Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a project or task and you wanted to quit? I bet your inner dialogue started tossing out all sorts of motivational mantras to encourage you to push through. Maybe something like:
Keep going! Persevere! Follow through! Remember why you started!
All of that advice is immensely valuable in the right moment (and it’s certainly advice I’ve dispensed before)… but what if “pushing through” the task at hand is ultimately doing more harm than good? What if persevering down a path is only leading you farther and farther away from yourself?
These are the questions I was asking myself two weeks ago when we were about to leave for our trip to Bermuda. I could feel myself being weighed down by the various daily commitments and projects I’d undertaken. During our trip, I wanted time and space to myself to be present and to reflect, so I decided I wanted to stay off of social media for the duration of our stay. This posed a bit of a conundrum, because I had committed to posting various types of messages daily, Monday through Friday.
I considered the possible solutions. What was I to do, program my posts and publish them while I was on vacation? I didn’t love the idea of going on a freeing, beautiful vacation only to have this daily “task” weighing over me. So I asked myself, “What would happen if you didn’t post at all?”
It was the first time I had actually allowed myself to consider quitting. There were plenty of moments when I didn’t want to post my piece for the day. Maybe I was feeling tired, or had a splitting headache, or didn’t feel inspired, or wanted to do something else, but ultimately I powered through anyway because I knew that resistance was part of the process. I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of in committing to push past that resistance.
But this road block felt different. It felt like I had arrived at a moment when every ounce of my original intention was no longer there. In the beginning, my mission for undertaking such an ambitious commitment was essentially this list of things:
- To develop my confidence
- To commit to carving out time for creativity and make it a habitual part of my daily life
- To push myself to explore new boundaries, even if it felt imperfect
But by now my confidence had been built, my creative practice had become a habit, and I have no problem exploring the boundaries of my creativity or sharing imperfect work. I realized that it was no longer about creating—it had become about NOT quitting. It had become about what other people would think if I didn’t make it to Day 365. What it might say about me if I didn’t follow through.
In a podcast episode, Liz Gilbert once said something I’ll never forget:
Anything that doesn’t taste like freedom is not your path.
This project stopped tasting like freedom and started tasting like obligation. Once I realized that, I knew that was my cue to make the hard choice and, yes, QUIT. It was such a difficult decision to make, and yet once I saw it as a possibility, it was the easiest decision to make too because I saw it as a path back to freedom.
During my delightful week of vacation (away from social media, away from my studio, just present to the experience at hand), I picked up the book, The Dip, by Seth Godin. Here is a quote I love that feels especially appropriate:
Most of the time, we deal with the obstacles by persevering. Sometimes we get discouraged and turn to inspiration writing, like stuff from Vince Lombardi: ‘Quitters never win and winners never quit.’ Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.
The truth is, quitting things allows you to make room for other things. It allows you to reallocate precious resources, like your mental space and your time. Now that this project has taught me what I wanted to learn, I’m ready to use that time and space for things that feel more valuable to this current version of myself. What’s funny about it as I think back to making the scary declaration, my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t maintain it. That I would quit. I was so terrified of putting myself in a position to look like a flake. The irony though is that, in quitting — in basically realizing my “greatest fear” — I’ve also realized the baselessness of that fear.
Just because I stopped does not mean that the commitment and hard work and dedication it required to complete simply disappears. It does not eradicate the lessons I learned along the way, nor does it take away from the people whose lives were touched, even just momentarily, by the messages. And that in itself is a huge lesson I will take with me. That even if you’re afraid to start something for fear of not following through, do it anyway.
I’m grateful for this project for all the things it taught me, but I think the greatest lesson of ALL is that it reminded me of what is most important to me — the belief that is absolutely central to everything I do:
If I’m doing something that’s not aligned with my truth, my essence, my core being — if it is something that is not lighting me up and I’m tempted to do it because of some type of external validation — I always want to be the kind of person who finds the strength to walk away from that.
So, my challenge to you this week is to think about what it is in your life that you need permission to quit. What one thing are you doing for everyone else BUT yourself. What thing is no longer bringing you value or joy or growth, but you continue to do it because you’re afraid of NOT doing it? Let my own “failure” be an example:
When it brings you back to your true self, quitting is an act of self-empowerment, not an act of weakness.
Once you’ve learned the lesson that a task or project or relationship was here to teach you, it is okay to release it.