I still feel some shame around quitting
But I want to keep following the aliveness
Last night I met someone who’s spent the last decade working on a huge values-based mission.
He’s gone through set back after set back but has stayed committed and now his vision has materialised.
When a friend told him ‘Sarah has a podcast about quitting’, he raised his eyebrows.
My friend looked at me, smiling: ‘this guy doesn’t quit’.
‘What was the catalyst for you looking at quitting?’, the founder asked, genuinely intrigued.
I told him about the first social enterprise I started between 2013-15. How for about 18 months I tried to bring it to life and make it work, with some success. But that ultimately, it didn’t feel like what I wanted to put energy into any more so I made the decision to quit the project and work on other things.
Against his decade of trying I felt a little embarrassed about the short time I’d spent persevering with mine.
And similar feelings from 2015 arose:
‘what’s he going to think of me for closing that?’
‘I hope he doesn’t think I give up too easily.’
‘Maybe I’m not very resilient.’
I was taken back to those same worries.
But I also had to remember the reality of that time. That project had felt really alive for me… until it hadn’t. And in closing it down I was maybe quitting that project, but I was saying yes to my life and the other projects that were coming into focus: Rye Laughs, writing musical comedy, hosting creative retreats, setting up Power of Uke…
That first social enterprise ‘break-up’ helped me create space for so much aliveness and joy.
It’s interesting how these interactions can give us a chance to reflect on past choices and how we talk about them.
I stand by making that decision, and yet it still felt a little uncomfortable to talk about. To admit: ‘I quit something.’ And, I suppose, the fact that it feels uncomfortable is also the reason I wanted to start talking about quitting more back in 2017 - because it is complex to have one part of you that feels really committed to making a project happen, and another part that doesn’t want to work on it anymore. Keeping going is tough because there is no longer alignment. Quitting is tough, because you have to face that something hasn’t worked out.
I am continuing to feel alive about the idea of Beautiful Endings, of how we can acknowledge projects that haven’t come to full fruition, or scaled globally, or have just had their time.
With every project we decide to quit we learn more about what we want to work on, how we want to work, and also how we DON’T want to work.
And having the awareness that something is not feeling fulfilling anymore is a skill we need to hone, not shy away from.
Equally for this founder, I see how his commitment was fuelled by the project continuing to feel alive for him. He also had to quit things along the way to make that happen.
I love having aliveness as a barometer.
I wonder what it would feel like for you to follow your aliveness this weekend? Truly asking, is there something here to discover? Is this tingling me? Where feels fizzy?