Inner Space
Hi, I’m Diana Demco and this is the Inner Space newsletter about my reflections on living an examined life. If you're new, you can find old editions here. You're getting this email because you signed up on my website. If you'd like to unsubscribe, click here.
There is one invaluable skill in life and that is to know when to persevere versus when to walk away - from a project, a relationship or a career. As with most things in life, there isn't a manual with clear-cut rules which can deliver the perfect answer based on your specific situation. You can't turn to page 107 and read the section on "What to do when you've invested 3 years and half of your savings in a coffee shop business that's failing".

So developing the finesse to appreciate when it's time to abandon a certain part of your life will come in handy at least once.

Society's obsession with grit and resilience don't make it easy to quit, because we're primed to believe great achievements have materialized out of blood, sweat and tears. Many of the incredible success stories we've heard have a "turning point" element - a fateful decision of either pressing on or giving up. Well, there wouldn't have been those stories have those people not chosen to "press on," so we subconsciously associate "sticking with it" as a virtue. And if we dare to entertain the unspeakable, that is, to quit, we may have a nagging voice in our head whispering why we're soft and weak.

On top of that, there's the phenomenon of sunk cost fallacy, which describes our tendency to keep working on something we've already invested a considerable amount of time or money in, even though we realize our chances of success are slim.

We need to unlearn the harmful narrative that quitting is a sign of weakness or lack of determination. We'll be better off if we realize that the sooner we end an unfruitful chapter in our lives, the quicker we can liberate our minds and time, turning our attention to other, more promising endeavors.

Reconceptualizing quitting is a crucial step in becoming more comfortable with it. Here are a few ways we can shift our "never give up"-biased thinking:
  • Quitting isn't the end of the world: It's likely that all the experience and knowledge we gained in the thing we're walking away from (whether a marriage or an university degree) will help us in future endeavors (and especially if we choose to pursue another marriage or degree).
  • Don't be so self-centered: It's possible that you're not the only soul responsible for why your goal failed: the broader socio-economic context or other people involved also carry responsibility. That doesn't mean shifting blame on other factors, but just acknowledge all the parties involved so you don't feel the whole weight on your shoulders.
  • Quitting shows strength: When you close an important chapter in your life, you're declaring "I'm strong enough to recover from this." It's a sign that you are more than the thing you're quitting - more than your degree or your startup. It also shows that you're not dependent on external measures of success.
  • Quitting is a sign of self-respect: By refusing to waste your potential on a project that's going nowhere, you reveal that you value your time and you have enough dignity to quit before you lose any more valuable resources.

Timeless Content

The Moral Case For Working Less
Simone Stolzoff | 8 minute read
We shouldn't work less simply because it allows us to be better workers. We should work less because it allows us to be better humans.

This week's featured article is an excerpt from journalist Simone Stolzoff's new book The Good Enough Job: Reclaiming Life from Work, which I highly recommend. The piece explores the relationship between productivity, quality of work and working hours, while weaving in the story of Josh Epperson, a man who decided to stop trading his expertise for money and instead trade it for more time, by only accepting meaningful work that pays well, without exceeding 20 hours a week.

Studies repeatedly indicate that reducing the weekly hours one spends at the job doesn't negatively affect productivity, but in many cases it actually boosts it, perhaps because people are more relaxed and fulfilled, their bandwidth having expanded to include other activities beside work.

Picture of the Week

Just a normal day in Iceland: a volcano erupting while aurora borealis dances in the sky

Quote I'm Reflecting On

Computer scientist & bestselling author Cal Newport on living with intention:

We spend much of our day on autopilot—not giving much thought to what we’re doing with our time. This is a problem. It’s difficult to prevent the trivial from creeping into every corner of your schedule if you don’t face, without flinching, your current balance between deep and shallow work, and then adopt the habit of pausing before action and asking, “What makes the most sense right now?”

Source: Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World

Question For You To Ponder

Imagine yourself 10 years into the future. Will the future-you congratulate or criticize you for quitting the thing you're struggling with today?
Thank you for reading.

Until next time,
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