I’m sure you’ve heard these expressions before:
Quitters never win.Don’t quit! You’ll regret it!Quitting is for losers.Never, ever, ever give up.
Even if none of these expressions have been directed at you, it’s still likely that you’ve heard them said about life in general. These sayings assume that quitting is due to lack of willpower or determination, when in many cases, this just isn’t true.
Here’s the truth about quitting:
Sometimes it’s the best thing you can do for yourself, professionally and personally
Some of the most amazing opportunities I’ve ever had have come from moments when I have had to courage to quit something and go in a different direction. When I quit my PhD program, it opened doors for me that I would never have had if I had decided to stick with the academic route. I never would have opened my business, I never would have met the people that I’ve met, and I wouldn’t be as engaged in my community. Personally, it made me exponentially happier because I wasn’t tied to an unfulfilling career track. It has given me the time to learn about things that I have always wanted to learn but couldn’t justify doing because I thought I had to spend every free moment doing academic research. When I realized how good it felt to not be tied to something that I didn’t truly believe in, I wish I had quit sooner.
Most people couldn’t care less about your decision to quit
This was a big revelation to me, since one of the reasons I stayed in my PhD program so long was out of a sense of obligation to the people who cared about me, and especially to the people who had invested in my success. I also cared about what others thought of me in that I did not want to seem like a failure among my colleagues, or my friends, or my family.
When I finally did quit, I announced it to the world via Facebook. I did this for a couple of reasons: first, I didn’t want people asking me about my dissertation anymore, and second, I wanted people to know that I was happy about my decision, and that I was quitting on my own terms. Almost everyone who commented or who reached out to me were supportive. There were a few who asked why, saying I was “so close to finishing!” but my explanation seemed to ease their concern.
And then, just like that, no one talked about it again.
I suppose it was self-involved of me to think that people cared at all about what I did with life, but it really did come as a shock when I realized that in reality, beyond wishing me well, most people do not invest that much time or energy in wishing their will upon other people’s life decisions. Of course, my very close friends and family want me to be happy and they want me to do meaningful work, but for the most part, people are way too busy with their own lives to have more than a passing opinion on life choices made by other people.
Quitting is empowering
Once you realize how quitting can open doors for you, and that people aren’t all that invested in your decisions, you start to wonder how much toxicity you’ve kept in your life just because you were worried about what others would think if you quit. You start to take stock of other things in your life that you could separate from and allow you to thrive. Quitting once is all it takes to recognize the power you have to decide the course of your life.
Quitting with purpose takes skill
I have some traits that have been critical in allowing me to take the steps towards quitting and altering my life course. These traits are certainly not 100% obligatory in order to quit anything, but quitting with purpose and intention in order to make positive steps, can be facilitated with these skills.
- Know yourself. When you know yourself well, and you know what kind of person you are and who you want to be, you can honestly assess whether a situation is helping or hindering you to be that person. The more honest you are about your desires, your ambitions, your skills, your emotions, the more confident you will be in your decisions.
- Welcome regret. I personally don’t believe in striving for a life without regrets. Regret is just the recognition of a mistake; it can be dangerous to dwell on those regrets, but I don’t believe having them is hurtful to your happiness or success. Changing your perception of regret to one of positive acceptance might help you
- Be decisive. I am decisive in almost all areas of my life except when going out to eat. This is a pretty handy tool to have when making big life choices.
The upshot of all this is that quitting is just one kind of decision that you’ll have to make in your life, and it doesn’t have to be a negative situation. Quitting doesn’t mean that you’re a loser, and it doesn’t define you. It’s an intentional choice that you make to take your life in a different direction, and there is much to celebrate in that.