Many of us struggle with knowing when it’s “okay” to quit something and exactly what to quit when our lives get over-full. Quitting is seen (most often by ourselves) as weakness and as failure. We expect ourselves to do “all the things,” and even more than that, we expect ourselves to do all the things well.
But really “quitting” is simply a negative word for a strategy that is highly useful in our learning process and in achieving success in just about anything. That strategy—is prioritization.
When we quit well, we are simply prioritizing and focusing on the things that are important to us.
But that’s gets us to the bigger question, right? How do we quit well? How do we know what’s truly important to us? What things are we doing that are contributing to our future and what things are a detriment to our lives? Sometimes it can be surprisingly hard to decipher.
So, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of quitting and how we can figure out what to quit in our lives—and why.
Make Sure You’re Barking Up the Right Tree
Much has been made in recent years of “grit” and how it’s required for long-term success. But it’s also possible to mistakenly label “stubbornness” and/or “denial” as grit. Sticking to something simply because you’ve invested time, effort, and money (a “sunk cost” in economic terms) is not a reason to stay that course in the long run.
Just because you’ve been training with the same coach for the last five years, doesn’t mean that person is the right coach if you’re not reaching your goals. Just because you’ve followed a certain diet and broadcast it all over social media, doesn’t mean it’s the right diet if your body isn’t feeling its best. Just because you’ve always dreamed of being a basketball player, doesn’t mean you should ignore how well you do every time you play beach volleyball.
Tip: Take some time to read Seth Godin’s “The Dip” for more discussion on how to determine what to quit—and when to stick through the hard parts.
Put Your Oxygen Mask on First
Many of us get involved with charities, volunteerism, children’s programs, clubs, and local government to improve the lives of people around us. But before we can truly make the world a better place for others, we must first take care of ourselves. We cannot continue to give in the long run, if we are racing against our own depleting health and energy stores.
It can be particularly hard to quit these types of activities because we feel a deeper sense of obligation and they may be an expression of our personal values. But it may sometimes be necessary to at least dial back on these commitments or to take leave of these responsibilities for a short time until you have the rest of your priorities in order. You’ll only be able to keep helping others if you put your own oxygen mask on first, right?
Tip: Don’t make it mean anything that you’re quitting a volunteer position. You are not a bad person. You’ve been giving everything you have—and you can always volunteer again in the future.
Who Are You Doing It For?
Don’t answer that one too quickly. Get yourself a journal and pull out your calendar or appointment book. Look through your schedule and ask yourself the question for every commitment you have scheduled this week: “Who am I doing this for?”
If you’re doing it for you, that’s great. You might be doing it for your health, for your family, or in support of one of your core values. That’s all great. But if you have obligations that aren’t for you or aren’t in support of you in a direct way, then those are items you should label as having quitting potential.
Tip: Doing things in an attempt to make others happy, make others proud, or spite others is a sure-fire path to your own unhappiness and frustration in the long haul. Make sure “you do you.”
Imagine Yourself a Lotto Winner
Sometimes we reveal our innermost secrets in the way we joke about what we would do “if we won the Lotto.” We’d spend a year traveling in Europe. We’d tell our boss what we really think. We’d read more books. We’d train for a marathon. We’d eat grass-fed rib-eyes every day for lunch. We’d never spend another minute stuck in traffic.
So, ask yourself, what would you do if you won the Lotto? What would stay in your life and what would go? Now, consider that again on a smaller scale. Maybe you should finally use some vacation days and spend time hiking around Europe. Maybe you can quit the lattes and spend that money on higher quality groceries. Maybe you can sell one of your cars, use public transportation to avoid the traffic, and read those books on your daily commute.
Tip: Don’t reserve your imagination for flights of fancy. Get imaginative about your everyday life. Take the nuggets from your fantasies that are really your soul speaking and figure out what it’s telling you about what to quit.
So, What’s Your Answer on What to Quit?
Knowing what to quit and when to stick to something for the long haul can be a substantial challenge. The best and most important thing you can do is get real with what you want and need—being honest with yourself will get you on the right path toward health, fitness, and happiness.