never give up on yourself

The Courage To Quit: How To Know When It’s Time To Go

Candace Doby with arms crossed
photo credit: Gianne Demeritte

It’s time to quit when the thing you’re doing is causing you to quit on yourself.

I felt the edge of the sofa cushion starting to give out. I had been sitting there for a length of time I can’t remember with my torso arched over my thighs and my elbows pressed into my knees. My feet were placed firmly on the hardwood floor, but the weight of my thoughts made me sink deeper into the sofa. I could feel my butt sliding closer to the edge of the cushion which made it bend toward the floor, but I couldn’t manage to push myself back because I was exhausted from thinking about a single word.

When?  

When are you going to decide that there’s more to your life than marketing tacos? That the company car, corporate card, free flights, and fancy dinners are not enough? That you’re tired of wasting time in meetings and on calls that lead to nowhere?  When are you going to recognize that you’re not growing? That you’re checked out? That you’re too comfortable?

When are you going to make a move … before you hit the floor?  

I wanted to quit my job. I had spent over a decade doing, essentially, the same thing. There were certainly bright moments during that tenure. I got to work with some of the smartest marketing people in the industry. I earned a master’s degree. I was recognized as the best strategist in the company. But, those bright spots weren’t enough to outshine the feeling that it was time to move on. I didn’t just want another job, though. I wanted to break away from the traditional way of working and go after what I’ve been journaling about for years —traveling the world and teaching youth, particularly girls and young women, how to build courage in themselves.

Never Give Up

But, quitting wasn’t something I was used to. In fact, it seemed wrong, even a little dirty, to consider against the echos of my parents, teachers and coaches who had challenged me throughout my life to keep going. I had been taught not to give up rather than when to give up. So, there I was on the edge of my couch trying to separate the meanings of the two.

The advice to never give up had helped me crush a violin solo, set a personal record in the 400 meter dash and get a passing grade in The History of Christian Traditions, but applying the absoluteness of the advice to my job would mean that I would never leave — that I would always be reaching for some arbitrary level of success and psyching myself out to believe there was more. The three-word aphorism that had, in many ways, served as my personal tagline over the years now seemed incomplete. It needed an object as absolute as its overall tone so that it couldn’t be twisted and stretched to keep anyone doing anything.

Never give up … on what?

On yourself. 

The addition of those two words felt right. They added a layer of focus and depth, which sent me on another mental tangent. I rummaged through my thoughts. I discarded some and tossed the rest around until they all blended together …

When To Give Up

I don’t know the exact look I had on my face, but I imagine it resembled that of a kid who had finally knocked down all the milk bottles at the state fair. My butt had gone numb, and my brain hurt from sorting through sometimes disparate ideas, but I had just stumbled upon a piece of clarity that made the pain worth it. What if the concepts of not giving up and knowing when to give up needed to be blended, not separated?

That would mean: it’s time to quit when the thing you’re doing is causing you to quit on yourself — to give up on your potential, purpose and possibility.

Once I expressed my choices in that way — that I could quit the thing or quit myself — I found it less daunting to risk losing the credibility, familiarity and stability of my job for the sake of my personal growth. 

So, I mustered up the courage to quit and planned my exit. 

In the past year, I traveled to four countries and learned 2,457 words in Spanish (according to Duolingo). I doubled down on researching courage and  combined that research with my experiences traveling the world solo and leading marketing teams at a global brand. Those experiences have helped me to build the foundation of a burgeoning speaking business where I help youth and young adults build courage in themselves. And, it all happened because I didn’t quit on myself. 

It’s easier to hold on — to cling to what’s familiar and comfortable —even when it’s draining your opportunities for progression. It’s easy to become blinded by societal bling — status, power and access — and turn away from the truth of how stuck you are. It’s easier to trick yourself into believing that you’ll circle back to your dreams and talents one day. It’s easier to convince yourself you’re not equipped to handle whatever risks come with quitting a mindset, person, place or thing. 

But the courage to quit is a choice to face risks for a worthy purpose. And, I’ve come to learn that there is no worthier purpose than personal growth. 

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