Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Mastering the Art of Quitting" by Peg Streep & Alan Bernstein

"Quitting" is a word I have long avoided when talking about my infertility journey. I stopped fertility treatments, I ended them, I left them, I made the decision to stop/end/leave treatment and live without children, I chose to take my life in a different direction. 

Why quibble over "quit"? It's not hard to understand why:  in our achievement & success-oriented culture, quitting has a negative connotation. Nobody wants to be thought of as a quitter -- and certainly not in the infertility & loss community, where people don't seem to want to hear any story except one with a conventionally happy ending (i.e., a living, healthy baby, no matter what the costs or what you had to do to get him/her).

Well, fellow travellers on this less-travelled road, it's time to embrace "the Q word"  ;) (as my sister calls it -- only in her case, she's talking -- or rather, avoiding talking -- about quitting smoking, lol)(as the book says, "the only kind of giving up we collectively accept and support"). And there's a new book to help us do that.

"Mastering the Art of Quitting:  Why it Matters in Life, Love and Work" doesn't mention infertility at all -- but I saw myself and other infertile women I know throughout its pages. I believe its message totally applies to those of us who are at a crossroads in our journey and trying to decide if we should continue treatment or follow another path (and if so, which one).

The book is slightly academic in tone with lots of psychological terminology and studies quoted (I'll admit this did bog me down a bit in spots).  And yet there was something on just about every page that I could relate to or that gave me food for thought. My copy is full of dog-eared pages.

"Quitting not only frees us from the hopeless pursuit of the unattainable but permits us to commit to new and more satisfying goals."  This, in a nutshell, is the message of this book. (You can probably understand why I found it so appealing...!)

So why does quitting have such a bad rap?  "We've all been taught that quitting is a sign of weakness and that quitting is for losers,"  the authors bluntly note. (p. 3)  Persistence and positive thinking, we are told from the time we are children, are the keys to success. Moreover, the authors demonstrate that human beings are hard wired to persist in pursuit of a goal -- even when the goal is unreachable or no longer satisfying.

The book not only promotes quitting as a valid option, it discusses why and how we should quit when something is not working for us. (The trick is to disengage from old goals while setting new ones.)  It includes helpful quizzes and tips to help us make better decisions and to set and pursue new goals in a more realistic way. 

If you are struggling with decisions about whether to stay on your current path or take a completely different direction in your life, this book would be an excellent resource. 

This was book #11 that I've read so far this year.


  1. Your last few posts have really had me thinking. Mainly in that we need to rethink handling situations that don't end the way we want them. It's so traumatic to fail and society doesn't help with the constant pushing. Yet it's so true that killing oneself over something that isn't obtainable isn't the healthy alternative. Maybe it's time to reclaim "quit" and celebrate the alternative paths more publicly.

  2. ""Quitting not only frees us from the hopeless pursuit of the unattainable but permits us to commit to new and more satisfying goals."

    I love that. Thanks for the review. Food for thought.

    (When I clicked through, I thought you were writing about quilting!)

  3. How refreshing! :-) Indeed during my infertility journey, even when we've decided that living life as two is OK, there are many people who have a hard time accepting that.

  4. Thank you for the great review! Quitting does have a very negative connotation. I never liked to be called a 'quitter' until I learned a term 'sunk costs' and started applying it in my life.

    Sunk costs are investments that already happened and cannot be recovered. Businesses sink their money into failing enterprises, people sink their money and/or emotional efforts into unrewarding careers, failing marriages, declining health or baby pursuit. To me, if something clearly fails, being a quitter equals to being responsible and clear headed.

    Businesses don't call their decisions to change direction or even shut down 'quitting', they call it 'change management'. It looks like this book is about change management, just written in the language of psychology.

  5. As usual, your words rings so true! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and for highlighting a path so often misunderstood ... Will be Tweeting this post!

  6. How appropriate that I read your post this morning! I went to a Trooper concert last week - you know there song, Raise a Little Hell - it has a line in it:

    "If you don't like
    What you got
    Why don't you change it
    If your world is all screwed up
    Rearrange it"

    I hope she quoted that in her book.

  7. @Deathstar: I attended several Trooper concerts, back in the day -- always loved seeing them. :) I also love their other big hit song & the profound (haha) lesson it imparts: "We're here for a good time/Not a long time/So have a good time/The sun can't shine every day."

  8. This sounds very interesting! I will have to check it out.

  9. Very interesting. As the person who wrote this book, I actually hadn't thought of infertility but I did think of choices, goals, and relationships which hold us back and keep us stuck. I an glad you found the approach of use; sorry about the science but my writing is research-based!!! Best, Peh

  10. In Dutch the word Streep means line or stripe.(and is not used as a name) So to me the cover of the book contains an added visual joke of the strike through line through the words quitting..
    Lovely that Peg came over to comment!