had difficulties disengaging from unattainable goals, they displayed increasing concentrations of CRP over the follow-up. This association was independent of potential confounds, including adiposity, smoking, and depression. Because excessive inflammation contributes to a variety of adverse medical outcomes, these findings suggest that in some contexts, persistence may actually undermine well-being and good health.
Source: “You’ve gotta know when to fold ’em: goal disengagement and systemic inflammation in adolescence” from Psychol Sci. 2007 Sep;18(9):773-7.