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Quitting doesn't always equal failure

June 11, 2011

I grew up believing that quitting was paramount to failure. That's not to say that I've never quit a project, a job, or a relationship, because I have.  I just haven't let go without beating myself up with guilt and/or second-guessing my decision, not only in terms of the consequences, but also in terms of what quitting said about me as a person.

The belief that quitting equals failure doesn't take into consideration that some people, myself included, tend to overcommit, which by definition means that we've taken on more than we can comfortably do. While our intentions may be pure and our motives just, there are only so many hours in the day. By the time you deduct the time necessary to take care of the essential business of daily living, there's only so much time left for anything else. 

Then there's the issue of goals and desires.  Things change, and so do people.  The dream job that inspired us at 30 may no longer excite the flames of passion at 50.  People change, and so does technology, the workplace, and the economy.  Even if we still love the professions we chose, circumstances may dictate course corrections in order to survive financially in today's marketplace.  Friendships that worked years ago may no longer be compatible with the person we've become as we've matured and learned life lessons the hard way. Our definitions of success may have changed along with our understanding about what truly matters in life.

Thanks to a recent article by Laurie at Quips and Tips for Achieving Your Goals, I'm reminded that not only is it OK to let go of dreams, desires, and even commitments we may have made to ourselves or others in the past, quitting may even be healthy.

So, if there's a character flaw involved in quitting, perhaps it's in taking on more than we can accomplish in the first place, recognizing the reality of our current situation, or an acknowledgement of the ways in which we've changed an grown...rather than a lack of commitment or completion issues.  At least I'd like to think so.


Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen said...

Thanks for this, Sydney. I'm happy and surprised to read about quitting and failure here! I appreciate the mention, too :-)

The last thing I quit was a dog. We got Jazz from the SPCA (pet shelter) last October -- she was a 75 pound black lab/German Shepherd cross. She was far too big for our house and decks (we don't even have a proper yard, for crying out loud), and when she spotted squirrels and skunks and birds on our walks, she'd simply run after them. I couldn't hold her back...we got sprayed by skunks twice. I was so scared about her galloping around freely - she could've gotten hit by a car, or knocked someone over, or never come back! It was awful. She needed four hours of exercise a day, which I just couldn't give her. And, she couldn't rest during the day -- all she wanted to do was play, play, play with me.

So we very sadly took her back. Bruce was more of the mind that we keep her, because we can't just quit and we committed to her and we can't just give up. But, he wasn't the one who had to be home with her all day long, who had to walk her 3 times a day, and who she kept running away from. So it had to be my decision...and I gave her up.

We cried all that day. I cried for 3 weeks after. It was horrible.

After 4 days in the shelter, she found a home with a guy who also works from home, who has a big property. I pray she's happy with him. The SPCA people said she's a good match for him.

That's my painful story of quitting. I didn't even think of it in relation to my blog post until I read your article! Funny how things happen.

As ever,

June 14, 2011 at 2:06 PM
Syd said...


I feel your pain about your dog. I have a beautiful Cairn terrier, Bailey. He's the sweetest dog ever, but he's also got to be one of the most energetic. I think he sleeps all day while I'm at work and so he's a bundle of energy by the time I get home. I hate to admit it, but I just don't have the energy to play with him as much as I'd like - and probably needs. I've been secretly wondering whether I'm doing him more of a disservice by keeping him than I would if I let him go to a good home where he can get the attention he deserves. It hurts to even think about it, so for now I don't.

Thankfully he's only 14 lbs so sometimes he runs around the house in circles until he wears himself out and then he plops down in the middle of the floor with his hind legs straight out behind him. It's funny but it also makes me thankful that even though it's not ideal, at least he's getting some exercise.

June 16, 2011 at 7:34 PM
Jeanne Mock said...

I would say that a lot of the time quitting truly is a good thing. Quitting a bad job can be the door that opens to wonderful new opportunities. Quitting a bad relationship can also lead to a better life as well. Generally giving up all will and enthusiasm is a bad thing, but knowing when to give up on something that's not going to work, and instead trying something new is a great thing.

October 31, 2011 at 9:15 PM

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