This Week I Quit Quitting This Week I Quit
It’s time to bring back one of my most popular blog series: This Week I Quit. Here’s why.
My yearly theme in 2020 was Momentum. Of course, the cruel joke was we didn’t go anywhere for most of 2020. The world ground to a halt. The true theme of 2020, for all of us, whether we liked it or not, was Adaptation.
We think evolution means improvement. But sometimes evolving doesn’t mean becoming better. We evolve when we adapt to survive in our environment. And surviving doesn’t always look like thriving. We adapted to the pandemic. We became the work-from-home, shop-online, only-go-out-when-essential version of ourselves.
The pandemic isn’t finished with us. But we’re increasingly feeling done with the pandemic version of ourselves.
I don’t know if it’s like Lent or like New Year’s, but many of us now want to quit living this way. We’re ready to begin the slow pilgrimage towards our post-pandemic identity.
This is why I’m bringing back This Week I Quit.
The Origins Of This Week I Quit
This popular series ran here from 2016 to 2019. Every “week” (or thereabouts), I’d quit something different. Maybe give up a habit. Or delete an app. It was an exercise in practical minimalism as a way of life.
The series was inspired by something Bob Goff said. Every Thursday, he would try to quit something. Think of it as decluttering your life. Letting go of things you don’t need. Things that take up time and energy without getting you closer to where you want to be.
At the start of This Week I Quit, I’d been struggling with anxiety and was looking critically at how I spent my time. Why did I feel constantly distracted? What things fractured my focus?
So, I tried a little experiment. Every week, I’d quit something and write about the experience.
As I wrote in the summary, I wasn’t able to keep up with the once-a-week rhythm. That didn’t matter because the experiment was a success. My ability to pay attention improved. My mindset changed. I was able to “Marie Kondo” my beliefs, commitments, and habits. This happened as part of a broader focus on mental well-being (including therapy). Better sleep habits, more exercise, and the books I was reading all contributed as well.
But the experience of This Week I Quit (and writing about it) made some things pretty clear.
What I Learned
We all have beliefs about ourselves. They might be stories about our strengths and weaknesses, our character, or our potential.
Early on, we learn to categorise ourselves based on these stories.
And these stories are often remarkably negative. So we enter adulthood telling ourselves we’re “naturally” not artistic, or musical, or we’re disorganized, or messy, or we’re not good at maths or public speaking.
And we just accept that story and hold onto it for the rest of our lives. Which is just wild! We become so good at obeying beliefs that might not even be true anymore.
Those beliefs were formed in our earliest years, when we were young, naïve and struggling to understand the world. Why hold onto them forever?
Sure, school experiences are important. But we’re adults maybe ten times as long as we spend in high school. That’s long enough to try so many things and change so many of those self-beliefs.
You can change your self-beliefs.
Quitting Towards Growth
We’re talking about removing limiting beliefs and developing a growth mindset. This isn’t as simple as deciding to be “optimistic”. Our self-beliefs are like a garden that requires constant care and nature – which includes pulling out the weeds from time to time.
Growing up, I learned to call myself disorganised and lazy. Teachers reinforced this message. Today’s better trained educators might’ve spotted learning issues, traces of social anxiety, or the challenge of being a third-culture kid as part of my approach to school.
At home, I didn’t have siblings my age. So I compared myself to a household of highly motivated adults. Of course it always felt like they had it together more than I did!
The shadow of these kinds of experiences is long, and we compensate for them in ways like perfectionism and overcommitment. Or we let them hold us back, fearfully not trusting our ability.
The quitting itself isn’t the point. Yes, we make room for new things when we get rid of stuff. But the freedom and joy that comes from breaking down limiting beliefs and replacing them with growth habits is truly liberating.
Quitting Isn’t A Cure-All
Quitting doesn’t solve all of life’s problems. Sometimes we have to stick with things that aren’t easy or fun. Learning can feel somewhat uncomfortable. And sticking with things fosters endurance, patience, and resilience. It can even help us become kinder and more tolerant, since we understand through our own experience things aren’t easy all the time.
Because we can’t always quit, it means we can when the time is right and the reasons compelling.
Then we should consider the opportunity carefully. Especially in moments like these, when we need to rethink and undo decisions, or reflect on whether the adaptions we made to cope with the short-term problems are ones we want to live with for the rest of our lives.
If this post got you thinking about your own post-pandemic identity, then take a look at the recent articles, Your Ideal Day, and also 2031, which both discuss being intentional about building the life we want to live.
This Week I Quit is an occasional series about using minimalism and simplicity to foster creativity, productivity, and well-being. The series originally ran from 2016 to 2019, and you can read a summary of that series here. You can find an archive of all This Week I Quit articles here. You can also follow the hashtag #ThisWeekIQuit on Twitter.