Why You Should Quit the Toxic People in Your Life, Pronto

You’re only as good as the company you keep.

You’ve heard that before, I’m sure, and probably took it to mean what most people take it to mean: If you hang out with losers, you yourself are more likely to become a loser. If you hang out with winners, you’re more likely to become a winner. And etc. You know, the sort of stuff your parents told you when explaining why you could hang out with your straight-A-student friend as often as you liked, but your black-eyeliner-wearing, rumored-to-be-a-smoker friend was off-limits. (The joke was on them, because your straight-A-student friend was actually the one who got you into all sorts of shenanigans.)

But there’s a spinoff to the old cliche, and it’s one most people don’t always take into account, although they really ought to:

 

Your Life Is Only As Good As the People You Allow Into It

(Tweet!)

Surround yourself with amazing, supportive, loving people, and your life will be happier. You will feel inspired and encouraged. You’ll have fun doing nothing on a Saturday night just because you love the people you’re doing nothing with. When things get tough — as things will, from time to time — you’ll have a support system to lean on that will make everything a little less lonely and painful.

Surround yourself with downers, drama magnets and doomsdayers, and you’ll find yourself feeling resentful, anxious and irritable. Your energy will be sapped and your good vibes kiboshed. You’ll find yourself complaining more even when things are basically alright, and hard times will hit you twice as hard. Everything will just kinda suck more in general.

Negativity, just like positivity, has a tendency to seep throughout your world.

Most of us realize this, at least theoretically. We seek out and are drawn to the people who make us laugh, make us feel good about ourselves and make us glad to be around them. But sometimes we find ourselves stuck with the other sort of people, whether by chance (relatives, in-laws, coworkers), bad decisions or a moment of weakness when we thought we could “fix” someone and eventually realized we couldn’t.

The people in category A (those you’re stuck with by circumstance) you can’t always chuck, but you can limit your time with them and develop ways to mitigate their life-sucking abilities so they don’t harm you as much.

The people in category B (any and everyone who is in your life simply because you allow them to be), you can — and should — chuck, plain and simple. Here is why.

 

1. They Will Only Bring You Down

You may think you can bring them up with your injections of fresh perspective and invitations to optimism. You may naively think they just need a hug, or someone to give them a smile, or a kind gesture to erase their memories of being picked on in middle school (or whatever it was that turned them into a prickly forcefield).

And occasionally, once in a very great while, you can do this. I won’t tell you not to try, because it’s a brave and kind and generous thing to want to help other people, and because giving up on that would go against everything my spirit animal Anne Shirley stands for.

But once you’ve tried, and failed, innumerable times and they’re still just as impenetrably prickly, it’s time to accept you may not be the one who can bring them out of their funk. Often no one can but themselves. There’s a critical difference you need to understand when it comes to people who are just stuck in a gloomy mood and people who have lived so long in their negativity it’s become a part of who they are: negative-at-the-core people won’t change because of any effort you or anyone else makes on them.

That’s not to say they can’t change. They can, but only if the decision to change comes from within. Whatever it is that made them the way they are, they’ve been stewing and festering and entrenching themselves in it for so long it’s become a part of their very DNA. Nothing you can say or do will make a significant dent in that armor; it will just wear you out and expose you to more of their negativity rays than necessary.

Save yourself. You have better things to focus your energy on.

 

2. Sometimes People Just Suck

I’m reminded of a certain Popeye’s drive-thru incident in which the husband and I had a terrifying run-in with a person whose toxicity was so fierce and inexplicable I still to this day find myself idly musing over what life events must have led her to become someone who would act the way she did.

I muse on this not because I think there’s any answer to it — or at least not any answer I can ever get to the bottom of — but for the sake of my own mental exercise, the way you’d muse on the “one hand clapping” koan. It’s intriguing to imagine the different factors that may have gone into creating this person’s extreme reaction in this particularly un-extreme situation. Sometimes it helps me loosen up my synapses when I’m suffering a bout of writer’s block.

But the trouble with the run-ins we have with the toxic people in our lives is that we often feel we should be able to get to the bottom of them. We secretly wonder what we’ve done wrong to cause or exacerbate this person’s awfulness. And in the vast majority of cases, the answer is, “nothing.”

The simple truth — and I hate to say this because I do believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt and trying to see the good in everyone — is that sometimes, people just suck. Maybe, like the Tootsie Roll goodness at the center of a Tootsie Pop, there’s a heart in there somewhere that’s been shellacked over with layers and layers of unbreakable anger and resentment and hostility. And it’s incredibly sad to think of whatever must have caused that.

But you, yourself, are not responsible for the task of chipping away at that veneer for however many attempts it takes to get to the center. It’s a long, hard job to get there — sometimes one that takes a lifetime and the kind of professional experience that comes with a high billable hour rate — and, as aforementioned, the effort will only bring you down rather than them up.

Some people can’t be fixed by you, and some people can’t be fixed at all. It’s not your fault or your responsibility to fix them, especially not if all you get for your effort is pain and suffering. Be a good person. Be kind and patient. Then know you’ve done your best, and move on.

 

3. You Should Spend Your Awesomeness on the Things That Are Worth It

Your life is short, and your days on this planet are numbered. You have gifts and talents and love and awesomeness the world deserves to know about and benefit from, and wasting those things on people who only repay you with soul-sapping is not only a crying shame, but a slap in the face of the universe that gave you said gifts, talents, love and awesomeness.

If you’re kind and positive and forgiving and generous, it will radiate outward. It will affect those around you, whether you see it immediately or not. It may even affect people you’ll never meet, in ways you’d never imagine, including some of those toxic people you thought were beyond hope.

But only if you disengage from them so you can do you to the best of your ability.

Your mission on this earth is to be the most kickass version of yourself you can be, and you can’t be that person if you’re surrounded by people who consistently bring you down. It’s like trying to be a race car driver when your pit crew is quietly loosening your wheels and filling your tank with water every chance they get. Choose a crew that’s got your back. Be on the crew of people you admire. You’ll do a hell of a lot more good that way.

 

4. You Deserve Better

Is this one a selfish reason? I suppose so, and I have zero guilt over that. So should you.

For a society where selfie sticks are actually a thing and weddings have their own hashtags, we’re amazingly reluctant to allow ourselves to pursue the courses of action that will make us happy. Narcissism and navel-gazing are on fleek, yet we’re terrified of coming across as “selfish” for daring to make a life we love when the people around us insist on staying miserable.

But guess what? The shitty people in your life feel zero guilt about making your life shittier. They are black holes that get off on pulling everyone else into their vortex of suckiness, and if your good-faith efforts to reach out and help them are ignored or rebuffed, it is totally and absolutely within your right as a human being to rid them from your world.

Whoever declared it was virtuous to tolerate people who insist on acting like asshats was probably an asshat himself, trying to guilt-trip people into still hanging out with him after they decided they were finally fed up.

Fuck that noise, and fuck it hard.

You can still be a good person, and preternaturally kind to toxic people whenever they happen to cross your path, while also making a decided effort to keep them out of your path at all junctures possible.

It’s your life. It’s your energy. It’s your precious time on this planet. Don’t feel bad about standing up for that. Don’t feel bad for wanting to spend it on things that are worth the effort.

What toxic people do YOU need to evict from your life? 

Image:  JD Hancock / Flickr

QUIT: My Abusive Relationship

[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end.  I call these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]

I’ve been in an abusive relationship for… well, more years than I’ve really been counting, especially since it took a while to see it for what it really was. Abusive relationships are like that. You find lots of ways to justify them, explain them away, make excuses for why they make sense and why you deserve precisely what you’ve been getting.

It’s sick and twisted, and deep down somewhere, you know that, but it’s hard to muster up the full-on realization it takes to walk away.

I’ve known this girl for a long, long time, and our friendship seemed awesome, at first. She inspired me to do some amazing things and had my back during some ridiculous escapades. She was the first person to laugh with me when I found something funny and the first to hand me a tissue when something broke my heart. She knew me better than anyone else, hands down, and she still does.

But she’s also a stone cold bitch to me an awful lot of the time.

And I’m finally beginning to realize that’s just not cool.

 

The Way We Were

In the beginning, I liked her because she challenged me. She was always spurring me to be better, smarter, kinder, stronger, to reach for more and accomplish more, to not go easy on myself. I loved that about her. I loved that she called me on my B.S. and wouldn’t let me listen to my own excuses.

I’m also a contrarian person. I like to prove people wrong. When people say I can’t do something, it makes me that much more driven to show them I can. I respond well to the boot camp style of coaching. And that’s what I thought she was offering me, at first: tough love. If it felt a little too tough at times… well, that must have meant I was being particularly soft that day and I needed the spurring more than ever.

Her challenges inspired me to start this blog, quit my day job and do plenty of other things I never would have dreamed of doing without her. She held me to my guns. She wouldn’t let me wuss out. She kept my nose to the grindstone. And it paid off.

 

Then Things Started Shifting

They were small things, at first.

An “Are you sure you want to do that?” when I stopped attending my masterminds because I found they were only making me unhealthily obsessed with keeping up with the entrepreneurial rat race.

A barely noticeable eyebrow raise when I said my only plans for the evening were to read a book and cuddle with the husband.

A quietly muttered comment about “commitment” when I announced I was no longer forcing myself to put in 60-hour workweeks.

She meant well, I reminded myself. Maybe she was feeling cranky that day, or maybe her tendency to want the best for me came out wrong that time. So I let it slide. I forgave and forgot and kept striving to live up to her expectations

But more and more, I began to realize that her expectations were no longer helping me. In fact, they were kind of tearing me to shreds. Something had changed in our relationship — in her — and her input was getting less and less “You can do better!” and more and more “That’s not good enough.”

I put in a marathon workweek to get a big project done by Friday, and she ruined our Sunday Funday by going on and on about how Richard Branson probably doesn’t take weekends off and Robert Herjavec says anyone who needs more than 4 hours’ sleep won’t make it as an entrepreneur.

I turned down a project request because it paid well but didn’t fit my interests, and she reminded me how there was once a time I would’ve been happy to take on anything and everything, and if I got too picky I could wind up regretting it.

A reader emailed to tell me how much my blog had touched them, and when I told her about it, she sniffed and said, “That’s nice, but you can’t monetize compliments. How much has your blog actually made you this month?”

All that pull-no-punches, let’s-be-real-with-ourselves brazenness I used to admire in her had become twisted, somehow. It had morphed from being motivating and energizing to being downright cynical. Maybe I’d let her push me around too much, and the power got to her head. Maybe she’d always been the negative kind of taskmaster, but I never saw it before because it took a while for her to wear me down. Maybe we’d both lost sight of the difference between tough love and just being an asshole.

Whatever the cause for the shift, I started dreading the times she came around. Her comments lingered with me long after she left, giving me headaches, stomach aches, anxiety attacks whenever I thought of them. I started staying in bed at night binge-watching bad TV rather than risk hanging out with her or doing anything she’d be sure to pounce on and tear apart.

I could anticipate her cutting, snarky remarks before they even came, and what was worse, deep down I’d begun to believe them. I’d come to see myself as the screwup she clearly saw me as. I was was damned if I did, because it was never enough, and damned if I didn’t, because that meant I was slacking.

 

So, Why in the &%$* Did I Stick With Her?

There are all sorts of excuses I could give for why I’ve kept her in my life long past the time she was a positive addition:

It’s easy to fall into negative patterns.

It’s hard to let go of a long history together.

I still believe that, in her heart of hearts, she really does want the best for me, even if it comes out in a way that sounds harsh.

But the biggest reason I’ve put up with this abuse (because, let’s be honest, that’s what it is)?

It’s because I can’t get away from her.

It’s because she’s in my head.

It’s because she is me.

I’ve always been my own worst critic, but I’ve been kidding myself into thinking I’m only being hard on myself because I’m driven, because I’m disciplined, because I want more for my life than the average bear. I’ve confused pushing myself with beating up on myself. And it’s turned my inner motivator into a monster whose sole purpose in life is to smash down anything I try doing out of a perverted idea that being a heartless drill sergeant is the same thing as being driven and ambitious.

So I think it’s time we break up, for reals.

 

Inner Critics Make Shitty Coaches

The thing about being driven to improve yourself is, it can get you to lots of great places. Holding yourself to high standards can produce some amazing results, and pushing yourself farther than you think you can go can be empowering and enlightening.

But it can also drive you into the ground, if you’re not careful to make sure there’s plenty of love to go along with all that toughness.

For all the posts I’ve written like this one, this one and this one, hoping to show you that you can do more and be more and still be kind to yourself, I’ve written an equal number of posts like this one, this one and this one, which — if I had been looking close enough — were telltale signs I was in an abusive relationship with my own inner critic-coach

I wasn’t pushing myself past my limits Jillian-Michaels-style, believing in an awesome end result and giving myself the motivation to get there; I was playing a ruthless game of “Bombardment!” on myself every time I tried to do something, whether that “something” was write a post or hang out with my friends or try to take some much-needed time to relax. (Did you realize you can fuck up relaxing? You can, quite spectacularly, according to my inner critic-coach.)

If a real friend had treated me this way, I’d have dropped her without thinking twice. I have no place for toxic people in my life. But toxic people in my head? I somehow trust that they know what they’re saying, because I know me, right? I’m my own worst critic because I’m the only unobstructed witness to all the things that are the matter with me… right?

Not so much. That inner critic, those demons, those lizard-brain reactions, whatever you want to call the voice inside your head that tells you you’re not good enough, not smart enough, and gosh darn it, people hate you — that voice is a Mean Girl (or Guy) of the highest caliber, and just because she’s a part of you, that doesn’t mean she’s right. There’s a part of me that would love nothing more than to sleep all day and subsist on Little Debbie Zebra Cakes, but I’ve learned to ignore and override that part because it clearly doesn’t have my best interests in mind. The same goes for your inner critic.

There’s a difference between challenging yourself (super-awesome) and being a complete and utter bitch to yourself (super-not-awesome). (Tweet!) When you challenge yourself, you push yourself to go further and be better, but you realize you’re only human and if you fall short of your goal, you pick yourself up, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself it’s OK; you’ll get ‘em next time.  You also realize that challenging yourself 24/7 only leads to burnout, and it’s not only OK but necessary to spend some time just being alive and being happy about that.

When you’re a complete and utter bitch to yourself… well, you end up writing veiled Quit posts that make you sound like you’ve got borderline personality disorder.

Don’t end up writing veiled Quit posts that make you sound like you’ve got borderline personality disorder.

Learn to ask if the gauntlet you’re throwing down for yourself is one that will help you go farther or simply make you feel like shit. Learn to recognize that your inner critic isn’t your coach, but your detractor. Stop piling “tough love” on yourself when it’s really just abuse in disguise.

Be kinder to yourselves, guys. I promise you can still kick ass and do amazing things while being nice to yourself. (It actually helps you do it better.)

Is your inner coach really an inner critic? How can you break free from the abuse?

Image:  Nicki Varkevisser / Flickr

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

QUIT: Being a Selfish Bitch About My Husband’s Illness

[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end.  I’m calling these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]

 

This is one of those posts that has the potential to make you hate me.

I hate myself for it.  But we’re all about the honesty here, and I’m hoping there might be someone out there this could help in some way or another.  I don’t know in what way, but something has been pushing me to write it for weeks, so I’m just going to write it.  It needs to get out, because it’s been a huge issue that needs dealing with.

So here goes…

 

 My Husband Has Mitochondrial Myopathy

You can read the full details on this condition (which was first diagnosed as Fibromyalgia) here, but the short explanation is that his cells don’t produce energy like they’re supposed to.  This means that:

  • He feels aches and pains all the time in random places.  We’re never sure if something’s actually wrong or if it’s just wonky nerve signals.
  • He’s sensitive to light and extremely sensitive to heat—which makes the summer an especially bad time for him.  He’s gone down a full clothing size this summer from not being able to eat since he’s had so many flare-ups.
  • He has trouble eating.
  • He has trouble sleeping.
  • He gets extremely tired after even a little bit of physical exertion and can be in pain for days after if he doesn’t take it easy.
  • He can’t stand for long periods of time (like at concerts).
  • He can go from feeling fine one minute to feeling like crap the next.  (If he ever really feels “fine” like you or I do.)
  • He has trouble concentrating and remembering things (the fancy name for this is “discognition”; the layman’s name is “brain fog”).

In spite of all of this, my husband is a saint.  He’s always thinking of other people, bringing me flowers spontaneously on his way home from work and asking how I slept the night before, even if he’s clearly had a horrible night of it himself.

He rarely complains, rarely gets caught up in self-pity, and he has such a warm and upbeat personality that plenty of people have trouble believing he’s even sick.  (Did I mention some people don’t believe he’s sick, but imply he’s just wimping out and not “toughing things out” like other people do?  Yeah, that’s also a problem.)

Yet, in spite of all of this, I am often a total and utter bitch to him.

 

Let Me Count the Ways…

I’ve been trying very hard lately not to vocalize or show my increasingly awful thoughts in my actions, so he may not think I’m as bad as I am.  (Or maybe he does realize it?  Maybe he’s just being exceptionally forgiving of me.)

But, inside my head, I am a selfish, resentful, bitter little child about so many things:

 

1. Total Responsibility For All Household Chores Falls On Me

Budgeting, cleaning, dealing with repairs, managing the calendar…Anything that could possibly need to be done to maintain a house, two dogs, and the life of married couple falls to me.

This is why I’ve given up on keeping my house clean anymore.  With so much on my plate and so little time for any of it, I have to let a lot (and I mean A LOT) of things fall through the cracks.  There’s just nothing else to do.  I feel horrible about this, then angry because everything is on me.  It doesn’t seem fair.  I am the hardest worker you’ll ever see, but carrying everything on your shoulders all the time can wear you down.  It makes your nerves raw.  It makes you start to resent every little extra thing that comes your way.  It makes you have a completely disproportionate meltdown when something breaks because How Much More Am I Supposed To Be Able To Deal With?

But: is being sick all the time the way my husband wants to be living?  Is that fair?  I don’t even need to answer that question for you to know how awful it makes me feel every time I remind myself of it.  Here I am grumbling over stupid things like laundry and bill paying when my husband is spending another night in bed just trying to make the hours to pass.  It makes me feel sick, when I stop myself long enough to smack some sense into myself.

 

2. We Spend a Lot of Time in Bed in the Summer

Our bedroom and my office are the only rooms with A/C’s, so as soon as my husband gets home from work most evenings during the summer, he goes straight into the bedroom.  Which means when I’m not working on my freelancing, my nights are usually spent lying in bed in the dark watching TV for hours.

This makes me extremely antsy.  I’m ambitious and curious, and although I almost always prefer spending the night at home to going out, months of spending the night at home can start to wear on you.  The weather is gorgeous, we’re young and supposed to be in the prime of our lives, and our city is filled with pretty parks and great restaurants and fun little main streets with shops to browse.  There are so many things we could be doing together, even once in a while for a change.  Instead, his being housebound makes me feel like I’m restricted to being housebound, too.

But does he enjoy being stuck in bed all the time?  Sure, he loves his Xbox and could probably watch TV for 24 hours straight and seem perfectly happy doing it, but it’s not because he’s lazy or that’s what he’d most love to be doing with his time.  It’s because he physically can’t do anything else, and he’s making the best of it.  I fall into the exact same trap as the people who fail to realize he’s really sick.  Our routine has become so set and “normal” for us that I fail to realize why it is the way it is.  I focus on all the things we’re not doing, instead of focusing on why it is that we can’t.

Instead of boohooing the fact that I rarely get a night out on the town, I should be doing everything in my power to make my husband as happy as I can with everything he’s dealing with.  I could go out on my own sometimes, even though I’m not a fan of it, just to relieve some of my stir-craziness so I can be a better wife to him.

I could, I could, I could be doing so many things better…but so far?  I’m not.

 

3. I Never Know When Our Plans Will Actually Happen

We had a disastrous trip this summer where my husband got sick and we spent the majority of the vacation watching TV in our hotel room, with me eating a reheated microwave “burrito” at a Target café at 9:00 p.m. because we’d gotten literally one block from the restaurant we’d been looking forward to visiting when my husband got sick.

It’s extremely rare that we can ever say, “Hey, let’s go get some ice cream!” or “Want to take the dogs for a walk?” spur-of-the-moment.  We used to be able to, when we were first dating.  But that’s not the way things are anymore.  Every plan we make to go out for dinner or hang out with friends, we both know, has a 50/50 chance of being cancelled.  This can get really disheartening.  It’s so rare that we get to step outside our normal housebound schedule that even I, the queen of anti-social homebodies, can start to feel depressed after enough nights stuck indoors thinking about the movie we could have been seeing or the reservation we had to cancel.

But how disheartening is it for him? I know he tries to do as much as he can, and admitting he isn’t up for something can’t be easy for him.  But am I sympathetic to that?  That’s the thing—I’ve learned to hold my tongue, nod my head, and say “o.k.” as matter-of-coursely as I can.  But in my head?  I’m disappointed.  I’m disgruntled, sometimes.  And that is a 100% selfish, unfeeling, and bitchy way to react to this.

I wish I could go back to the beginning and do everything all over again the right way, but I can’t.  All I can do it try to make a total 360 going forward.

 

Trying to Grow a Heart That’s Gone Three Sizes Too Small

I’ve started reading books on what it’s like to deal with a nebulous, life-long condition like mitochondrial myopathy.  Some are geared towards loved ones and “caretakers”; some are written for the people who suffer these conditions.  Both kinds make me realize what a self-centered prick I’ve been and how hard every day must be on my husband, even though he rarely shows how bad it really is for him.

I want to start understanding more what it’s like to be sick, the kind of sick that will never really go away, and how people cope with that.  So I can help him cope with that as much as I can learn to cope with it myself (which I desperately need).  I considered starting a blog on what it’s like to go through all this, but I think I need to do some serious research and soul-searching before I start distracting myself with another fun, shiny blogging activity.

Because I promised to be with him through sickness and in health—not to be with him with secretly frustrated thoughts and dissatisfied grumblings, but with empathy, patience, grace, and positivity.

He deserves better than me.  He honestly does.  But I’m going to try to be more like that person…

Image: Frédéric Poirot / Flickr