How To Master The Art of Quitting (In 2 Steps)
I talk a lot about the power of learning to stay. I believe staying present mentally, emotionally and spiritually -regardless of the circumstance or trying to escape- is the cause of true happiness.
Now I want to talk about the kickass powers of quitting.
For a stubborn-overachiever-straight-A-student like me, quitting was never my favourite thing to do. I thought it was a sign of weakness, that I was being a failure.
I would stay in situations -relationships, jobs, places, friendships, behaviours- that were not good for me for waaay longer than I needed. My best thinking told me I needed to try harder, stick-it out, even if it wasn’t working or if I was being hurt.
Eventually, when I couldn’t take it any longer the icky behaviours (I am calling them that because that is how they make me feel) would appear. I would start making excuses and bailing, I would sneakily create circumstances to get out of things indirectly (like what if I make him want to break up with ME instead?) or my hit record: blow it up to the ground so hard it would be impossible to salvage.
And THAT is how I knew to quit things.
Luckily for me and the humans that surround me, I’ve learned a healthier and more effective way of quitting. It involves two steps.
The first step is to avoid getting into situations that aren’t good for us.
In a perfect world this would be the only necessary step. But, because there is no such thing as perfection -and we wouldn’t have it any other way!- there will be times when we won’t know if something is good for us until we are already in it.
This is why we have step no. 2: allowing ourselves to exit with grace and dignity, to the best of our ability.
Overachievers, perfectionists and people pleasers of the world: being good quitters is entirely possible, and it looks really good on us.
This is how we do it.
Step No. 1 - Don’t Get Into It In The First Place
Sounds super simple, right?
You and I both know this is many times easier said than done. It's not like we are incompetent or crave drama in our lives (that's an entirely different story).
Quite the opposite. We are accomplished and driven and want to live a happy life. So how could we have missed it and gotten into the thing we want to get out of in the first place?
There are ways to solve the mystery.
You know how after we are done getting out of a bad situation, we can look back and totally see what was wrong with it?
What happened is somewhere along the way we became disconnected with our intuition or chose to ignore it. When we pay attention, we can see the warning signs before we even get involved.
It is easier than we think. Our gut is always right. Our body has a way of telling us how we really feel about things. People tell us who they are right away. The same goes for situations. We usually know early on if something will work for us on not. The problem arises when we see red flags and start painting them green.
Being in tune with our intuition all day, every day is not very realistic -at least not for me. We can get easily distracted by stress and the busyness of everyday life. Practicing mindfulness in any of its forms is key for us to ‘trust our gut’ and say NO when we need to.
That being said, we are not the Dalai Lama (and I am sure even he gets a little antsy from time to time) and there will be times when even if we are centered and mindful, we won’t intuitively know what’s the best decision to make. And that is totally ok.
In those moments, we can ask ourselves the following: would I be ok if this person (situation, job, etc) never changes? Can I live with it exactly as it is or is my decision based on its potential? Am I doing this to please others? Am I acting out of fear? Am I choosing this because I am impatient? Is my decision based on the belief that I won’t be able to do better? Do I trust the right situation will be presented to me at the right time?
If we can honestly answer all of these questions and honour what is true for us, then we know it is safe to proceed with caution and either abort that mission or run with it!
Step No. 2 - Give Yourself Permission to Quit & Do it Cleanly
It's important that we know why we want to be quitters in the first place. I'm not trying to encourage you to go on a quitting frenzie and drop everything in your life. Staying can often be the best choice we can make.
Badass quitters select out only what is no longer working. We quit what’s not good for us because we are committed to our happiness. To me that means staying away from anything that creates drama, invites chaos, causes pain, produces guilt, induces unnecessary stress and/or simply gets in the way of my commitment to happiness.
I don’t think it would be possible to make an exit without any of the icky backlash behaviours (as mentioned earlier) without clarity. If we are not sure why we need to quit, we may need to stick it out a little bit longer until we can make an honest, responsible exit.
You see, there are ways of quitting and there are ways of quitting responsibly. We can learn to take care of ourselves without harming others. We can say no while keeping our side of the street clean. We can’t control how people will react to our decision. They may not like it or get upset. That is none of our business. Our business is to make sure we did everything we could to leave on good terms. Is it feasible to provide enough notice without harming ourselves? Can we leave respectfully? Is it possible decline without over-explaining? Can we avoid blaming and/or causing harm?
I was recently invited to be a part of women’s spiritual group. When they asked me if I could join, I felt butterflies in my stomach. These were kickass ladies that I admired and wanted to get to know more. It was the perfect opportunity and I said yes. I take pride in honouring my commitments, so when circumstances changed and I wasn’t able to make it twice in a row, I felt terrible. I played different scenarios in my head where I could manage to stay in the group. The truth is it wasn’t working for me but I was afraid they would stop liking me if quit. Old me might have stuck it out way longer than needed, likely continue to miss and become too embarrassed to even try to show up and probably end up ghosting them.
New happiness committed me knew better so I asked a friend for advice. She reminded me “we are allowed to try something and decide later to change our mind”. That night I put my grownup pants on and sent my resignation email. I thanked the host for the invite, apologized for not being able to make it, admitted it didn’t work for me. I had to work hard on letting go of what I thought she would think of me (I am still recovering for people pleasing) but holy crap did I feel freedom from being able to make a clean exit.
With practice, I have also learned to quit bigger things when they were no longer working, like relationships, jobs, behaviours. And -for the most part and with lots of practice- I’ve been able to do it icky-less.
A Final Reminder
Master quitters don’t get it right all the time and right away. Experienced quitters know it takes practice and patience, and that we will never be able to do it perfectly.
Above all, we avoid judging. Quitting requires a tonne of self-love and compassion.
We recommend starting small and building our way up.
Quitting because we are choosing happiness and a better life doesn’t make us selfish or weak. If our tank is not full we are unable to give to others, and we are here to be of service.
It takes courage to decide to make a change. Every time we decide to look after ourselves we are setting an example. We are showing others it is OK for them to do the same.
A wise woman said “NO is a complete sentence”. I agree, but I personally prefer saying “NO thank you”. Cause that’s the type of badass quitter I want to be.