It's quitting time (and you've got some strategies to avoid it)

IMG_2459We've all got strategies - they're great.  We've used them to protect us from whatever we can't be with, and to overcome the things that are getting in our way that would otherwise require we change ourselves in order to be overcome. And, those strategies are what either will or are currently stopping us from getting what we want. Today, I'm going to focus on some strategies we use to overcome quitting. Quitting something is a big deal.  Our society has been built on some pretty bizarre notions about what it means to quit:

  • If you quit, you're a loser
  • If you quit, you'll never succeed
  • The stuff you say no to doesn't move you forward

These are all bullshit of course.  We don't realize that these are just scripts - dialogue written on pieces of paper in our head - that we can replace with new scripts.

Rather than overcome these scripts, we learn to manage and strategize around them.  Here are some of the most common strategies:

Don't quit anything ever

I remember playing someone a game of Magic the Gathering online a number of years back.  I had achieved a game state from which he could not win.  There was no possibility of him winning, regardless of what he drew, and the game would be finished in eight more turns.  However, rather than simply concede the match and move on, he doggedly insisted that I end the game by playing it out.

Do you think this kind of approach serves us in life (or even in that game)? Do you have lists of lists of lists of things that you want to do?  A million different todo lists, each one expanding until you start a new page (but never lose the old one)?

It's the equivalent of mental hoarding.

At the bottom of it, this kind of pattern is usually rooted in a fear that you will make a mistake or regret giving away something that turned out to be important to you.  It's a lack of trust in your own ability to make decisions and to deal with any breakdown that may result.

Quit before you even start

Have you ever started something, and known right out of the gate that you're deliberately not giving it your all?

When I used to play in squash tournaments against someone that was certainly better than me, I would make ridiculous shots.  High-risk plays that I knew weren't going to win me the match. I was worried that if I played my best, I would lose anyhow, and so I needed to do something outside of that in order to win.

I wasn't able to accept the fact that I was going to lose.  I had to beat this person.  By making ridiculous shots, I not only ensured I would lose the match, but I also cheated myself out of the learning experience that would come from playing my best against someone superior to me on the court.

By quitting before you even start, you get to say "Yah, well, I didn't give it my best, so it's not like I failed anyhow" or "Well, I'm not really quitting, because I wasn't even in to that anyhow".  You self-sabotage yourself because the costs of quitting or losing are too great.

Never make any declarations ever

Hey, if you refuse to ever declare working toward something, you'll never have to address the potential of quitting.  Things can happen to you in life as you like them to, and you never have to worry about committing yourself to something, and then later realizing you don't actually want it.

The funny thing is that this is really similar to the strategy of never quitting.  Both are designed to address the huge significance someone has attached to quitting.  Since quitting is so painful and high-stakes, it's far too costly to commit yourself to something.

[Tweet "Here's the thing: Quitting is just quitting."]

Here's the thing: quitting is just quitting.  It's just a different part of the cycle.  Sometimes we have to quit in order to move forward.  Sometimes we have to stay with something when we don't want to in order to move forward.  Your job is to work with your coach to distinguish which part of the cycle you're in.

What's your relationship to quitting?  What are the stories that you learned from your family of origin about quitting?  How are you playing those scripts out in your life, and what strategies do you use to overcome the significance you've attached to quitting?