“I’m not a quitter.”
This is a virtue that is widely held in our culture. We don’t quit, we just forge on even harder. Unfortunately, this virtue is too easily overdone and can become the real problem in our work and lives. When we do quit, it’s often late and with a cost.
In our work in organizations with executives, managers, professionals, and coaches in organizations, one of the most prevalent breakdowns that people report is overwhelm – too much to do, no time for quality, overwork, exhaustion, and a resignation that there’s no way out. It’s just the way it is. Managing overwhelm is a blind spot for most folks. We don’t know how to quit appropriately.
We need to understand that every healthy living thing has to balance effort and letting go. A grip that can’t relax becomes a prison of exhaustion. Our heart contracts and relaxes. Our breath is a rhythm. When we live in the story that we have to contract and then contract some more, we have lost the rhythms that make us effective.
We need rest and renewal as well as effort. So, how do we reestablish our healthy work and life rhythms? How does quitting help us?
Quitting isn’t always negative. Every day we quit work so we can do other things, but also so we can rest and renew. When we grind on solving a problem, we need to let go and let it rest for a bit. When we’re in overwhelm, we need to see what we need to let go of. Too often it’s our health and life. Overwhelm is the state of having more promises to keep than you can fulfill.
First, we need to see that no one got us there except ourselves. We have the power to manage overwhelm, but it takes us to one of the most challenging, but necessary, ways to quit in our culture – the ability to say no. If we don’t learn to say no, we don’t have room to say yes to what is really valuable. We need to learn to quit overwhelm.
When we find our job is toxic, at a dead end, or not taking you to the future you want, quitting can be a hugely positive move. Quitting is not just about what you let go of, it’s also about what you are opening up for yourself. Even in organizational life, there’s a time to cancel the failing project to open up the resources for one that can produce more value.
Life is a chance to create a future for yourself and others by what you say yes to, and what you say no to. When your “yes” isn’t a road to a healthy and satisfying future, then it may be time to consider quitting that “yes” so that you can have a more valuable “yes.” It’s a time to look at how quitting what isn’t working – a job, a relationship, a habit, an addiction, a commitment – to enable a better future. Quitting can be the necessary step to get to winning.