Hello everybody, welcome to Episode 44 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and today we have a question sent in by a man who dares to go against the grain. I love that.
Today’s episode is about quitting something, and grinding against the old cliche about why we should always stick things out. It’s ridiculous. Gets me fired up. All right. Let’s do this…
QUESTION: “Greg, would you be willing to talk about when it’s a good time to quit something? You hear everyone saying to not be a quitter. It can’t be true all the time, but it’s hard to know when to listen to it and when not to. It’s also hard not to think about all of the possibilities that could come true by not quitting something. I would like to hear your thoughts on when the right time to quit is… if there ever is a right time.”
Quitting vs. Not Quitting
One of the oldest adages that people are reluctant to question is “don’t be a quitter.” This is a blanket concept that clearly has extenuating circumstances; extenuating circumstances that we often fail to recognize, however. You see, the more we hear something, the easier it is to trust it blindly rather than question it.
For my money, the idea of “don’t be a quitter” has gone way past this point — it’s lapped the field several times, as a matter of fact. But why? Besides sheer repetition, what is it about not quitting that people like so much?
Quitting vs. The Concept of Perseverance
The commentary around not quitting anything is that perseverance is a most noble act and that quitting, or giving up, is a sign of weakness.
The more we persevere, the tougher we prove to ourselves and others that we are. The more we persevere, the better a chance we feel we have at finding the success we’ve envisioned.
At the end of the day, what it comes down to is that the more we persevere, the more control we have; control over our own identities.
And that can be both a good move and a complete mistake.
Separate Your Identity from Your Accomplishments
It’s great to carve out desirable lives for ourselves and take action on the things we want our legacies to be based upon, but it turns into a death sentence once our identities are idenTIFIED with these things. This is where we run the risk of defining our lives by accomplishments that really have nothing to do with who we are as people.
The more rigid we are in the pursuit of these accomplishments, the less our existences become about us and the more they become about the accomplishments.
How, then, can we be less rigid? How can we create a healthy and flexible enough relationship with our pursuits in life so that these pursuits aren’t running us and the ones we’re running are the right ones? How can we learn the right times to quit? There are definitely a few indicators and God help us if we’re so stubborn as to ignore them.
First, we need be realistic about the fact that priorities just flippin’ change. They just do.
If your priorities aren’t changing throughout your life, then I don’t know what you’re doing with yourself. And priorities change in two ways.
1. Priorities Shift in Importance
The first way is that they shift in their importance, moving higher or lower on the totem pole given how the rest of life is working around it.
2. Priorities Can Vanish
The second way comes when they fall right off the totem pole after having been moved down so much; when things become increasingly less important that eventually they just aren’t even considered. So priorities can move up or down, or once they’re so far down they can just vanish.
Be mindful of where your priorities are and don’t be too forceful with your priorities.
Goals and Other Aspects of Your Life
Sure, work can be important. But if a family member is rushed to the hospital in critical condition, most well adjusted people will push that to the top of the priorities list and shift work down a peg or two.
These types of examples can be easy to detect daily, but the slow and steady movement that takes place over time is harder to stay mindful of, though it’s just as important.
If, over time, your goals are just not as important as other meaningful aspects of your life, be okay with that. It’s imperative to allow that change, but difficult if our identities are so wrapped up in our accomplishments — past, present or future. Variety is part of life, and that goes for how we delegate our meaning, self-worth, interests, and pursuits.
It’s also crucial to be honest with ourselves about what kind of results we’re yielding from our efforts. The waters can get muddy here, however, because it’s not as simple as saying “if you’re not getting the results you want, just stop trying.” A delicate line needs to be walked — a line between the aforementioned perseverance and willingness to change our strategies (which is basically just the art of mini quitting — it’s a little microcosm if you will).
Trying the Same Thing Repeatedly
They say the definition of insanity is trying the same thing repeatedly expecting a different result.
Maybe I’m just arguing with the dictionary here, but over time, the same exact action can and does chip away enough that one day a new result will be had.
If you knock on the same door every day at 3 PM and no one opens it, maybe they never will, and maybe you should go back at 6 PM. Or maybe the people in that house change their work hours one day, and they are home to open the door for you at 3 PM. Or maybe they move out, and another family moves in that’s there at 3 PM. Too many variables.
Of course the same effort can yield a different result. But how long are you willing to wait for that, and are you betting on the variables changing in your favor? It could go either way.
What if I've Not Been Making Much Progress?
When it comes to pursuing a goal, if you’ve walked this line properly, and maintained a satisfactory balance between sticking with old methods and trying new methods and still have no real progress to speak of, then yes, you might want to think about quitting.
Again, it’ll be hard to be realistic about this if your self-worth is too wrapped up in your goal, but if it’s not, you’ll find that it’s okay to just fail at something. It’s part of life and something to be learned from. It happens more than people would care to admit.
Allow it. Not everyone is meant to do exactly what they set out to do.
Quitting Knowing Failure is Not The End
And mind you, allowing that failure can coexist with still participating in the same activity. If you aren’t yielding results in spite of your best efforts, but that activity is meaningful to you, perhaps just shift the position it has in your life.
You might not be making any music as a musician after years and years of trying old methods and experimenting with new ones. But if it means a lot to you, you’ll find that it doesn’t have to be about financial gain and employment. Practically speaking, yes, you should probably adjust and trying something else career-wise, but you can still play music and do it for fun. If it’s meaningful and not working out, don’t stop altogether, just change the look of it.
This will be easy to do if the goal or activity in question is really about you and your joy rather than other people’s impressions of you.
If this isn’t an activity you’d be happy to do by yourself on a desert island, then we both know that that is probably the best reason to quit that we’ve talked about.
Look, it’s easy to get into things because we feel we should or because our subconscious needs for approval, safety or significance almost need us to, but if whatever we’re apart of has no real meaning to us, then what are we doing here? We’re either giving in or waiting to be strong enough to make a change.
That’s okay. Acknowledging that truth will be the first step to making a change you likely want in life.
Be Open to Change
Not sure if this segue works, but change is really what this episode, this answer is all about. To quit is to close one door, which opens a new one.
Perhaps the scariest thing about quitting, alongside whatever it might do to our ego, is change. But with change comes new opportunities, so if we can shift our view of quitting to be less about what our lives are losing and more about what our lives are gaining, all of a sudden the balance between commitment, passion, work ethic and whatever becomes much clearer, and we can approach the idea of quitting with more logic and less emotion.
Thank you, everyone. This episode excited me. You have to understand I love nothing more than questioning things — especially things that everyone seems to mindlessly agree on.
Maybe there are some things I like more. I like animals a lot. Maybe I like animals more than questioning. But either way, I appreciated this question very much.
Thank you so very much for sending this in. We are not in this podcast to accept things the way they seem they have to be. We’re here to get to the truth, our own truth and develop more meaningful lives because of it. Question things. That’s all I have to say about that.
Guys, please send us any questions you might have by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
We love your questions, keep them coming. It’s incredible how much of a team effort this podcast is. If you’d like, we’ll send you a free book from our collection in exchange for submitting a question.
Thanks for everything, everybody. Glad you stopped in, hope you’ll do the same next time. Until then, my friends.