In running, there is a phrase for when you are at your physical limit. They call it “hitting the wall.” Hitting the wall is the point when you have used up all of your physical power and must draw upon pure will to continue. That is, if you choose to continue. Everything in your body is telling you to quit. Your muscles are fatigued, and your breath is short, coming only in gasps. You are running on fumes, and with every footfall you think about stopping. Giving up. Quitting.

 

Hitting the wall is when your negative self-talk can sabotage you. From somewhere deep within yourself, a sultry and seductive thought starts to appear. You see it materialize out of the darkness of your psyche and start to take form. Once fully manifested, it slowly and softly speaks to you. It gives a knowing smile and touches you with a gentle hand. Why not stop now? it whispers. Stopping is a code word and we know it. Stopping is merely the nicer and more polite word for quitting. We should always call it what it is, so that there is no mistaking it.

 

Finding Reasons to Quit Is Easy

We have all had things that we wanted to pursue that we “stopped” doing for some reason. I teach martial arts, and this subject comes up quite a bit. As a teacher, I see firsthand the way people deal with hitting the wall. Whether it is after days, months, or years everyone has that moment: Do I quit or go on?

 

Most people are very excited when they first start studying martial arts, and then some quickly fade. They start to realize it will be a long haul to make their goal. Some see only a long, lonely distance to travel, rather than a journey to be experienced.

 

Most people are masters of rationalization. We are very adept at providing reasons for quitting. We will come up with all sorts of reasons we can’t continue such as money, or some sort of injury from some other activity, or we are busier now, or we have to take care of a sick relative, etc. When I hear these things, I often start to think of John Belushi in The Blues Brothers when he is telling Carrie Fischer, while at gunpoint, all of the reasons he left her at the alter: “An old friend came in from out of town, I didn’t have enough money for cab fare, I had a flat tire…” (Do yourself a favor and see the movie. It is a great one!)

 

Excuses are the currency of failure, but you don’t want what they will buy you.

Why Don't You Want to Succeed?

When my teacher used to ask his students why they weren’t going to a training camp that would help them advance towards their goal, he used to ask this way: “Tell me why you don’t want your black belt?” I found it refreshingly honest.

 

If a person genuinely decides not to pursue something due to a change of heart, or a valid reason of some sort, I can understand that. But I think that situation is pretty rare. I think that, more often than not, what happens is that people think of how far that they have come, and then they assess the prospect of a lot more work ahead to reach their goal. It all sinks in, and is weighed against the comfort of where they are. Suddenly, there is a quick glance around to make sure no one is looking, and then the well-worn and heavily-travelled path to mediocrity is taken, just as soon as one can find enough room to get on it.

 

The Choice to Quit or Continue

So how can we face this moment of truth and not end up where we would rather not be? I think that the most important thing is to see it for what it is: Reality. It is not something that can be ignored or lessened. It is a decision, and you make it whether you like it or not: Quit or continue. It is only a fool that can pretend it is anything else. But one should not be too hard on themselves and assume that one slip means you must fall forever. I believe in redemption. We all can redeem ourselves, pick up the mantle and start over.

 

It is not easy to continue, but like all things we do, the more we do it, the stronger we become. Our resolve becomes our resilience. The more we stay the course of dogged persistence and consistency, the more we are able to achieve. I often refer to the words of my first martial arts teacher who gave me wisdom at a critical moment while pursuing my black belt. He said to me, “If you quit you will never get it. If you continue, eventually you will get it.” Success is simple. It just isn’t easy.

 

If you truly want it, the decisions make themselves:

On Success and the Illusion of Choice

 

 

 

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