Quitting is hard.
“Wait, what?” you ask.
Yeah. Quitting is possibly one of the hardest things you can do, if you think about it.
I mean, we’re all pretty good at starting things, aren’t we? New projects, New Year resolutions related to work or health, courses, etc. We become enamoured with an idea and we decide to give it a go, because we think it’ll take us to a better place. We think it’ll make us happy, if only we stick with it long enough.
Therein lies the catch.
How many half-baked ideas have you ever given up before you could even build them up into a habit? How many times have you stuck with a project for a few weeks (or days, or even hours) and then, at the first hurdle or dip in motivation, told yourself: “It doesn’t matter if I miss out just this once. I’ll catch up later/do it tomorrow/do better next time.”
Yeah… me too.
In fact, if I’m totally honest, I have several good habits I’m supposed to be keeping up (meditating, eating healthily, cycling, etc) that have kind of petered out over the last few weeks. My main excuses are the heat (urgh) and travelling (and my birthday… mmm, cake). Being away from home always throws a bit of a spanner into the old routine. It also means larger amounts of delicious (and fattening) foods are on offer, ready to tempt me precisely because they’re not what I usually eat at home. I tell myself it’s a one-off thing… but as you know, a string of one-offs pretty soon becomes a habit in disguise. If something that’s supposed to be an exception becomes the rule, then you end up with the kind of lifestyle you were trying to avoid in the first place.
So what’s the point of my outrageous statement?
Well. Consider this. Not only am I not exercising/eating healthily/meditating as much as I’d like, but I now also have to contend with the shame that I haven’t been able to keep these things up, the disappointment with my lack of resolve, the prospect of having to start up again, etc. etc. Just the idea that I’m going to have to go through the different steps to turn these practices into habits again is exhausting.
But actually? Doing it is pretty easy. While I was exercising three times a week, meditating every day and eating mostly vegetables and lean protein, I felt good in many different ways. Feeling physically fit made me want to exercise more. Fatty foods didn’t seem as appetizing. Meditating came with a whole host of tangible benefits.Yes, taking the first step was a little painful at times, but once I got going, I was fine.
Which is why, through trial and error, I’ve come to believe that it’s the prospect of quitting and having to start all over again multiple times that scares us more than anything. Before we even start our new project, we already picture ourselves failing. Sometimes, this means we don’t even start (I’ve been telling myself I’ll brush up on my Italian and start learning Japanese for years now).
Does that mean we should never start anything? No!
It just means that next time you feel unmotivated or tempted to do something else instead of what you’d planned, think of how much harder your life will be if you quit now. Think of all the emotional turmoil, the guilt and the general anxiety you’ll experience. Then stick to what you were about to do, even if it’s just for a short while.
You’ll thank yourself later.
PS: I’d like to add that although my exercising, meditating and eating have been all over the place (or simply not happening) lately, I have managed to stop myself from quitting one important thing: my writing.
For the last month and a half, I’ve been slogging away almost every day on my novel, Mirrormind. Although I’ve mostly enjoyed it (it was good to be reminded why I like writing so much), it hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had to force myself to stick with it several times, even if it meant ploughing through difficult passages and fixing them later.
As of yesterday, the first draft is finished. My next challenge is to carry on with editing the whole thing… which means not quitting (which could be tempting, now I’ve already reached one of my goals). I mean, the prospect of giving my book to others to read and then sending it off to editors with the hope that they might publish it is pretty terrifying, but actually the idea that I might not do anything with it scares me even more. So there.
See you on the other side! 🙂