Parenting sucks sometimes. If you’re lucky, your kids take it easy on you. If you’re really lucky, they make you look like great parents.
What if the little plastic arrow on the cardboard spinner of your Game of Life doesn’t land on the lucky side? Well, you can be in for a rough ride.
What if you don’t want to ride it out?
What if you want to quit parenting?
Wait! Is that a thing? I can just quit?
What am I talking about? It’s not like you can climb into your time machine and go back to practice safer sex!
Time doesn’t work that way (yet!). You can’t change the past. You only have the choices that are ahead of you. And the earlier you quit the better.
If you don’t want to waste more time and energy than you really have to, read on.
First of all, it’s time to accept that you are here. Here you are. Do you want to avoid wasting more of your life and money?
Learn the art of how to quit strategically.
Annie Duke, world champion poker player and decision-making expert observed that professional poker players are better at quitting than amateurs. They win more because they choose to fold more frequently than amateurs, usually right after they see the first two cards they are dealt.
Amateurs let their decisions get “sticky” with factors that don’t make them smarter. They can get seduced by the possibility that they can bend logic and their odds in favor of what they WANT to happen.
Most destructively, amateurs let their past performance weigh in on their current choices. Maybe it’s as simple as, “I’m due” or “I’m on a winning streak.” No, you aren’t.
They think, “The cards are starting to turn in my favor.” No, they aren’t.
If I was down $200 and was entranced by the cognitive distortions I’ll share in my upcoming book, I might be more inclined to overestimate the potential of a poor opening hand. I would invest hope that these cards, no matter how bad, could get me back out of the red.
Time out. Let’s pause this scene. You have been here. You feel desperate for … something. The odds are not in your favor. You pray. You make promises to yourself. And you start to envision how this will work out. This time will be different.
Does your outsized need for this thing actually increase your luck? At the poker table, down $200, does my desperate need to win have ANY bearing on the odds that I can convert some skanky opening into a winning hand?
Do you want to know why the house always wins? Because we are piss-poor at predicting the future. Our brains were not built to defy the cognitive distortions of the Sunk Cost Fallacy, Identity Bias, or Cognitive Dissonance.
The future is only getting more uncertain, more volatile, and more complex. It’s scary not to know what the future holds. But fear is just fear. It isn’t going to kill you. What you do about the fear is what gets you killed.
Fear can trigger irrational acts. And our brains get even worse at sorting fact from fiction (fear) when we’re irrational.
To sum up, humans are pretty crappy at making decisions because we suck at predicting the future.
So what do you do? Start with these three ideas:
- Start with some humility. You will be more successful when you accept the scientific fact that you are the worst gambler in the history of the world. Only then can you sort out what data you should be using to make key decisions.
- Avoid falling into holes that you need to climb out of. The worst time to quit is in the middle of a venture. You don’t want to waste time starting something you can’t finish. This is great place for strategic quitting.
Instead of starting blind, do the hard work up front to figure out if you should be taking this ride or not. It’s OK if the outlook is long and hard for you to create an amazing life. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
If you know that you will see it through, make the decision not to quit and go forth and conquer. If it is not the right journey for you, quit before you start.
But how do you know if the trip is worth it?
- Choose a better path. Borrowing a simple formula from the book “How to Begin” by Michael Bungay Stanier, here is a three-part formula for choosing the right path: ask yourself if your new direction is important, thrilling, and daunting. If it isn’t all three, then you shouldn’t be doing it.
If you want to learn more, check out my upcoming book, “Let Go!” the parenting guide to help you quit the things that are no longer working. If your current obligations are squeezing the things that you want to do out of your schedule, this is the guide for you. Here’s a peek at what I’ve been working on.
photo credit: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona/Unsplash