Thoughts on 12 important things that people often choose to discontinue.

Posted Jul 31, 2020

MGalloway, CC 3.0, Wikimedia
Source: MGalloway, CC 3.0, Wikimedia

“Why do people run? Because stopping scares them to death.”  Phil Knight, Founder of Nike.

Much has been written about starting: a career, a relationship, a business, etc. Less has been written about stopping. Here are thoughts on each of 12 things people often stop.

Dropping out of college or graduate school. Most people drop out because of the cost, difficulty, or perceived poor opportunity cost: what they could otherwise do with the time and money. Even if you enrolled to enhance your career, there may be more direct and less expensive routes to career competence, for example, reading articles you found with a Google search or on your professional association’s site, taking an online course(s), volunteering, and getting mentored. Keep a log of your learning and submit it along with your job applications, and you may find your employability enhanced even over degree holders.

Playing a sport competitively. Everyone reaches the point when they must scale back or stop playing. I had played basketball my entire life and when I stopped because of a hand condition, I was sure I’d greatly miss it. Turns out I quickly replaced it with taking steep walks with my dog and rarely find myself missing it. Before quitting, do think about what you might replace it with.

Stopping the use of a dangerous substance. Stopping can, of course, be tough. But even if you slip, remember that you get a fresh start the very next moment. Also, it may help if you keep reminding yourself of the core reason you want to stop: to benefit your career, relationships, kids, health, whatever.

Stopping trying to have a baby. Could that be for the best, because you’re better off without a child, at least at this point in your life, or because it would be better for you and a child to adopt or foster?

Letting go of your wayward adult child. One of my best friends worked so hard and so long to help his lazy, substance-abusing son. Finally, as my friend was getting older plus his having lost hope that he could help his son, he kicked his son out of his house. Two years later, the son straightened up and they’re close again. Whether or not an adult child's progress is impeded by codependency, if your kid is challenging, it’s certainly worth considering that you too are entitled to a life filled without continued major sacrifices.

Aborting a child. If you think you might like to have a child later, might it assuage any guilt by remembering that you were only planning to have a certain number of kids, and it’s better for the child and for you to have him or her when you're ready?

Breaking up with a romantic partner. It’s hard to break cleanly. The same reasons you were attracted probably are still there, just with some countervailing negatives. But if the Wise One within you thinks you're likely to be happier and/or more successful without that person in your life, it’s usually wise to make a clean break, with no possibility of seeing each other again. Otherwise, in moments of weakness, it’s too tempting to creep back in “just this once.”

Selling a stock. If you have a gain, it’s tempting to hold on to the stock. After all, rising stocks tend to continue to rise. But sometimes, especially if you need the money or are confident there’s a better investment moving forward, it may be time for gratitude for your good luck and skill, and take your profit to the bank. If you have a loss, it’s normally wise to cut your losses. As Warren Buffett said, “Never try to catch a falling knife.”

Quitting a job. Especially in the COVID economy, quitting without a clearly better new job is understandably scary. So, is there anything you could do to tweak your current position: Try to get your boss or job description changed? Orchestrate more interactions with coworkers you like, fewer with those you don’t? Take on a special project that’s aligned with your interests and abilities? Do you need a change of attitude? Sometimes, changing jobs only highlights that the problem was more about you than the employer—we take who we are to the next job or locale.

Retiring. Especially if you’re among the many people for whom work is central to their identity, retiring can be difficult. So do spend the necessary time figuring out the glide path to retirement including, if possible, recruiting and training your successor. Try to think of what you’ll do in retirement that may be more rewarding even than your current work: mentoring, volunteering, starting a small business, diving more deeply into an avocation or starting a new one? In retirement, if you’ll be spending more time with your live-in family members, try to negotiate ground rules that will make everyone happier.

Stopping treatment for advanced cancer or other such diseases. Alas, “heroic” measures too often don't have a heroic result.

Physicians often take their cues from their patient, so if you care more about quality of life than extending it with difficult, unlikely-to-succeed treatments, make that known to your doctor(s.) It may (or may not) be that palliative care or hospice will ultimately be wiser for you and your loved ones. Then consider devoting many of the good hours you have left to the activities you deem wisest: work, family, or other pleasure(s.)

Do have an Advance Medical Directive on file with your physician and closest family member or friend, and an estate plan that ensures that the money you’ve worked so hard for goes where it’s likely to do the most good. That legacy can both make a difference in others and help you feel good about your life’s efforts.

Ending one’s own life. There may come a time when you feel that ending your life rather even than living with palliative or hospice care, is wiser. As you contemplate the wisdom of that, would you be wiser to journal about it, talk with someone about it, or just give it a little time for the idea to marinate? If you decide you do want to end your life, rather than try one of the DIY methods, which often fail, leaving the person suffering, if you live in a state in which physician-assisted dying is legal, speak with your doctor or one who is experienced with what's sometimes called "Death with Dignity." If you don’t live in such a state, see if it's legal to visit for that purpose.

The takeaway

Startings may usually be more pleasant than stoppings. But perhaps one or more of this post’s ideas can help make yours more satisfying.

I read this aloud on YouTube.