For some people, quitting is no more than the simple action of stopping something. (I say “simple” in reference to the concept of stopping, not to say that quitting something is necessarily simple or easy).
However, for others, myself included, quitting has evolved beyond an action. The majority of my adult life has been plagued by my chronic quitting. Part of me tried to shrug it off. After all, wasn’t it just a side effect of my learning?
But another part of me wasn’t satisfied with that explanation. There had to be a reason why I kept quitting things, even when I really enjoyed it. The question was: Why do I quit?
I’ve thought about my quitting problem for a while, and I’ve postulated many different conclusions about why I quit. Maybe it was that my parents didn’t push me to do things that I didn’t want to do. So it’s their fault? Maybe it’s because I’m not motivated enough, so I lose interest. Maybe it’s because I’m interested in too many things, so I lose my focus and burn out. Maybe I’ve suddenly developed ADD, so I can’t focus on things for an extended period of time. Maybe…
The list goes on, but you get the point. Sometimes it’s someone else’s fault. Sometimes it’s a fundamental flaw with me. The problem with all of these solutions is that they aren’t really solvable. That’s when it hit me.
These “reasons” for my quitting habit aren’t really reasons at all. They’re excuses. They’re opportunities for me to wash my hands of responsibility and say that I can’t do anything about my situation. They’re excuses so that I can quit trying to understand why I always quit, thereby ensuring the perpetuation of my habit.
These excuses were evidence that I had wholly embraced the quitter mentality.
The Quitter Mentality
The quitter mentality says “I’m a quitter, and there’s nothing I can do about that. I shouldn’t even bother trying to _____, because I’ll just end up quitting, which will make it a waste of (time/energy/money).” Then, after concluding that, the quitter goes back to his unexciting, mediocre existence, wondering why other people get to do all the cool stuff.
As I showed above, when someone with the quitter mentality tries to pinpoint the reason they keep quitting, they often conclude that it is the result of external circumstances forced upon them (e.g. my parents not pushing me), or internal circumstances that can’t be changed (e.g. my lack of motivation). In other words, two key indicators of the quitter mentality are lack of responsibility and perceived inability to change.
The quitter mentality involves a misplaced identity. Everyone derives their identity from something. Some people get their identity from their jobs, their family, their relationships, their perceived levels of respect and adoration, their sexual prowess, their religion, their pursuit of social justice, or any number of other things.
Beating the Quitter Mentality
If the quitter mentality is a misplaced identity, then the question becomes “how do we change our identity?”
The first step is to take responsibility for your life circumstances. Sure, my parents didn’t force me to do things that I didn’t want to do, but the quitting wasn’t their fault. I quit because I didn’t want to do it anymore; it was my own choice. When I recognize that I have made choices and decisions that have led to where I’m at, I also realize that I can make decisions for where I’m going to be.
That leads us to the second step: understand that you can change. My choice to keep quitting developed my quitter mentality. But because I’m responsible for my own choices, I know that I can begin making choices to break free from being a quitter. If being a quitter is a question of identity, then I need to begin deriving my identity from somewhere else.
As a Christian, I’m taught that God has given me an identity: I’m his adopted son. Looking at human adoptions, we understand that an adoption can be legally true without being emotionally and mentally true. In choosing to see myself as a quitter, I was choosing to ignore the legal truth that I am an adopted son of God.
Just because I know that I have another identity doesn’t mean that the shift is going to be easy. I have a lot of lesser identities that are always competing for the role of my main identity. But choosing a main identity means that I need to make active decisions that reinforce my identity. To actively live in my identity as a son of God, I choose to read my Bible every day (or close to it). I choose to meet up with other Christian men to learn and grow with them as Christians and as men. I take the time to pray, to talk to God. I attend church on Sundays so that I can learn from the pastor and spend time with other Christians.
Even if you’re not a Christian, you don’t have to identify with being a quitter. Just remember that it’s easier to choose to be something than it is to choose to be not something. If you want to have success at quitting quitting, choose to be something else (a learner, a guitar player, a rock climber, a sculpter, a painter, etc.) rather than trying to be “not a quitter”. I know this blog is called eX-Quitter, but “ex-quitter” isn’t a goal in and of itself. By choosing to be something other than a quitter, the title of ex-quitter comes naturally.