You are meant to understand your dual polarity needs: the work and the play, the private and the professional. If you keep just one single polarity, you diminish productivity. One gives you the energy to accomplish and enjoy the other.” Gregge Tiffen (Impatience Fishes In An Empty Pond – June, 2008)
Decades (oh, how I would like to say ‘years’!) ago when I was fresh out of graduate school, I didn’t have this wisdom. I was hell bent on using my urban planning skills to make the world a better place. I regularly (and proudly) worked intense 70+ hour weeks, continuing the habit I created in grad school taking a full course load while holding a full time consulting job.
Five or so years into that way of life, I was exhausted and miserable. Ready or not, I felt challenged to confront the reality that I was working hard but hardly living. At about the same time as this recognition came, a series of events at the agency where I was Deputy Director (I worked my way up the ladder fast!) left me feeling uncomfortable and unable to fulfill my role. And, so I resigned. I didn’t understand until much later that through those uncomfortable events, the Universe was conspiring to support me.
I read. I rested. I slept (really slept!). I played, went to therapy, and travelled. I spent days on the Pacific Coast mesmerized by tide pools. I was introduced to metaphysics, Gregge Tiffen, and what has become a lifelong curiosity. I fell in love, experienced a breakup, and met the man I would later marry.
And after six or so months, I was ready to re-engage professionally, this time with a commitment to work and play. Creating a different life was possible because I had the courage to quit, walk away from the so-called ‘security’ of a paycheck. And, many years later I made the same choice, ending a marriage.
Today, I exercise my ‘quit’ muscle when I find myself in situations where my experience is complete. That can look like satisfaction upon completing a project or, at the opposite extreme, it can be when a situation doesn’t feel right and I no longer choose to put my energy there.
‘Quitting’ can also be simply taking a break, as I did this past week, engaging in a ‘stay-cation’ to hike and enjoy my cousin’s visit. It can be stepping away from a ‘problem’, knowing that I can return later with a fresh perspective (though they often resolve themselves before I do!)
In our culture we tend to look down on ‘quitting’ as the shadow or ‘bad’ side of being engaged. ‘Quitters’ have no honor. Perhaps though it’s time we develop a new view: quitting as a valued skill that has its place in our life skills tool box, keeping us on course so we don’t find ourselves, as I did those decades back, in a life that others (employers, family, friends, the culture) would have us live. Rather we are living and learning in the life that is authentically and uniquely ours.