Ours is certainly a culture that promotes tenacity. Stick-to-it-iveness. “Winners never quit,” and all that. And in pursuit of our goals, we do need to keep going when we start to wobble. But sometimes letting go is the best choice for our well-being.
Certainly, quitting cigarette smoking, drug abuse, and other harmful activities will always meet with approval. But other activities such as working to the point of burnout are equally damaging to our well-being and should also be given the boot.
Clearly, we need to reframe what “quitting” means. Perhaps rather than being equated with giving up or not trying, we should think of “positive quitting” as the discontinuation of behaviors that no longer serve our highest good.
Things it may be time to quit
- a relationship that’s well past its stale date
- putting off health checkups
- people pleasing
- a job that numbs your spirit
- accepting less than you want
Sorry, not sorry
To quit apologizing for things that aren’t your responsibility, learn to take a breath before you allow the word to cross your lips. When you can, replace “sorry” with “thank you,” as in: “Thanks for bringing that to my attention.”
Quit the self-directed smack talk
Remember that time your friend went outside his comfort zone to try a new venture, but things didn’t work out as he’d hoped? Remember how you told him what a nitwit he was for even trying, let alone for expecting things to work out?
Oh, wait. You wouldn’t talk like that to another human being on the face of the earth—so why do you talk to yourself that way? Quit it.
It probably won’t surprise you that research continues to explore ways in which positive self-talk can support the ability to cope in the face of cancer as well as better athletic performance in competition. In other words, positive self-talk is good for your well-being.
When you hear your inner critic being unkind or trying to talk you out of your next project, remember that it’s your ego trying to keep you safe. Thank the voice for doing its job, let it know you’re safe, and get on with your plans.
Quit trying to “have it all”
Now, this one is going to push some buttons—but hear me out: women who are at midlife now were raised with the expectation to “have” it all, which translates to “do” it all. No wonder we’re exhausted. Rather than trying to live up to other peoples’ expectations of what you should want for your life, figure out what you actually want and create that instead.
Quit the unhappiness habit
Humans are naturally programmed to be more negative than positive, so even optimists have to work at being content. For some people, however, the “unhappiness habit” might be even more difficult to quit. For example, some people are afraid to feel joy because they worry it will inevitably lead to disappointment or hold on to guilt from long-ago transgressions.
Or, as psychologist Gay Hendricks wrote, we may have an upper limit on the amount of happiness we allow ourselves. Hendricks suggests the key to quitting the upper limit habit is to commit to expanding the amount of abundance, creativity, and love we accept in our lives.
How to know it’s quitting time
While we’ve long been encouraged to “listen to our hearts,” research is now backing the importance of body wisdom for decision-making. If you’re struggling with whether or not to quit something in your life, tune in to your own internal guidance system.
Often, we “feel it in our gut” when something isn’t good for us. Find a quiet moment and reflect on your decision. Notice which option (quit or continue) makes you feel light and carefree, and which makes you feel heavy and constricted. Choose accordingly.
On your mark, get set, quit!
How to be a successful quitter
Step 1: Decide
It doesn’t matter how much your spouse, or your mother, wants it; you won’t be a successful quitter unless you are really committed.
Step 2: Prepare
After making your decision, you’ll need a plan. The road to quitting will be filled with obstacles, so anticipate them and have a management strategy in place.
Step 3: Quit
Remember that habits we want to quit are often coupled with other behaviors, like coffee and donuts. Researchers call these our habit “cues.” If you want to quit one habit, you’ll have to alter the cues, too. For example, if you want to quit being negative, you’ll probably want to avoid the people who bring out that trait in you.
Step 4: Maintain
Expect to take one step forward and two steps back. If the cha-cha is part of your plan (see Step 2), your chances of successfully quitting improve.