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Do not be afraid to quit

“I don’t know how to quit you.” Jake Gyllenhaal said to Heath Ledger, and many college students say it to the countless useless projects, cigarette addictions and bad habits of all kinds that they repeatedly rehearse in any given day.

We know that our over-the-top Facebook obsessions or less-than-ideal strategies for choosing romantic partners only result in long periods of time to which we can attribute nothing, and messy emotional roller coasters that test the bonds of our friendships. And yet, we continue these obsessions still.

What is at the root of our shared inability to take the addiction or stressful activity by the horns and whip it out the window?

There’s no doubt that individuals quit things for different reasons. We each have our specific values and belief systems that govern how we act and feel, and thus how we weigh the different things in our lives. So, from the most basic point of view, the things we don’t quit must be the things we value most. Pretty obvious, but stay with me here.

Should I stay (with it) or should I go (do something else with my time)? When it comes to staying or going, if we can all agree that our values influence the key motivational factors we consider when deciding, then it may be useful to outline what those factors might be.

From here I take you to the results of a conversation I had with University of Massachusetts junior Nora Drapalski. These guidelines were developed in terms of the following quit-able things: dropping or swapping a class, membership in a club or other time-consuming activity and relationships with other people. How each person decides to handle these situations varies a good deal. But it seems that, in general, there are several aspects which take precedence in the choice.

Once it’s clear that you don’t like a class, we all know that the first consideration for dropping it must be whether or not we are required to take it, and whether we are able to put it off for a better time or more favorable situation. If it’s required, let us assume that the easiest and best solution to the problem of a hated class is dropping or swapping it.

A favorable situation might mean a number of things. It could be taking the class with another professor who we feel we can learn from more effectively or with less stress. It could be taking it when our other classes are less time-consuming, demanding or challenging. It could also mean filling the class requirement later, when more class options are available and a better fit can be found.

Across the board, it seems that most people share the sentiment that it’s best to quit something “because it doesn’t have as much value to you anymore,” as put by senior, Jacqueline Berman. In such cases, one might ask, what is meant by the term ”rewarding?” Value diminishes past a critical point.

Naturally, this definition of rewarding needs its own definition, and it is presented in terms of the following: In order to be rewarding, a pursuit must not take up too much time. It must not take away considerably from your studies. It must be fun; rather, it must be something you look forward to in some capacity, or, at the very least, do not dread. It also has to have some worthwhile benefits for you in the long-run, such as adding to your résumé, helping to build a foundation for a future career or just the fact that it’s a paid activity. Finally, it must not compromise your mental or physical health. Additional rewarding aspects may also include an environment for meeting new people, exercising, relaxing or feeling good about yourself.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a feeling. For many people, a negative or positive feeling can be one of the first factors to signify a need to quit, either temporarily or for good.

And if it seems that a commitment is exorbitantly time-consuming, distracting you from your education, filling you with dread, wearing you out and benefitting you only in that it is so terrible that it’s helping you to “build character” as they say, it’s probably time to quit.

Once again, I refer to two authorities on the ways of managing time and mental health efficiently. Drapalski says: “If there is some kind of benefit, I’ll stick with it,” but “if it stops being of use, I’ll drop it.” For Berman it’s much more cut and dry: “If it doesn’t make you happy, quit.”

There are times when quitting is the best option. And figuring out when that is, is critical to living a satisfying and healthy life. So, if you’re crazed all the time and you can’t put your finger on exactly why that is, it might be worth mulling over this list, to see if you can’t knock something off your packed schedule. Chances are you’ll probably be happier.

Lauren Rockoff is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at lrockoff@student.umass.edu.

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