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A Better Direction

“Quitting, for me, means not giving up, but moving on; changing direction not because something doesn’t agree with you, but because you don’t agree with something. It’s not a complaint, in other words, but a positive choice, and not a stop in one’s journey, but a step in a better direction. Quitting–whether a job or a habit–means taking a turn so as to be sure you’re still moving in the direction of your highest dreams.”Pico Iyer, “Quit Pro Quotes”, Utne Reader, Sept./Oct. 1996

We all have moments when we contemplate quitting and doing something else with our brief time. What stops us? Persistence? Faith in the future we’re building? Or is a sense of obligation? We slide into lethargic habits built over time and don’t see that there may be another way. I used to call this an attractive rut that one could easily stay in until the end of time. Maybe having a drink every day at 5 PM is the proper response for a long day of work, or maybe simply walking until you forget what your troubles were does it. Then again, maybe the proper response is to quit altogether the life built around what we believe to be all there is in our world. The answer is different for each of us, but the way we react when someone suggests quitting something deeply ingrained within our identity is telling, isn’t it?

When you read the word ingrained, did you immediately think of the spelling? I often debate internally whether to use ingrained or engrained when I write it, which says as much about me as anything I suppose. But the point is, we all have traits and defaults within us that seem natural (like obsessing over the right way to use a word that 99% of the world won’t give a thought to). Whether those traits and defaults are productive or detrimental to our progress is a question worth asking ourselves now and then.

I encourage you to either click the link to read the rest of Iyer’s thoughts on quitting, or Googling the article if you’re rightfully suspicious of clicking links random bloggers throw at you (although you can trust this random blogger—I promise). There’s magic in Iyer’s words, as there usually is, and they may change you profoundly, as they have me even as I write this. The quote above is easily found (Rolf Potts points to it often), but, as with any quote, mining deeper into the place it was drawn from offers so much more. For me, Iyer landed a knockout punch with this nugget:

“Continuing the job would represent an invisible kind of quitting–an abdication of possibility–and would leave me with live unlived that I would one day, and too late, regret”.

Don’t read this as a public admission that I’m quitting my job anytime soon, but a spotlight on the key message here: we all abdicate possibility that we will one day regret if we don’t go for it immediately. For now is all we have, and there’s living unlived to get to. See the world. Write the book. Hike that mountain. Sail to that faraway destination. Ask the question. Take the chance…. LIVE.

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