Sometimes ideas arrive with the force of a whirlwind. You have no choice but to be swept up by their compelling gusts. You are engulfed.
You must take up line dancing or die.
You must learn how to knit or be forever cursed.
You must start that new business or be doomed to a life of working for the man.
Just as quickly, the tumultuous ride is over. What once drew you so irresistibly has no more impact than gentle breeze.
So you leave it behind.
With a little guilt. With a bit of self-castigation. Perhaps even a modicum of self-disgust.
Because you quit. You didn’t stick it out. You didn’t work past the rough spots until you reached the pinnacle of success. You didn’t hone your skills. You didn’t make “it” happen, whatever “it” is.
The f-word looms large. Failure.
Starting when we are the smallest of people, we are programmed to feel like quitters if we leave something behind. If we don’t finish what we started.
You must clean your plate or you won’t get dessert.
You must keep practicing
the violin, French, baseball… you don’t want to be a quitter do you?
You must stick to something or you’ll never be good at anything.
These little words of wisdom designed to help us become successful human beings have, in fact, quite the opposite effect. They make us afraid to try. Because, if we try it and don’t like it, we won’t be able to quit because we’ll be deemed losers. So we don’t even start.
That is a shame. By not starting, we rob ourselves of a multitude of rich experiences.
I’m proud to say that I’ve left quite a few things behind. Jobs. Careers. Companies. Men. Hobbies. Hopes. Ideas.
When I first noticed this seemingly alarming trend, I felt quite miffed at myself. I wondered what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I stick things out? Why couldn’t I become an expert in one thing or another? Why couldn’t I achieve outstanding success in something?
Thankfully, as I grew older and wiser, I realized that it was OK to leave things behind. I discovered that my fulfillment came from dreaming, exploring, learning, and making a contribution of some kind along the way.
Quite simply, I had the most fun being caught up in the whirlwind.
And, I knew -deep down- that I wasn’t a quitter.
The reason you stop when you do: you got what you came for. ~ Barbara Sher
I got what I came for. Whatever that was. The knowledge, the creative excitement, the experience.
That same is true for you. Only you will know what you came for and whether you’ve gotten it.
So, it’s ok to stop. Quit. And move onto the next thing.
With one little caveat …
Quitting something because you got what you came for is different than quitting because you are afraid – afraid that you can’t do it, that you don’t have the skills or the knowledge, or that you are otherwise lacking.
That’s what those little well-intentioned words we heard as children were meant to protect us from. To keep us going when we were overwhelmed by our own fear and lack of faith in ourselves. To help us learn how to finish things that were important to us even if it was hard.
Remember, you’re not required to finish everything you start, but you are required to know how. You’ll need that knowledge one of these days, when you find something that’s really worth finishing. ~ Barbara Sher
When you know the difference between fear and getting what you wanted out of the experience, you can walk away freely. Without guilt. Without self-castigation or disgust.
You have permission to start. Anything. And take from the experience whatever you need or want.
You have permission to stop. Any time. And leave it behind.
Doesn’t life sound infinitely more interesting already?
What have you left behind? Did you leave it because you were afraid or because you got what you came for?