Walking Away (Part One)

“Don’t be a quitter.”

Many of us are raised to believe that quitting means tossing away potential rewards, wasting effort, making mistakes, and demonstrating a deficiency in character.

Quitters are “bad.”

Raise your hand if this is a belief you've got floating around in your personal sphere! Also, anyone else having flashbacks to their childhood and feeling like they want to cry?

"Don't be a quitter" is a polarizing worldview that makes a mess out of reality. See, our lives are actually a dazzling array of details. No situation, relationship, or challenge is clear-cut one thing or the other. To set yourself up as either a quitter, or an achiever, is madness.

And, in fact, not quitting can really halt your growth. When you don’t want to quit, you stick around in bog-like stagnancy believing that just because you haven’t walked away that you’ve done the right thing. Even if you’re getting trench foot, you’re covered in mosquitoes, and you can see a venomous snake slithering uncomfortably close.

But who cares! You’re not a quitter, after all! You’ll stick this out!

You can see the problem, right? You’re not happy. Chances are, the other people involved aren’t happy. And everyone is too busy doing the right thing to walk away.

For many of us there’s an additional hurdle to overcome. It’s not just that we don’t want to be a quitter, we don’t want to fail at whatever life lesson we happen to be presented with. Maybe we fear that we’ll be bound to repeat the discomfort because we chose to walk away from the current conundrum, leaving something unfinished.

That would make for some juicy spiritual sabotage, wouldn't it?

If I’m in this situation, it’s because I have something to learn. And if I don’t stick around to learn the lesson…I’m not making progress/growing/becoming more compassionate/insert-your-goal-here.

And that fear will keep you stuck. Remember the swamp analogy?

Today I want to take you by the shoulders and give you a gentle shake, because it’s what I wish someone would have done for me.

The act of walking away doesn’t make you spiritually stunted.

Not if you do the work. Not if you are honest with yourself, about yourself.

Choosing to abandon a relationship or situation doesn’t mean you’ve abandoned the challenge. To give you another analogy, it's just like leaving a particular classroom in a school won't mean that you've stepped out into the void where nothing is learned or experienced. Leaving the classroom simply means you’ve stepped out into the world. Away from a very specific challenge and lesson, and into the broader context of soul learning and growth.

So how do you have it all? Leave the swamp, learn the lesson, and not feel guilty for “quitting”?

You do the work. You don’t just toss your hands in the air, roll your eyes, stomp off, and wash your hands of everyone and everything involved. You walk away, yes, but you do so with grace and intention. It’s not as hard as you might think. And once you do the work, you won’t feel any of the guilt or resentment that comes with sticking around longer than is healthy.

By the way, this article doesn't come out of nowhere. Today I realized I was sitting in the swamp out of fear of walking away, quitting, and stunting my spiritual growth. Don't worry - everything's fine. It's unrelated to my work or my most important relationships (thank goodness). But I've had my share of needing to walk away from bigger things, and a swamp is a swamp. At some point, if we're not going to build a home there, then we've got to walk away.

Next week I’ll be posting an article on how to “do the work.” You’ll also get a fantastic tarot spread, journaling prompts, and a preview of an exciting tool I built just for these kinds of predicaments.