It's Okay to Quit Sometimes
How a peer taught me the secret to knowing when quitting is courageous.
You may be skeptical. I’m supposed to be here to encourage and inspire, right? Yet, here I am preaching that it’s okay to quit? Seems backwards.
Well, I thought the same thing, until a friend taught me otherwise. As is typical, the friend didn’t realize it at the time, but I’ve never forgotten his courage.
It was the night before State FFA Officer interviews at one of the states I visited as an officer in 2021, and one of the candidates seemed particularly restless. A whole group was hanging out in the hotel lobby, telling jokes and trying to ease their nerves, but this candidate was quiet. From what I’d noticed in the few days of being there already, he was usually one of the more outgoing ones, and it was clear he had a really good shot at being elected president. I wondered what was bothering him so much. Eventually, I noticed him slip away from the group.
He found me later that evening to tell me he decided to pull his application for State FFA President. WHAT? I thought to myself. Here was this prime candidate, funny and likeable and compassionate and loves FFA, and he’s just throwing it all away? Why would he do that?
Have you ever felt the same way about someone you know? You see them moving down a path, and you support that path and see potential for them in that path, but all of a sudden they change course and go a different direction? Sometimes, it’s because they’ve lost sight of their values and they need a friend to hold them accountable. But, sometimes, it’s because they know themselves better than we do, and we need to step back and remember that it’s not our job to live someone’s life for them.
Through my shock, I did my best to thoughtfully ask my ex-candidate friend why he made this decision. As I listened, my eyes were opened. I realized that my friend wasn’t quitting state office because he was afraid to challenge himself or unwilling to serve or any other selfish, dishonorable reason. Instead, he saw his own reasons for running were selfish, and it took until the night before interviews to admit that to himself. That took immense courage.
That’s really the point here: sometimes, we start down a path we think is right for us, but we end up partway down and realize it’s not for us and we’re doing more harm than good by staying there, and the courageous and selfless thing to do at that point is to quit. Not to drop off the face of the earth and leave someone else to pick up the pieces, but to gracefully step back from whatever that thing is. Sometimes we have to wait a bit after the realization to fulfill our duties, such as if we’re in an officer position with a term, but other times we can find someone to step up for us who is better suited for the job, or if we’re about to sign up but haven’t yet, we can choose to not commit in the first place.
Maybe there’s a career you’ve been pursuing, perhaps after everyone else told you it would be a good fit for you, and you actually hate it. Take heart, because you don’t have to keep doing it. Because, here’s the other thing about quitting: we don’t quit something because we’re lazy and selfish. The noblest reason to quit one thing is to be in pursuit of a better way to serve others and live a more fulfilling life. If the career you’re in isn’t what you enjoy or are good at, you probably aren’t adding much value there. To quit and try a new path will be better for you AND the people you work with. But, you have to know your reasons, why you want to quit, and you have to have a game plan for what you’ll do instead.
My friend didn’t run for state office, but he did go on to support the new team, to become heavily involved in student life on campus and at his church, and anywhere I see him, I see how he’s adding value to people around him. I’m grateful for the example he set for me, showing me that quitting can be courageous, and I know he’s grateful for the decision he made.
What are you doing right now, or about to do, that you know you aren’t doing for the right reasons? Or your motives are good, but it just isn’t bringing fulfillment? Don’t let the haters lie to you. Evaluate your reasons, evaluate what you might do instead, but for the love of your internal peace, don’t be afraid to quit.
Journal Prompt of the Week
How do you feel about the idea of quitting? Do you agree or disagree with my opinion?
Share with the Community
What’s the thing you think maybe you should quit? Or, have you courageously quit in the past? How did it go?