Imperfect Spirituality

How to connect to the energy of everyday life

Enough is Enough

When giving up can be good for you.

I have spent weeks reading books I don't enjoy. Taken classes where I learned very little and spent money on the same mediocre hair stylist all because I just didn't want to quit.

Though many of us quit things all the time, nobody likes to be called a quitter. It's a "social taboo" to quit, says psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson. But sometimes, giving up on that pie-in-the-sky goal might just be the best thing for us. Afterall, if we stay focused and frustrated on something unobtainable that limits the time and energy we have to pursue something more meaningful. It keeps us stuck. And that leaves us feeling cranky and stressed.

Those who quit on an insurmountable goal experience lower levels of inflammation and a greater sense of well being, according to research by Gregory Miller, PhD, at the University of British Columbia.

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Think about it, if you've been working for years to publish a book that is continually rejected or you want to run a marathon, but your body is plagued by injuries that keep you from training, you're frequently facing disappointment and frustration. You're also spending a whole lot of energy on something that probably isn't going to happen.

Wouldn't it feel better to move on to something else altogether? Something that is better aligned with your life circumstances, talents, and expertise. Something that can push you toward your life's purpose and have a positive impact on people.

If the pursuit of your dream is still enjoyable, the process still satisfying - then keep at it. But if you are continually disappointed by not reaching your ultimate outcome, give it up. Pick a new dream. Move on.

Let's be honest, some things just aren't going to happen. As we age, for example, we're less likely to give birth, play professional sports, become a pop-singing sensation. So let it go. Mourn the loss of the goal unachieved. Then, get excited about something new.

Ready to try it? Ask yourself these questions:

Are you experiencing any success with your current goal? If you are happy and energized in pursuit of your goal, keep at it. If you're drained and disappointed, time to make a change.

What do you really want in life and what do you need to give up to get it? Sometimes we hold on to a lost possibility because it's easier and less scary than challenging ourselves with something new. But goals that are both challenging and clear are also the most energizing, says life-coach Caroline Adams Miller, author of Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide.

Does your new goal align with your personal values? Pursue something you're passionate about, but also something that fits your life circumstances, values and beliefs. This way, the pursuit of your goal will fit naturally into your life and keep you going even when it's tough.

None of this should be read as an excuse to quit when things get hard. Nor, do I recommend giving up one goal in favor of laying around and watching more cable. This is about making room for your dreams, the things that inspire you. And in return, you'll inspire others.

Polly Campbell is a writer in Portland, OR, working on Imperfect Spirituality, a book that shows how to integrate spiritual practices and self-improvement principles into our daily routines. more...

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