3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Quit Anything

Not sure when to quit - your job, your relationship, this town, that hobby? Click through for 3 questions that will help you decide right now >> yesandyes.org
This guest post comes to us via the hilarious and talented J. Maureen of Generation Meh fame.  Pop over and see all the other awesome stuff she writes about on the regular!
I knew it wasn’t my scene as soon as I drew back the tent flap and saw a dozen spandex-clad people jogging through a circuit that involved turning two somersaults in the middle and then bounding to your feet to skip three turns of double-dutch.
That’s what I get for being five minutes late, I suppose. I joined the single file circuit and gamely attempted my first forward roll since second grade gym class.  Much more successful than skipping, where the rope whacked me in the head repeatedly before I managed to clear the requisite number of jumps.
The rest of circus camp didn’t go much more smoothly. I hit myself in the face with a juggling ball and felt my blood pressure skyrocket when I couldn’t even manage to consecutively catch two #$%^@ little bean bag things with any regularity.  And then there were the silks, which involve climbing and hanging off a giant scarf suspended from the ceiling.
I made it three feet off the ground and hung there limply while the instructor quizzed me on how I manage to get my bangs so smooth and straight in this humidity (I refrained from telling her that they’re real and spectacular – no straightening iron here). All frustration and no fun. When I got home, I emailed the registrar and politely requested a refund. Yeah, I quit. Ya wanna make something of it?
Most of our lives are devoted to trying to figure out how to be in the world and negotiating fine lines is a significant part of that. Where isthe line between giving it your all and rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? While only you can decide this for yourself (and making that judgment call gets easier with practice), here are a few handy dandy questions that I ask myself when deciding whether to tough something out or cut my losses.

3 ways to know when to quit

1. What would happen if I quit?

Widespread shunning, being pelted with tomatoes in the town square or having to relocate your primary residence to a van down by the river are unlikely prospects, but what about feeling like a failure? Having more free time? Reducing stress? Having to engage in confrontation?
Be honest and exhaustive and look at both the positive and negative consequences of walking away, with an eye to evaluating just how likely they are to happen, how significant they could be and, in the case of downsides, what, if anything, you could do to mitigate their effects.

2. Is this activity/relationship/behavior helping me to be who I want to be or to get where I want to go?

This is the big one and it has nothing to do with building your personal brand. It’s about asking yourself what you want your life to look and feel like and evaluating whether the activities and relationships in question support these values or work against them.
For example, writing/pontificating/boring the internet with my minutiae makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and important. Sometimes, I have nothing to say or I would rather be doing 106 other things than sitting in front of my laptop, but because I have a very clear understanding of where this activity fits into my life and my world domination plans, I suck it up and power through the dry spells.

It’s also important not to get caught in the trap of evaluating an activity based on whether or not you excel at it. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it and just because you’re at the bottom of the class, it doesn’t mean it should be scrapped if you’re having a blast.

You can be an absolutely abysmal basketball player and still live for Thursday night pick-up games. You can be Midwestern Pharmaceutical Sales Rep of the Year for four years running and still dread the thought of getting up for work every morning. Take proficiency out of the equation and focus on how you feel when participating.

If you ask yourself this question and the answer is no (This friendship makes me feel like an unpaid shrink. Running is giving me shin splints and making me hate exercise and I’m more interested in capoeira anyway, etc.), letting go doesn’t make you a quitter.

Nope,  it makes you savvy enough to understand that our time and energy resources are limited and should be spent on those activities and individuals that are in line with our values and make us feel good about ourselves in the long-term, with the understanding that there will always be short-term bumps in the road.

Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it. Click To Tweet

3. What could I be doing instead?

If you quit doing or being X, what  would you then have resources to tackle in its place? Is the potential alternative more attractive than
what you’d be giving up? The alternative doesn’t even have to be bigger and better (Well, if I quit the genealogical society, I could devote my Monday nights to reading to blind orphans), it just has to be more valuable to you (see Q2).
And yes, free time and unearmarked space to simply breathe and/or sit on your porch sipping sweet tea totally counts.

How do you know when to quit?  What things have you walked away from?

P.S. How to quit your job without another one lined up

P.P.S. Did you know I have an ENTIRE Pinterest board devoted to life advice? And other one devoted to career advice. Juuuuust FYI.

photo credit: phoebe dill // cc

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  1. Yael

    i'm actually struggling with this very problem at the moment. i work in marketing and communications, am conveniently good at it, but it sucks the life out of me.

    my problem? the husband is a student, so an income is required. i can't just up and quit. but every morning is pure hell. i'm hoping i'll figure it out soon enough.

  2. TheatreChick73

    For the past twelve hours I've been kicking myself for walking into something that was worse than I could have imagined. I felt like I was committed to it just because I showed up. I felt like I needed to see it through despite the fact that I will probably just be "rearranging deck chairs on the Titantic." Thank you for giving me a new perspective and new way to view the issue at hand. I feel like I will make a better decision now.

  3. Meg

    Thanks for this! It's great for someone like me, who has trouble saying no and is a bit of a worrier. I'll be using this. 🙂

  4. Christine

    This is amazing and something that I will definitely look back upon. Trying to correct a lot of things in my own life. Thanks for the guidelines!

  5. Amy

    I'm going through this now as well! Quite interesting that this article should pop up today, actually. My job is sucking the life out of me & it's turning me into a mean person. I need to quit. But I know I have options. Recently, I made some lists (I'm a list maker!) pros & cons of all of my options – one of them being "The Big Picture; What I Want In Life". I still have no idea what to do; after all, I don't want to make a huge decision with haste. But this article has made me feel that I am on the right track & it reassured me that I am not wrong to feel the way I feel. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Meredith

    You're right. Quitting is often made out to be failing, when in reality, it can sometimes be healthy and necessary… not to mention, it can open up that space for something truly amazing to happen. We can't let the negativity associated with quitting hold us back if we know what is truly best for us.

  7. Mollie @ Jennings Brae Bank Farm

    My husband and I have been considering the jump from "hobby farmers" – with off the farm jobs – to "real" farmers. It's good to get a little perspective on the quitting part of making this leap.

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