We were taught to always finish what we started: our dinner plate, our after school classes, clubs we joined. We had to commit until the end. This built character and set the foundation for us to become responsible adults. Now, as adults, we feel bad anytime we want to quit something and feel the need to keep doing whatever it is we committed to because we “have to”.
Given all this, I believe there are situations in which we should allow ourselves to quit. If we learn to do it in the appropriate situation and for the right reasons, there’s nothing wrong with allowing ourselves that. On the contrary, quitting can open up new possibilities, projects, job offers…
Recently I found myself in a situation debating whether I should quit something or not. It wasn’t a trascendental decision nor important, but I still struggled.
Here’s the story:
I love jigsaw puzzles. It’s a hobby I used to enjoy when I was younger and recently rediscovered. I find it peaceful, fun, and it makes me happy.
A little while ago I started a jigsaw I had already abandoned once. I was determined to finish it this time around. A few weeks went by and I was stuck. I wasn’t adding any new pieces and I was hardly even taking the time to sit down to try and finish it. I started to worry. I began questioning if I even enjoyed jigsaw puzzles anymore. I was worried that a hobby that had been bringing me so much joy could somehow stop having the same effect on me.
I spent those weeks debating whether or not I should put it back in the box and start a new one. Doing this would bring me face to face with the question “Do I even like jigsaws?”. I was scared of starting a new one and not enjoying it. This would mean I would not only lose an activity I had been enjoying so much, but I would also lose the activity I would do sitting with my husband while he watched his TV series, or while I watched a series of my own (one of those you don’t really have to pay much attention to), or while I caught up with my podcasts… It was also an activity I sometimes did with my mom on Sundays. I wasn’t just losing the jigsaw, I was losing all of that too.
After thinking about it for a while, I decided to remove it and make space for the new one. Just to see what happened. Would I like it?
I did. And I’m totally hooked. Everytime I walk by the dining table I want to sit down and add one or two pieces. I was so happy with my decision. Before it, I was depriving myself of an enjoyable time just becasue I had made a promise to myself to finish every jigsaw puzzle I started.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should quit anytime. Nor am I trying to compare the complexity of this decision to any other one we might face. All I’m trying to say is that the feelings and struggles are sometimes the same: the stress, debating with ourselves, allowing us to stop.
Everytime we find ourselves in a situation where we’re stuck, we’re checking things off a to-do list just because we have to, or we’re evading the situation at all costs… That’s when we need to stop and ask ourselves a few questions:
- Why do I keep doing this? It could be out of obligation, for an income, for somebody else, to achieve a higher goal….
- Is there any other activity that could replace this one? If it’s a job, can I find another I might enjoy more that also pays what I need? If it’s excercise, could I find another physical activity I might enjoy more?
- Who do I affect if I stop doing this? Is this beneficial only for me? For my family? For somebody else?
- What if I change my perspective? Consider whether looking at it from a different like could help you to keep at it.
Evaluate your answers and thnk about whether quitting that project/activity/job is actually a possibility.
Maybe it’s not that you don’t like excercise, you probably haven’t found a physical activity you enjoy. Maybe it’s not that you don’t enjoy working, you probably haven’t found a job you’re passionate about. Give yourself opportunity to explore new possibilities, new challenges, new paths…
We only have one life, why should we spend it doing only things that we have to do? What’s stopping us from enjoying it more?