Quitting is underrated.

I think there’s an often unhelpful cultural attitude that stigmatises quitting.

Quitting is seen as indicative of a bad work ethic, or laziness, or a lack of grit. Quitting is seen as worse than failure – at least someone who fails has the follow through to see the thing through to the end.

The attitude that is encouraged for facing a difficult situation is to grit up, to grin and bear it, or to be creative in finding a solution to the problem. There’s the promise that going through the hardship will more rewarding in terms of practical experience and character building, than quitting would.

There’s a fear that if one quits now, they’ll develop a habit of quitting, and quit whenever things become more difficult, or they’re put beyond their comfort zone.

I agree that there’s something to be said for persevering in the face of challenge, but only if the project as a whole is worthwhile.

When the main reason for carrying on, is the value of perseverance or avoiding being a quitter, then it’s time to quit.

The risk of continuing with something that you’re not getting value out of, is that the stress of carrying on can spill over into the rest of your life. For example, if you’re in a job that you hate, they you may be preoccupied with the job when you’re at home too. Or on the other hand, if you’re in a bad relationship, that may affect your performance at work.

I think people are most motivated when there’s a big picture goal, that they value, and they can see how what they’re doing is helping achieve that goal.

When it’s apparent that what they’re doing doesn’t achieve that big picture goal, or that the value of what they’re doing is several layers abstracted from that goal, one’s whole life can start feeling meaningless.

The danger is when there appears to be no end in sight, and the thought is ‘Even if I do my best work now, my situation is going to be the same in six months, one year’s time’.

Doing good work involves grit and discipline. It require concerted effort. If that effort is, at least in the person’s mind, not going to have any real reward, it’s reasonable to see how one might instead opt for shortcuts or immediate gratification.

I would propose a model of stress tolerances, whereby each individual has a certain ability to tolerate stress – whether that’s dealing with difficult people, learning new technologies, getting their head around logical problems, being bored, and so on.

It makes sense that people should prioritise their ability to deal with stress, to those activities that provide the most value to them. Activities that are not providing much value, should be abandoned, in an act of simplifying their life.

I’ve recently simplified my life in a few ways:

  • I broke the lease on the apartment I was renting, so I’m no longer responsible for chasing flatmates up for rent, finding new flatmates, and paying bills.
  • I found a new job, and quit my current job which I felt no sense of recognition in.
  • I quit drinking alcohol.

As a result, I feel like I’m floating. I feel much much better, and I can see the value in the things that I am doing.

I still have activities that provide stress, or warrant the application of grit.  Writing this blog for example, requires a concerted effort to sit down and write the words. Exercising requires grit to get out and start doing it. But these are both activities that I can clearly see the value of, especially in a context of a job where my career with be progressing, and living situation where I can relax.

In conclusion, my advice for people is to look at their life, and question what things are in it that are providing unnecessary stress. Remove them. After that, you can do the mindfulness and meditation tricks and deal with the things that you really value.

Movie review: Inside Out

Summary: Good movie for watching in the right context. I recommend it.

Spoiler scope: This review discusses the main themes of the movie. You can probably still read this review and enjoy the film, or it might convince you to watch it. If it’s a movie that you’re been really jonesing to watch, then I’d recommend watching it before you read the review.

A friend and colleague saw this movie before I did, and his criticism was that it seems often producers are intentionally pulling on your heartstrings, and if this happens too often, the sad story line thing becomes a bit of a cliché.

He cited Grey’s Anatomy as an example, where almost every episode has a tear jerking plot. The overuse then makes one, as the viewer, become a bit cynical about plot, being aware that they’re being emotionally manipulated in order to produce an apparently ‘deep’ story.

I enjoyed Inside Out. The story absolutely does have an tear jerking story line. But given that it’s a movie about emotions I think that it was appropriate.

It’s essentially a coming to realisation story, where the main character, Joy (one of the girl’s five emotions), having tried to minimise Sadness’s influence of the girl’s experience at the start, comes to realise that Sadness is also a useful emotion that has its place.

This is an appropriate and profound message for today’s society.

Often in today’s society, there is pressure to always put on a happy face and be positive about everything. Emotions like sadness, jealousy or anger are frowned upon, and people feel that there is something wrong with their character if they’re experiencing these emotions, ‘Why aren’t I more in control of myself?!’.

The psychological technique of mindfulness is the awareness and acceptance of one’s emotions in a given situation. The way I like to think of it, is observing yourself as an external alien looking at your life. For example, if at work and you’ve just been told off and you feel upset, or maybe you feel indignant. Mindfulness is being aware that you’re feeling this way, and putting that in perspective, and not allowing it to overwhelm you, or make you feel that your life is out of control. Just accepting the emotion, and then deciding how you want to react or manage it.

I think that’s what this movie was getting at. While sadness might not be pleasant emotion, it’s still an emotion which should be appreciated and seen for what it is. I thought the movie did a good job of taking you on this journey.

Animation-wise I thought that the movie could have been better. The animation of the human characters was very good. In fact, the very first scene of a baby, I wasn’t sure if it was animation or photography. The inner emotion world on the other hand, seemed a bit blurry.

The movie has set itself up well for a sequel, or a series of sequels. While this movie dealt with the acceptance of the emotion sadness, there are other emotional dynamics that can be explored. For example – teenage heartbreak, stress or success. A spinoff into mental disorders could also be interesting, though would probably not be popular family demographic.