Hi, my name is Laura and I’m a serial quitter.
Some people look at my career path and recoil in horror. Archaeologist to marketeer to project manager to a life coach. Not exactly the traditional path.
For most people I know, quitting is a dirty word. It implies being sloppy, underachieving, lazy, somehow ‘less than’. And I get it- it’s something we’re taught from a young age.
I call B.S. on that and I’m here to fly my freak flag high as a proud & happy serial quitter.
Let’s be clear- I believe perseverance and sticking out the difficult times are important, essential life skills to have. Without them, we’d never make it past the first few months of a relationship, that first epic failure in our new job or have the degree that got us that job in the first place. Some of the people I admire most in the world have gritted their teeth, put their heads down and fought tooth and nail, beating seemingly impossible odds because they just refused to give up. But in a world that is full of social media posts urging us not to quit and decades of society teaching us that only losers quit, have we taken it too far?
As a life coach, I see people all the time who have a nasty habit of sticking things out, even when that specific situation really isn’t serving them and likely never will. Sometimes, it makes them downright miserable. How many people do you know who have hated their job for the last decade, but refuse to give it up? How many times have you held onto a relationship well past its expiration date? But here’s a dose of real talk, things don’t even have to be bad to quit. You can be really successful at something and quitting can still be the right thing to do.
I’m not saying anything earth-shattering here, I know. Most of us, in one of the situations I just mentioned would admit that really, we know we should quit. But more often than not, we reserve quitting as the final resort for the really big, really unbearable moments in our lives. We end up exhausted, stressed, unhappy and finally, when it becomes too much, we quit.
As human beings, we’re hard-wired to resist change. The part of our brain that was developed when there was real, mortal danger around every corner sees change as something that could kill us. We subconsciously try to hold onto the status quo at all costs. But those costs can be really high- we can lose our happiness, our opportunities for exploration and so much growth
Popular thinking depicts quitting as a cataclysmic event. A bomb that goes off in our lives and leaves wreckage in its wake. But it doesn’t have to be that way. What if you learned to be a serial quitter and were strategic about it? Here are 5 steps to strategically quitting;
1) The first step is in evaluating what’s truly important at that moment. Admitting that you’ve grown, changed or want something different for yourself by asking the question ‘what do I really want to do/be/have right now, at this point in my life?’ If the answer isn’t what you have right now, it might be time to consider a change.
2) Forgive yourself. Take away the judgment you might have around quitting and replace it with the knowledge that as a human being, you’re constantly growing and evolving. You probably wouldn’t want to be the same person you were at 13 years old and you probably won’t be the same person at 80 as you are now. If your life doesn’t change as you do, you’ll suffocate. The ability to grow is one of the great joys of being human, embrace it!
3) Know yourself. Take a deep dive into what really drives you. For me, almost everything I’ve ever done has been due to an insatiable interest in who people are, what makes us tick and how we can influence our own minds. Once I understood that it was much easier for me to move onto something else which fulfilled that need.
4) Think ahead. Strategic quitting requires making plans to ensure we don’t ever quit and then think ‘what next?’ And here’s a pro tip: You don’t have to have the perfect plan. If you wait to have all the answers, you’ll end up paralyzed.
5) Learn how to hold onto things in your life lightly. You have to give yourself permission to throw everything wholeheartedly at something (or someone), soak it up, love it. Then when you hit that point where it’s just not doing it for you anymore, walk away, thankful for what it gave you. You get to avoid that familiar angsty, painful, guilty stage. Instead of working really hard to hold onto things that aren’t serving you, how about switching all that effort into things that are? What would life be like then?
One of the greatest joy of quitting is what it opens up space for. Not only does it leave you free to be the curious, passionate, multi-faceted person you are and experience a myriad of new things, but it also leaves you free of the guilt, shame, and finality that comes with an enforced quit. You’re free to go back and revisit past hobbies again, get curious about that weird thing you like. Or not. But either way, you get to do you, with fewer self-imposed restrictions and a whole lot more fun.
Some unexpected benefits of being a serial quitter are;
I’ve developed a kick-ass skillset and can turn my hands to many different things. Were I ever to find myself without a job, I’d be pretty employable in a few different industries. And when I decided to start my own business? So many of the seemingly unrelated skills I’d learned along the way put me ahead of the competition and made the learning curve just a little bit less steep.
The second bonus side-effect has been growing my emotional resilience to change and the unknown. I still sit somewhere on the spectrum from anxious to pee-my-pants terrified every time I do something big and new (hey there writing articles!), but it no longer stops me in my tracks or overwhelms me like it once did.
Finally, one of the most important changes of all that quitting has afforded me, is that the life I’ve built allows me to be the very best version of myself. I’m no longer trying to squeeze who I am, the bits of me that were ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’ into spaces they were never designed to be in. The life I’m building will be a continuous work in progress, constantly adapting and changing based on who I become as I grow and change and that’s immensely freeing.
I’d love you to join me on the journey and become a serial quitter too.