Growing up, we were told never to quit something we committed to.
Quitting was a sign of laziness. A sign of weakness. And worse, a sign of entitlement. Our parents made sure we followed through on anything we signed up for, regardless if it was absolutely agonizing. So learning how to quit as an adult can be quite the challenge past the age of 17. This habit of following through has served us well – but it’s also created a few inefficient stretches and definitely caused some unnecessary stress in our lives. Instead of leaning on our best judgment to decide how to continue, we default to a previous habit that doesn’t account for extenuating circumstances.
So the question remains: when is it best to stick it through, and when is it best to quit?
Here’s how to know how to quit as an adult:
It does not fit in with your overall end goal
If the commitment you are forcing yourself to stick to does not serve your end goal, then why the hell are you wasting your time?
I’m not trying to create a bunch of Machiavellian buttheads, but you have to make sure that your time is spent focusing on things you prioritize. If you constantly guilt yourself into participating in every single activity, event, group, or project that someone else has asked you to do, you are going to have zero time to focus on what YOU actually want to do. You will burn yourself out, become resentful towards others, and wonder how the hell you got yourself in this position in the first place. That is not a good use of your time.
You should be designing the blueprint of your empire, not chasing after frivolous time wasters.
If you have goals for your life (which should be a requirement for most of us), then you better get on it. Most of your activities should somehow circle back to that goal.
If one of your goals is to be happy, then you should focus on things that, yes, make you happy. If one of your goals is to start your own blog, then you should have ample time for writing and photographing and whatever else you need to do to start a blog. If one of your goals is to be the best nurse possible, then you should focus on staying up to date with the latest medical research and having proper down time so that you can provide the best care for your patients as possible. Not all of our time has to be allocated towards work – in fact it absolutely should not – but make sure you are focusing on things that will contribute to your overall end goals.
It’s hurting your self-esteem
There’s a quote floating around the Internet that is just too cute for words:
So stinking true. Espesh about the ponytails.
On a more serious note, if you are currently forcing something in your life that is cutting at your self-esteem purely out of duty, LEAVE IT. I will always believe that your self-esteem is more valuable than following through. Some of you may not agree with me, and that’s fine. However I must say that I have seen the consequences of having a low self-esteem, and it’s way uglier than a few friends claiming to be “disappointed” that you didn’t stick to your word.
Having high self-esteem sets the tone for your entire life.
It will dictate which friends you choose, which partner you choose, which career you choose, which hobbies you choose, and which lifestyle you choose. The higher it is, the more opportunities will come your way. A low self-esteem will close off more doors than disappointment ever could. Maybe being liked or admired by others is one of your highest priorities, and if that’s the case, I can’t fight you on it. But I will say that taking care of your self-esteem will shift your priorities so that being liked isn’t Queen Bee anymore.
Continuously forcing yourself to participate in something that makes you feel like a less-than person is never a good way to spend your time. If you feel that you are learning and progressing towards an overall goal (AKA there is a light at the end of the tunnel), then stick with it.
Otherwise, JUST LEAVE IT.
Your motivation stems from people pleasing.
Piggy backing on this last line of reasoning, I’d like to address how dangerous the effects of people pleasing can have on your life. Chasing the approval and fondness of others is a never-ending race that leaves you running in circles. There is no finish line. There are no water breaks. Hell, there aren’t even Porta Potties. You will be sprinting after this unattainable goal forever until you drop from exhaustion.
People pleasing does not fulfill you – it drains you.
You probably spend a lot of your time doing things you really don’t like just for the approval of others. But unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
The real issue I have with people pleasing is that you aren’t really achieving your ultimate goal, which is love. People don’t love you because you do things for them. There’s no bargaining system to love. It’s not “insert this amount of time” and “receive that amount of love.” Love is given freely. It is never earned.
You are loved just because you exist. Not because you show up early and stay late.
In fact, constantly doing things for others will sometimes produce the opposite of love. You might feel used. Or overworked. Or bitter. On good days, you could feel indispensable, important, or loyal. But you still won’t feel loved.
I understand that sometimes we do things for others because we love them, and that is completely different. Doing things out of the goodness of our heart just because we freaking want to does not make us people-pleasers. That makes us good daughters or mothers or best friends or girlfriends. We are not expecting love in return, we are simply fulfilling a role because it makes us feel good. And some of our end goals probably include being a good human to people that are important to us.
It’s when you are motivated by a deep-seated drive to feel loved, included, or admired – that’s the problem. You aren’t doing something for yourself or for anyone else – you are doing it to create a facade of who you are. Pretending for the sake of approval is tiresome. Instead, stay committed to something for someone else ONLY because you know it’ll make you feel happy – not because it’ll make them feel happy. And the funny thing is, those two typically go hand in hand. (I know, it’s so convenient!).
Otherwise, quit. You aren’t earning love, you’re earning festering bitterness. And that’s no way to live your life.
It violates one of your most precious values
If you’ve done a values inventory lately, you know that your values shape your life in more ways than you even realize. Values are what guide us in our decision making process, lifestyle choices, and close relationships. When we live in sync with our values, we feel balanced.
And when we don’t, we feel awful.
Continuing to participate in ANYTHING that directly violates one of your important values is like spending your entire paycheck at a claw machine just to win a purple teddy bear. Yeah, you got something out of it (who doesn’t like purple teddy bears?! So cute!), but is the gain really worth the loss? (Oh hell no, he’s not $750 cute!)
You are going to make yourself excruciatingly miserable and whatever benefits you may glean from said experience aren’t going to compensate for compromising your integrity. Your values are what make you different and unique from everyone else. They make up your moral compass that guides you through life. So if you choose to honor an obligation over your ethical tapestry, it’s time to adjust your behavior. Your values are worth respecting, and if a tough obligation has to volunteer as tribute, so be it.
Need help learning how to quit as an adult?
That’s what we are here for. It’s tough to comb out the nuances of whether sticking to a commitment is the right or wrong thing to do – but you don’t have to talk it out alone. As coaches, it’s our job to fully understand the context, circumstances, and values that drive your decisions. Understanding how to quit as an adult isn’t always easy, but the more you work at understanding yourself and your values, the easier the process will be.