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The Courage In Quitting

The Courage In Quitting
© Wes Gow

[A version of this appears on the Huffington Post.]

The act and idea of quitting usually carries a negative connotation, and that’s generally reinforced through the channels of our hero culture. Rocky never quit. Neither did Frodo, Harry, Luke, or CHUCK FREAKING NORRIS.

But I think quitting is underrated, or at least under-appreciated. For example, I’m going to list three words below, and I want you to receive each of them through the lens of someone telling you, “I just quit – ” or “This year I’m trying to quit – “

Smoking. Drinking. Lying.

See? We would affirm quitting in these contexts and applaud the efforts to do so.

On the flip side, let’s view quitting through another lens. Again, imagine hearing someone say, “I quit – “

Loving. CaringHoping.

Uh-oh. Not good, right? If someone tells you they quit any or all of the above, then you know you’re listening to someone who’s in a really bad way.  

But let me give you one more set of words.  

Striving. Chasing. Yearning.

Interesting, huh? They kinda fall somewhere in the middle of the first two sets, right? That’s because they need more clarification. I’ll explain, because I intend to quit all of these this year.

But first, let me give you some quick backstory. I’m a 36-year-old husband and father, well educated, leadership and management experience, and I’m mired in the throes of career transition, busting my tail and pounding the pavement to secure even minimum wage work. So it may seem odd to read something from a guy like me on “quitting.” Bear with me. (By the way, you can check out the longer version of that story here.)

I need to quit striving as though everything in this life depends on me, as though I’m all alone. It doesn’t, and the lie is wearing me out. My faith tells me otherwise, and I’ve got to find a way to lean into that more consistently.

I’m going to quit chasing affirmation. Beyond the truths that I need to reaffirm in my faith, I’ve got to get my fingers filthy in the pay dirt of who I know and believe myself to be, regardless of what anyone else says.  

I’ve got to quit yearning for validation, or at least searching for it in all the wrong places. It’s impossible to create anything without even the most subtle desire for someone to validate it. That’s not a bad thing. But you’re not going to get very far if you can’t discover and appreciate the intrinsic joy in the act and process of creating. Like something akin to a lifelong apprenticeship, there’s value (and validation) in the good struggle of unyielding practice and growth and learning. I’m convinced that lasting validation comes from somewhere within, somewhere deeper than the job or promotion or awards. 

So there you have it! My New Year’s Resolution probably involves more quitting than most, but I’m starting to think that in some cases, quitting may be the most courageous action a person could take. 

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