Is Quitting Ever Acceptable?
We live in a society that honors perseverance. Have you ever seen the movie Rudy, Rocky, or Hoosiers? How about a more recent movie, Unbroken, that recounts the amazing story of Louis Zamperini, a man that endured unimaginable pain and suffering, but persevered in spite of it.
How about the famous quote from Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never, give up.” Is there ever a circumstance when it’s acceptable to quit?
I recently met with a young lady I used to coach for high school cross-country. She’s in despair because she’s battling nagging injuries that are keeping her from competing and is facing a round of pending surgeries to repair the damage in her leg. She’s not happy and asked if I thought it would be acceptable for her to quit her final year of high school cross country and just focus on running on her own and pursue other opportunities.
“No.” was my immediate response. How could I advise her to quit? She’s talented and could be competitive next year. Her injuries are minor setbacks that can be overcome.
“They don’t make movies about people who give up.” I told her. In retrospect, I’m embarrassed by my response.
Her eyes shifted away from my stern gaze and I could sense the disappointment in her face. Her shoulders slumped as she slouched in her seat in defeat. She respects my opinion and she desired confirmation from me that it was okay for her to move on with her life.
Our conversation lingered in my mind for several days and I decided to follow-up with her during a short phone call. When I got her on the phone I apologized for my initial response to her thoughts about quitting cross-country. I told her it was acceptable for her to quit her current path and move in another direction that was meaningful to her.
She sounded relieved and thanked me for taking the time to follow-up with her. I felt better as well, because I learned something. I realized that quitting is not giving up and there is a huge difference.
Sometimes obstacles will get in our way as we pursue our dreams and goals. These obstacles may force us to quit moving on a particular path, but as long as we don’t give up and find a new path, then victory will be ours in the end.
My young friend has a wonderful life ahead of her and I know she will have a positive impact on the world. She’s forced to alter her chosen path, because her body just won’t allow her to run competitively, at least in the short term. She will find her way and will most likely be better than the path she’s on now. Although she’s frustrated and disappointed in the moment, her positive spirit will win the day. I’m proud of her and I feel blessed that she taught me a lesson. Sometimes quitting is necessary to achieve an ultimate goal and to continue to pursue a calling.
Are you stuck on your journey and banging your head against an obstacle? Maybe it makes sense to quit the path your on and find a new one. Never give up on your dreams and continue to move towards them, but also don’t get so fixated on a particular path that you refuse to explore alternative options. Maybe it’s time to quit, so you can win.