Change Looks Like Quitting

“It’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard, is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.”  (Bittersweet. Shauna Niequist)

WOW….. what a mouthful, eh? You can only start, if you stop.

I remember wrestling with this issue of stopping between 2003-2005. 2005 was the year when the hard choice was made to step off ALL boards, committees, and events, to stop many activities in order to make room in our lives for something else. This included Africa, among other things.

Most of these former activities were truly “good” things, others just OK, a few were truly a waste of time, expectations forced on me by a job, position, or title.

Life is filled to the brim with the “good” stuff. We have full lives, with little room to add more.

This is why change often looks like quitting to those around us.

Change first hinges on the decision to stop doing some things, for only then do we have any room to start anything different.  Where we start, begins only  if, when, and where we stopped the other activities.

“You have to exhale before you can inhale.” Neil Cole.

There is no more room left in our living lungs. Our life lung is filled to capacity with that old stale air, so we need to first exhale to make some room so that fresh air can get in there.

Stepping out of ‘good things’ brings criticism and misunderstanding, too. Because you let a lot of people down on those ‘teams’,  in those organizations with those projects and plans.  Your ‘quitting’ leaves behind holes and gaps to be filled, so you quickly become a great inconvenience to many people who were “counting on you”. Your commitment, team player attitude, or vision will be questioned.  By their reactions your growing suspicion is confirmed: what you really care about may not be what they care about, and they don’t care about that fact at all.

This is an image of me “quitting” in the eyes of many people.  But it freed me up to become other things. Becoming The Invisible Humanitarian was one of them.

When you exhale, a few friendships come out the other side, because they are real.  Most friendships don’t because they were really only connections centered  around a shared activity, once that shared activity is gone, we, or they go with it.

Making room hurts. The “giving up” years were the hardest three or four years of my life, and I’m not certain I’ll ever be the same person again.

What we need to begin is the easy decision. What we need to give up to get there is tough to act on.

However, know this: you only start when you stop. No stop, no start. This is why change often looks like quitting to those around you, so don’t be surprised to be treated that way.

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