Giving Up: the subtle art of quitting a hobby

Giving Up: The subtle art of quitting a hobby - a metaphor

So I’ve had a hell of time writing recently. And by recently, I mean like the last 3 years.

If you read my yearly goals, you know I have a 30,000 words of fiction goal. For some, inexplicable, reason I decided I would have a novella ready in publishable form by the end of the year.

If you’re not picking up on my tone, it’s not going well. Maybe you ready my mid-year review, where I noted I haven’t done a damn thing.

I don’t know what it is about this. Intellectually, I want to to do it, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t will myself to sit down and care about it.

I’ve got countless other things on my list that just seem way more fun: recording stupid songs, working on my terrible Spanish, writing pointless blog posts to no one, etc.

I really just don’t feel a passion about this whole writing thing now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’ll come back. But right now, today….nah.

This puts me in an awkward place. I mean, it’s on my goal list. Should I just will myself through it? Maybe, and really probably, I’ll get more jazzed as I go.

But if I do will myself into it, at what point is the pain worth the potential outcome? I mean, do I want to live a life where I’m just forever using all my free time to brutally force myself through chores?

When is enough, enough!

The one good part of my trivial dilemma is that it got me thinking about giving up.

I talk so much about getting started, making use of time, being gung-ho about launching into projects because most people have trouble getting started. But what about when we start and realize it’s just not for us? What if our hobbies bring us no joy?

The truth is that some of us have carried passion projects in our head for so long that we forget to stop and assess if these projects are still relevant to the person we are today.

Maybe you wanted to write when you were in college? Maybe you were a great drawer when you were in middle school and want to rekindle that desire? Perhaps you loved languages as a kid?

Well, maybe you’ve wanted to do these things for so long, you overlooked that you’re a different person now. Maybe in your life now the process of actually doing these things makes you cry tears of infinite pain?

Maybe you don’t ACTUALLY have a desire to do them at all, you just had a desire to desire them.

I know. So deep.

So today, let’s talk about quitting, and all the fun and joy it can bring us.

Maybe you Shouldn’t Quit

But then again…

Here’s my litmus test about quitting your projects, summed up in a sentence.

If you’re doing nothing, do something.

Seems reasonable, right?

Let’s assume, for a second, that you have creative desires. Let’s also assume that you have yet to act on these desires, or you’ve just started.

In this case, I’d probably not quit.

You’re probably just going through the growing pains of learning a new habit.

If you’ve spent the last 10 years falling asleep in front of the TV every night, then when you start actually doing something it’s going to seem hard. And guess what, you need to keep going. Your pain is just the first steps of moving towards self-actualizing. It’s a little painful. I’m sorry. It’s not my fault.

So, if you’re living a mundane life, and you feel like you’re missing out by not following one or multiple pursuits; If you feel like there are things you want to do, and you’re not doing any of them, this is a problem.

If at this point you find it hard. Well, that’s fine. That’s just the normal growing pains you face when you try to reconstruct any habit.

On the flip side, if you’re knee deep in projects, if you feel like you’re actively managing your time in a way that lets you make progress on some of these passion projects, and THEN you start doing something that you can’t stand…QUIT.

Honestly, if you’ve passed the point where you can easily start working towards goals that inspire you, you’re past the hard part. The ship is built. Let the winds of inspiration push and pull you where they will.

The Midway Goal

Let’s talk more about me.

So this damn writing thing. I have really little desire to do any of it.

Ever since I fully understood that I didn’t want to do this, which was like Jan 1st, I have played with the goal. I’ve written out schedules to work on it and then deleted them. I’ve fretted about it. I’ve calculated how hard it would be from a time perspective. Essentially, I did anything and everything except actually working on it.

Does that mean I don’t ever want to write this story (which I have the general architecture for, and more or less like the idea of)? No, it doesn’t. It just means I don’t want to do it right now.

Here are my options:

  • Forget about it completely. Delete it from the books. Pretend like it never existed.
  • Force myself forward and see what comes out.
  • Continue to slash the word count goal until it’s so little that I might actually get it done.
  • Re-imagine the goal.

After some thought, I chose the last option. So for November, I’m going to put a break on all my other hobbies and do Nanowrimo. I’m not going to worry about readability or quality. I’m just going to make words for 1 month.

I call this a midway goal.

Why Midway?

I’m not tossing my yearly goal into the fire yet. But I’m going to revisit it substantially, cause it just isn’t working.

We’re human beings, and our attention gets pulled in all sorts of directions. Sometimes if you find one hobby taking over, it’s best just to go down that hole and see where it leads. Goals be damned.

Remember, tour goals are mile markers, not lines in the sand. They give perspective. They let you know if you’re directionally correct. But if you get on the wrong side of one, the world won’t end.

Most likely, no one will even notice. Just keep going in the right direction, and use it as an opportunity to understand yourself so you can set more realistic goals in the future.

Sometimes, that long-term vision you had was just miscalculated. Let it go. Remember, we’re engaged in the process of becoming (not being) creative, learning people. Become, don’t be.

The Art of Letting Go

One of the really hard things for people who have started is to limit how and what they use their limited times toward.

Once you realize a world where you’re working toward these new and exciting goals, it can get really difficult to self-limit. This typically leads to burnout and unneeded anxiety. I mean, if you’re stressing about getting your chapter done the same way you’d be stressing about getting a report to your boss, you’re doing it wrong.

It’s important not to enter a scarcity mindset about time. You’re not actively dying (at least I hope you’re not). There’s plenty of time to slow down a bit. And sometimes that means putting off your project until next year. Sometimes it means slashing your goals in half mid-year.

The most important this is to remember that goals are just that. Goals. They shouldn’t dictate your life. They should give important guideposts to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.

Sometimes in the course of that process, you find things that don’t work. Sometimes work that you thought was important to you turns out not to be.

These are all normal responses to the journey of becoming an intelligent, curious, learning, creative being. Allow the process to work and move you forwards, and don’t get caught in the web of imaginary rules that might be limiting you.

At the end of the day, the processes I talk about so much is rooted in creating space. Space that allows you to explore new areas of your life.

Don’t be afraid to find, explore, and use that space.

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Sometimes in the pursuit of our passions, we have to give up. But how do you know when and how to do it? In this post, I\'ll talk about my experience quitting. Click to save!