I think that quitting has gotten a bad rap over the years.
When most people think of quitting, they think of the chumps who give up once they experience the slightest challenge or smallest obstacle in their way.
Sadly, there are people who will take the necessary action to improve their lives, only when it’s easy.
It’s the guy who will take unhealthy pills that promise overnight weight loss or will strap an electric belt to his waist, but he won’t take the effort to modify his diet and go to the gym consistently.
It’s the woman who will order a $99.95 “Get Rich Quick” scheme from a 2 a.m. infomercial, but she won’t take the necessary effort to save her money and/or put in the consistent effort to create a legitimate business.
And because these people need things to be easy, their life’s motto often is: “When the going gets tough, quit.”
Let me be clear, nothing that you’re about to read in this blog post has anything to do with the people who I just described.
Those folks completely deserve the bad rap that they’re getting.
That’s because much more often than not, quitting is the easy way out.
But in some cases, the previous sentence could not be any further from the truth.
That’s why in this blog post I want to talk about the less understood and more important “other side” of the quitting equation.
Specifically, I want to talk about the situations when quitting is not only brilliant, but also the situations where it can be life-saving too.
Let’s get to it.
The Most Useless Road Trip Ever
Conventional wisdom will tell you to “never give up, no matter what.”
I’m here to say that conventional wisdom is wrong.
I know plenty of people who consistently force themselves to finish reading books (not books for school/work that you have to read) that are incredibly boring, finish watching movies that they hate, and finish eating meals that taste like crap.
And it’s all in the name of finishing what we’ve started.
Usually, it’s because we hold out hope that if we stick with it we might be pleasantly surprised at the end (but seriously, how often does that happen?)
Let me use an analogy to explain why this is not an ideal way to go through life:
Let’s say that you wanted to take a road trip from New York City to Los Angeles.
If you started your trip driving full speed toward Miami, it’s safe to say that you’re driving in the wrong direction.
Once you’ve made that realization, wouldn’t it make sense to stop, change direction, and drive west toward LA?
No reasonable person would call you a “quitter” because you stopped driving toward Miami.
If anything you should be applauded for having the sense to change direction once you realized that you were going the wrong way.
Unfortunately, the opposite seems to happen in the real world, doesn’t it?
In the real world, you’re expected to finish what you start no matter what.
Even if that means driving full-speed toward Miami when you’re really trying to get to Los Angeles.
But what if we replaced “Los Angeles” with “your best life?” Wouldn’t that make the above scenario even crazier?
I think so.
Giving Yourself the Permission
I believe that most people have a finely-tuned radar that can alert us early on when something isn’t right for us.
Instead of making excuses for why it makes sense to fight through a book that’s hopelessly boring, stick with a movie that you know is absolutely terrible, or a choke down a meal that tastes like ass, wouldn’t it make more sense to “quit” and find a more enjoyable alternative?
That’s what this all about.
Making the choices that will lead us toward the lives that we were meant to live.
Our best lives.
That’s why this is worth examining deeply.
So, let’s move past the simple stuff like finishing lame books, sitting through mindless movies, and choking down disgusting meals and talk about something that’s much more important:
Years ago, I used to live in the same apartment complex with a guy who had a goal to become a physician.
The only problem was that he hated medical school and he had absolutely no interest in becoming a physician.
Let me explain.
He set a goal for himself (or more accurately, his parents set a goal for him) to become a physician and I remember him saying over and over again that even though he hated medical school and the idea of spending the rest of his life as a physician, he “didn’t want to be known as a quitter.”
To me, this is incredibly sad.
I have no clue if he ever made it through medical school, but if he stuck through it just to avoid being labeled a “quitter,” who does that benefit exactly?
Believe me, I work in healthcare for a living, and the last thing that this world needs is another physician who doesn’t give a damn about his craft and the patients he is entrusted to serve.
Spending precious months/years of our lives (time that we can never get back, mind you) slogging through something that we deeply hate just to prove that we’re not “quitters” is not something to be admired.
Worst of all, it’s unhealthy too.
Accomplishment for accomplishment’s sake is no different than being the dude at the bar who chokes down the “Gargantuan 15-lb hamburger” just to prove that he can do it.
I actually watched a guy do exactly that a few years ago.
Unsurprising to no one reading this, although he hated every moment of the process, he finished the 15-lb burger. But immediately afterward he spent the rest of the night puking his brains out and regretfully feeling like a complete ass for not stopping midway through and making a choice that would have better served him.
I wouldn’t be surprised if my former medical school neighbor is feeling the exact same way on his way to work right now.
A Better Choice
I know what some of you may be thinking.
Is this just a way to give people an “easy out” when they’re faced with a challenge?
No. Not even close.
I’ll be real–changing my crappy fast food diet was hard for me (some days, it still is.) I’m not one of those people who dream of chugging tons of water and munching on lemon-spritzed kale all day, but I really wanted more energy and better health and I knew that changing my diet would play a big role in making that happen.
Because of that, I’m willing to push through the very temporary pain of discipline in order to achieve my goal. So far, so great.
What I am talking about in this post are the people who stick with things that they hate in order to achieve a goal that they no longer want.
Raising the stakes a little–sadly, these are also the same people who stick with hideously toxic relationships/marriages, stick with jobs that are slowly crushing their souls, and stick with anything that is causing them infinitely more pain than joy.
And many of them do it because they believe that there is more honor in “sticking with what they’ve started” rather than “running from their problems by quitting.”
Little do they know that this has nothing to do with running away from the things that are challenging us.
This is about finding the courage and wisdom to “quit” the things/people that aren’t right for us, and equally as important, knowing when to walk away from the things that are holding us back from living our best lives.
It doesn’t matter if it’s about training to run a marathon, writing a book, becoming a physician, or staying with your emotionally-abusive spouse–it makes no sense whatsoever to stick with something that brings you consistent misery and absolutely no enjoyment just to avoid the “quitter” label.
You might have already figured this out by now, but this post really isn’t about “quitting” at all.
It’s about making better choices.
This is your life and you have the right to live it in the way that makes the most sense for you.
If your goal is to get into exceptional shape, but after months of marathon training, you realize that running a marathon just isn’t for you, that’s okay. There are plenty of other options to get in shape. Join a hiking club, take a Zumba class, do yoga, take long walks with your favorite music in your iPod. Regardless of what it is, make the best choice for you.
You don’t have to apologize for changing your mind along the way, and most importantly, you don’t have to prove a damn thing to anyone.
You always have the right to make a better choice, and you can do it at any time that you want.
Just like the road trip from New York to Los Angeles, if you’ve realized that you’re driving in the wrong direction, stop and turn the car around.
Contrary to what some people may think, doing so doesn’t make you a quitter.
It makes you smart.
Dare I say, it makes you absolutely brilliant.
Have you ever been in a situation where you are afraid to change course in your life because you don’t want to be labeled as a “quitter?” Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!