Recently my 7 year old kids decided to quit 3 days into a 4-day surfing course, and I was fully supportive of that. I decided to let them make their own decision on whether they attended the last day or not. Some parents might think this approach reinforces the wrong behaviour, but I’m happy to teach my kids that sometimes it’s OK to quit if you’re not really enjoying what you’re doing.
This got me thinking more broadly about the concept of quitting within the corporate and professional world. As an executive coach, and career counsellor, I have found that lot of my clients have been raised to believe that quitting is an admission of failure, that it’s undesirable and only for ‘losers’. How can we be proud of a quitter? Who wants to associate with, or identify as, a quitter? After all, quitters get nowhere in life, right? It leads to being a ‘no-hoper’ and someone who never achieves anything, right? WRONG! Sometimes it is absolutely OK to quit.
As a career counsellor there have been times when I have encouraged people to think about quitting. Here’s when. It is OK to quit things that you have tried and don’t enjoy, that make you unhappy or you will never be good at. Spending your time and energy on things you enjoy and are good at just makes sense. Play to your strengths. Be smart in how you spend your time and energy. Starting a university or professional course, then finding out you don’t love it as you expected you would, doesn’t mean you have to stick with it to the end. Who says you have to finish everything you start? Quitting means you can move on to something else that you will hopefully enjoy more. Persevering with a course you hate in order to work in a particular industry may also lead to a job you dislike in the future.
I wonder how much happier many corporate executives would be if they had quit their original degree or diploma course when they first realised it wasn’t really likely to be the career for them. Just for the record – Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard after two years and Charles Darwin disappointed his father by abandoning a medical career. Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson is dyslexic and left school at 16. Quitting school didn’t hurt him at all, because he began an early career as an entrepreneur and with his first venture – a youth magazine called Student – sold 8000 pounds worth of advertising in its first edition. He played to his strengths.
Quitting isn’t for losers, but not giving new things a go is. It’s important to work out if you are considering quitting because something is temporarily difficult or frustrating, or if you’ve made a wrong career choice and are smart enough to cut your losses and start again.
Sometimes it is OK to give others permission to quit too. If we don’t allow people to quit things, then in all likelihood they won’t give new things a go. Daily I meet people who are afraid to give something new a try, so they are missing out on the possibility of finding out what truly ‘pulls their chain’.
Personally I think quitting should be more fashionable! Quitting means people are embracing change and trying new things. They are growing, developing and learning more about themselves. How is that a bad thing? And for the kids and their surfing? While my kids are not allowed to quit their swim lessons, because I think staying safe in the water is an important life skill, I think surfing is a hobby that isn’t for everyone and so is OK to quit.
I understand quitting can be scary. It is difficult sometimes to work out what things we should quit and which things we should push through with because we are close to amazing success and an incredible sense of achievement and happiness. While talking to family and friends about your situation can be helpful, sometimes talking to an independent person with no vested interest like an executive coach or career counsellor can be very useful too.
If you would like the advice of a professional career counsellor or executive coach to better understand whether you should be quitting something in 2017 then give us a call and book an appointment today – (03) 8686 9102 or email us here – https://www.letstalkcareer.com/contact-us/. Let’s Talk Career work nationally across Australia and have career counsellors and executive coaches in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Far North Queensland.