How to Quit (Tips & Tactics)

This is an excerpt from my ebook, Your Guide to Calling It Quits (because there are better things to do with your life).  To read more, get your free copy here.

 

So far in this miniseries, we’ve discussed why you should quit things and how to decide which things to quit.  Now we get down to the nitty gritty details—how the frack you’re actually supposed to quit something.

Unfortunately, there’s no 12-step program for quitting of the sort we’re talking about.  Maybe one day I’ll develop one and sell it for a reasonable price, along with custom coaching sessions.  (Interest…?  Anyone…?) 🙂

Depending on what you’ve chosen to get rid of, what your life currently looks like, and your own strengths and weaknesses, it’s really up to you to decide the best way to accomplish your quit.  It’s a process of experimentation.

 

Each Quit Has Its Own Unique Challenges and Issues

But as you learn to take control of your life and happiness, the overall process of quitting will become easier and more instinctual. You’ll get used to the initial discomfort of changing something, and you’ll start to learn the tactics that work best to keep yourself on target.

Maybe you operate best on a reward system—for every $50 you put towards your savings goal, you give yourself an inexpensive treat, like a cupcake from your favorite bakery.  (Mmmm, cupcakes…)

Or maybe you’re the sort that likes lists and progress charts and inspirational Post-It notes on your bathroom mirror.  Then Post-It it up, baby!

When I quit eating like crap, I made specific guidelines for myself: smaller portions, more fresh veggies, fewer carbs (my personal kryptonite).  But when I quit being a TV addict, it was more a matter of going cold turkey and then keeping an eye on myself each day to make sure I didn’t backslide.

Each quit is different, and each person quits differently.  You’ll learn what works best for you and figure out what each specific challenge needs.

That said, it would be pretty unfair of me to say “Go ahead, start your quitting!” without giving you any idea of what to expect.  So, here are some basic things to keep in mind as you go about your quits:

 

Tips & Tactics

 

1. Have Something You’re Quitting For

This is by far the most important thing—Quitting 101.  You need a positive, motivating reason for your quit—and you’ve gotta really mean it.

Just focusing on how much you hate the thing you’re quitting creates a bad mojo that contradicts the whole purpose of quitting in the first place.  It’s to make things better, remember?  So, what are you making things better for?

Why do you want to quit spending so much money?  To save up for a dream vacation?  To build your kids’ college fund?  To pay down your debt so you can quit your office job and become a skydiving performance artist like you’ve always dreamt of being?  Keep the positive visuals at the ready.  Call them up whenever you’re facing that fantastic sale that’s just too good to pass up, even though you don’t really need any of the things being sold.

Why do you want to quit being a couch potato?  To fit into those old jeans again?  To have more time to focus on that grand novel you’ve always wanted to write?  To spend more time with your family?

Remember that you’re striving for something, not fighting against something.  Striving makes you feel energized, optimistic, and fulfilled.  Fighting makes you feel tired, resentful, and grumpy. Guess which mindset is more effective?

Keep it positive.  This is a good thing you’re doing.  You’re clearing room for all sorts of fantastic stuff to come tumbling into your life.  Hooray!  (Or “Huzzah!”, if you prefer.)

 

2. Take It Slow

Trying to change everything all at once pretty much guarantees failure.  We have finite reserves of self-discipline and energy, and multitasking your quits only makes each one harder.  Imagine quitting caffeine, sleeping in, and negative thinking all at once—you’re not setting yourself up for much success with that combo.  Try a quit or two at a time, and wait until you feel you’ve really mastered one before moving onto the next one.

 

3. Understand (and Accept) the Trade-Offs

If you want to quit your job to start a business of your own, are you prepared for the hard work and financial uncertainty that come with that decision?  If you’re planning to give up meat, are you prepared for the ribbing (I swear I did not mean that as a pun) you’ll get from your carnivorous friends, the difficulty you’ll face at family BBQs, the extra thought you’ll have to put into making sure you get the nutrition you need?

Be honest with yourself about what it will take to make your quit happen.  If you’re not clear on what you’re up against, or you don’t fully believe the tradeoffs are worth it, you may not be ready—or the quit may not be for you.

 

4. Develop a Game Plan

If you’re quitting unhealthy snacking, and you know your office always has a box of delicious, calorie-packed donuts in the break room, arm yourself by stocking your desk full of healthy but yummy alternatives like nuts and fruit.  If you want to stop racking up so much debt, take your credit cards out of your wallet, or cut them up altogether.

Set yourself up for success.  By preparing yourself mentally for the challenges you’ll be facing, developing a concrete strategy for dealing with them, and resolving to implement that strategy every time a challenge comes at you, you’ll make it much easier for yourself to stay on track.  Think ahead.  Be prepared.

 

5. Come Up with Positive Replacements

It’s easier to quit something—especially something that’s been an ingrained habit for a while—it you have a positive substitute to take its place.  If you want to quit stress eating, line up alternate coping methods you can turn to when you start to feel stressed (massage, meditation, exercise, etc.).  Having something to take the place of the thing you’re removing from your life—especially a replacement that makes you feel good—is a great way to ensure your quit sticks and you get the most happiness for your efforts.

 

6. Set Definite Limits and Guidelines

Are you quitting TV altogether, or allowing yourself a few favorite shows?  How many hours a day is o.k.? Nebulous quits are hard to pursue.  Setting specific rules for yourself (when applicable) makes it much easier to keep yourself on track and also to recognize when you’re starting to slip.

 

7. Don’t Allow Yourself Exceptions

Any smoker who’s tried quitting knows how tempting it is to think, “I’ll just have this one cigarette.  It’s been a ridiculously long day.  It’s only one.  It won’t hurt.”  But one excuse can lead to another, and suddenly a month’s worth of progress is set back to zero by one “harmless” little exception.  Make it easier by being strict with yourself.  Every time you make the right choice, it gets easier to make another right choice.

 

8. Enlist Support

Tell your spouse, your friends, your family—anyone you feel would understand and can hold you accountable—what you’re quitting and why.  (Definitely tell them if the decision directly affects them, like if you’re the family cook and you’ve decided to give up meat.)

I can’t say enough for accountability; part of the reason I started a blog was so other people would know what I was up to and I’d feel more compelled to stick with it.  And the like-minded people I’ve met as a result have made my quits stronger and my life better in more ways than I can say.  They encourage me. They make me feel like I’m not alone.  When I do slip up, they help cheerlead me back on track again.

If you don’t have anyone you feel comfortable sharing your quit with, shoot me an e-mail at kelly@cordeliacallsitquits.com.  I’d love to be on your support team!

 

9. Envision the Results

Picture yourself having already quit.  How will things be better?  How will you feel?  How freakin’ awesome will it be?  Hold onto that image as you pursue your quit.  It’s the reason it’s all worth it—even if you feel discouraged today, even if you’ve had a long week, even if you’ve been really good so far and think you deserve a break.

You can also try the reverse tack and picture what life was like before you decided to quit—then picture yourself going back to that.  You decided to give this up for a reason. Recalling how unhappy it made you can also help motivate you to keep going.

 

10. Go Gradually

 Sometimes you need to ease into change.  It’s a lot easier to quit smoking if at first you only give up smoking in your car on the way to work…then on your coffee break…then you try to go the whole morning without a cigarette…compared to trying to give it all up in one fell swoop.

There’s nothing wrong with taking baby steps, especially if it means you’re more likely to succeed.  Build up your discipline victory by victory, then up the stakes when you think you’re ready for it.

 

11. Take It Day by Day (or Minute by Minute, If Necessary)

Let’s say you’re trying to quit being so negative all the time.  If you think about having to be Susie Sunshine 24/7—in spite of all the traffic jams, annoying coworkers, and last-minute deadlines you know you’ll face in an average day—you will psyche yourself out.

Any change can seem impossible (or at least hella intimidating) when you picture sustaining it indefinitely.  Instead, take it one traffic jam or deadline crisis at a time.  Change is built in increments, and it takes time.  Do what you can, as you’re required to do it, and the momentum will start to build.  Don’t waste your energy on future worry or stress. Just deal with what’s in front of you.

Remember what I said about people having finite reserves of self-discipline and energy?  The upside to that is that those reserves are renewed each day.  So just focus on getting through today.  Then get through tomorrow.  That’s all you can do, anyway.

 

12. Go Easy on Yourself

Whether you’re quitting something big or small, there’s a fairly decent chance (being human and all) that you’ll mess up at some point.  You’ll have a moment of weakness, you’ll make one of those exceptions you weren’t supposed to make, and you’ll feel pretty darn awful about it.

But here’s the important bit: Failing once (or even a dozen times) doesn’t have to be a step backwards or a sign that it’s over.  Get back up, dust yourself off, and keep pressing on.  It happens.  You’re not a horrible person, and you’re not hopeless because you screwed up.  What matters isn’t that you made a mistake; it’s what you do afterwards.

 

13. Ignore the Haters

The world, unfortunately, likes people who go with the flow and don’t try to be all striving and noble.  This is mainly because people who do that make the rest of the non-striving people look bad.  But whatever anyone else thinks of you is irrelevant.  They’re not living your life; you are.

It takes real insight, dedication, and guts to be a quitter—to take responsibility for your own life and happiness and dare to make things better.  Don’t let anyone’s jealousy or small-mindedness belittle that goal.  You’re rocking your life.  They only wish they were.

So, whaddya say?  Who’s ready to start doing some quitting?

 

Image:  Josh Puetz / Flickr

When You Should Quit Something

This is an excerpt from my ebook, Your Guide to Calling It Quits (because there are better things to do with your life).  To read more, get your free copy here.

 

So, you’re all jazzed up to quit something. (Hopefully—did you read last week’s post?)  🙂

But where do you start?  How do you know which things really ought to be quit, and which you’re tempted to give up on for the wrong reasons?

This is where the whole “living intentionally” thing really starts rolling.  Because you can’t recognize what needs to go unless you have a good grip on who you are, what makes you happy, and where you want your life to be heading.

You don’t have to “have it all figured out.”  In fact, if you already do, you don’t really need to be reading this.  What you should do instead is send me an e-mail with your secret formula for success, because I’d love to know it.  (Maybe we can go halfsies on an inspirational lecture tour?)

All you really need is simply to listen to yourself.  Secretly, way down deep in places you may not have examined for a while, you already know the answers to these questions.  You know when you’re not happy (even if you’re doing something you think you’re “supposed” to be doing).  You know what really matters to you (even if other people think it’s silly or a waste of time).  You know what you’d really like to be doing with your life (even if it’s not “lucrative” or “impressive” or the same thing the Joneses are up to).

You know what will make you happy.  You’ve just gotten off track.

The simple answer, in other words, is that you’ll know in your gut when something needs to be quit.  Chances are, as you’ve been reading this, you’ve already thought up half a dozen things you’d like to take an ax to.

But, to make it a little easier for you, here’s a quick list of…

 

Some Major, Red Flag Signs It Might Be Time to Quit Something

  • When you’re not getting anything from it.
  • When you’re getting negative things from it.
  • When you’re doing it only because you think you’re supposed to.
  • When you’re doing it only because everyone else is doing it.
  • When you’re doing it to make someone like you.
  • When you’re doing it to avoid someone disliking you.
  • When you’re not sure why you’re doing it.
  • When you always dread doing it.
  • When it used to be important to you, but it no longer is.
  • When you don’t like who you are when you’re doing it.
  • When it doesn’t feel “right.”
  • When you’ve secretly wished you could quit it for a while now.
  • When it’s wasting precious time/energy/money you’d be better off spending elsewhere.

Those aren’t all the indications, but they’re some of the big ones.  As you went down that list, did any ideas start prodding at the back of your mind?

Sometimes the things that need to be quit are screamingly obvious.  Sometimes you’ve been wanting to pitch them for a while.  And sometimes they just hit you, in a head-smacking moment of “What the hell have I been doing?”  But we all have something—plenty of somethings, actually—that we’d be better off without.

The first step is to identify them.

 

Bear In Mind…

…there are no “silly” quits, and there are no “impossible” quits.  Nothing is too little, too big, too simple, or too ambitious.  This is your life, and you’re deciding how you want to live it.  It’s your call what stays and what goes.

If it’s important to you, then it’s worthwhile.

I myself have quit everything from compulsive e-mail checking to resenting circumstances I can’t change.  I like a nice mix of simple, everyday habits (“mini” quits) and larger goals and attitudes (“mega” quits).  (You can check out the ever-growing list of things I (and my readers) have quit here.)

But it’s totally up to you.  Like I said, it’s your life, and only you know what you need and don’t need in it.

Got an idea in mind?  Then click on over here to see what you can do about it.

 

Image:  Kate Haskell / Flickr

The Positivity of Quitting

This is an excerpt from my ebook, Your Guide to Calling It Quits (because there are better things to do with your life).  To read more, get your free copy here.

 

“Quitters never prosper.” ~common saying

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” ~Vince Lombardi

“Homey don’t quit.” ~Chubby Checker

*      *     *

“He that will enjoy the brightness of the sunshine must quit the coolness of the shade.” ~Samuel Johnson

“The first thing you ought to do when you find yourself in a hole is quit digging.”  ~Bill Clinton

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Then quit.  There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” ~W.C. Fields

           

Quitting sometimes gets a bad rap.  And sometimes it should.  So I want to make sure we’re on the same page as to what sort of quitting we’re talking about.

The first set of quotes refers to the bad variety of quitting: giving up on something because it’s too hard, because you don’t succeed right away, because you’re afraid.  When it comes to this kind of quitting, Homey shouldn’t play that.  Life takes a certain amount of perseverance and stick-to-it-ive-ness.  The important things aren’t always easy.

 

But There Are Some Things That Don’t Deserve Your Perseverance

Take a look at the second set of quotes.  They refer to quitting of a different kind. Getting rid of an attitude that isn’t working to make room for something healthier.  Stopping a bad habit or ending a relationship that’s only weighing you down.  Letting go of responsibilities that are no longer worth your time.  In these cases, quitting can be your best strategy.

We let our lives get all cluttered up with things that shouldn’t be in them.  Bad friendships that make us feel horrible.  Obligations we take on for the wrong reasons.  Negative habits and attitudes that wear us down.  It leaves us stressed out, burnt out, resentful, and with little time or energy left to focus on the things that really matter to us.

And it’s high time we got fed up enough to start doing something about that.

 

There Is Power in Saying “No” to the Things You Don’t Need in Your Life

It lets you clear out room for the things you do.  Quitting, of the kind we’re talking about, is empowering.

It’s about freeing yourself.

It’s about regaining control.

It’s about embracing what really makes you happy and saying to the universe, “This is how I want my life to be, and I won’t accept anything less.”

It’s about taking control of, and responsibility for, your life and your happiness.

You game for that?

Image:  Shanon Wise / Flickr