“Persistence is a valuable strength, but sometimes it can cause you to doggedly pursue a course of action when you might be better off dropping a goal or changing direction.”
– Cassandra Dunn, Crappy to Happy: Love What You Do
Hello and welcome to This Year’s Word Podcast, I’m your host, Courtney Symes. I’m an author, entrepreneur, mum, and wife. In this podcast series, I will share my Word of the Year experience as I explore the meaning of the word “Love” and how you can use this word to change your life, one day at a time.
This month, we have been focusing on the Art of Self-Love, and in the last couple of episodes I’ve discussed finding flow and goal setting – do yourself a favour and have a listen to these episodes when you’ve finished this one, if you haven’t already.
In this episode, I will be talking about the controversial “Q” word – Quitting. I’ll be exploring WHY we should we quit something we’ve committed to, and WHEN is the right time to quit.
Knowing when to “quit” was something I was challenged by throughout my Year of Love when I discovered I’d committed myself to some things that didn’t serve me well. ‘Bright, shiny’ opportunities that appeared ‘exciting’ and ‘well-timed’, gradually grew dull as they sapped my time, energy and sanity.
Throughout my childhood, I was raised in an environment where importance was placed on integrity and commitment. If I said I was going to do something, I was expected to see it through. If I couldn’t commit to something, I shouldn’t sign up, because being a “quitter” wasn’t an option.
While I have a pretty good track record for following through on my commitments, I sometimes wonder if I’ve missed out on things by not signing up because I was fearful I wouldn’t be able to follow through. I also wonder how many things I’ve stuck with that have stressed me out and made me feel downright miserable for way too long, because I haven’t wanted to look like a quitter.
I now recognise that my fear of other people thinking I’m a ‘quitter’ is very different to quitting itself. Each time I resist letting something go, I now know I need to also ask myself what I am afraid of. It is important to remove the fear of other people’s judgement from my decision-making process. What others think of me is none of my business, and not in the best interest for my health and well-being.
In her book, Chillpreneur: The New Rules for Creating Success, Freedom, and Abundance on Your Terms, Denise Duffield-Thomas believes that it’s okay to quit, regardless of what others think when she writes:
“Just because you started something doesn’t mean you have to keep that idea for ever (even if your friends and family tease you for starting yet another business). Changing your mind isn’t a waste of time and energy. Especially if you realise that you’re paddling upstream, no longer love what you’re doing or, on reflection, realise that it’s no longer your zone of genius. Stop digging a deeper hole and hand in your shovel.”
Often our decision to quit is not made any easier when we are surrounded by inspiring stories of struggle and persistence, such as Thomas Edison’s creation of the light bulb. In the book Success Habits, Napoleon Hill writes, “Mr Edison failed over 10,000 times before he finally discovered the secret of the incandescent light bulb. Can you imagine anybody going at anything and failing 10,000 times over a period of years and still sticking by it? Could you do it? Do you have any idea, my friends, how many times the average person has to fail in anything before he makes up his mind that maybe in the first place he didn’t want to do that thing, but something else? As a matter of fact, it doesn’t average one time, because 50% of the people or more quit before they start. They anticipate that they are going to fail, and they don’t even make a beginning.”
Mel Robbins provides another wonderful example of persistence and commitment in her book, The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage, when she details Picasso’s story:
“Picasso created nearly 100 masterpieces in his lifetime. But what most people don't know is that he created a total of more than 50,000 works of art … that’s two pieces of art a day. Success is a numbers game. You are not going to win if you keep telling yourself to wait. The more often that you choose courage, the more likely you'll succeed.”
With inspiring stories like these, you can understand why I have always struggled with ‘calling it’ when something isn’t working. But ultimately, when refusing to let something go begins to impact our health – physically and mentally – as well as our relationships, we need to question if this activity or commitment is still serving us.
The key is learning how to differentiate between ‘weathering a rough patch’ vs. ‘flogging a dead horse’.
Here are some questions to consider before making the decision to quit (or not):
1. How long do you need to keep doing the thing you want to quit? Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel, or is there no end in sight? Is this short-term pain for long-term gain, or just endless, relentless pain?
2. What sacrifices are you making by not quitting? How does not quitting impact your health and your social relationships with your family and friends? Michelle Obama wisely observes, “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own “to do” list.”
3. Does the thing you want to quit align with your long-term goals?
4. What’s the worse that will happen if you quit?
5. What’s the best that will happen if you quit?
An episode, Quit the Wrong Thing Now on one of my favourite podcast series, The Brendon Show assured me that sometimes quitting is the best solution. In this episode, Brendon identifies three reasons to quit something, which include:
1. “Identify what makes you bored or miserable, and that which makes you come ALIVE”. If you’ve given something a red-hot crack and it still doesn’t float your boat, it’s time to move on.
2. “Think legacy”. Picture yourself at the end of your life and reflect on what you’ve done, and what you’re proud of. If this ‘thing’ doesn’t’ cut it, then it’s time to quit it.
3. “Release those who are not ready”. This point relates to the people in your life. People grow and change over time, sometimes in different directions and quitting relationships that no longer serve you is okay too.
The key, says Brendon, is to quit decisively. Own your decision and move onwards, and upwards.
Brendon also shares some excellent advice if “quitting” something requires you to choose between two or more options. In this situation, Brendon advises identifying two projects that feel equally important right now, for example, writing a book or starting a blog.
For each project, consider the following goals and answer the questions for each option, rating your answers 1-5 (with five being the highest).
1. Being Goals – if you do this, it will develop character in your life, will make you a better person, align with your self-expression and what is unique to you and gives you self-satisfaction.
2. Connection Goals – is one better for your relationships and bringing you closer to people?
3. Creating or Giving Goals – giving or contributing is the same as creating. In order to give something, you need to creatively express yourself. You are creating something that contributes or gives to the world.
4. Growing Goals – which one of these things would genuinely stretch you? Which one is outside your current ability and will bring struggle? That is, will it force you to develop new competency, meaning, knowledge, skill, ability, confidence. Which one is really going to push you?
Brendon concludes, “The one that scores higher is going to be the one that gives you that intrinsic sense of meaning. It feels right for you to do”.
Quitting activities that no longer serve us open our lives up to new, greater opportunities. Sometimes we need make room and create the space for these opportunities by simplifying our life. As Clare Booth Luce says:
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
I hope this episode has inspired you to examine your life closely and identify what is and isn’t serving you, as well as the confidence to edit where necessary.
Thanks for listening, and I hope you can join me next time.
I’ll leave you with today’s mantra:
“I edit my life ruthlessly and frequently. I am not afraid to stop doing the things that no longer serve my higher self.”