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Strategic Quitting

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

“Strategic quitting.” That’s what I heard Mark Batternson say on the latest episode of Carey Nieuwhof’s Leadership podcast. Mark Batterson is the pastor of National Community Church which is just a stone’s throw away from our nation’s capital. Mark began to explains that he came to a point in his life when he had to decide what was most important to him as he juggled his career, writing, and family. In the midst of great success, his family was feeling the strain of too many commitments and he knew that something was going to have to give. The challenge being that everything seemed as important as everything else and he didn’t want to let any of them down. He finally came to the realization that he needed to strategically quit those things that fell outside, or were blatantly in the way of, his own definition of success.

That reminded me of a mid-week small group gathering that Brandi and I were part of a number of years ago. Most of those in attendance were families with young children and had new careers. As we sat down for dinner, one of the members got a phone call. He returned to the group to let us know that his boss had requested a report for an early morning meeting and that he would have to miss group to work on the report. As he left, we asked his wife how often that happens. She replied, “All the time.”

This is the kind of work environment most of us are living in now. On-call 24-7, this boundary-creeping culture causes all of life’s expectations of us to begin to bleed together. All of our various commitments make it difficult to maintain healthy boundaries in general when they all view themselves as important as the next. And in truth, they aren’t as important as the next. And as a chronic people-pleaser I empathize with this in a big way. I feel the pressure to say “yes” or “of course” to every request that comes my way. I want to be helpful and never want to let someone down.

That’s why I like the concept of “strategic quitting.” This idea that you and I must sit down and define what is most important to us. And after that we might begin the often difficult process of strategically quitting those things that are keeping us from fulfilling our God-given purpose and utilizing our gifts in this life. That doesn’t mean that we quit everything forever and drop the things we love – even if they do require extra attention, but as Ecclesiastes points out, there is a season for all things at their proper time. Which means that we get to do the rewarding work of defining our own definition of success for each part of our life, and prayerfully begin to focus our life to honor God with our time and success. May you become a strategic in your quitting, living a life focused on the things only you can do to bring love and joy to yourself and those closest to you.

Rev. Chad McSwain