Category: Blog

A Doctor, a Lawyer, and a Quitter Walk into a Bar…

No, it’s not the beginning of a joke. It’s just what happens every time I go into a bar. I have a medical degree and a law degree…and if there were a professional certification for quitting, I’d not only have it, but I’d display it in my office as proudly as I do the other two.

I consider myself an expert-level quitter, and it’s a distinction to which I firmly believe more people should aspire.

Why? Because quitting is the most underrated tool for achieving success not only in business, but in relationships, personal happiness and well-being. In fact, it’s one of the most underrated self-care tools out there.

The walls of Amazon’s virtual bookstore are overflowing with self-help books telling us to live our best lives. But rarely do they address one of the main reasons that people get stuck in something less than their best life: no one tells them how to get through the necessary quits to leave whatever isn’t working. They just tell you to transform your life and strive to make progress…until one day you’ve suddenly arrived at said ideal life.

And quitting ain’t easy.

It’s a process fraught with unwarranted stigma -partially thanks to unhelpful sayings like “quitters never win and winners never quit.” And if you can get past the stigma, you’re then smacked in the face with many of the fears associated with quitting, like wondering if another opportunity will arise to replace whatever you’re leaving, or wondering what people will think about your quitting, or fear that the new scenario you find post-quit won’t truly be more fulfilling than the original one.

It’s enough to make someone just stay put. Stuck in the less-than-ideal.

But it doesn’t have to be. Quitting can be your best friend. But not just regular old quitting. Strategic quitting.

Now I could tell you theoretically about why strategic quitting is the greatest thing since avocado toast, but I think it will be slightly more effective if I show you what it looks like in the real world. Because at this point you may be (understandably) wondering how someone with both medical and law degrees has ever quit anything.

I quit all the time.

Because what does it take to get through that much school and training? Time, money, and energy. How was I able to make sure I had enough of all three to get through? By quitting things that were draining my time/money/energy and focusing only on the things that served me.

So what does it look like in action? Before medical school, I was a multimedia designer, but the sinking feeling I got while sitting in coding classes learning new programming languages told me this was not the field for me — so I quit. I started completely fresh and decided to try to get into medical school.

And after I finished medical school and residency in family medicine, I finally got to my sports medicine fellowship, as I had decided I wanted to be a sports doc. However, I got that same feeling when I was doing sports medicine — like something just wasn’t right. Mostly I didn’t like that the hours were somehow both 9 to 5 and nights and weekends, leaving little time for myself.

Wilma the Wildcat

 

So I quit. Again.

At this point you may be thinking, “whoa…but what about all of that time and money you wasted on medical school?” Well that’s where strategic quitting comes in. With regular quitting, I would have walked away from medicine altogether and tried some other career that may have had all the same attributes I disliked about medicine.

But with strategic quitting, you take stock of exactly what parts of a job or relationship, etc. aren’t working for you, and quit only those…and you stay vigilant not to get in new situations that have features that didn’t work for you previously. And as long as you learned something from a past situation, it wasn’t a waste.

So I quit the long hours of sports medicine, and took a job where I make my own schedule. And in the future, you can bet that I won’t be taking any new jobs that have night or weekend hours, because I learned from my previous experience. And as for the money and time I spent? Well having spent a lot of time or money on something that isn’t working for you is a terrible reason to spend more time or money on it. Sticking it out doesn’t get you back your investment, it just gets you further from where you want to be.

Now you may be plenty happy in your job or relationship, but what about some smaller things that may be stressing you out?

Here’s another real-life example. I finished yoga teacher training last year, and during my training I had an unlimited membership to the yoga studio. However, shortly after receiving my instructor certification, I started volunteering with a political campaign and didn’t have time to go often enough to make the membership worth the money, which started to stress me out. Yes, you heard that right, yoga was stressing me out.

Yoga with Bernie

So what did I do? Did I quit yoga? Obviously not! I just quit the unlimited membership and switched to a class card, thereby taking away all the guilt and stress I felt over not being able to make it to class as much as I needed to.

Now look at your own life…is there something that brings you stress or causes a sinking feeling in your stomach? Is your body subtly trying to tell you to make a change by giving you heartburn or keeping you awake at night? As a doctor, I can tell you the effects of staying in something that is wrong for you are not minimal. Stress is a leading health risk these days, and a major cause of stress is doing something that’s not in line with your own personal good.

So if your job doesn’t light you up, or your relationship brings you anxiety, or your city just isn’t working for you anymore, I urge you to make close friends with strategic quitting before your body stops whispering to you and starts yelling in the form of chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more.

Strategic quitting is the self-care tool you never knew you needed, but that you’ll never give up once you’ve got it down.

Society says…

Well it’s the day before NYE and I have planned no one special with whom to ring in the new year. This is something that in previous years would have rendered me a hopeless mess of anxiety. I start worrying about NYE approximately January 2nd. It’s a problem. Especially because by that time I’m already deep into Valentine’s Day anxiety.

 

And why? What makes these days any different from any others?

Society.

I mean, to be fair, the change from one year to another is an actual, non-Hallmark-created event, but no one says it has to be celebrated in a certain way with a special person. I mean, I’ve had great years that didn’t start with a New Year’s kiss at midnight and less than awesome years that did.

Then why all the fuss? New years and Valentine’s Day come and go and if no one asks you what you are going to do for them or what you ended up doing for them, how would they ever know? Would there ever be any pressure to do anything? Not any more than on any other day.

So as I took a long walk through my lovely neighborhood this morning and basked in the 75-degree sun-soaked day here in San Diego, California, it hit me: I’m not anxious at all. In fact, all week I kept forgetting that Sunday was the big day.

What led to this mental transformation? Well, I can’t be 100% sure, but I think there are a few big factors.

First, I have become a lot more mindful and grateful. On my walk, I looked up at the sky and was grateful for the sun’s warmth, and for the fact that I live in a beautiful city and a neighborhood that’s adjacent to a park with first-rate walking trails. It’s hard to simultaneously be overcome with gratitude and super worried about the future. You know that whole “be present” and “be grateful” business you always hear about? Well, it kind of works…

And I’ve also come to realize the joy of freedom. I can make my own new year’s plans, and in fact, I’ve made multiple. If I don’t like one, great, I’ll go to the next. I won’t be stuck hanging out with anyone just for the sake of being not alone.

I owe this second realization to having spent a good amount of time focusing on my intuition and listening to what it’s telling me. I’ve stopped waiting for it to yell “YOU SHOULDN’T BE HANGING OUT WITH THIS PERSON” and started listening to the times it whispers this isn’t the best situation for you right now, which makes it a lot more difficult to stay in sub-standard situations and leads me to be a lot more grateful for time on my own.

Finally, I’ve started applying the concepts I teach in strategic quitting to other parts of my life, namely the not caring what society thinks part. I always advise people that they should focus on how quitting a situation would make *them* feel instead of worrying what others would think of their quit. So how could I *not* apply this to what society thinks of certain days? If I was counseling people to quit anxiety-producing jobs or relationships regardless of what others might think, how was I not quitting anxiety-producing thoughts about certain days that were only important because society decided they were.

So I did. I quit putting so much importance on these days. I quit worrying about what I’d be doing and with whom.  Because I don’t have to wait until there’s a societally-promoted day to have a good time. I can make a random Tuesday awesome.

And I have.

And I’ll do it again:)

My First Quit

I was listening to a podcast today in which the guest was describing some events from his childhood, and suddenly I was transported back to one of my most vivid memories from grade school – the day I enacted my first quit.

I believe I was in fourth or fifth grade, and all the popular kids were signing up to play on the softball team. So me, with my zero athletic ability, decided to join as well. You see, I was the definition of unpopular, and I was particularly upset about my station in life.

I had tried nearly everything to break in to the popular circle, but I had designed my attempts using logic, which is definitely not how things work in elementary school popularity contests.

My plan was to be great at things and as a result, the popular kids would love me. Well I realized soon enough that this tactic almost exclusively works with sports, as I was a darn good dancer and a pretty smart cookie and neither of those had won me any friends. So I was going to try my hand at this sports business and see if i could win the favor of the popular crowd that way.

My first day of softball practice was an eye-opener. I was worse at it than I had even expected, and trust me, expectations had been set pretty low. To this day, if a sport involves a ball, I should be nowhere near it. Well for as bad I was at hitting the ball, things got even worse when I took the field. I think I was assigned to second base, or shortstop, or something where you’re close enough to the batter for the ball to still have some serious momentum if it hits you.

And it did. The one and only time the ball came my way was a line drive directly into the left side of my chest, which at the time hurt so badly I was sure an ambulance was going to have to carry me off the field (yeah, what I lacked in sporting ability I made up for in dramatic imagination).

Did everyone come running to see if I was OK? Nope. Hilariously to the contrary. As I struggled to get myself back on my feet, I realize the game had continued as if nothing had happened. And oddly, my teammates were cheering for me. I was confused until I heard one of them, a girl squarely from the popular gang, encouragingly yell, “Way to stop the ball!”

This, to me, was an epiphany. What it had taken to get the popular kids’ approval was no less than physical danger and agonizing pain. Great…

Prior to this, the decision for a secondary hobby (my primary one was dance) had come down to softball versus gymnastics. Despite being a huge fan of gymnastics, I had chosen softball for the aforementioned misguided reasons. So when my mom picked me up after softball practice and asked how it went, I informed her that I was done with softball. Yep, one whole practice in and it was over. I started gymnastics almost immediately thereafter.

Now at this point you may be thinking it was a shame I didn’t give softball more of a chance. Or that I might have been well-served by having to struggle at something. Or that I may have improved and grown to love the sport. All of which are valid possibilities.

However, what is true now was also true then: we have a finite amount of time, money, and energy. My parents weren’t super wealthy to where I could ask them to pay for ten different hobbies. I also didn’t have time to do ten different things — I was already hard core into dance and I ended up being good enough at gymnastics that I made it to the pre-team (just one level before the actual competitive team), which required multiple nights a week at the gym.

So what did I get out of gymnastics? A plethora of broadly useful skills. In high school, I had been featured in multiple musical theater performances based on my ability to do a back handspring in a dress and heels or a no-handed cartwheel dressed like someone who lives in the magical land of Oz. I was also one of the few freshman to be asked to cheer on the varsity cheer leading squad thanks to a jankity but sufficient back flip.

Even now I still use the skills I learned. I do handstands in my yoga practice. In capoeira, the Brazilian martial art I train, I regularly do that same no-handed cartwheel I learned back in grade school. And in case you were wondering said elementary school was in my recent past, it most certainly was not. I’m forty, and I still spend as much of my time upside down or flying through the air as possible.

And while you can truly never know a negative, I can’t imagine softball would have been nearly as useful to me, aside from the ability to have joined a softball team later in life (which I still could, but I’m guessing I’d be equally as terrible now as I was then…there’s still a ball involved, after all.) Softball skills just don’t have nearly as much cross-over application as gymnastics skills do, so I am ever-grateful that even ten-year-old me had the power to quit on something that:

  1. I had started for the wrong reasons,
  2. I didn’t enjoy, and
  3. didn’t play to my natural strengths.

So what’s it for you? Is there something you started that may no longer be (or may never have been) in line with your true goals? Is there something you struggle against routinely that gives you more stress than strength? And is there something else you may want to be doing but you don’t have the time or resources to do it because your energy has been directed somewhere else?

You can’t physically/mentally/emotionally/financially do it all, so choose wisely and definitely you’ll have the utmost power to quit at anything in life.

Your Ideal Day

I can even list all the books and blogs and other self-improvement sources that have stressed the importance of going through the exercise of writing down your ideal day. Well, admittedly, I had never made the time to do it before – I had just shortcutted it by imagining my ideal day on several occasions.

However, that shortcut fails for a number of reasons. When you have to write something down, you have to put actual words to it, whereas in your daydream, things can be kind of amorphous concepts. For example, I had to write down exactly what my house would smell like, what music would be playing, what my house would look and feel like. This is a thousand times more helpful on giving you a clear picture of your goals than just imagining them is (though visualization can be a handy tool, I just suggest writing it down as well for extra clarification).

Now why is this exercise so crucial? Two reasons. First, the slightly woo-woo reason: for the universe to be able to help you achieve your goals, you have to give it a crystal clear picture of what those goals are. (For the less hippified reader, all I’m saying is that for YOU to achieve your goals, it’s best to have a clear picture of where you’re heading, so as to find the most efficient path there).

But the second reason is why said exercise appears on my blog today: if you compare your current life to your ideal life and there are some big differences, those areas may be ones in which a quit may be beneficial. For example, if your ideal life is on a farm with some baby goats, you may want to quit living in downtown New York. Or if you envision a life as a painter, you may want to consider leaving your job as an accountant.

So give it a try. Be VERY specific. I used the following list of questions from Ben Greenfield’s Blog post on this exercise as a guide:

-Where would you live?

-What would your house look like?

-What would it smell like?

-What time in the morning would you wake up?

-What would you do in the morning?

-What would you think about in the morning?

-What would you have for breakfast?

-Where would you go for the first part of the day?

-What would you have for lunch?

-Who would you eat with?

-Who would your friends be?

-What kind of conversations would you have with your friends?

-What are your friends like?

-What would you do for personal fulfillment?

-What life purpose would you strive towards?

-What would your business be?

-What time would you start work?

-What would you do in your business each day?

-What are your clients like?

-What’s your relationship like with your spouse and your family?

-What would you do for family time?

-What would you eat for dinner?

-What would you talk about at dinner?

-What would you do at night?

-Who would you spend your time with?

-What would your thoughts be as you went to sleep?

—-

The answers I came up with were often surprising, and led to a lot of introspection. I hope the exercise does the same for you.

Let me know what you found! Are there any areas you may need to quit?

If so, you know where to find me:)

“Quit the Wrong Thing Now” by Brendan Burchard

A friend recently sent me a video from author Brendan Burchard she knew I’d love – and I did! It was titled “Quit the Wrong Thing Now,” and everything he said in the video was music to my quitting ears.

Let me give you some of the highlights in case you don’t have time to watch the entire video (found HERE).

#1 – “Identify what makes you bored or miserable and that which makes you come alive.”

This is where he is essentially telling people to tune in to their intuitions. I often suggest people pay attention to what makes them angry or anxious, but he brings up a good point – pay attention to what makes you bored (which means you may want to put it on the quit list), but also to what makes you feel alive (so maybe you could focus more attention in that direction).

He said, “You know when it’s not right – it’s just hard to admit it sometimes.[…] High performers are admitting it. the Productivity gains come in their life because they’ve cleared the decks. ”

# 2 – “Think legacy”

He suggested another way to decide if you’re doing what you’re meant to do in your work when he asked, “Are you proud of the output you generated in that space?”

I rarely think in terms of legacy, but perhaps that’s because i’m only at mid-life. But I imagine that later in life I will look back and examine if I am satisfied with what I have done. So if you’re looking for another way to figure out if you should quit something, perhaps give the “check your legacy” method a try.

#3 “Release those who are not ready”

This is an important one that doesn’t get discussed that often – you sometimes need to quit people aside from your significant others. Friends and co-workers and other associates may be toxic to your journey if they’re constantly doubting and bringing negative energy into your life.

If you have the time, I highly recommend watching the whole video. But otherwise, I hope you got something out of the main points outlined above. As always, would love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time!

My Latest Quit – Quitting Partisan Politics

Hey quitting fans!

Wanted first to apologize for the infrequent posts. I’ve been hard at work trying to acquire literary agents and/or publishers for my book so I can finally get it on its way to YOU!

But I did want to take a minute to tell you about a recent quit of mine. See, for the past year I’ve been working in nonpartisan election reform. If “nonpartisan” is a term unfamiliar to you, it refers to activities that are outside of the political party system. You may have heard of “bipartisan,” which means two parties are working together, but nonpartisan means the parties are not involved.

At this point, 45% of the country considers themselves “nonpartisan” – as in they are not affiliated with a political party. But until last week, I still was. However, like is the precursor to many other quits, I started hearing that little voice in my gut tell me it was time to leave and join the ranks of those whose electoral rights I was fighting for on a daily basis.

What specifically were the signs? I’d get slightly embarrassed or upset when I’d hear things my political party was doing with which I didn’t agree, and I felt compelled to constantly try to distance myself from some of their actions.

I tell you these to illustrate just how subtle your gut may speak to you. But mine spoke loudly enough for me to take action.

So like with any quit, I did my research and preparation (note: since I work in the field, that was pre-done long ago – I knew what registering as “no party preference” would mean for me as a California resident). And then I quit. Nothing earth-shattering occurred, but I felt instantly lighter.

So there’s my little quit for the week. Did you quit anything recently? I’d love to hear about it!

“When you’re through changing, you’re through.”

A local journalist here in San Diego, Dan McSwain, recently wrote a very personal article about why he is quitting his dream job, and I couldn’t agree more with many of his sentiments – so I thought I’d share his perspective with you.

I particularly love the following quote:

“Wiser souls tell me that switching careers is healthy, a key to longevity. As the late, great columnist, speechwriter and word sleuth William Safire once said, “When you’re through changing, you’re through.” – Dan McSwain

Take a look at the full article HERE:

 

photo credit: Lori Weisberg/U-T

 

Are you all too HAPPY it’s LABOR DAY?

Hello friends!

As I look forward to spending my Sunday night salsa dancing (because I don’t have work tomorrow), I realized how excited I was to have a three-day weekend to catch up on things I don’t have enough time to do during the week (like update this blog!).

However, if you’re spending your Sunday night rejoicing that you don’t have to go into work tomorrow because your job gives you a near-permanent case of the Mondays, I think it may be time to discuss whether that job is working for you.

And here’s where I’ll get personal. It would be misleading for me to let you think I sit around and love all of my jobs all of the time. I do not. And in the times where they get frustrating and I’m starting to look less forward to going in and more forward to the end of the day, I do the same self-evaluation that I recommend in my Quitting by Design web series and upcoming book.

Recently I did make another quit. It was a small one – I quit playing soccer. I had joined our work’s team, but I was terrible at it and the hour each week where I was on the field was 60 minutes of sheer anxiety. So when the season ended, I decided not to play another season. However, note that I played two full seasons (hadn’t done enough of a gut check after the first one, apparently) and I also finished out the season and showed up to almost every game. (This is a sneak-peak of my upcoming book where I recommend you time your quits to have the least effect on those around you and burn the fewest bridges possible).

So since you’ve got a free day this week (or most of you do), why don’t you spend a few minutes of it doing your own intuition check. Is the thing you’re laboring at working for YOU? If not, may I suggest you hop onto my email list to get an advanced copy of one of my book chapters to see if you would benefit from a quit!

Enjoy your labor day my friends!

Is your job literally killing you?

This week an article from The Ladders appeared in my inbox that I have to pass along to you all. If you get nothing else out of the article, let me give you the most important section right here:

“Researchers from the Harvard Business School and Stanford University meta-analyzed the results of more than 200 studies to better understand the effects of stress in the workplace. They found that worrying about losing your job makes you 50% more likely to experience poor health and that having an overly demanding job makes you 35% more likely to have a physician-diagnosed illness.”

Yikes.

Now we all know stress is bad for our health, but apparently certain types of job-related stress have now been scientifically proven to be catastrophic to our well-being, so if you’re in a job that stresses you out and you needed further impetus to quit, consider the fact that quitting may well save your life!

The entire article is great (it actually zeros in on how to know if your boss is killing you) – check it out HERE.

Until next time,

Happy quitting!

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