What to do when you feel like quitting

overcoming challenges Sep 02, 2021

I learned the secret to not quitting from a very wise Marine Corps officer several years ago when I worked on a US Marine Corps base in Okinawa, Japan. 

I was working out with Marines as I did every day on the base and I was on the 4th round of doing pushups on 2 gymnastic rings in the middle of a very high-intensity fitness workout. (That’s hanging onto 2 rings that are suspended & you’re supposed to do pushups while you’re hoisting yourself on them & maintaining balance at the same time)…you know, crazy stuff like that. 

It was hard, to put it mildly.  I’d already been rowing, then before that pushups, then squats.  I was exhausted. 

My head said, "what are you doing out here?  You’re too old to be working out this hard, just quit. You don’t have to do this.  This is insane. We’re all crazy. Quit."

I looked to my left and decided to ask Mike who was working out next to me why he didn’t just give up.  Mike, AKA LT. Colonel Reilley who is the Cross Fit expert probably of the world.

I said, “Mike” (He told me to call him that on the first day I met him as he showed me how to do a proper pushup.)

Building Resiliency. Mental Toughness. 

“What keeps you going when things get really hard out here and you want to quit?” 

He put down his bar and said, "well I just take it one repetition at the time, one movement at the time and I don’t think about the whole workout, I just concentrate on what I’m doing right now."

Hmmm. I thought.  That’s sensible.

 “But why do you keep going?” 

 “Because it develops mental toughness," he said.  

"It’s all about resiliency. It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to accomplish your goals in life or whether you’re in combat.

"And if you’re fit and healthy, you can handle the emotional as well as the physical things that come your way in life.”

Hmmmm. I thought. Very wise man.  I guess he didn’t get to be the Battalion Commander of 450 Marines for nothing.  This man is not only personable and approachable, but he's also motivating to anyone who's sweating and struggling to get through a workout.

Getting stronger. One step at a time

I went back to rowing.  I felt stronger.  "I’ll just get through this next 500 meters of rowing. I think he’s right.  Just one step at a time."

As I rowed, I thought about, what is this thing we call mental toughness or resiliency?  What is it?

Marines are all about resiliency.  They have to be. 

But still, when things get hard why don’t they give up, why don't people give up? 

I thought about it. Why was I doing this insane workout?…nobody was telling me to work out like a fool.

Physically I know I get stronger. I do know it's worth it. I feel better and I have more energy.  So I guess that’s why I keep going. (well, too, I'm proud of myself to know that I can work out with Marines...even at 65 years old) 

Mental toughness takes time

I imagine that what Mike is telling me is that mental toughness isn’t built in one day. 

I know that he shows up every day. He works out every day.  And he gives it his all. Every day. 

He takes it one step at a time.

And he shares selflessly with others what he knows.

I think he’s got it right. 

One step at a time….

Your turn: 

Be ready for it...the times when you know you're gonna want to quit. 

The next time you hear yourself want to quit or give up, know what you'll say to the self-doubt phrases you might hear (it's too hard, why not just quit, I hate this). 

Know your WHY. Know why you're doing what you're doing

Say things like this:

  • "Even though it's hard, I can do hard things."
  • "I'll just do 1 more thing (1 more rep, 1 more day, 1 more sentence)
  • Take a break after and recognize you overcame the negative thoughts in your head. 
  • Celebrate that you did it!

Don't forget that you've already done hard things. 

Let me know what you did and what you tell yourself instead of quitting. 

Share this post with someone you know who could use a boost in how to keep going or share this post with someone you know who never quits and let them know how much you admire them!

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