It’s Not Bad To Be a Quitter

It’s Not Bad To Be a Quitter

Cover of Goodbye, Perfect by Homaira Kabir

Goodbye, Perfect – The Book

A science-backed and soulful journey to embrace your authentic expression and build the confidence to live an empowered and purpose-driven life.

Discover why embracing the mindset to "be a quitter" might be the key to unlocking fulfillment and success in life.

What’s your gut reaction when you think about dropping a hobby you just started or leaving a job or passion that has defined you for years?

For me, the very idea of quitting anything used to bring up feelings of dread and a sense of not measuring up to the task, that I was letting myself down. As I got older, my thoughts became more balanced, and I’ve quit quite a few things in my life that needed to go. But even after those decisions, I still tortured myself in that in-between place until I was certain I’d done the right thing.

When “Be a Quitter” Became a 3-Word Statement

In her book Quitting: A Life Strategy, Julia Keller, Ph.D., explains the cultural influences that have led to our judgmental view of choosing to be a quitter. During the 19th century, amid the ongoing Industrial Revolution, when people in the West were eager to create a better life, the self-help movement emphasized hard work, staying the course, and grinding it out as the path to success.

And because the movement was underpinned by Puritan ideals, the behaviors also became synonymous with virtue. Seeing things through to the end—no matter what—somehow meant you were a better person.

This false belief is baked into our psyche. Many of these ideals have led to alarming rates of anxiety, depression, and burnout. And the post-pandemic movement of quiet quitting was a sign that millions of us were disillusioned by the promises of specious virtues.

The truth is that we’ve all known, or been, someone who quit an unfulfilling job, unhappy relationship, or unhealthy passion and found joy and success somewhere else. And many of us know of people who quit a meaningful career or business at the peak of success because they knew it was time to move on. We even admire them because it speaks to something inherent in us.

To Be a Quitter is In Our DNA

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors knew when to quit a chase so they didn’t become the prey. They knew when to gather their belongings and move on to greener pastures.

In his poem “Song of Myself, 51,” Walt Whitman wrote “I am large, I contain multitudes.” To become more of who we are, we need to listen to the itch and quit if it’s time to do so. This isn’t an easy decision by any means because we live in a chaotic, complex, and ambiguous world.

2 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Considering Quitting

Sure, a certain stick-to-itiveness is important to give things a fair chance to work, whether it’s a job, relationship, hobby, habit, routine, or practice. But sometimes, choosing “to be a quitter” is the best option, and we need to act on it despite the fear and uncertainty that it naturally entails.

To navigate the tricky terrain, here are two questions that can help you think deeper and arrive at a better answer.

Question 1: Why Do I Want to Quit?

This simple question can open you up to a much bigger truth and thus to many more ways to respond. The initial answer may need more exploring, so keep asking yourself why this is so until you get to what feels like the truth.

For example, if the real reason you want to quit your job is because you find it boring, maybe you’ve reached the top of the learning curve and need to challenge yourself. Before making a decision you may regret, you may want to try expanding your existing role into something more fulfilling or consider starting a passion project on the side.

Similarly, if you’re thinking about ending a relationship because you feel invisible, maybe you haven’t expressed your needs or set important boundaries. Before you call it quits, you may want to learn how to acknowledge your needs, ask in a way that compels others to listen, or resist the urge to overgive.

Question 2: What Are the Pros and Cons?

It’s easy to get hyperfocused on one solution when we see it as the answer to our misery. Writing down the advantages and disadvantages of each option will help you not only get a clearer picture but also determine the right time to quit if you need to.

For example, if the pros of quitting your job are many, but a big con is you’ll be living on your savings for an indefinite period, you may want to work on your exit strategy. How many months of savings will you need? What can you do to ease the transition? What skills and relationships can you start building?

Similarly, if being a quitter regarding a bad habit is a no-brainer, but you struggle to do so, it may be because you haven’t addressed the real cons. Perhaps your resistance is because you fear losing an identity or sense of community. Perhaps it’s discomfort or fear—maybe the bad habit feels “like home,” numbs painful emotions, or gives you a brief moment of satisfaction. How will you address the resistance instead of trying to will yourself through it?

If these questions don’t bring instant clarity, that’s okay. In his book Noise, psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., talks about the importance of thinking through things as the first of two steps in clear decision-making.

The second step is to take a break and let your mind rest. Your subconscious mind knows more than your conscious mind. It will come up with the right answer for you in the long run.

A version of this article originally appeared on Happify.

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Homaira Kabir

Homaira Kabir

Written by mentor, author and founder of the Goodbye Perfect Project, Homaira Kabir. Homaira Kabir holds Master’s degrees in Coaching Psychology and in Positive Psychology – the science of human flourishing and wellbeing – from the University of East London. She has just published her latest book ‘Goodbye Perfect: How To Stop Pleasing, Proving and Pushing For Others… and Live For Yourself

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