As I watch my one year old son learn to walk, I can see him take steps and then fall down. Then he gets back up and takes a few more steps, and falls again. He does this all day. Sometimes he resorts to crawling because it’s easier for him to do, as he has already mastered this skill, but he is still determined to learn how to walk, and is quite proud of himself as he gets better at it with every attempt! He never stops trying to take more steps.
One thing I have not seen my baby do is quit. Regardless of how many times, or how hard he falls to the ground, even if he takes a break, he tries again and again. I’m sure he’s not thinking, “I’m done with this walking thing, it’s just not working and it’s too hard, so I will stick to crawling, forever.” If a baby can demonstrate such resilience, commitment, and determination, is it that difficult for us adults to do the same?
This is the difference: babies have not learned the definition of “failure” or “quitting”. They have not yet been taught that if something is too hard, to just give up. They have not yet learned to take their weaknesses personally. They do not understand these types of concepts as we know them. We have become accustomed to the social acceptance of quitting and giving up, because we see and hear it everywhere we go. We, the adults, often try out new things and when it becomes inconvenient or stressful, we just quit because it doesn’t fit our definition of good anymore. Well, who guaranteed us that our life would not be full of challenges and obstacles that would require our dedication and determination to overcome? Nobody has confirmed this myth, and they cannot do so. It’s all in our heads that life should be easy and carefree, and when it’s not, that we have the opt-out option. This belief could not be further from reality.
We have been misled and we are misleading others. Life should be challenging and even difficult at times. You don’t build physical muscle by just sitting in a chair, right? You cannot master new material and learn new things without facing some confusion and asking questions. We do not have healthy and loving relationships with others without experiencing some unhealthy relationships and conflict. This is life, and the sooner we accept the good along with the not-so-good, the better off we will be, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
But the not-so-good stuff can really make us better, if we choose to embrace it. Every time my baby falls to the ground, he is actually learning a new skill for walking. He is learning through his mistakes and trials. He is learning that he must balance himself in a different way than he has previously done, maybe it’s that he must take shorter steps, use his arms to help shoulder his weight, or that falling down can hurt more if he doesn’t brace himself. He is learning so much through the process of falling down! And he is learning so much by not quitting! Is he tired at the end of the day from all the mental and physical development, yes! Does he feel discouraged from falling and just go back to crawling sometimes, yes! Yet, he still doesn’t quit learning and developing his walking skills.
We can also learn through our challenges, by realigning our thinking to positive thoughts and reflections when we are facing difficulty. We have two ways that we can view obstacles: negatively or positively. And we are always in control of how we decide to think about anything in our life. So, it’s not about the circumstances surrounding us, it’s how we choose to experience them. When we trip or even fall down, we can get back up, or we can stay on the ground. Personally, I like getting back up because I find that I’m stronger than I initially thought I was. I’m utilizing resilience and building up confidence by bouncing back from my challenges, and you can do the same if you want to. It’s easy to just quit, complain that the effort is just too hard to provide, and drop your goal or goals altogether. It requires much more intention and inner motivation to press through the experiences where quitting seems inevitable.
Now I’m not referring to the times in our lives where we need to make changes, such as leaving a job or unhealthy relationship, etc, because there are legitimate times in our lives when we need to step away from things that are toxic for us. The quitting I am referencing is the deliberate action of personal sabotage by quitting the things that may be good for us, because they become difficult or unpleasant at the moment. Some examples are: quitting exercise and healthy eating, quitting school, stop taking care of yourself, cease to involve yourself in positive activities, quitting your goals or dreams, or quitting on people who need us. I am sure that you can think of others, or may have some personal examples of your own. These are just some basic examples, as there are many areas of our life where we quit before we even get started, quit before we are really blessed and grow through the challenge, or quit when people are counting on us. What we are really doing is quitting on ourselves.
Think about how you have felt after you have quit something that you now know in hindsight you shouldn’t have done. There was likely a sense of uneasiness that went along with it because you were stopping your participation selfishly. Initially, it was an easy action, and you wiped your hands clean of that activity or responsibility. But then, after some reflection you realize that you messed up. You realize that you quit for the wrong reasons, and now you have to figure this thing out. It’s not the best place to be, and this “quitting” drains our energy from the goals and purpose for life that we need to focus on.
We often hear of “quitting” at the competitive level. Sports teams and participants are unable to quit their chosen sport without serious ridicule and question from their teammates, coaches, families, spectators, and fans. It is considered an embarrassment to yourself as a player and to the team if you just quit because things aren’t going your way. Consider your life to be similar to a sports team, any kind you prefer. You are playing an important role on your team, and people are counting on you. You have a play guide and position that only you are gifted at, and people are counting on you. You have other people in the stands watching you, who are counting on you to show them the way so that they can do what you’re doing one day. Your life is similar to the sportsmanship and resiliency required to be a successful team player.
If you get in the habit of quitting, you later end up full of regrets and doubt about what you could have done and who you could have been. But if you stay in the game, even if you lose, you can walk away with the confidence that you gave it your all, didn’t quit, and will never face the heavy burden of wondering what you are truly capable of.
So, what will you do the next time things are difficult?