We are bombarded throughout our lives with messages that tell us quitting is bad. Think about it:
- Winners never quit. Quitters never win.
- Never give up.
- Make it work.
- Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever.
These are just a few of the messages we’re given regularly about how terrible it is to quit…anything. In our society, we equate quitting with failure, with weakly giving up. But is it so? Absolutely not. Sometimes quitting is just that. Quitting. If you look it up in the dictionary, its definition doesn’t have any judgment. It means “to cease, stop, or discontinue.” It doesn’t mean “to give up on your dreams and become a miserable person.”
Yesterday, I came face to face with something I quit. It was the day of the Chicago Marathon, and it runs directly next to my house. My husband and I sat eating our bagel at the bakery on our corner, watching the runners go by, and I turned to him and said, “I’ve never been so happy I quit something in my life.” I feared, in August when I decided the marathon wasn’t going to work for me, that I would be angry with myself, upset and forlorn when marathon day finally came. I worried I would regret my decision to quit. But I didn’t. I was perfectly content. I had no desire to be out there with these (phenomenal incredible awesome inspiring) runners. And I wondered – is this what quitting should feel like?
When is quitting the right thing to do?
- Are you doing it for the right reasons? If you’re accomplishing anything because someone else wants you to and not because you want to, it’s probably OK to quit.
- Are you having fun? Or growing? I put these two things together for a reason. You can be growing incredibly even if you’re not having fun, and you can certainly be having fun but not growing. On their own, they’re not reasons to quit something. But together, they might be. When I was training for my half marathon, I was having fun and I was growing. But after running two halves, my training became boring, annoying, and I was getting worse at running, not better. No growth? No fun? Quit.
- Will you ever say “What if?” I think part of the reason we demonize quitting so much is because it feels like quitting could and often does produce regret, something we want to avoid entirely. If the thing you’re quitting is something you’re sure you’ll regret or feel bad about, you may not be ready to quit. But if you know for certain you will not regret the decision to walk away from a situation or a goal, that you will never say “what if”, you’re ready. Go ahead and quit.
Quitting isn’t bad all the time, and it isn’t good all the time. But that’s the point. Quitting can be just as much a positive thing as it is a negative thing. You are the only person who can effectively make good judgment about what to do in your own life. Don’t let societal pressures drive your decision making. Tap into your values, needs, wants, and desires, and you will find you can be successful even if you’re quitting now and then.