By Liz Bentley
It’s so easy to quit – it really is easier than working through the pain and challenge of doing something that’s difficult. This past summer, I had one of those moments. I was playing in the doubles finals of our club tennis tournament. I have won the tournament before but was playing a very tough team. It was a team that we could beat but was more likely to beat us and that is how I quit the first time. I didn’t go into the match prepared to win, instead thinking we might/would lose and even telling people this might/would happen. The second time I quit was when we were winning the first set 5-4; we were controlling the points, playing strong and looking ready to close it out. My partner was serving and our overconfidence got the best of us. We lost the game without scoring a point. We did not recover and proceeded to lose 15 out the next 20 points and lost the set 7-5. In the second set, I quit a third time by not wanting the win more than my opponents. While I did run down balls and make myself look like I was really trying, my heart wasn’t deeply committed to the fight. I even thought, “It’s ok if we lose; we really aren’t supposed to win and going into a third set would be a lot of work.” We lost the match and this got me thinking about why we quit and how we justify it.
When I speak of quitting, I don’t always mean it literally as in quitting jobs, relationships, activities, diets, etc. I find that more often we are quitting mentally. We may stay at our jobs, in relationships and activities, but we don’t really show up to them. We don’t go that extra distance to make something great. We physically show up but as soon as our boss, a coworker or client starts to bother us, we disengage mentally. We have moments when we remember our goals or dreams and have bursts of working hard again. Other times we make ourselves look like we are doing our best, but we don’t stay with it long enough to make a difference.
Quitting can be unconscious. It’s not that we always mean to quit. I didn’t think I was quitting in my tennis match until it was over. I could have even said the dreaded “I did my best” but it would be a lie. My best would have been better, and it is likely that if I had done my best, I would have won. That is not to say that doing our best always makes us win; sometimes we do our best and lose. Losing and quitting are not the same. Quitting is not doing your best, not fighting for the best possible outcome no matter the obstacle.
Why does it matter? Why can’t we just quit a little at work, in relationships, on our diet? Why can’t we just take the easy way out? The main reason is because we lose our sense of passion and the great feeling of working hard and overcoming challenges. It is in the fight to win, do our best, and rise to the occasion that we grow and learn the most about ourselves. It is in these battles that we are pushed to use our talents, expand our thinking and work out of our comfort zone. It is from these fights, we earn our confidence. Confidence comes from the wins we put on the board. While the wins of a relationship are different from the wins in our business, they are still measured with the same sense of gratification.
And here’s another reason to stay tenacious. According to research from University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth, having grit – the personality trait she defines as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”– is the best predictor of success. With grit, you work toward challenges and maintain effort and interest over years despite failure. More than IQ, talent or self-control, grit is what makes for outstanding achievement.
Here’s how you can find some grit and push yourself not to quit when the going gets tough.
Be Patient – Working to achieve something difficult in life takes time and patience. Sometimes it’s the patience to play a tennis match in 3 sets or to work for years for a well-deserved promotion. There are times that we need to stay calm and be patient to achieve a goal that stretches us out of our comfort zone. Some fights in life are long but worth the battle.
Be Accountable – Don’t pass the buck; you have to own your fight. It is yours to quit and yours to achieve. That’s not to say that you don’t need support because you should always have a support system. But they are only there to help. You have to own your process, strategy, goals, and resilience. Step up and work hard for your values and what you believe in.
Visualize Success – You have to visualize your success. You have to see yourself as victorious and feel what it would look like. That vision will keep you in the fight longer. Seeing yourself in a promotion will push you to improve your emotional intelligence and help you behave better in the sandbox when you just feel like quitting and going home. It will give you the resilience you need to battle through to the end. As BC Forbes said, “victory is often nearest when defeat seems inescapable.”
Stop Copping Out – There are so many more reasons to quit than not to. We all have story lines in our head that justify why it’s just too hard, not the right fit, will be in everyone’s best interest, not worth it, etc. While there are times in life when it is genuinely appropriate to change course or give something up, there are many more times we just don’t have the fight in us. Muhammad Ali once said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life a champion.’”
Pick Your Battles – You can’t win them all, but you have to not quit the ones that really count because those are the ones that will define you. Look at your life and think about who you want to be. What will be your legacy and what is most important to you? This is where you need to put your energy. It is in these places that you must not quit not matter how hard the fight may become.
Right after I lost the club championship, I was sitting on the tennis porch and the pro said, “You could have won, you almost had it.” I could feel the regret creeping in….the feeling that someone else believed in me more than I believed in myself…the knowing that I had quit and that maybe I could have won if I had been willing to give it the fight it deserved. While tennis isn’t one of my most important battles in life, it never feels good to quit. If we are honest with ourselves, we quit more often then we would like to admit. Sometimes it’s time to quit. But most of the time, we need to step up and fight the good fight in life. When you do, you will see your relationships improve, your career become more successful and your happiness increase.