According to the Oxford Dictionary the definition of quit is “to leave a place, usually permanently”.
In the real world, we tend to use the term “quit” a little more liberally. You can quit smoking (positive), quit whining (also positive), and quit your job (could go either way).
Why is it then, that we so often frame quitting as a negative? How often have you heard “Don’t be a quitter!” or “You can’t quit now!” or “Quitting’s for losers”?
There are times in life when I’ve thought of quitting something, and my perception of myself doing that hasn’t been pretty. I’ve thought of all the reasons why I shouldn’t, and why it would be a bad idea. Quitting would demonstrate my lack of commitment, or stamina, or ability to manage in difficult circumstances. It would reveal a pitiful state of mind, with lack of drive and motivation, without the sufficient determination to really ever be successful at anything. Quit at one thing, and everything else will just come tumbling down behind it.
It’s taken me years to realise that quitting is not the same as giving up.
When you give up, you stop making an effort. You are throwing your hands up and saying “I admit defeat” and that means someone or something has gotten the better of you.
But when you quit, you don’t stop making an effort – you are affirmatively making a choice to do something. Something else. Something that will take you on a different path, towards different experiences, and different adventures. Quitting your job because this isn’t the career path you want to take, quitting running because this isn’t the kind of exercise you want to pursue anymore, quitting choir because it doesn’t fill you with joy to sing anymore – these aren’t examples of you not having commitment or lack of drive. These are examples of you making a choice to make room in your life for something else. A new career, or retraining, or further education. Undertaking yoga to improve flexibility. Finding out that what does fill you with joy these days is dancing.
I am a quitter, and I am proud of the choices I have made in life. I have friends who I have encouraged to quit, and I hope they are proud of the choices they have made in their lives.
In the immortal words of Kenny Rogers: “You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run…”
If you’re wondering whether you should, quitting is not the question. It’s when to do it that really counts.