Quitting Anything And Everything Is Okay, And It's Time We All Accepted This

A job you don't like, a relationship or friendship that has become toxic, a housing situation that's making you miserable, or a city that you no longer enjoy. There are a lot of toxic and unhealthy experiences that we continue to endure for a number of reasons. But one of the most common is that society sends clear messages to us that quitting means giving up. We may believe that leaving indicates that you didn't try hard enough, and misery is a sign of hard work. Society often equates quitting with being a quitter, and being a quitter with a lack of work ethic and follow through. It's about time that we reject these narratives and — to be blunt — quit following toxic advice.

Common phrases like "Don't be a quitter" equate quitting with a person's character. This implies that if someone quits, they don't have a strong character, work ethic, values, or the desire to be successful. Society has taken the natural, innate human desire to succeed at tasks that guarantee our survival and fulfill us, and instead created a supermachine. This machine is fueled by toxic messaging that success can only be achieved by working harder and never quitting, reports Exploring Your Mind. The pressure to stay in bad situations is the very first thing we should all quit, followed by quitting the bad situations themselves. Here's how to give yourself permission to say goodbye to situations, relationships, and experiences that no longer serve you.

Why quitting often feels wrong

Society puts a lot of pressure and shame on those who quit, a toxic dynamic that people are beginning to catch onto and reject. In fact, the toxicity in workplaces and the pressure on workers to remain in unhealthy situations has been cited as a core reason behind The Great Resignation movement, reports MIT Sloan Management Review. Even as pushback to toxic environments increases, there's still a significant amount of pressure, shame, and blame experienced by people who leave jobs, relationships, friend groups, or any other entity to which they've dedicated time. The negative feelings are usually a combination of external messages from society and internal grappling with change.

Centuries ago, Julius Caesar crossed a stream called Rubicon, an action that began a battle from which Caesar couldn't turn back. In the 21st century, the phrase "Crossing the Rubicon" describes decisions people make from which they feel they can't turn back. A modern crossing of the Rubicon could be choosing a university major, committing to a career path, accepting a job offer, choosing to sign a lease with a partner, or moving to a new city. Once someone has committed to something, they feel like they must follow through with it because changing their mind isn't an option, therefore there's no turning back. Psychologists have found that this mindset keeps people in situations longer than desired. Turning back feels shameful or impossible. The reality, though, is that you can often cross back over the Rubicon.

Redefining what it means to have grit

The idea of American grit stems from the American Dream and working your way from the ground up. Today, the American work ethic has evolved into one that pushes people to work as hard and as much as they can — even 24/7 in today's globally-connected world, says The Guardian. The premise of having American grit is equated to sacrificing everything you can give to work longer hours and never stop. These toxic attitudes ultimately cause harm to the health and well-being of individuals. 

Researchers frequently use Angela Duckworth's Grit Scale to understand how individuals approach commitments. The scale asks participants about their diligence, hard work, and perseverance to overcome setbacks, or if they're willing to change directions and pursue new things. Neither end of the spectrum describes optimal placement, though. Instead, researchers have used the scale to see how many people strive to complete tasks with full commitment and how many people are willing to explore new paths.

A 2021 study published in Frontiers in Psychology redefines grit from its traditional definition of persevering and completing long-term goals, to the conceptualization of grit as the dedicated pursuit of passions and adaptability to change when dedicated efforts are identified as being needless. Researchers found negative health effects on subjects exhibiting grit by continuing to commit to futile efforts by refusing to quit. Conversely, people who were willing to leave unfulfilling efforts and pursue new paths were found to experience better wellness.

Shift your validation mindset

Given that the American psyche is focused on having grit and working hard to achieve, it makes sense that people feel like they must succeed even at the cost of their own fulfillment and well-being. Scientific American offers another way to discern through neuroscience just how much grit someone has — and it's rooted not in how hard a person works, but in how resilient they are in picking themselves up during and after difficult experiences. Combine this with expert findings about people who are willing to quit having better overall wellness, and a new picture emerges. It's clear that the way we view grit and quitting shouldn't be in how long we can stay in misery-inducing situations, but in how well we can leave them, rebound, and find new opportunities. Science has effectively negated the "Don't be a quitter" mindset by discovering that people with the courage to leave situations and curiosity to try new things are ultimately happier and healthier.

Staying in bad situations can also be rooted in fear, whether fear of what others might think if you quit a prestigious company or fear of what you'll have to do to rebuild your life after leaving an unhealthy relationship. Tiny Buddha advises shifting your mindset towards cultivating internal validation instead of seeking validation externally. Make your inner voice part of your support system, asking it the questions you'd ask others, like "What do you think of this path?"

Prioritize personal fulfillment

It might seem like everyone is judging you, but the truth is that everyone else is so consumed with their own lives that they rarely think about you, and the reality is that (besides your close circle) no one actually cares what you do, reports Forbes. This is an incredibly freeing thing to realize because it allows you to do the things you really want to do. Your professional pursuits, hobbies, relationship status, zip code, and everything else about you are things that matter only to you and your happiness with them. Of course, there are some limitations to freely doing as you desire if you're a parent, caring for aging relatives, or have responsibilities to other people close to you, but you can still pursue your own personal fulfillment in ways that are compatible with whatever responsibilities you have. Even for child-free single adults, everyone has to keep the lights on, so consider your resources before spontaneously quitting your job or moving to a city with a cost of living you can't afford.

With scientific research, redefined grit, and social realities laid out, it's pretty clear that quitting anything and everything is more than okay! And it's about time we all accept this since staying in unhealthy situations can endanger our physical and mental health. LifeHack encourages those seeking personal fulfillment to first determine their core values, followed by their genuine desires and ambitions. An authentic foundation can help you embrace the things you really want in life.