Sometimes it can seem very enticing to give everything up and walk away, and it is important not to just push those feelings aside. Feeling frustrated and hopeless is something that happens to most people at some point or even at many points, especially when beginning or working towards a new venture. But pushing the feelings aside does not make them go away, it will only make them stronger in the long run. The more you run away from the feeling, the more likely it becomes that you really will quit. You must deal with the feelings head-on.
At times the desire to quit is borne of a very severe case of burnout, and this happens when you’ve put your own needs aside for too long. It is vital to pay attention to yourself no matter what your workload looks like and make sure you’re getting what you need so you avoid coming to this point.
The important question to ask yourself when you’re feeling as though you don’t want to carry on with your work is, “what happens if I quit?”. Rather than simply not allowing yourself to even think about it, be honest and examine this question. If you take the time to think about it carefully, you will remind yourself of what led you to begin on this path. In fact, this can be a most productive question to ask yourself from time to time even when you’re not at crisis point.
Examining what would happen if you gave up can help to clarify problems in the foundation of your work, highlighting places where you may not be living according to your values. People don’t realise how much living counter to the things they value wears them down and causes friction in their lives. Doing things in a way that supports your value system is usually energising and satisfying and if you find yourself on the brink of quitting, that should be a sign to you that something is a little off.
When you are answering the question ‘what happens if I quit?’, you need to cover the full scope of what would actually happen. Include both the negative and the positive consequences. So for example, if I were to quit sculpting and focus my energies on something else, what would the consequences look like for me?
- I would not have access to that creative outlet and mode of self-expression any more.
- I would probably feel some depression and sadness around not being able to do what I love (even though it is frustrating at times).
- Quitting would halt the learning process.
- Because I can’t live without some creative outlet, I’d have to begin again with a different art or craft. This may require starting at the beginning of the learning process yet again.
- I would have materials to sell or otherwise get rid of, and possibly new materials to purchase. Financial investment in these materials may be at least partially wasted.
- I may feel less frustrated but I would feel more bored and directionless.
- I would likely focus my energy more on taking care of my home and being more attentive to my family.
- I would have more time to get my kids’ behaviour under control.
Now, the second question you need to ask can help you understand the situation in greater depth. That question is, ‘why do I want to quit?’. Your answers might sound like this:
- I’m tired and frustrated with doing the same thing every day and not seeing results.
- I feel like I don’t have enough time to take care of my family.
- I am being overwhelmed with all my responsibilities.
- I’m tired of dealing with certain annoying tasks.
- I’m tired of having to get up early every day.
- I’m burnt out.
- I don’t feel this is the type of work I want to be doing, but I’m too invested to realign myself.
Now when we examine the answers to these questions in further detail, we can see that they roughly land into two categories; reasons that point to misalignments with your value system, and reasons that point to you neglecting your personal needs. This is where we’re empowered to make changes that will bring relief of the tension and allow us to continue with our work.
Here’s an example of a misalignment: “I would likely focus my energy more on taking care of my home and family”. This indicates that the balance is off for me. I’m not living in complete alignment with my values because I’m paying more attention to my work and less to my other high priorities.
An example of an unmet need: “I’m tired of having to get up early every day”. This probably indicates that I’m not getting enough sleep, and I need to address this rather than ignoring it. Whatever you do, pay attention to this type of reason, as unmet physical needs impact us negatively in many ways. Not taking care of yourself is a rapid way to derail you from your path.
Once you have really examined each of the points on your list, you can make a plan to change how you’re working to create a better balance. Make sure your needs are being met, and bring your work foundation back into balance so that you’re ready to proceed. In my examples above, here’s how I can make changes that will help me move forward.
Example one: if I’m not spending enough time taking care of my home and family, the obvious answer is to tweak my work balance to address this. My home and family are top priorities along with my work, but at times it is very tempting to spend more time on my work and less interacting with my kids or cleaning up my house.
Be honest with yourself if you have an unbalanced work load. It is not without consequence. Have some self discipline and shift your work load back into a suitable balance.
Example two: Obviously if you’re not getting enough sleep, you either need to go to bed earlier or wake up later. Make sure you’re getting enough, but not too much sleep. Rest is important, keep it a high priority.
Even if you’re not at the point where you’re ready to call it a day and give up on the things you’ve been working towards, recognising when you have an imbalance or an unmet need is a skill you can practice. Paying attention and being mindful of what your emotions are actually telling you can help to keep you on track and moving forward in a healthy and productive way.
So here goes nothing! Grab a piece of paper and a writing tool and answer the questions:
What happens if I quit?
Why do I want to quit?