Woman silhouette at sunriseThis is the first post in “The Year of the Quitter,” a five-part series on how quitting paved the way to better living for me in 2018. Read Part 2.

As we begin the final month of the year, I can’t help but look back over 2017 and marvel over many of the changes I’ve made. If I had to name 2017, I’d call it “The Year of the Quitter.”

I love to evaluate a year as it ends and look for trends. There’s always one or two common threads that emerge time and time again. And those threads are what comes to define the year for me.

This year, I’ve done a lot of quitting. I’ve quit small things and big things. Together, though, they’ve added up to a big change in how I feel about who I am. Every Sunday this month, I’m going to share something I’ve quit and the effect it’s had on me and my life.

I Quit Self-Sabotage

A year ago, I didn’t like myself. I was feeling out of sorts. I had high levels of anxiety and a general dissatisfaction with life. The problem I was able to identify was that I didn’t feel like I was excelling in any area of life. Things weren’t going well at the office, at home, in my finances, in my service commitments or with my health.

I thought the problem was my schedule. I was juggling shifting demands at work that took me from a 50-hour average work week to 60 and 70 hours. I was in the early stages of a master’s program (almost done!). I was President of the PTA at my daughter’s school, a volunteer leader for an international ministry and working with a handful of consulting clients. I was tired all the time and kept dropping the ball in one or more areas. That’s where the finance issues came in. Dropping the ball can be expensive.

I knew something had to give but what? I liked being busy and I bore easily with too much idle time. The problem wasn’t that I had too much on my plate, it was that my plate was too full of the wrong stuff.

I’m resourceful, confident and willing to learn just about anything, which means that I get approached with offers to do just about anything all the time. I try my best not to consider whether I “can” do something, but whether I “should” – am I the right person for the job, does the job bring me joy or move me closer to a desired objective? If the answer to the questions is no, I know it’s something I should pass on so that the person truly called to it can be found.

Somehow, that got lost in 2016.

Remaking the Bed

It’s hard to wake up one day in the bed of your own making and realize that you hate the sheets and comforter. But that’s what happened to me. Maybe it’s happened to you, too. You know what I found, though? I could unmake the bed and change what I didn’t like. The first step was to get out of my own way. I couldn’t remake the bed if I was still tucked into it. I had to get out, take a step back and look at what did and didn’t work with the whole picture. What was it that I hated so much about the sheets and comforter, and what would I prefer?

I focused first on the non-negotiable keepers of my bed: My day job, grad school and my ministry service. Then I looked at what was left over. PTA service brought me zero joy. I did it for the wrong reasons, and I stayed with it for the wrong reasons. It had to go. Consulting is how I blend my passion and my mission, but the client mix I had at the time wasn’t balanced, making the work tedious.

Once I had the must-dos and had-to-goes separated, I took a second look at the must-dos to see if tweaks were needed. My day job had to stay but there were some optional service commitments I had taken on that I could release. As for grad school and ministry, there were areas to streamline.

This process helped me to create a plan of action for what would and would not fit on my plate in 2017. I couldn’t quit everything at once, but my exit strategy was in place when the year began. I announced that I wouldn’t run for re-election in any of the committee where I was serving, allowing plenty of time for succession planning and recruitment of my replacement. I was able to connect some of my consulting clients with service providers who were a better fit.

It’s hard to quit something. Doing the same thing over and over again – even if you don’t like it – is much easier than doing something new or different. But quitting makes room for starting. And for me, when I quit sabotaging myself by stacking my plate with burdens, I made room for opportunities that I could never have predicted were possible.

What about you? What could you quit that would make a positive impact in your life next year? How would that look?

Tonya Kubo is co-director of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook group, founded by author/speaker Kathi Lipp and based on her best-selling book, Clutter Free. She and her husband, Brian, are raising two spirited girls in the agricultural heart of California. By day, she cultivates community in digital spaces for a public university. At night, you can find her either cooking, cuddling or helping others to fight the demons of comparison, clutter and compulsion.

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