Recently, I quit a professional group that I had been a part of for several years. In this group, I had built close relationships with fellow members. The perceived social pressure to continue with this group can be significant. I dreaded the decision. What would my group mates think about me quitting? I was concerned about how the conversation would go. I avoided the decision for several months even though I knew it was the right thing to do, given my availability. Finally, I quit. It turns out nobody gave it a second thought except for me. Their lack of shock doesn’t mean they don’t care that I won’t be with them, but I had built it up in my head as though it would. It is truly a microcosm of life itself. We think everyone is watching us, and we think that they will scrutinize our decisions to serve our own lives. The truth is, nobody cares but us. No one is as invested in your choices as you. It is not as though they don’t care, but their concerns are not our concerns. I realize this is not always the case because, at times, other people are impacted by our decisions to quit. However, if we look at the social choices we make, the vast majority of them have little to no impact on others. We live in our heads and only think our thoughts, and most of us project those thoughts onto others. “They must think just as highly of me as I do and therefore, will be devastated by my decision to quit.” The reality is, they haven’t been thinking much about you because they are too busy thinking of themselves.
How do I know when it is time to quit? Here is my process for making that call:
List your commitments.
Write out all of your commitments, outside of your immediate family. Document the commitment, the weekly time required for each, and (if applicable) the estimated end date.
Here is an example:
Work – 50 hours/week
Little league coaching – 12 hours/week – through 10/1/2020
Toastmasters – 2 hours/week – through 6/1/2020
Life group – 1 hour/week
Home-brewing – 2 hours/week
Run club – 4 hours/week
Invest your time wisely.
Are any of these commitments not serving your greater purpose?
For each commitment, write a few sentences defending why you should continue and then write a few sentences about why you should quit. The most compelling argument wins. This approach might seem like a shallow, self-absorbed approach, but in reality, our time is limited, so investing our time wisely should be a priority for us. Don’t allow guilt to keep you trapped in a situation that is not serving your greater purpose. Society will guilt you into it, and I am asking you to be brave and pivot if it is not working.
Plan your exit.
We should always honor our commitments, and I would never advocate the contrary. Our commitments must align with our mission and vision of the future. When you determine it is appropriate to de-commit, evaluate the circumstances and, if necessary, develop a strategy that maintains your integrity and ideally leaves the situation in a better condition as a result.
Don’t over commit.
Sometimes we declutter and then proceed to fill our calendar back up. Doing this is counterproductive, assuming your goal is to focus more on your vital priorities.
Society would have us believe that quitting is disgraceful, but the opposite is true if it means a better quality of life for you. If you are overloaded and feeling overwhelmed, you owe it to yourself, your family, and others that you have committed to, to assess, prioritize, and quit when necessary.