To Quit or Not to Quit

Many people struggle with quitting because we reflexively don’t want to “be a quitter”. Years ago, I heard a talk, where the speaker used the analogy of fleeing a burning building. She noted that no one would stand outside yelling “quitter!!” at people running from the flames. Of course not! And yet, many of us get singed if not completely burned by continuing to do things that don’t serve us anymore.

Quitting is hard because the things we need to let go of often feel critical to our sense of identity. Because we invest so much time and energy in our relationships, jobs, and ideas (e.g. spiritual beliefs, personal and cultural values), we have a hard time letting them go, even if they no longer serve who we have become.

Rather than viewing quitting as always bad, and perseverance as always good, we can use the desire to quit as an opportunity to think through what is best for us. Instead of a knee-jerk impulse to persevere, we can dig deeper to uncover what is important to us now.

· What is important about staying the course?

· What are the consequences if I continue what I am doing?

· What would really happen if I quit?

· How would I benefit if I quit?

Quitting is a choice like any other and doesn’t have to be binary. We can think of perseverance and quitting on a continuum. So, with relationships and jobs, we can carry on, as is– not feeling great, or we can quit out-right and be done, or we can try to make smaller changes. Changes can move us toward something more satisfying or true or give us more information about a new way of doing or understanding things (e.g. we could work 4 days/ week instead of quitting to see how that works for us). Doing this experiment in change also provides information for further changes we may want to make.

We are always making decisions, often unconsciously, about where to spend our time, energy, and attention. Letting go of the bias that “quitting is bad”, frees us to explore what we value most and choose how we want to move forward. Sometimes staying the course does serve us best but don’t feel bad about escaping burning buildings!

If you are struggling with making a decision to quit or how to stay with something and feel better about it, coaching may help. Please reach out to me and schedule a free consultation.

© Peg Hunt, MS & Anne Garing, PhD

For more info about quitting:

Quitting: A Life Strategy (2023), by Julia Keller (book).

Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris (podcast). The Science of Quitting: How, When, and Why to Do It| Julia Keller.

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