When I was younger, I was often told not to quit, not to give up, to stay the course, to persevere, etc. I was told that I if I was strong I would win, or accomplish something great, or get an A, or whatever.
But the fact of the matter is that I have quit. Many times in fact.
I have quit sports.
I have quit relationships.
I have quit jobs (sometimes at inopportune times).
I have quit cities.
In fact, I have gotten pretty good at quitting.
For me, the word quit has always meant to give up. It meant that I didn’t try hard enough, or that I was lazy, or that I wasn’t strong enough to push through--that I didn’t have the heart to persevere. It has always had a negative connotation.
There are times in my life when I did quit for those reasons because I didn’t want to put in the effort. But there are so many other moments when quitting took courage. When quitting just meant leaving and doing something better for myself.
Martha Beck talks about how we have an essential self and a social self. The essential self is the playful, spontaneous, fun-loving core of who we are. The social self is the person we become in order to fit in with our society as a whole. The social self follows the rules and does what everyone says we “should” do.
If I think about the times that I have quit, through the lens of those two selves, I can see quitting in a whole new way. Which self was telling me to stay and which self was telling me to quit?
When I quit my job at Seattle Public Schools in 2012, my social self was screaming, “This isn’t going to look good on your resume. Come on, you can keep going just a little while longer. It’s okay that you are miserable, you are making lots of money. You are going to let people down. People won't understand. You will be a quitter.”
My essential self was pleading the opposite, “You need to leave. You needed to leave months ago. This isn’t who you are. You are good at this, but it doesn’t feel right. Supervising lunch for an hour and a half each day isn’t the reason you got into education. You can do more, and be more.”
In the end, my essential self won the battle, and I quit. It took courage to say yes to my essential self, and it lead me down a whole new path. A path I rather enjoy.
If I hadn’t quit my job in 2012, I never would have hired a coach myself. I never would have started working at Vera. I never would have become a coach myself. I never would have gone to Landmark. And I probably wouldn’t be living in France right now.
Mr. Lombardi may have said that quitters never win, but I have won. My essential self won, and in turn I won my happiness.
How about you?
- Is there something you desperately wish you could quit?
- What is holding you back?
- What is your essential self telling you to do?
- How is your social self responding?
- What can you win for yourself if you quit?
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