Taking a Break: When to Quit Doing Something

I’m taking a break!  No, not me.  I’m not taking a break from writing.  Maybe that disappoints you as you were getting tired of my rants but if that’s the case, why are you reading this?  I’m writing about those dreaded words we instructors hear all too often, I’m taking a break. But, is it really taking a break or is it quitting? Many times we also need to understand when to quit something rather than just taking a break.

Taking a break is not the answer to when to quit
What does it mean to take a break?

For some reason, when I hear a student say those words, it’s like nails on a chalk board.  The reason for that is that I feel students don’t understand what they are saying.  What they mean to say is “I am quitting”.  I think people would rather say “I’m taking a break” because if they say they are quitting, they will be labeled a quitter.  As martial arts instructors we are guilty of instilling the belief that if you don’t get to black belt or don’t stay in martial arts for the rest of your life, you’re a quitter.

It is ok to quit

I am here to tell you that it is ok to quit.  When first starting out doing anything, we always have some objective.  We are trying to find the solution to a problem we are having.  Some of the problems people seek solutions to from martial arts are: losing weight, stress management, self-control, better focus, self-defense, confidence, something to do with the family, or just something that always looked fun and interesting (i.e. bucket list).  When first trying to find a solution to your problem you may try several different activities.  You may have your mind set on martial arts but try several different studios or styles.  During this period you will certainly quit several times before finding your fit.  I think we can all agree that you are not a quitter if you try different things in pursuit of finding a solution to your problem.

How to know if you should stick with it

Now you have found that studio or activity or style that has a solution to your problem.  You are now in active pursuit of solving the problem you that caused you to start your search.  Here is where quitting gets tricky.  For me, I feel there are 2 criteria when sticking with something:

  1. It is fun
  2. It is solving my problem

When first starting something, we usually find an activity that meets both of these criteria.  Why do something if we hate it or it is not solving our problem?  However, after many months or years, one or both of these criteria may no longer apply.  I am going to tell you that if both of these criteria are no longer being met for an extended period of time, it is ok to quit.  You are not a quitter.  However, if only one of these criteria are being met, you should not quit (provided everything else in life is constant…more on that later).  


This is where perseverance comes in.  Not giving up when things get challenging.  If you’re not having fun but you are seeing improvement in your goal (losing weight, confidence, etc.) you need to figure out how to make it fun or just push through it until it is fun again.  If you’re having fun but have already solved your problem, find another goal.  In these cases you’re instructor is correct in trying to help you persevere and not quit.  A good instructor will help motivate you to push through your slump.  A good instructor will also recognize when these 2 criteria are not being met accept a student moving on as it is in the best interest of the student.

The true meaning of “taking a break”

As previously mentioned, I cringe when I hear the words “taking a break”.  However, it is only when used incorrectly so as to avoid the stigma attached to being labeled a quitter.  There are many appropriate times to say “I am taking a break”.  A woman who is having a baby is taking a break.  A student who has a serious injury or illness is taking a break.  A student who pursues another interest or job temporarily is taking a break.  The difference is it is not open ended.  An indefinite break is quitting.  In order to take a break you must have a clearly defined time frame for your planned return.  Notice I say planned return.  It typically takes much longer than we planned to return to something after stopping and that is just fine, as long as we do get back to it.

We all have quit more things than we stuck with.  We are all quitters.  And that is ok.  Just make sure you don’t make it a habit of quitting everything you do.  If it takes you quitting 10 things until your find that one thing you stick with for the rest of your life, you are definitely not a quitter.  And remember, if you say you are taking a break, be true to your word and come back, until you do, it is not taking a break, it is quitting.

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