Quitting is committing
Those of us on the Type A end of the spectrum have an especially hard time calling it quits.
That’s because we believe that staying on task—whether one that involves perpetual motion or one that requires sitting still—is objectively good.
When we turn in great work or cross a finish line, we earn praise. We receive certificates to nail to our walls and medals to hang from our necks.
In Colorado, we hike 14ers. Around the world, we read The Little Engine that Could to our kids.
Along the way, we forget that the story is a fairy tale. And that changing course is also a skill.
Recently, I began training for a half marathon. It’s been a decade since my last endurance event, so I imagined the biggest challenge would be my creaky bones.
Sure they hurt, but beating my head against the wall for no good reason hurt more.
It took me awhile, but I remembered that the right amount of running brings me joy. But planning my days and weeks around mileage and a schedule makes me RANGRY.
It depletes me for other things that might feed my soul.
But because I’m a girl that doesn’t quit, it took me awhile to regain my footing.
It took me awhile to remember that when we commit to a goal, we still have a choice. We can persevere, or we can pare back. We even can put the work aside if it no longer serves us.
“Finishing what you started is a useful course of action only if what you started is worth finishing,” wrote Michael Lewis in the New York Times . “And often you do not know whether it is worth finishing until after you've started it.”
This means that if we can ignore the anti-quitting propaganda that echoes in our monkey minds, there can be huge upside—or ROQ (return on quitting). Especially if we actively commit to something that is of greater value to us.
From July through September 2018, 3.58 million U.S. workers voluntarily quit their jobs, the fastest rate since 2001. In Silicon Valley, which Lewis called “the world’s capital of quitting,” jobs turn over every two years. And it’s not because people are miserable. Quitting is the surest way to get a raise. Quitting (for them) is a commitment to something more.
So how can we calculate our personal ROQ? Here are a few ways to think about it:
When we quit an activity that brings little joy, we commit to spending time more joyfully.
When we quit a dysfunctional relationship, we commit to healthy, empowering interactions with ourselves and others.
When we quit working 24/7 for someone else, we commit to creating our own identity and value system.
When we quit telling white lies, we commit to being truthful.
So, I’m coming clean. I’m owning my quitting. There’ll be no half marathon for me.
I’m committed to running, but only when it brings me joy. I’m committed to bringing the dog with me again, even though she stops and sniffs and slows me down.
Plus, race day is still a month away. And I might just manage the 10k.