It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  —Theodore Roosevelt

Q uitting is an insidious thing. Even in the cases in which it is the right answer, to even consider it is to weaken the very foundations of confidence, belief, and hope. Retreating from a high purpose, a lofty goal, or even a small dream is to diminish oneself in a fundamental way. It messes with your head. Please read on but I must warn you, this particular post calls to the innermost regions of your spirit where the last vestiges of determination lay hidden.

Before I go further, I must clarify a few things:

  1. There is a time to every purpose and your time is not always the time.
  2. Sometimes, we must retreat so we may live to fight another day.
  3. I’m not talking about life or death situations, though, there seem to be some parallels.

Life presents many opportunities for us to quit: relationships, businesses, diets, projects, etc. Most of these situations are not epic in scope, but we do develop patterns. Often, decisions we make on the “little” things build habits in how we approach the “big” things. We form habits of discipline, resolve, and determination, as well as sloth, retreat, and leaving things incomplete, one day at a time.  To “stay in the fight” is to persist:

  • When things get tough.
  • When you are unsure.
  • When you feel fear.
  • When no one seems to listen.
  • When no one seems to care.
  • When it seems that there are no options.
  • When you are lost.
  • When there is no hope.
  • When it hurts.
  • When it seems unfair.
  • When you feel depleted.
  • When everything in you tells you to quit.

It seems trite to say that “pushing through” determines success but it bears repeating. Pushing through dictates success. No one achieves anything without facing barriers and moving past them. We all know this yet we continue to give up when things get tough. We reach that point where “we’ve had enough” or “it’s run it’s course.” We’re done.

For those of you who have followed my writing over the years, you know that I believe in finding the “stones” that help us to cross the “raging rivers” of our lives. It is easy for me to tell you to “suck it up,” “get over it,” or “quit crying” but that doesn’t really help, does it? We get stuck for many reasons and if we could simply wave a wand and be tougher, more determined, or less fearful we would do it, right?

Quite often, finding the next stone to help you across requires more than simply looking in front of you. Part of the trick to staying in the fight when things are overwhelming is to be open to new definitions of success along the way. Yes, we need to muster our will and be determined to push through. However, we also need to flex and adjust along the way. This may mean we need to change our destination a bit and shift in new directions. This may require that we let go of certain things while reaching for others.

Part of the trick to staying in the fight when things are overwhelming is to be open to new definitions of success along the way.

Another metaphor that comes to mind when I think of the shifts we sometimes need to make is a tree in a storm. When the winds come blowing and threaten to tear things apart, the trees that survive bend and sway with those winds. If they went completely rigid, the wind would tear them down but a bit of “give” enables them to withstand the pressures of the wind and survive. We often become rigid in our hopes and ambitions: there is a certain definition of success and we hold onto it obsessively. We all do it: relationships, jobs, choices. What might happen if we redefine our objectives as we go? We flex and bend with changes in the wind.

Ultimately, staying in the fight is not throwing our rigid selves against unyielding rocks until we, or the rocks, break. Persistence, determination, endurance, and fortitude are all about strength AND flexibility. Staying the course requires us to make adjustments in our attitude, approach, effort, and timing along the way to our objective. Sometimes., we have to adjust our objective and that is OK. When we quit, we retreat. We stop. We allow ourselves a pass and say it’s OK to not push through, not find a way, or not finish something we started.

…staying in the fight is not throwing our rigid selves against unyielding rocks until we, or the rocks, break.

As you face the barriers before you, and find yourself considering the option of quitting, take a moment and consider bending a bit. Is there a way around the barrier? Is it time to readjust the objective? Are you closer to your goal than you realize? If you are thinking of giving up on another person, ask yourself what is unendurable in your relationship and if that is a result of an expectation or inflexibility to which you cling. Is there a way to redefine success in your relationship? Then, stay in the fight and see where it takes you.