Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Learn to quit

I was thinking today about an old article from the Utne Reader that keeps popping up into my mind. The topic is the fine art of quitting.

I don't agree with all of the authors points, but the overall message has stuck with me all of my life. In fact, it is very likely the most important article I have ever read.

Let me explain. As a child I was a very high strung person, and I lost my temper quite often (this is due to a difficult family life, to be discussed on a psychiatrists couch one day). As I got older, I learned to let go of things, but not just anger. I now consider myself a Buddhist, because I deeply believe ALL things are fleeting, including my personal goals.

This doesn't mean I'm a nihilist, or that I have no goals, but that I accept that any goal or desire must be tempered with the understanding that I may, for completely rational reasons, change my mind, or, more importantly, something better may come along. If something better does come along, we must be prepared to quit what we have to pursue the better coarse.

I'm not advocating becoming a leaf, bouncing where the wind takes us, but a butterfly, always fighting the wind, though every once in a while realizing it may be giving us a better path. We must accept that sometimes things are not going well for us, and we must let them go. A tear may be in order, but don't look back too long.

My most personal moment of quitting came when I went to London for a masters program at SOAS, a good school, though I quickly learned it was not right for me academically (never mind I had left a very close girlfriend behind in the U.S.). After 4 days of being there, I came home; not because I gave up, but because I knew there were better opportunities elsewhere for me. I quite because it was the right thing to do.

I have always found it very odd when people don't know when to quit their failures. Sticking to something is a virtue only if we expect it will end up putting us in a better place than we are now.

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