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Why Quitting Is Sometimes the Right Thing to Do

By

Walking Away

“Celebrate endings, for they precede new beginnings.” ~Jonathan Lockwood Huie

We often think of quitting as failure. We commend people for carrying on when times get rough. The heroes in our action movies don’t just give up when things get difficult. When was the last time you saw Steven Seagal walk away from a fight?

As the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Society expects us to fight back and battle on.

But sometimes, quitting is most definitely the right thing to do.

Sometimes, it’s the best option. A lot of people assume that it’s the easy thing to do—that only defeatists and good-for-nothin’ drop outs would even consider such a “cop-out.” This is not the case.

I learned this myself when I finally made that looming decision to drop out of college. There it is: “drop out.” Even the words sound negative, as if I’ve fallen away from society, failing to meet my expectations. But I don’t see my decision as a negative thing at all, and it wasn’t the easy thing to do.

I had been at college for a year and two months; I had great friends, and everything was happily laid out for me.

Nothing was too demanding, especially considering I had only nine contact hours a week. People told me where I had to be and when. This must all sound fairly straight-forward and easy going.

Why, then, would I decide to give it all up and leave?

As idyllic as this lifestyle sounds (and probably was), I simply felt no drive to live it. I had no desire to follow these laid out plans, and this was making me extremely unhappy. Going to college was, in hindsight, a bad decision for me.

I rushed into the decision rather than taking a break to find myself in the world.

College, for me, was a lot like a bubble. I had a level of independence and responsibility, but I wasn’t yet part of the reality outside of school.

Don’t get me wrong—college makes sense for those who feel happy there and want to be there. But for me, this bubble was suffocating.

The longer I stayed, the more trapped I felt.

I believe that going to college is, for a lot of people, a very good decision. Many are suited to it, and it’s an extremely beneficial experience for them. People get the opportunity to grow intellectually, socially, and professionally, not to mention the fact that they leave with extremely valuable qualifications.

I, however, wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be studying anymore; I needed time out to try a different approach.

The decision to leave was certainly not an easy one.

There are many risks one takes in leaving higher education. With the economy as it is, bagging a job is not exactly the easiest thing to do, and it can be even more difficult when you don’t have a degree.

This was perhaps the biggest concern that I had to seriously consider, among other practical issues.

After about a year of weighing my options, I finally took the leap. I told my family I was leaving, I told my friends, I told the university and, most importantly, I told myself.

This was a scary decision, but I finally made it, and once I did I felt I could breathe again.

I could have continued going against my instincts; it would have been easier to sail along, ignoring my unhappiness for a few more years instead of stepping out into the world without a job or much of a plan.

But I knew in my gut that the situation wasn’t right for me, and that I needed something new. So I left, and no matter what friends, family, or employers think about that decision, I know it was the right choice for me.

It doesn’t mean I was weak; it means I was brave enough to change what wasn’t right.

Sometimes you feel in your gut that the path you thought you were meant to take is wrong for you.

It takes a lot of courage to admit that, even to yourself, let alone to the rest of the world. Sometimes you have to leave that path and find a new one. Or, if there is no new path to be found, create a new one.

This can apply to so many aspects of life—home, work, education, family, friends, relationships, and habits.

I’m not saying that if something doesn’t feel right or instantly work out that you should give up on it straight away. Carrying on is also brave and can be the right decision. But if you know that quitting something is the right thing to do, don’t be afraid to do so because of what others might think.

Make a change in your life.

We only have a limited amount of time and yet a limitless number of different paths to go down. Don’t waste your time on one that feels wrong, on something that is compromising your happiness. Find something new.

We all quit something at some point, so don’t fear the stigma.

Do what brings you happiness. Embrace the change.

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors.” ~Aldous Huxley.

Open some doors and let the air in. Breathe.

Photo by anasararojas

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  • Dochy

    You are so right! I studied engineering (without really meaning to and just following the herd). I was campus placed in a nice IT company where i worked for nearly 3 years and from the outside had it all — nice job, respectable designation, cool work hours, short commute to work, great friends — just everything. But I was far from happy. I just couldn’t relate to the work I was doing.It felt exactly as you put it – suffocating.I loathed every monring since I had to drag myself to work, and waited for evening to come real soon… It was pure hell. After much thought I decided to quit. I had not clue where I would go, what job I would do, will i like it better there? No answers to the many questions, and most importantly I didn’t have any answers to my parents. They were appalled when i told them my decision and asked me to hold on till I found another job that I liked (which is indeed very valuable advice!), but I just couldn’t go on doing something that was slowly sucking the life out of me! I quit. I took a couple of months off, during which time I rekindled my lost love for books, decided to enter the publishing industry, and got a job as an editor in a leading MNC! Which is where I still am! I’m happy I quit, happy I didn’t let others’ opinions scare me off from doing what I felt was right. Wish you all similar courage when you need it most!

  • Believer

    This is so incredibly true! Last year I stayed in an organization that was twisting my psyche into knots – what happened? My colon actually twisted into a knot and I ended up in the hospital having emergency and life threatening surgery. Learned the hard way to walk away from situations and people that no longer serve a positive purpose.

  • Miguel

    Great post! It’s precisely what I needed to hear :-) I am just leaving a relationship that in my gut hasn’t felt right for some time. It’s not a matter of how much we love each other it’s about whether or not we are the right partner for each other, whether or not we complement each other’s weaknesses. I have been concerned about what people might think of my decision. Worried that I may appear weak or “mean” for ending a relationship instead of carrying on despite the gut feeling that something is not right. Feelings of guilt appear out of nowhere and I start to question my decision. Deep down I know this was the right choice for me and my future although it will take time to heal. Thank you!

  • Jeffrey

    Good for you! You will find everything you are looking for and much more by following your inner guidance! Well done!

  • Tasha@Gratitude-Project.com

    I didn’t leave a job that I should have and now I am very unwell – I believe the two re related. Great post! Sometimes we just get so entrenched with ‘pushing through’ or ‘making it happen’ that we don’t realise that we are on completely the wrong path.

  • priya

    Nice post!! The things you mentioned are very true. You did the right thing by following your heart. it really takes a lot of courage..
    Thank you for sharing your story. it has definitely inspired me..

  • Mariah

    Wow, the universe knew I needed this put in my path! I made the daunting decision to quit college just yesterday (and googling something completely unrealated brought me to this website today!). I have been there for a year and a half, and I have to finish this semester. College hasn’t felt like the right choice since day 1, but I felt that I had no other choice. I’ve been having somewhat of an existential crisis for the past year and a half because I’ve been realizing that what I thought I wanted to do is not right for me. No one took me seriously when I brought up the idea of dropping out. But now I have made the decision to change my life to all that I want it to be.
    I applaud you for making the right decision for your life. Thanks for sharing, it has really helped me!

  • Kris

    I totally agree! Although college is many years behind me, I after 25 years, finally decided to leave my chosen profession of nursing. It had been sucking the joy out of my life for years but I stayed in it because I didn’t know anything else. I made the decision after I realized the anxiety I was experiencing every day before work was starting to affect my health both mentally and physically. So I quit and as of right now I’m not looking back, no regrets accept that I didn’t make the decision long ago.

  • Ankita

    Hey, thanks for the post! I needed it.

  • Deb

    Thank you for an inspiring post that not only touched my heart, but, through your words, allowed me to finally “put to rest” some feelings I have had since I ended an unhealthy friendship. You and your writing are a gift. Thank you!

  • Tiffany

    This has given me some things for consideration.
    My course selection for my junior year is due the end of February and I still have to narrow down many classes that I thoroughly enjoy.
    Great post and wise insight!

  • Rich

    Excellent

  • Hazel

    That’s wonderful to hear! It is so difficult to stand alone sometimes
    and trust your own judgement, especially when others are saying
    something completely different. I was very much ‘following the herd’ as
    well. Now I have moved away from that and started my own journey, I am
    also much happier. I’m glad it worked out for you, and that you are
    happy with what you are doing now. Thank you for your comment!

  • Hazel

    I am glad this post came at a time when you needed it. Worrying about what other people think can often prevent you from doing what you know is right for you. I also found myself questioning my decision at times, but I knew that it was what I needed to do. I have found that, over time, I feel more and more confident with my decision. I hope the same applies to you, and that you are able to heal and move towards more happiness. Thank you for commenting.

  • Hazel

    I know what you mean about the existential crisis! That’s often how I tried to describe what I was going through to other people. But I suppose it’s difficult to understand unless you’re experiencing it yourself. Our situations sound so similar. I am glad that you found this, as I definitely felt I needed to hear from people going through the same thing when I was making the decision to leave. There’s a lot of comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. I hope all goes well for you – well done for making such a big decision. Thank you for commenting, it is great to hear from someone who has had similar experiences.

  • Hazel

    Your state of mind can definitely have such a powerful impact on your body. I am so sorry to hear that you had to go through that. But it is wonderful that you survived and that it has altered your life in such a positive way. I hope that you are well and am very grateful to you for commenting on my post.

  • Hazel

    Good luck with choosing your classes – I hope you enjoy the ones you do take! Thank you for commenting.

  • Hazel

    I am so glad that reading this has helped you feel better about your own situation. Thank you very much for commenting, and I wish you happiness now and in the future.

  • Vee

    Take a break if you need one, but do yourself a huge favor: find your way back to college. You don’t want to end up a middle aged person (like me) with limited job options because you have no degree. As much as we all dislike it having a degree puts you ahead of someone who doesn’t have one most of the time when looking for work. It is highly valued by prospective employers, even ahead of work and life experience. Blessings to you.

  • Hazel

    Very happy for you that you did what was right for your mind and body. Perhaps you weren’t ready until now to leave and do something new. But it is good to hear that you have no other regrets. I hope you are enjoying your new path. Thank you for your comment.

  • Hazel

    Thank you, it means a lot to hear that.

  • Hazel

    I completely agree. Thank you for commenting – I am sorry to hear that you are unwell and I do hope that you get better.

  • Hazel

    Thank you very much! I hope so. Things seem to be making much more sense since I have been listening to my inner guidance.

  • http://twitter.com/Ani_LifeProb Ani

    I think not to give up approach is needed when you are going where you want to be. Otherwise, like in your case, quitting was the best option. Good luck to you !

  • http://goalsetting-workshop.com/blog/ Jorge Blanco

    That’s right. There was a time in my life when I tried to juggle two jobs at a time. I needed the extra cash. I found myself becoming more stressed as the days went by, so I decided to quit the more demanding but less satisfying job, even though I really needed the extra cash. I thought it wasn’t worth it anymore. What would I do with the extra cash if I was miserable every day because of lack of sleep and stress. After I quit, I had more time to myself and I was happier. Sometimes, you have to quit first in order to see why it was a good choice.

  • txtova

    This post is incredibly timely. I just realized that what I went to school for isn’t what I want to do with my life and am going a completely different direction for grad school. It’s scary and I don’t know how it will all turn out, but this is the most motivated and optimistic I’ve felt about the future in years.

    Thank you so much for reinforcing that sometimes quitting is the best thing to do!

  • Anon

    I so love this post – words can hardly express it. I have been feeling so similar about my career and work situation for the last 18 months and have only just in the last few days decided it is not worth being unhappy just so I am easier for others (mainly my family) to understand. Why box ourselves in? We are amazing, creative beings at the world is literally at our fingertips! We need to follow our heart and do what makes us happy!

  • Michaela

    Wow. You’re an inspiration. I am so happy for you :)

  • Michaela

    I feel exactly the same. I did a degree at university (australian!) that was neutral to me just so that I could get a job. Now, 4 years later and with quite a successful career so far, I’m returning to uni to undertake a much more challenging, longer degree but it makes me feel so much more alive even thinking about it. It’s quite amazing how life works :)

  • http://relationship-consciousness.webs.com/ Claude Lagang

    hhhmmm.. Sometimes, we have to let go of something we used to deal with, to be able to see a better result. Have a great day:)

  • Veronica

    I’ve been working at Wendy’s for almost 3 years. It was okay at first, but it started to feel like prison a long time ago…and that’s not even mentioning the sordid drama and the decisions that have been made by management which have left me bitter. One girl wrote a fraudulent letter to head office, posing as an unhappy customer. A manager was wrongfully terminated as a result. Now, a year later, this girl was just promoted to manager! I’ve wanted to leave for a long time, but this just pushed me past my breaking point. How do I swallow something so wrong and just show support? “Be a good girl.” My boss tells me…but that’s all I have ever been. Never been written up, this girl has 6 or 7. What a joke. So I quit- and I truly hope everything works out the way it’s meant to. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for everything. They say what goes around comes around, and I want to believe it. But I’m weary now- time and time again I have seen those in the wrong be rewarded for unethical and disgusting behaviour. I hope 6 months from now I can say that things worked out, and that I’m happier. I’m still a believer, but my faith has been shaken.

  • Jean

    Thank you for posting this. I can really relate to it. I graduated college two years ago and it took me awhile to land on my first job. Though my first job was in line with my course, I was unhappy. At first, I thought it was just an adjustment period and I ignored my gut feeling knowing that it is really difficult to get a job nowadays. On my third month as a probationary employee, I started to get sick more often and things in the office was a disaster. My boss was a kind lady, but I was not aware that she was planning to sabotage the office. It was a blessing in disguise that I was not around when things went wrong in the office. I felt betrayed because I looked up to her and I put my trust in her. When I got back from the office after a sick leave, she was gone and was replaced with a new boss. Some of the employees were also pirated by her. No one cared to explain what happened to me until I finally decided to resign from my job. I felt that I was in the wrong path and I should be somewhere else.

    Listen to your inner voice and follow your gut feeling and remember that it is never to late for a new beginning.

  • ginny

    Hi there. Think i really needed to read this. I hhanded in my notice to my employer the other day. I felt relieved i’d done it. Even though i am a little bit scared as its unknown from here on. He offered me other options, and that put a twist on things. Ive been wondering whether to really take up there offer or stick to my gut. Whether to do the sensible thing or whether to do what feels right. Thanks. Xx

  • Mahi Tuna

    People have a hard time giving up. It has been forged into us that we somehow are a failure. That is why so many stay in activities that bring them no joy. When the Why and the What don’t equal we become terribly unhappy. Why am I doing this? What do I want to do? When they don’t match it is time to quit and move to something else as soon as possible. When someone is truly happy with what they are doing they rarely quit. But accepting it’s time to quit and acting is the first step in finding happiness.

  • Mabel

    This could be me. I went back during unemployment, to try and find a way around a learning disability that put me out of the running for the work I used to do (it added the things I have difficulty with). I spent a lot of time choosing a program with good practical skills, but I HATE IT. I don’t want to do this. I’m getting good feedback on my personal writing, and I’m starting to feel like I need to put my energy into that, or it’s going to go nowhere. And school is in the way. It takes up so much time and energy, and then there is the money. Even with tuition assistance from work I still have to borrow and I have loans to pay back from the last time! I’m debating whether to quit after this semester and really really leaning toward doing it.

  • flavie j

    Thank you. Just, thank you SO MUCH for this article. This, is exactly what I needed to read right now, as I am about to take the same leap as you did. I even stayed near 3 years in college, almost done, and still took the decision that seemed to me the best one. But people say so many things. They will say that you should definitely finish your degree, you will regret later (one of the things I hear the most), etc. I didn’t find what would make me happy in college, I found that there was a different way for me to grow. As you said, you know it deep down if the path that you are taking is wrong for you or not. Once again, thank you x

  • bliss

    Hi. I’m an engineering student. I’ve been doing engg for 4 years, this is my last semester and last month in college. and exams are around the corner. engg was actually my choice, but I started regretting my decision by the end of first year. at the end of first year, I decided to quit n do some other course that I like. but my parents and friends adviced me not to quit, so I didn’t. from the second year, I started getting arrears because I didn’t like any of the subject and i’m not good at theory papers too(I cant mug, memorize and write pages and pages of theory. i’m good at problematic papers like maths). slowly my hatred towards it increased and I finally stopped studying. even during the exams I don’t study cos I don’t like it at all. I’ve read so many inspirational and motivational stories, yet I was not able to change because I just don’t like these subjects and im not able to do it. and now, just one month left. I have so many backlogs arrears. and now im in a serious dilemma. whether to quit and do any other course which I like, or continue to study engineering and clear all my papers. I don’t know what to do. everyone says “don’t quit don’t quit. you’ll get a good job if you complete engg, you’ll be settled in life. else if you quit then everyone will think bad about you, and all this 4 years of time and money is wasted”. I seriously don’t know what to do.

  • Ruby

    Do 4 years of time and money worth more than the rest of your life? :)
    I’m sure everyone meant well, but truth is they can never guarantee that you will be happy, fulfilled, or even get a good job in engineering. Nobody can. Everyone is just as clueless when it comes to the future. But if you know for sure, you can guarantee that right now you’re unhappy (I mean, you spent 4 years being miserable so I think that’s enough time to be sure that you don’t feel it, right?), I think it’s better to focus on that than what is still uncertain. Maybe you just need a break. Maybe you can finish the one month and take a year off to travel and get some perspectives. Maybe you’ll eventually fall back in love with your first choice, maybe you’ll find something else you love. How the rest of your life would be can’t be settled this early, and it shouldn’t.
    Here’s what I will do (but don’t do it unless you feel like it!) If that one month is doable, finish it. If it’s that bad, I would suggest take a semester off and clear your head. Either way you need to take a time off (and space away) from this “everyone” so that you can hear your own voice.
    (Also, who is this “everyone” who will think bad about you? They seem mean and judgy. And not worth a single care from your mind.)

  • A-Star

    Thanks this has helped me a lot and helped me come to a decision whether to quit or stay in College and I’m going to drop out everyday I went to College I hated my life more and more and I even thought about killing myself no joke everyone like my family said if I quit Ill be a no one in life but after reading you’re story I know it’s not just me… I finally have the guts to tell my College lecturer to withdraw me from the Course I’ve been there for 9 Months and ready to leave Thank You for the great post It changed my life!
    xx

  • lovin’solitude

    I rushed into college due to being homeless. I’ve been attending college for about two years now and I feel like it’s been nothing but a waste of energy and time. I am not interested in studying anything anymore. The only reason why I’m here is to stay off the streets really. I’m considering quitting once I make enough money to get out. It’s been a nightmare.