Know When to Fold ???em

This article was originally published here
February 16, 2016
By Tami Rubino, BioSpace Hiring and Branding Guru

Last month, I wrote about our need for control and suggested some steps to regain your sense of self. My final talking point was knowing when to let go, or when to quit. Much to my surprise, this elicited a lively discussion from my audience. I didn’t realize how hard it was for people to make the decision to quit. And until a few weeks ago, I didn’t realize the residual impact that quitting has on the people around you.

If you’re from Iowa, you know the sport of wrestling. Not only because our state has produced multiple Olympic champions, but our strong school and club programs have instilled discipline and sportsmanship in our youth. My now 11-year-old son started wrestling at age four, which back then consisted of lots of giggling, somersaults and rolling around on the mat like a sack of potatoes. As he got older, he got better and more intense. He went toe-to-toe with some of the top kids in the state. He wasn’t the best wrestler, but he practiced hard during the week and was extremely fun to watch in live matches on the weekends. From October through March, our entire life revolved around wrestling. Then two weeks ago out of nowhere, he announced to his father and me that he was done. He quit.

To say we were devastated is an understatement. Actually, we started out in a state of disbelief. But the first time I sat watching his teammates take the mat—with him sitting beside me in the bleachers as an observer—I quickly went from disbelief to anger. And that is where I stayed. How could he give up? We’d invested so much time, energy and money into his training. How could he walk away from his gifts and talents without an explanation? But the bigger question remained. Why was it so incredibly hard to accept his decision? After all, he’s a kid and it’s just a silly sport, right?

I wish it was that easy to explain. As a parent, this has not been my finest hour, but I imagine I’m not alone in my utter state of confusion. In order to get a handle on my emotions, I needed to uncover the real issue. I need to understand why he quit….

When Should You Quit?
If something is not serving you well and not keeping you healthy in mind, body and spirit, you should quit. I don’t mean this in a self-righteous way. Our brain and body knows when something is not good for our health and well-being. If you’re doing something harmful to your body or immoral to your spirit, you should stop immediately.

When your values don’t align, you should quit. One thing I believe to be true is that core values don’t change easily, if at all. I’ve watched marriages and friendships struggle to the point of total destruction because two people with misaligned values try forcing each other to change. If your values don’t align with your employer’s values, you’ll have minimal chance to convince the company to see things your way. It’s probably best for you to find a place that’s a better “values” fit.

If you’re intentionally hurting others, you should quit. This one is self-explanatory. People have the right to be happy and if your actions are purposefully hurtful to someone else or making them unhappy, stop it. You know better.

When you’re doing something for the wrong reason. How many of you have done something out of guilt or peer-pressure? Perhaps you’re afraid to disappoint your family so you keep volunteering to host the annual get-together even though you no longer enjoy all the work. Serving others should bring your joy and if you’re doing it out of obligation, you will eventually come to resent the people you’re trying to serve. It’s okay to stop and let someone else take your place.

When Should You Stick It Out?
When it’s hard. Have you ever wondered if the caterpillar is panicking the whole time it is inside its cocoon? Does it have any idea what’s happening? That amazing transformation must be scary and possibly even painful but the results are nothing short of a miracle. You’ll never know how the journey will transform you unless you’re willing to push through it. It may be dark, scary and downright hard at times, but keep moving forward. Our biggest periods of growth are born from the direst of circumstances.

When the consequences of quitting outweigh the benefits. Approach this pragmatically. Put together a “Ben Franklin” list outlining all the pros and cons of quitting and assign a weighting factor to each one. If the con side outweighs the pro side, there is still hope the situation might turn-around and you should stick it out to see what happens.

When the emotional investment is high. Quitting almost always has an emotional impact on you or someone else. Carefully evaluate the emotional debris that will be left in the wake of your decision to quit. If it’s a job change, your relationships with colleagues and clients will certainly be affected. It takes some effort, but those relationships can continue outside of the workplace and they may even grow stronger. Ending a personal relationship has far greater consequences. The repercussions go deeper and wider than for just the two people who call it quits. Think carefully about the residual effects, which may be immediate or resurface years down the road. If the emotional stakes are high, perhaps you should try changing the dynamics of the relationship first, instead of cutting it off cold turkey.

How Should You Quit?
Quitting creates a void, or a sense of loss so be prepared to grieve or help others who are grieving. Regardless of what you are quitting—a relationship or even a bad habit—someone (perhaps even you) will likely go through several stages of grief. Each one us grieves in our own unique way and that process can trigger unexpected behaviors and reactions.

If you’ve come to the conclusion that you must quit doing something that will impact someone else, the key to handling that situation is grace. If you’re quitting something that doesn’t serve you well such as smoking, drinking or sitting on the couch, the biggest barrier you face is you. So offer yourself some grace through that process and rely on people who have a high emotional investment in you for support.

If your decision to quit has a negative impact—or perceived negative impact—on those around you, communicate early and often with them. Try to help them understand your reasons for quitting and don’t get defensive if they react poorly to your decision. Give them the grace and space to work toward understanding and acceptance.

When I quit something, I find the voids are eventually filled with something else totally unexpected and often more rewarding. The anticipation of something new is enough to get me moving in the right direction.

Why Quitting Hurts?
Bottom line, quitting hurts because we want a return on our investment. When we quit, we believe all the time, money and effort we’ve invested has gone to waste. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Life is about experiences— lots of them. And each time you experience something, you learn from it. The learning IS your return on investment. If you quit your job to do something new, of course you will miss the awesome relationships you’ve built. On the flip side, you’ve grown so much that you’re ready for the next step. Celebrate the growth and don’t let the temporary feeling of loss from quitting hold you back.

If someone quits on you, it hurts because you feel rejected. You were part of something and now—suddenly—you’re not. You believe with all your heart this person is making a really bad decision. But guess what? It’s not about you. Allow yourself to grieve and then see what happens. The split may be temporary or it may be the best thing that has ever happened to you.

There are countless circumstances that drive people to quit—both good and bad. Now I’ve come full circle to understanding my son’s decision to quit wrestling. He didn’t quit to hurt me. And his training has filled him with a great sense of courage and character—which is certainly not a waste. When he quit, I was forced to quit, too, and I had no voice in that decision. That stinks and now I’m grieving. I also feel rejected. But my hopes and dreams are not his hopes and dreams, and he is not responsible for my happiness. I may never understand the real reason why he quit, but I’m inching toward acceptance and looking forward to what the future holds for him.

I’m sure many of you have stories just like mine. How do you decide when to quit? And how have you reacted when someone quits on you?

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