Just the sound of the word QUIT sends shivers up my spine.
We’ve been taught to be disgusted by the concept of quitting and to be disappointed by anyone who quits anything.
All we hear about is the importance of not quitting.
It's hard to ignore the words of creator Walt Disney who said “the difference in winning and losing is most often not quitting."
And we will forever heed the advice of the icon Muhammad Ali who instructs “don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
I want to really think about this. Should we always suffer in the present in order to be a champion in the future?
I will never question the benefits of perseverance and stick-with-it-ness, nor will I ever condone quitting anything without a valiant effort.
However, for the first time in my life, I am re-thinking this “die trying” attitude.
I remember taking my second son to college and attending an information session for parents at which we were told that this generation will have and average of 8 careers (not jobs, careers!) in their lifetime. Initially I had trouble computing that possibility in my head but now, 6 years later, I am more willing to acknowledge that there might be some truth in that statistic. And therefore, there is going to be a lot of quitting!
Why then is quitting still a bad word?
Like most words, we can learn more about their full meaning when we study their origin. “Quit” comes from the latin word “quies/quietus meaning quiet/be still. Interesting.
I am on a journey to becoming more quiet in this final third of my life, so I am fascinating by this.
Does the fact that I have rarely, if ever, quit anything correlate with the absence of quiet in my life?
There’s a dearth of quotes extolling the virtues of quitting and yet, the few I found really resonated.
The brilliant Seth Godin is a fan of quitting! He believes that strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations. When things are not going well, he advises leaders to do the work of ascertaining whether the company is in a “dip” and should persevere through it and in a “dead end” and should quit, cut the losses and move on to another path or strategy. Specifically, if you are up against a dead end, with no real chance of succeeding, the faster you quit and reinvest your resources of time, attention, and money into more productive pathways, the better.
This advice seems equally wise in dealing with our personal lives! We can be free of the stigma of “quitting” when a certain plan/activity/idea is leading us to a dead end, however WE define it.
I had a very hard time recently with the fact that my 93 year old mom “gave up” caring for my 95 year old father on her own. Initially, I felt like she was quitting and that she should continue exclusively caring for the man she married 74 years earlier. But only she understood the consequences of hitting that dead end, unable to “succeed” in that particular role. I can understand now that she instinctively knew that she needed to reinvest her time and energy into a more productive way of helping him. Heartbreaking but wise.
I recall when my eldest son received a scholarship to play football in college, which would have allowed him to continue on the path he had been on for years. He had to dig deep and determine for himself whether to play football in his college years. Somewhere he knew that football would always be a love of his but that it wouldn’t be his career so he made the painstaking decision to give up the scholarship and go in a different direction. Although it was a tough call, quitting football opened up new possibilities and he started down a path that led him to his true calling, becoming a rabbi!
In Godin’s words: "We stick out things too long because it feels unsafe to walk away from them. We lionize people who through persistence make it to the other side, but what we don't talk about or write about is how before they did this they used to do something else, something that they had to quit before they did this big thing."
There are countless examples of people who gave up one thing before finding their genius doing something else. Lebron James played football before basketball; Yo Yo Ma played the violin before finding the cello.
What did you quit before finding what it is you were meant to do?
What haven’t you done because you are persevering at something that it’s time to quit?
It’s worth looking at quitting through this lens and asking yourselves these questions.
I am dipping my toe in the waters of quitting.
Rather than cooking every meal my family eats, I’ve become more comfortable ordering out from time to time.
Despite the voice in my head telling me I absolutely must work out every day, I recently enjoyed a day off!
Furthermore, I am giving up the self-imposed requirement of only reading brilliant, substantive, important pieces of literature. I am currently enjoying a light summer page-turner right now and am fine with it.
It’s harder to “quit” some of the patterns with that have become second nature to us. Nonetheless, I am trying to quit asking as many questions to my young adult children, leaving it up to them to share what and when they so choose.
This freedom to quit is worthy of exploration.
In the words of the cult figure/poet/writer Charles Bukowski, “the wisdom to quit is all we have left.”
Do some quiet thinking. What are you doing that is actually a dead end for you? What might you do if you weren’t doing the thing you are thinking about quitting? What are you persevering through that has lost its meaning and is now only about the perseverance?
What relationship do you need to quit in order to feel more yourself?
Is there a habit that no longer serves you? Where is your sticking to something the same as being stuck?
The magic behind this quitting thing is getting to CHOICE.
When you are free to either stay or go, quitting is as healthy an option as staying.
Remember that quit comes from the word quiet.
Contemplate where in your life the two are connected; where by quitting would you experience more quiet?
We all would be well served to acknowledge that quitting is not necessarily giving up, but rather it’s choosing to focus our attention on something more valuable to us. And when we exercise the freedom to choose, we live according to our own values, and become more at peace in our lives.
I wish you all calm, compassion, and clarity.