How to quit properly

banksy-in-boston-by-chris-devers

We’ve got a problem with quitting. In fact, we’ve got a few.

Unfortunately they’re not just in one neat bucket either – they’re cultural, psychological, social and personal.

We see quitting as weakness. We see quitting as failure. We see quitting as a dirty shameful secret that needs to be covered up.

But in a world where the only constant is change, quitting is a necessary strategy for skilfully redeploying our precious resources.

We need to be able to change position. We need to be able to stop doing things which we’ve started and may not have finished.

A person who never quits is a person who is unable to adapt at the speed at which nature occasionally dictates.

BUT

Quitting doesn’t mean leaving something to wither on the vine. It doesn’t mean ignoring a project or neglecting a relationship. Quitting means taking a conscious decision to stop something for a specific reason and taking the appropriate measures to wind it up.

It means giving it an end, a death, a little closure. Neglected projects still rattle around in our brains in a messy, noisy way. Something properly quit is done, closed, finished, dead – even if it was never completed.

Unless we want to lock ourselves alone in a shack on a hill, we’re part of a world which will occasionally require us to quit. But like most things in the world, you can quit in a half-assed and lazy way. And therein lies the problem.

We need to decouple conscious, deliberate quitting from just letting things slide.

If the situation demands it, then don’t be afraid to quit. But don’t do it meekly. Chances are, the project or idea you need to quit was once (or maybe still is) precious to you. So if you have to kill it, at least give it the death it deserves.

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You should also listen to the excellent Freakonomics podcast on The Upside of Quitting.