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Quitting Isn’t Always Bad

Sometimes, it’s exactly what you need.



My papa — one of my favorite people on the planet — used to do this thing where he’d say “I better not ever hear you say the words ‘I quit’ unless you’re smiling… or I’ll knock your teeth out!”


If we were smiling when we said “I quit” that meant we didn’t really mean it. If we weren’t smiling, then we were serious. He wasn’t a violent man and he never, ever would have hit us. This was just his way of telling us not to be quitters.


What I’ve learned as an adult, though, is that quitting isn’t always a bad thing. And sometimes quitting isn’t quitting, it’s just letting go or moving on. I think even my papa would have agreed with that.


An obvious example of when quitting is a good thing is when we’re talking about smoking. I was a smoker for a long time, so I know from personal experience what a horrible experience stopping can be — how soul-crushingly difficult it is because you have to fight against a habit that has become a part of who you are. It’s like doing surgery on yourself to remove a tumor that you know will kill you if you don’t get rid of it. The pain! The torture! The agony! It’s real. But, if you can do it, you truly will feel like you’re living a better life.


There are other less obvious examples of when quitting can be a good thing.


Like quitting a job you hate. Quitting your job is often seen as a negative. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating that if your job is causing you to feel physically sick, quitting may be exactly what you need.


Or quitting a bad relationship. Is it easier to stay than to leave? Maybe. And if the other person is accusing you of “just quitting” and “not trying hard enough”, that can make it more difficult, especially if you’re used to giving in to their arguments because Lord knows they’ll keep arguing until you capitulate. IF you let them. I’ve written about that too.


But recently I’ve quit two other things, and in both cases that turned out to be the right decision.


First, I quit a writing challenge. I’d signed up to write a certain number of words every day for a month. If I stuck to it, I’d get on the Wall of Fame. If I didn’t, my name would be posted on the Wall of Shame. That’s it. Before officially starting the challenge, I’d already been writing every day for about two weeks, so I felt like I would totally crush this challenge. Plus, in of all the writing advice I’d read, the one thing that was consistent was the edict to “write every day no matter what”. What better challenge for an aspiring writer like me?


I got through two weeks, and then I quit. It had gotten to a point where writing wasn’t fun anymore because it had become a chore. Instead of being something I did out of love and passion, I was doing it out of obligation. Some people have amazing willpower and the ability to push themselves through anything no matter how much they don’t want to do it. Not me.


It’s not that I can’t get through difficult things in life — I’ve been through plenty of crap where I had to fight and persevere. But that’s when the stakes are high, there is no other option, or because it was what I needed to do for myself. When it’s a self-imposed challenge with no reward other than a pat on the back from no one but myself? Nope, can’t do it. Plus, the writing I was doing sucked. It was forced and unnatural and, rather than helping me to develop my writing voice, I was putting down words for the sake of putting down words and I no longer had the ability or desire to write well. My inspiration was gone, forced out by the obligation.


About a week after I quit the writing challenge, I started to write again. This time because I felt inspired. I felt compelled to write because I had something to say, not because I had something to prove.


The other thing I recently quit was social media. This was a spur-of-the-moment decision, but ever since the realization came to me, I haven’t regretted it. I know, in my heart, that being away from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is exactly what I need right now.


I feel silly for even writing about quitting social media. Talk about first world problems — I’m addicted to Facebook, to my phone. Ugh and sigh. Boring.


But this is my reality. I am addicted to Facebook. To my phone, really. Because my phone provides endless opportunities for distractions, and I was constantly seeking out distractions. If I didn’t let my mind have quiet time, then I wouldn’t have to think about all the things that I needed to deal with in my life.


I mean, I was paying the bills and taking care of my kid and doing my job. But I wasn’t really present, I wasn’t living in the moment. If I wasn’t completely engaged in an activity, I was on my phone, scrolling and refreshing looking for distractions.


When I took away those distractions, it became very clear that I had certain things that I need to deal with rather than push away. And now, without the distractions, I can make the time to work through those things. It’s only been about a week so far but — wow — what a difference. I feel more calm and at peace, and I’m enjoying being more present in the moment, allowing myself to feel and think without so much outside influence.


Quitting things that are unhealthy or that are making you unhappy is the best kind of quitting there is. Plus, you can smile while you say “I quit” because you’re doing something good for yourself.


And when you can smile while saying “I quit”, nobody has to knock your teeth out. Win-win.


Originally published on Medium.com

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