You don’t have to keep going.

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Growing up, I loved to start things. Well actually, as an adult I love to start things, too. Who we are is pretty much who we are.

I tried piano, soccer, swimming, tennis, theater, voice lessons, dance, set painting, photography, the literary magazine, student council, a book club, multiple little businesses, and more.

Some of them I stuck with. Some of them I quit.

I hated going to piano lessons, and I hated practicing. I told my parents I didn’t want to go anymore. They told me I would regret quitting when I got older. So I kept going.

One day my teacher told my parents they should let me quit because I was so miserable playing the piano. So they finally let me quit.

Starting something is not a good enough reason to keep doing it if it’s the only reason. {Tweet it.} Starting something is not a good enough reason - Tweet

Following through on something if doing it makes you miserable is just plain silly.

Do I regret the fact that I don’t know how to play the piano? Maybe once every two years or so. Not enough to have made being miserable for several hours a week for my entire childhood worth it.

Might I have learned to love it? Maybe. But I discovered so many other things that I loved right from the get-go with the freed up time that who really cares if I would have learned to love piano eventually? It’s not like I was going to be able to master Chopin. (And even if I were, would that mean that suffering through all of those hours of lessons and practice would have been worth it? I tend to think not,  but that’s another topic for another day.)

After seeing Pink perform aerial stunts in concert three times in one year, I became obsessed with learning aerial silks. The summer we got married I got in the best shape of my life and was ready to rock the aerials.

I signed up for an adult aerials class, and I was so psyched.

Each week when it was time for class, though, I found myself having to psyche myself up to go. I’d invested money in the class and I’d dreamed about this for so long! But the reality is I was having to drag my ass there, and after class I didn’t feel the rush that I often feel when I do something despite feeling resistant to it.

The truth was, the warehouse was freezing, I was terrified of heights, and it was really, really hard mentally (due to having to overcome my fear every moment of every class) and physically (due to having to climb two stories on a piece of silk).

As one of my favorite writers, Glennon Melton Doyle, says, “I can do hard things.”

But I wasn’t loving it. It was hard and that was all it was. It wasn’t hard and exhilarating. It wasn’t hard and satisfying. It wasn’t hard and fun.

It was just hard and uncomfortable and stressful.

So I stopped going.

Would I have continued to build the strength and gotten more and more over my fear of heights and perhaps started to enjoy it more?

Probably.

But I would have had to love it in order to make it worth it being so hard.

For example, I love writing. Writing my book was hard. A lot of it felt like slogging. But even during the hard parts I loved it, even just a little bit.

My Buti Yoga workout videos are hard. I sweat buckets and my muscles burn. But even during the hard parts I feel good. And I feel ah-mazing afterward.

Public speaking is hard. I freak out before every single talk I give. But the moment I start, I feel amazing and afterward I almost always feel more alive (unless I bombed, which happens to the best of us but luckily not most of the time).

Just because something is hard doesn’t mean not to do it.

But if something is hard and you don’t like it, there’s no need to keep going.

Life is short. Don’t waste it doing things you don’t like just because you started them.

If you don’t like something, you don’t have to keep going, whether it’s hard or not.

Your time is precious. Devote it to the things you love. Period. Get rid of the stuff you don’t. Period. No one is giving out awards for suffering through something you hate, or even mildly dislike.

Are there certain hard things that you don’t like and that you don’t have the option to stop doing? Of course! I don’t have the option to stop waking up in the middle of the night with our baby, even though it’s hard and I don’t like it. So I just do it (and find ways to like it more, like reminding myself how fleeting the time is that she’s going to be so small and need us so much).

But there are so many things that we have choices about. So stop doing the ones you don’t like, even if you think it will make you a quitter.

Quitters are discerning.

Quitters have freedom.

Quitters know the value of their precious time.

Quitters know that if they don’t like something it’s taking up valuable real estate in their schedule that could be used for something they would really love.

Stop doing that thing you don’t like. You are needed here on earth in the most blissful state we can get you in. Doing things you don’t like isn’t doing you any favors, and it’s not doing the rest of us any favors either.

Cut it out. Quit. Stop. And get on with your precious life.

 

OVER TO YOU:

What are you ready to not do anymore? How do you feel about quitting? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

P.S. What if this summer your business profits, impact, and satisfaction expanded beyond anything you’d previously achieved, and perhaps beyond anything you’d previously imagined? Mike and I just opened up a small, exclusive group coaching program for business owners, The Art of Business. We want to work with you to up-level your business so that you look back on this summer as a meaningful turning point.

We only have 50 spots and they’re getting scooped up fast but I wanted to make sure to let you know about it before they’re all taken. We’re laying out all the details in a special webinar this Thursday, June 16th at 10am PT/ 1pm ET. To reserve your spot, click here.

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35 comments

  • Liz K.

    Thank you for this post. It was just what I needed to hear today to help me make some decisions about what to quit.

  • Lauralai

    Wow what an empowering article. This is just what I need to hear right now. I am someone who has SO many pursuits that I spread myself as thin as rice paper over all of them and missing the depth I crave. And don’t even get me started on all of my “responsibilities”. As a single mom who homeschool and is also self employed….you can’t imagine! I am going to spend the next few weeks spring cleaning my time. Thank you again,
    Lauralai

  • Thank you for this post. I was just journaling on how I don’t finish things that I started and how bad I feel about it. Your post has given me a fresh perspective. Thank you

  • Marietta

    Hi Kate! Thank you for your post – I totally needed it this morning!! You see, a little over a year ago I was asked to be on the board of the nursing home where my mother resides. I was more than eager to give back and accepted, but after the first meeting, I knew being on this board was not for me, but because I had committed to doing it, I felt like I had to follow through. But I am miserable every time we have a meeting. :( I have been thinking about resigning for several months but just haven’t done it. After reading your post this morning, today is the day!! Thanks again Kate! Hugs, Marietta

  • Heidi

    Amen! I completely agree. I think the key is discerning if you truly don’t like the “thing,” or if you are feeling resistant for some other reason. Perhaps the “thing” you are doing represents change, and it’s well known that humans get excited about possibilities, but then an hour, a day, a week later, we get the “oh crap” feeling in our gut. It doesn’t necessarily mean you made a mistake, it’s actually 100% natural for your body to react to change and not want to do it. Just knowing that helps.

    So if you can discern what is happening to you, you’re golden! No need to suffer because a new hobby, area of study, fill-in-the-blank isn’t floating your boat like you thought it would. It’s just time to move on!

    • Kate Northrup

      I completely agree – it’s the discerning resistance from just not liking something that’s the key!

  • I can so resonate with starting and quitting things~! As a kid I took classes/lesson for karate, ballet, tap dancing, violin, voice, piano, and pursued other projects on my own with crafts, fashion design, jewelry making….and I never finished anything I started. Personally, quitting had a lot to do with discouragement at home, insecurity, and lack of persistence. I do wish I hadn’t been such a quitter as a child (and had more encouragement), because I would be able to do cool things now that I can’t! Fortunately, I’m learning to be disciplined, and while learning things as an adult is challenging, it’s not impossible, and I’m free to pursue any activity I enjoy, and to quit any I’m not truly passionate about.

  • Pamela

    Wow, this post is right on time. I am actually transitioning from a Sales Career into tech and was feeling guilty about it. I have quit a lot of positions in the past due to it being the wrong fit but I know that tech/ web dev is where I can begin to build a foundation for an amazing lifestyle. Thanks!

  • mary bingham

    Thank you dear Kate for putting it so clearly what some don’t understand about Law of Attraction and stopping if it seems blocked or hard. Big difference when you really love it, then the blocks offer interest and information, making the journey one of fine tuning by decernment. As humans, WE are not all creared equal. Source is pure positive energy to be directed. As humans we don’t what or need the sames things. Some need very practical things that help, like a young mother living in poverty.haveing access to adequate government safety net programs gives relief that will lead to greater goels.

  • Caroline

    Dear Kate,
    Thank you so much for this post. It really resonated with me. I wish I had come accross something similar a couple of years ago. I forced myself to finish law school even though I absolutely hated every minute of it and was miserable. Why? Because I started. Because I was not a quitter. Eventually I graduated – and did not feel any satisfaction. Later I was able to quit a job that I did not enjoy. Some people called me a quitter. I felt free and so proud of myself for being able to make that choice. To chose me and my own happiness. It is a learning process but I am now able to stop myself from stubbornly and blindly going on with anything, and instead to first ask myself what this will bring me. Thank you again for your post and for sharing your own experience.
    All the best,
    Caroline

  • Simran

    Thank you for your empowering blog! I love reading your posts!

    I have burned myself out just because I get obsessed with completing what I start, no matter what. Not fun! Not healthy!

    While I believe our determination to complete things or desire to try out new things depend on our energy-type, we all need support to use our talents in a balanced way.

    It took a large toll on me, but I recently officially quit being a school-teacher – before planned, and I salut myself for it! I am a great teacher and coach, and I am so jazzed about the next chapter in my life!

  • Cara

    You are the angel in my path this morning. Today was the day I have scheduled to make a 30 day push in a field of study that I was not put on this earth to do. I LOVE THE PROGRAM and all the people but in the last week I realized that I am in the wrong section. I can’t imagine 2 solid academic years and student loan debt to complete this. If I can make the change within the program: bliss. If that is not an option: freedom. And the knowledge that I can call the shots in my life. This was a blessing today.

  • Jacalyn

    Hey, Kate!
    I loved this blog, and I concur. I stuck with teaching because I didn’t want to be “a quitter” and because it was an acceptable profession in my former husband’s family. That choice just about killed me, as I became severely depressed during my first year of teaching. When I look back, I realize teaching was not ME, right from the very beginning, and if I had been listening to my intuition, as I do now for every decision, I would have known.
    I believe my depression was my soul’s crying out to be heard.
    Thank you for your brilliant insights,
    Jacalyn

    • Kate Northrup

      What a profound story Jacalyn! I also agree that if we listened to our intuition more there would be a lot less depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

  • Katharine Rose

    I so needed to read this today. I’ve got a million things on my to do list (okay, thirty) and deciding what to quit… the idea of stopping some of the things feels like such a relief!

  • Lesley Stone

    great blog post. been a fan of your mama for decades. love that the circle now includes you <3

  • Jennifer Noelle

    Yeah!!! Thank you for putting this message out there! I am a parent who will let their kids quit something if it’s something they don’t enjoy or love.

    A year ago I gave up tango. I did love it, but I kept having to miss it for kids activities or work events. (And tango is like golf. You kind of have to commit to it!) I was tired of feeling guilty that I had missed yet another tango class, when I finally decided, ‘This is ridiculous!’ My kids need me right now. I don’t want to miss their sport events and concerts. Tango will be there when they are grown and I have more free time. Giving myself permission to quit and realizing it’s okay that I am not able to fit into my schedule every single thing I wanted was quite liberating!

  • Idara

    Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been trying to crank up on the fitness tip and I signed up for a starter series of kickboxing classes. Yes, the first class was hard- which wasn’t a complete surprise- but I felt anxious and depressed about keeping up with the boxing routines…and the music was so over-the-top loud and techno- sensory overload really…but I said to myself when I’m able to get the hang of the boxing moves it’ll be better…and it is a good workout…my third class was last week and I actually felt nauseous during the class! I am now at the crossroads of thinking of the money I spent vs. finishing out the series and then I encounter this post and realized with more clarity that I don’t actually enjoy kickboxing (Eureeka)! :) I’ve always been more of a yoga kind of gal engaged in fitness activities that were stress relieving not STRESS INDUCING- lol. I had the perception in my mind that perhaps I was being lazy, but can not see more clearly that I can still pat myself on the back for trying something new, learning more about myself and move on to find fitness options that were more in alignment with my energy and temperament. Thank you again!

  • Stephanie

    In the 5th grade my band teacher told me, “quitters don’t make it” when I gave up playing the trumpet. I wasn’t any good and wasn’t having any fun. Such healing words to hear that walking away from what’s not right is discernment. Words of freedom for my 5th grade heart. Thank you.

  • ‘Really refreshing to read this, Kate.
    I love how you flipped the script for those of us who stop what we started: Discernment, Freedom, Time, and focus on what we really value. I needed to hear this today after having to do a demonstration lesson for an interview to teach. I love teaching, but the evaluations are nerve racking and I am get older faster these days. What you have declared here helps me move on whatever the outcome may be. Thank you.

  • Amy

    Thanks for the wonderful perspective! I am a perpetual starter as well, which I view mostly positively as it’s a sign of curiosity and passion for life experiences! This is a great reminder that it’s not about the time we invest in a hobby, career, relationship, it’s about the joy that we do or do not feel. A great reminder of our power to set ourselves free! :)

    Amy

  • Robin

    Thank you Kate! I loved this blog! I decided to quit selling Mary Kay cosmetics. I knew from the get-go 3 years ago it wasn’t my thing and I stuck it out hoping it would get better and that I might like it more. 2016 was my year to say, “I’m done”!! I am in the process of donating what is left and that feels REALLY GOOD!

  • Jenny

    I just had this conversation with my 15 year old daughter last night. She was torn about continuing or stopping volleyball in the fall. She decided to not play after coming up with 6 “pros” in less than 30 seconds about not playing. She was worried about “quitting”. I asked if she’d be willing to consider it changing course rather than quitting. That was an idea she loved. She wants to join a service club which is what she truly enjoys anyway. Thank you for your article. I’ll share with my daughter.

  • Laurentine

    Thank you sooo much Kate, this is so refreshing! You have described exactly how terrible I feel before, during and after an abs and butt workout, and how exhilirated I feel not before, but during and after a hip-hop or dance-hall class! Although both are HAAAARD, I just keep dancin’ and shakin’ my butt after a dance class, doing the moves again and again with a huge smile on my face, which I NEVER do after an abs and butt class :) So thanks, I got it!! Love to you and your family!

  • Emma

    This is so perfect for my day.

    I took on teaching a Yoga Class that I felt super proud of myself for doing. (It was far a way, it was community, the clientele were a little rough and my puffed chest told me I was making a difference. I finally felt I was doing something valuable and important and noteworthy).
    Now for the past 5month since I started teaching it I have been getting really fatigues and getting colds and flus after almost every class. To the point now I had to cancel some just to recover from being sick.

    I am so hesitant to resign for financial and ego reasons. And the fear of ‘what the hell will I do now.’ I felt like this job meant I was ‘playing big’.
    But my body is just saying No. No. No.

    This is a tough one to let go of, so I am sitting with it. I think my Pride has to accept that it’s not working, and if it’s not this, then something better.

    Thanks for writing this Kate.

    Was very helpful to me.

  • I just wanted to thank you for this article. I really like this one. It is almost like magic that I came across this one in thsi moment.

    This article relates perfectly to a decision I have made that I have been struggling to follow through on. a decision to quit something.

    I wanted to thank you for the input on my situation without even knowing me. your words almost brought me to tears and i am grateful.

    :) Namaste

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