Knowing when to quit

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Quitting can often have negative connotations.  Calling someone a quitter is usually intended as an insult.  I don’t see it that way.  Sometimes leaving or quitting something that is no longer serving your purpose can be a life-saver.

As a child, I was taught to persevere and never quit, at anything.  Even if the thing I was doing was making me miserable.  Completing a task was more important than the enjoyment of it.   I think this has changed with my generation.  Many parents of my generation are all to quick to allow their children to quit things when their children say they don’t like doing something.

I have experienced this with the father of my children.  He would all too happily allow the children to quit things that I signed them up for at either their insistence or my suggestion.  I learned very early that children will want to quit when what they are doing becomes challenging or difficult.  The problem with letting them quit meant that they would never learn how to overcome challenges or obstacles and take pride in accomplishments.  I always took the view of my parents in not allowing my children to quit.  You want to learn Karate?  Ok, but you have to do it for the term I pay for and you can’t stop in the middle of it unless you are actually physically unable to.  So the belts got accumulated and then it started to get hard.  Sorry, you have to wait until the term is finished.  My daughter wanted to stop the violin when it got challenging and I said no.  There were tears from her and arguments with her father, but I stuck to my decision.  Once she got over her hump, she was fine.  Same thing happened when she was learning how to ride horses.  I can’t tell you about the arguments with the boys when doing sport.  So yeah, the mean mother that I was, I made my kids do things and when they didn’t like it anymore and only after I got my money’s worth, I let them stop doing the things they didn’t want to do.  At least they learned what they liked and what they were capable of.  I never forced my daughter to play the violin once she got over her hump and she could have stopped having lessons in high school when ever she wanted to, but she didn’t.  When my children went to a new school, the deal was that they would all take advantage of some of the sports that were available.  My eldest tried out for soccer, knowing that he wouldn’t make the team, but I also made him try out for volleyball which was the only sport left to try out for.  He actually enjoyed it to his surprise.  Sometimes children won’t try things or will want to quit because of their self-esteem.  If you don’t try things, how will you know if you will like it or not?

Only by trying new things, overcoming obstacles and learning what we are capable of can we make effective decisions in our lives. We need to know how to proceed when things are no longer working for us.  Do we stay or do we go?  This can be used for relationships of any kind and for our working lives.

Because I was brought up with a work ethic which meant carrying on regardless, because it was important to have a job and earn money, I wasted a lot of time in jobs that I should never have stayed in.  Ditto for relationships.  Although I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, I do know what things work for me and what I need to be happy in my work.  Although I do not know how my current relationship is going to end up, I do know what I need and what works for me.  Hopefully it will turn out great.  So far so good.

I no longer feel that I have to stick at something which is making me unhappy or serving me no purpose.  I have had to re-learn the skill of trusting my instincts.  If something doesn’t feel right, then it most likely isn’t and no matter what you do isn’t going to make it right.  So rather than dragging things out and trying to ‘manage’ hoping things will get better, I have come to the conclusion that it is better to quit before things get worse, because they usually do.  I used to be the one who worked at the relationship and would do everything to make things work not realising that it was supposed to be a two-way street.  When I couldn’t do anymore, I had to quit.  Why wait so long?  Because there was something ingrained in me to keep going, to keep trying, even though I was dying inside and until there was nothing left.  Quitting was my last resort.

I believe that each situation we encounter teaches us something.  Sometimes we learn new skills or we learn things about ourselves and what we are capable of.  Sometimes we need to learn to say no.

This time last year I started temping.  I didn’t (and still don’t!) know what I wanted to do except that I wanted to earn money and see what was available.  I started doing data-entry for an insurance company.  The pay was good.  The job was dull and exhausting.  It was supposed to be for a month, but got extended.  I could have said no and that would have been ok, but I was flattered and the money was good.  I was still exhausted and there were issues between two colleagues that I had to distance myself from.  However, there was some benefit to me even though the job was mind-numbingly dull and exhausting.  I did it for three months.  They wanted to keep me on, but instead of just saying no, I told them I would only do part-time at my current rate.  So they said no instead.  I was so happy to have some time off and vowed that I wouldn’t stick a job out if it didn’t serve my purpose.  I loved working at a Nursing Home, but the journey and work involved didn’t balance against the really poor pay, so I didn’t apply for that job which was mine for the taking.  My last job was at another nursing home, within walking distance and the money was great.  It was a three-month contract, but I left after less than five weeks.  I dithered about staying three weeks longer than I should have.  I kept asking The Universe what the lesson was and I think the answer was to follow my gut and to cut my losses and run.  Things were not working for me.  It reminded me of a negative work situation I had been in years ago and it was not a situation I wanted to re-visit.

The relief I felt when I handed in my notice was enormous.  There was no way I could have stayed the whole three months.  If I had, I wouldn’t be temping where I am now.  I had handed in my notice, went on holiday for two weeks, and came back to start another assignment, as I knew I would.  What I didn’t know is that The Universe would reward me with a calm environment, with really lovely people, where I can learn new things, and be of service to others.

So, yes, I am a quitter, and much happier for it.  I want to point out that I would never quit my work because the job was a challenge.   I thrive on being able to prove myself at work and love the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing something different and getting out of my comfort zone.  I quit because the situation or environment was not conducive to my productivity or emotional well-being.  I want to be happy at work and to enjoy what I do.  It is also nice being around pleasant people when you spend about eight hours a day with them.  I don’t have to be best buddies with my colleagues, but a team environment with mutual respect and consideration is vital for productivity.  I haven’t been able to do much in my first week except to answer the telephone, which was unusually quiet, but I was told on several occasions how much my presence was appreciated as it took the pressure off the rest of the team.  I have been able to use the down time to read up on procedures and at the end of the week I was finally able to start some on-line training.  I have five weeks left to go and anything can happen.

Leaving a job or relationship that is making you miserable is not something to be taken lightly.  In this economic climate, it might not be possible to quit a job, especially not without something else to take its place.  That could be irresponsible if there are others to look after and living expenses to cover.  However, if something is making you unhappy, and you have done everything you possibly can to improve matters without success, it might be time to work out an exit plan.

Quitting doesn’t make you a loser.  It can make you a winner in the long run.

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One response

  1. Go girl! You have learned one of the most valuable lessons in life, and you are already benefitting.