By Rachel Puryear
For most of us, all our lives, we’re told: don’t quit. Quitting is for losers. Never give up. Never surrender. Always persevere. Always keep going.
Such advice usually comes from a well-meaning place. And certainly, most things worth achieving in life will only come following a lot of hard work, resilience, sacrifice, and picking oneself up again after failure – and often, after many failures.
At the same time, though, does this mean that one should never quit anything, no matter what? Is there any point at which it might be better to quit, than to keep going? Can quitting ever reflect sound judgment, courage, or strong character – as opposed to the opposite, as many people perceive?
Yes, I think so. And I’ll tell you why.
In real life, it can be as important to know when to stop, when to stop and take a different path, and when to quit altogether; as it is to be able to persevere and keep going for something that’s worth continuing to make the effort for.
If you’ve ever played poker, you know that there’s often more dignity – and sometimes, less money lost – by simply folding, rather than keeping going when the odds appear to point to a likely loss. Any skilled poker player not only knows this; but also has a good sense of when it’s better to fold, versus when it’s better to keep going.
Real life is like that, too. We’re often faced with scenarios where we need to decide whether it’s best to persevere and keep trying, or whether we’re better off quitting now and trying something else instead. However, the notion that we should always persevere, at all costs, in every situation, no matter what happens; is so ingrained in many of us that we often don’t see quitting as a valid option – and that’s much to our detriment.
There are many times in life where we’d be much better off to quit something, and go in a different direction – quit a job that’s not working out, and maybe even change careers; quit a relationship that’s not meeting our needs – and probably isn’t meeting either person’s needs if that’s the case; quit a “health” regimen that’s leaving us feeling crappy rather than better; and so forth.
My Own Story of (Finally) Quitting
I was a lawyer for ten years before I finally left the legal profession, and decided to give the digital nomad life a chance.
In my first year of law school, I already had doubts about whether this was the right profession for me, whether I was on the right life path, or whether there weren’t a lot of other things I would likely be a lot happier and feel more fulfilled doing.
I actually enjoyed learning about the law, on a logical and philosophical level – but even then; the mismatch between my natural temperament and disposition, versus the culture and personal demands of the legal profession was worrisome.
However, I figured that everyone goes through doubts, everyone feels lost and like they don’t belong in law school, and that I should just work through it. So I did. For several years, graduating and then working as an attorney.
I hated being an attorney – for the most part, at least. There were occasional good, humorous, or feel-good moments. But that wasn’t enough to justify constant brutally long working hours plus the expectation of always being on call, very high levels of stress and pressure and often-unrealistic client demands, dealing with judges on power trips, opposing counsel who get away with lots of bullying because they come from powerful firms (while solos and smalls like I was better not put one toe out of line), and constantly being faced with how broken the justice system is and how little I felt like I could actually help clients who deserved much better than I could realistically give them.
Not only that, I wasn’t even making that much money at it – while some attorneys do make quite a bit, many others make much less than most people think, and graduating into the post-meltdown of the late 2010s permanently put most new law grads at a disadvantage in the job market. Many firms now pay associates salaries that they know won’t pay off law school debt.
But again, I felt like I needed to give the profession more of a chance, as I had already invested time into law school and incurred debt. I thought that quitting would make me weak, or disappoint loved ones. So I kept going anyway.
As years went by being an attorney, I was not starting to like it more, and was instead quickly getting burned out. And let’s face it – I wasn’t getting any younger, either. All of that became painfully clear as I started developing a health issue that stemmed from overwork and stress. While I would eventually get the health issue under control, it would first make life much more difficult for several years; and I would only start to get better once I finally left the legal profession.
After four years as a lawyer, I made my first attempts to leave, but that was complicated by not knowing where to go from there. After seven years as a lawyer, I had a plan in place and began preparing my exit; and ten years after joining the profession, I was finally ready to fully depart into a new career. I became a freelance writer and life coach instead, and am so much happier doing this. Plus, I get flexibility over my time, and am enabled to travel around while I work – which is an incredible opportunity that far too few people have.
I don’t regret quitting law. Every single day, I am grateful that I did. I only regret not having done so sooner. I should have quit after the first year of law school, and started pursuing a freelance writing and coaching career then, and started the free range lifestyle. I should have gotten over my fear of quitting sooner, and embraced quitting a situation that wasn’t right to give a chance to something else that could be. Quitting didn’t make we weak, after all – it made me much stronger, happier, and healthier.
There’s a Chinese proverb that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, but the next best time is now. What trees do you wish you had planted earlier, but want to plant now? If you want to talk to someone about making a positive change in your life, reach out here to talk to an experienced life coach, and get a consultation at no charge.
Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to knowing when to quit, and quitting when it’s the best thing to do.
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