When NOT to Quit
Photo courtesy of Jeff Djevdet.

When NOT to Quit

Written by Emilie

Topics: Multipotentialite Patterns

The first year of law school was exciting. It was challenging, interesting, and dramatic. However, by the time my third year rolled around, I was losing interest in law. The dull, corporate classes were making me want to chop my fingers off. It was also becoming clear to me that I didn’t want to pursue a career as a lawyer.

I could have dropped out, but I didn’t. Instead, I took the very NON-multipotentialite course of action and stuck it out.

I usually encourage multipotentialites to leave projects behind if they’re no longer feeling them, but there are times when not quitting is the right thing to do.

Here are three scenarios in which you might think twice about jumping ship:

1. You Are Very Close to a Finish Line

If your project has a natural end point, and you are fairly close to reaching it, you might want to hold on a little longer.

In the situation described above, I had made it through nearly two and a half years, and had one more year to go. If the program were any longer, I might have dropped out, but something inside made me stick with it. I wanted that degree. I wanted the sense of accomplishment, even if it made no difference from a career perspective. I also found ways of making my remaining time in the program more fun.

Keep in mind that there are often multiple finish lines, and once you reach one, another will appear. For instance, some people thought I was crazy to get my degree and then never take the bar exam. But if I had taken the bar and then quit, some people would have thought I was crazy for doing all that hard work only to never practice law. At that point, I would have felt tremendous pressure to become a lawyer. If I had become a lawyer and then quit a few years into it, people would have made the same exact comment: what a waste of time, energy, and money.

Don’t let other people’s expectations push you into a career you don’t want. If you are close to an end point that feels like a good stopping place to you, then push through, feel that sense of accomplishment, and say goodbye.

2. You’re Feeling Resistance

We sometimes confuse our personal end point with resistance. Resistance is that feeling of doom, dread, fear, or anxiety, that often accompanies a project of personal importance.

How do you tell the difference between resistance and a personal end point? Both can make you feel bored, but resistance has a few unique qualities:

Resistance usually comes on quickly (then sometimes disappears and reappears again quickly), causing us to panic. A personal end point, on the other hand, builds slowly over time. If you feel like making a rash decision and quitting suddenly, it’s probably resistance. Give it more time to see how you feel.

Although we may feel bored, resistance usually has an element of excitement to it. When you think about your project, do you feel both dread and longing? Does it make your heart beat faster? If so, it’s probably resistance. Hold on, and see how you feel in the upcoming weeks or months.

3. It’s Funding Your Life/Dreams

My friend Mike told me about a mental shift he once made that helped him better appreciate his day job. Instead of viewing his job as the thing that was taking him away from his personal projects, he began to see it as the thing that was funding his projects and allowing him to pursue them.

I’m a big fan of side hustles. If you’re working on building a business, get something going on the side. And don’t feel like you need to quit your day job right away. Financial security can be a really nice buffer when you’re getting something off the ground.

Some multipods use the Einstein approach, and pursue all of their passions on the side, as hobbies. It’s a lot less stressful when you don’t have to worry about monetizing your interests, and some people prefer this approach. If you’re happy with your day job, and it gives you the time and creative energy to pursue your other projects on the side, then that’s great. No need to quit.

It’s a Personal Decision

To a multipotentialite, quitting shouldn’t be seen as a failure, but as a natural and necessary step in your evolution. That said, the choice whether to let something go is personal, and there are times when sticking with something for a while longer might be the right thing to do.

Your Turn

Was there ever a time when you thought about quitting something, but decided to stick it out for a while longer? How did you come to that decision?

em_bioEmilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist carpenter. Learn more about Emilie here.

25 Comments

  1. Nela says:

    Hmm,I actually did the opposite and quit my electrical engineering studies two exams and a thesis short of my bachelor’s degree.

    I must note that I was never particularly interested in it (and wanted to study CS which was not available at my local uni) so I regret nothing… But I still get flack from people for not pursuing it until the end.

    I have no idea what would have made me follow through with it.

  2. Emilie says:

    That’s cool, Nela. It sounds like it was the right decision for you. That’s why I mentioned that it’s really a personal choice.

    Some people will always give ya flack though, no matter what. Just gotta do your thing.

  3. Milena says:

    Emilie, this post is great and it really resonated with me! First, resistance is the strongest at the finish line, we all know it. It is relatively easy to start but much more challenging to finish. I LOVE that you pointed out how there are more finish lines. It is crucial, especially in creative projects to define when is it done, because you might end up working on it forever. It will never be perfect! And yes, I hate “logical next steps” like most of the multipods out there. And yes, if it funds dreams, it is good enough. That is how I live too and it is OK. Thank you for inspiration! :)

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks Milena! You’re right, resistance is way worse at the beginning and end. I’d forgotten about that. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Kata Monzéger says:

    I love this article because almost the same happened to me. I have been at law university for three years now, and I have another two years. Here in Hungary we have to study for 5 years to get a degree – then come another 2-3 years of traineeship and another exam to actually be a lawyer. It’s sooo much for a multipotentialite…

    So, in my second year I discovered my lack of interest in law, but didn’t stop, because I didn’t have any idea what to do instead. It was quite hard. In my third year I started to pursue some new hobbies in my free time (screenwriting, designing magazines, etc.), and to my surprise, I enjoyed them so much that law university suddenly became much more better and interesting. I even studied more and joined a youth organization.

    Well, I don’t say that I want to work as a lawyer because it is not true. Sometimes it’s hard because my family would like me to be an attorney or you know, someone with status and high respect… And sometimes we just have to learn so much that’s not fair. But I keep on, because:
    1. I would like to get my degree. I have worked for it and I will be proud of myself when I get it.
    2. I have other plans now for my career, but law is a safety belt. I will easily get a day job anywhere I live, and I never have to leave my hobbies. That is important for me.
    3. Studying law improves my understanding of the world. I always watch for the bigger picture and it helps me get a more complex view.
    4. College life is fun. :) I use my time to get friends, visit different lectures, finding out what I want and discover a new place in Budapest every week.

    So yes, I think sometimes it’s okay not to quit and go on for a while.

  5. Carol says:

    Hey, I totally get this, I ve done this a few times with classes, books and other projects, most times I challenge myself to finish, but like you say sometimes you have to move on.

  6. Like you, Emilie, it’s school. I’m studying ministry, and I didn’t realize until I got started how much I hate theology. But I want my degree, and I finally have made it to senior status, so I’m going to stay with it.

  7. Anneri says:

    So much YES!
    I am studying for my I/O Psychology degree through distance learning, so it is taking longer than a full time degree would. I have been going since 2012 and will hopefully finish by 2016. I don’t want to stop, but so much R.E.S.I.S.T.A.N.C.E…. its draining me and making it so difficult to go forward.
    Plus I of course have so many other alluring/distracting items that I want to do, working on my quilts, starting to write and design for my blog again, wanting to write a novel. So many distractions, too little time.
    I put so much pressure on myself that none of it is fun anymore. I feel guilty no matter what i work on, because I feel I should be working on something else.
    But, at least i know I don’t want to quit this degree – its something that really fascinates me, if its not strangling me by the neck, that is. :-)

  8. rae says:

    I myself am 3/4 through an environmental science degree & wanting to pull out mostly because of a truly horrendous unit but I realise that the degree will help me get the money to do my biggest project & at present my crafty sides won’t support me.

  9. Vince Bradbury says:

    Wow. What a power packed post. I am hyper-vigilant for information and guidance that can be used to navigate my own life in the most productive and fulfilling way. I am very near (10 months) the end of a long working career and have been dealing with this issue (to quit or not to quit) for some time now. Your post has formalized and crystallized some of the questions I should be asking myself and answering to make the best personal decision. Thank you.

  10. Maricruz says:

    I to have finished my Film Degree (BA) and even did it at my dream school. But I have no desire to be filmmaker. I don’t know if I was burnt out at school or what, but I’m not pursuing it. Even my envy of other film making colleagues has dissipated. I am proud of what I did accomplish but I think I’m leaning towards becoming a professional assistant. “Girl Friday” is the term that sparks my interests now.

    p.s. it is not as taboo as it sounds :)

  11. Linda says:

    Funny that this should come up at this time. I am in a day job and living in a city, both of which I “left” 12 months ago. I know I have transition time between “lives”, so immediate departure is not necessary. But this current change has been in the pipeline for a long time and my due date passed long ago.

    I’m stuck in a job I feel I cant leave, in a city I no longer want to live in, when every fibre of my being is screaming to get out. Its a complete nightmare, particularly when I normally would just up and leave when I reach this point – not good for me or others when I’m backed into a corner… at least that’s how it feels to me. But I stay, dying a little more each day, feeling my energy drain away, because I have made commitments to others. But I also know that I will have to “quit” soon regardless of the “consequences”… none of the consequences are mine, but the fallout will be worse if I stay too much longer. I have no time for the things I need to be working on that energise me. My productivity is minimal and my health is suffering.

    For me, it is obvious when I need to move on – its not quitting, it is just following my heart and doing what I am supposed to do. And if I don’t, it benefits no one, including me.

    • Anneri says:

      Hi Linda! I feel your pain – let me send a big hug your way *hugs*
      Remember that when you get to the other side, through all the pain and turmoil that follows ‘quitting’, you will know that you have made the right choice and then you will be able to breathe again.
      When we follow our heart and trust our gut feelings – they usually lead us in the right direction.
      Best wishes to you on your journey forward!!

  12. Mary Miller says:

    Like most multipotentialites my energy and focus has a short gestation period. I think that most positions I’ve held were 18 months or less until I moved onto the next one; I created a career path though in change management so my resume didn’t so bouncy. Then I bought a franchise and got out of that because it wasn’t what I thought. Then I had to go back working for someone else to pay off the debt – that was hard. After a 6 month short stent at one job I started another and promised my husband that I’d stick it out. After 6 months I wanted to quit everyday but kept my promise because it was related to #3 above “It’s Funding Your Life/Dreams” while that finally ended it did teach me a lot of things about myself for which I’m grateful.So in this case not quitting was the right thing to do and out of this I feel back in love with writing and my creative side.

  13. Ashley says:

    I’ve been contemplating quitting school for many different reasons (in the first year it was financial strain, in the second and third year it was the lack of necessity for the degree, the fourth year I decided I didn’t like my major). I have about two more years (part time), but I struggle. I want the accomplishment at the end. Every year, I say I’ll quit, but I don’t. I think this might be something I should see through to the end, but I’m so weary.

  14. ahmed ossama says:

    hello dear Emilie

    that’s question answer is varies and not fixed at all

    some times I start a project and leave after one month , sometimes after 6 month sometimes 1 year it is changeable

    but generally the maximum involvement is one year the minimum involvement is 3 weeks

    sometimes it is not a project with definite meaning sometimes it was quick entry in a topic and exit for instance , be interested for awhile read , investigate , collect data and information then take a few action toward this idea or topic in the end exit

    this case toward me spend from 3 weeks minimum and 1 year maximum but the result always the same same

    haha , that is it

  15. Marijke says:

    Great post!
    Not quitting my study to become a teacher, but sticking with it and several years, ups and downs and coachings later, I now am a teacher in elementary school, I teach 4-5 year olds and I LOVE it.

    On the side, I’m a freelance graphic designer (that was my parttime study after I graduated in teaching), a dream I always had. For the rest, I have various crafty projects going on, music being my main interest now. I’m starting violin lessons in January (also a life long dream) and until then, I play keyboard and ocarina.

    I am not a master in one field, but enjoying doing what I love.
    I am very happy now.

    Marijke

  16. Coleen says:

    Greetings!

    Emilie, I’m so glad to have found you and this site! In all my years on this earth I thought there was something wrong with me. Yippee! I’ll take the multipotentialite label any day over a diagnosis!

    So, have I ever ‘thought about quitting something, yet decided to stick it out for a little longer’? Gawd, where do I start…I’m 61 yr. old and feel like have done that with stinking’ everything i’ve ever done! Actually, thinking about it, it’s been around jobs.

    I stuck with drafting waaaaayyyy too long! like 20 yrs. too long. then massage therapy, stayed way past my welcome. the real problem was in drafting, when i stayed at employers way longer than i should have. a couple times i paid a big price for staying…one was PTSD. yeh, over a job (insert eye roll here). I learned a very valuable lesson…to never be an employee again. Or at the very least, to be very choosy!

    I did think about quitting the one thing (hobby) i’ve stayed with for 50+ yrs, sewing. But, I couldn’t imagine my life without a sewing machine in it and changed my mind. Instead of selling everything, i took a long vacation from it. after about 5 years, i came back re-ignited. So, i’m glad i stuck with it.

  17. Coleen says:

    Greetings!

    Emilie, I’m so glad to have found you and this site! In all my years on this earth I thought there was something wrong with me. Yippee! I’ll take the multipotentialite label any day over a diagnosis!

    So, have I ever ‘thought about quitting something, yet decided to stick it out for a little longer’? Gawd, where do I start…I’m 61 yr. old and feel like have done that with stinking’ everything i’ve ever done! Actually, thinking about it, it’s been around jobs.

    I stuck with drafting waaaaayyyy too long! like 20 yrs. too long. then massage therapy, stayed way past my welcome. the real problem was in drafting, when i stayed at employers way longer than i should have. a couple times i paid a big price for staying…one was PTSD. yeh, over a job (insert eye roll here). I learned a very valuable lesson…to never be an employee again. Or at the very least, to be very choosy!

    I did think about quitting the one thing (hobby) i’ve stayed with for 50+ yrs, sewing. But, I couldn’t imagine my life without a sewing machine in it and changed my mind. Instead of selling everything, i took a long vacation from it. after about 5 years, i came back re-ignited. So, i’m glad i stuck with it.

  18. Concetta says:

    I randomly came upon this site like most people after watching and thoroughly enjoying your Ted talk. For years, I have always thought there was something wrong with me. I was a self-sabotager, I have a problem, I couldn’t just stick with something and be happy. Your talk and your site have literally for the first time in my life made sense out of my life. Thank you! This post particularly resonates with me. I am currently a first year law student. I hate it. But I have had previous careers in the past with some successes. As much as I would love to quit and I really do I am riddled with guilt and self doubt because “what am I supposed to do now?” Society and families and peers really do dictate we are supposed to pick one thing and stick with it otherwise we’re a loser. I’m struggling with following my heart versus following what everyone tells me I should do. It’s very hard to make that decision but this post does help. And I am very thankful to have come across your website.

  19. Alison Joy Willarf says:

    I really like this post!
    I have experienced both jumping ship right before the end of something as well as holding out to finish it.
    Looking back I wish I had stuck it out to get the sense of accomplishment with the things I quit very close to their end.
    I am grateful for the things I have pushed through and finished, like culinary school, even though I haven’t been able to pursue it as a career because it takes the fun out of it for me.
    But I am also grateful for the times I bailed on things early on before I was too invested. I feel like I honor myself when I quit something that I realize early on is not for me.

  20. Marijke says:

    I used to think my job as a teacher in elementary school (I teach 4-5 year olds) was often standing in the way of the creative things I wanted to do. But after reading this blog post, I realized I’m working the Einstein method and I’m very content with it.

    I really like my job, but I’m glad I’m working only 2-3 days a week (it’s quite exhausting!), so I have plenty of time to do freelance graphic design jobs, making music and working on writing my textbook in which I collect music lessons for the kids I teach. On thurdays, I go to a jazz dancing class and on fridays I go to a tapdance class (which is a short course of 10 lessons). Oh, and there’s grocery shopping and cleaning as well. ;-) Luckily I also have time to sit on the couch and read a book with a cup of tea.

    I’m really content with the way my life is arranged. I like diving into new interests, but adding more hobbies would mean I’d have to drop something, I think. But I don’t feel a need for a new hobby, although I should draw more. Drawing used to be my only hobby as a kid and teenager. And reading, too.

  21. Daniella says:

    I did the exact same thing but with an accounting degree (finished it despite realizing with 1.5 years left that it wasn’t for me, did my last semester in England trying to figure things out, never became a CPA), and then I wrote about it in a very similar way for a medical school application. It cracks me up how many parallels I see on this website with my own life. :)

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