Thursday, July 28, 2016

I Quit

Don’t worry. I’m not really throwing in the towel, but we’ve all been there. Things aren’t going the way you want, or perhaps they’re not doing so as quickly as you might like. Frustration sets in. Before you know it, you begin to ask yourself if it’s worth it. Is the work you’re doing accomplishing anything? Even if it is, is it accomplishing enough. Is anyone paying attention?

The answer to that last one, at least, is easy. Someone is always paying attention. You are, even if no one else, and that matters. Your mind is sitting there like a precocious child, observing, studying, and - most importantly - remembering everything that you do. When you think that no one else is looking, remember that there is never less than one, and that one is the one most likely to be learning from your actions.

What new habit might you be setting by giving up? What new patterns would be engraved in your mind, to inform and influence all future decisions? That happens, you know. We are creatures of habit, some more and some less than others, but all creatures of habit to some extent or another. The things we do become matters of record in our mind and inform future things that we will do. The first time you do something, it is difficult. The second time is easier, and the third time is easier still. On it goes until practice, if you are very lucky, makes perfect.

We often think about this for habits we want to improve, but it applies the same for those habits we would prefer to do without as well. That part of the mind doesn’t understand value. It only understands repetition. If you keep doing it, it will improve. That goes for good habits and bad. Wherever you put the time and energy will get the attention and improvement. Choose wisely. I’m pretty sure we all have a bad habit of mistakenly improving bad habits, and we probably always will, but we can do better. Perfection may not be an achievable goal, but continuing to move toward it does mean continuing to be better.

For most of us, though, there is more than one person watching, even when we don’t realize it. I once had a conversation with a guy I had known in passing at school but had not seen or spoken with in years. One of the things he told me was how much of an influence I had been in school. Me? I was a no one, or at least I had been pretty sure I was. What attention I received in school was not usually of the pleasant or positive variety, but there it was. Someone had seen me, and taken something influential from what they had seen, and I had known nothing about it.

I have learned over the years that this is not unusual. Most of us are influencing people every day without knowing it. The courtesy you show to a cashier is being seen by everyone in line behind you. The dedication you show to your task is seen by your co-workers. The way you present yourself is seen by everyone you pass on the street. Your children! Your children and all of the children around you are watching every single thing you do; watching, studying, and dissecting for meaning - their meaning, not necessarily your meaning, and they don’t always remember to ask. You are teaching people every day, whether you know it or not. What lessons are you teaching?

Quitting can get to be a habit, just as much as not quitting. Anything you repeat can become a habit, so be aware of what habits you are setting. Are you quitting because it’s the right time to quit, or because quitting has become the easier thing to do? There can be a right time. Quitting is not inherently bad. We quit bad habits and people celebrate. We quit one job to go to something better because that is part of growing and becoming something better. We often have to quit one thing in order to begin something that we want or need more. Sometimes we need to quit because, despite all of the best intentions, we just can’t do what we were trying to do. That happens, and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging it. We’re not going to succeed at everything we try.

The question remains, are you quitting for good reasons or because quitting is the easy thing to do? It makes a difference, and directly impacts the lessons you are teaching. When frustration sets in, try to remember why you started in the first place. Is that still something you want to accomplish? Can you make changes to what you’re doing, instead of quitting, to better accomplish your goal? If you must quit, don’t quit in frustration. Quit because you have examined the situation and determined that quitting really is the better option.

Mindful action can make all of the difference, even when that action is to quit some action. Know what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you have taken the time to understand your own thoughts and motivations you will get better results even out of quitting. You will also find that you have reason to quit less often. If you go in with eyes wide open you are more likely to succeed, but you’re also less likely to begin going in where you won’t succeed. Being mindful has a beneficial side effect of helping you make better decisions.

Quit when you have to, when it’s the right thing to do, but don’t make a habit out of it. If you had good reason to begin, you probably have good reason to continue. Take a break, if you must. Catch your breath and gather your resources. Re-evaluate your actions and methods, and then keep going. Always keep going.

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