Why You Should Never, Ever Give Up

I remember vividly a turning point in my life when I really wanted to give up.

Winter was right around the corner and everyone was buzzing about Sadie Hawkins dances and going indoors for weekend get-togethers.  I was a senior in high school and it was time to start my last season of swim team.

Competitive swimming is exhausting.  Three hour practices every day after school, and more laps up and down the pool than you can count.  We use to joke that it’s one thing looking at the line on the bottom of the pool and talking to it.  It’s another when the line talks back to you!

My junior year of swimming was long and drawn out.  I was so humbled to be voted captain of the swim team, but I wasn’t giving my 100% back to the team.  I hated going to practices, we lost many of our swim meets, and I was not improving any of my times.  I had been swimming since I was 7 years old, and I just felt old and worn out (at 16!!!).

When it was time to start preseason swim practices my senior year, I just couldn’t bear the thought of putting even a toe in the water.  My parents even said that if I didn’t want to swim, I could just focus on finishing up the school year.

After a week into the season, I was talking with one of my swim-mates.  I heard about the horrible new coach and how it wasn’t as much fun as last year.  I empathized with her, but for some reason I really envied her.  She was doing something so difficult, knowing that the outcome would be uncertain.

I went home that night and thought long and hard.  I thought of all the reasons not to swim.  Then I thought about the real reason I didn’t want to swim – it was hard!

It was such an “ah ha” moment for me.  I didn’t want to be a quitter.  I would have so many more times in my life that would be hard.  If I couldn’t get my act together to finish up my senior year of swimming because it was hard, what else in my life would I quit?  I’m not a quitter!

My First Lesson In Discipline

The next day, I went to the swim team coach and talked about my choice to get back in the water.  I told him the truth about not having the drive to get in the water, but the bigger drive to not quit.  We talked about making the practices manageable, allowing me to enjoy my practices yet still be a leader among the group.  I certainly wasn’t a leader in the pool when I got back in.  My peers were in much better shape and had adjusted to the fatigue that comes with swimming.  I just kept reminding myself of the pact I had with my coach and myself.  I needed to demonstrate to everyone (and myself) that I could do this with grace and courage.

Every morning and before practices for weeks I would think about some popular song on the radio that I could sing to myself as we did lap after lap.  But with every practice, the little voices inside my head started to think more about the swimming and the team than the tunes. I began to catch up with the others and actually started to improve some of my times.

Over time, going to practice became fun. I loved hanging out in the locker rooms with my buddies.  Yes….a bunch of naked teenage girls in the showers – what could be more funJ!

Before I knew it, the season had ended.  I was absolutely thrilled that I did it!  I had a newfound confidence I’d never had before.

From this point on, I realized that sticking with something that may not be easy or exciting would reap so many more benefits than I could imagine.  Day in and day out, I continue to push myself.  I learned through hard work and perseverance that you could overcome what sometimes seems to be the impossible.

The Reason I Continue to Try

It took this inspiring moment for me to figure it out, but one of my professors in college said it best. “It’s okay to be less talented than someone else but never, ever let yourself be outworked.”

But in reality, is there really such thing as talent?  Or do successful people just spend more time than others on whatever task at hand?  I use to think it was all about being smart or born with athletic ability, but then I began to think about what this professor was saying. I have always worked really hard for where I was and where I was going.

For those of you who know me, you know that I can have a fear of starting something new.  It is soooo easy to stay with the status quo.  But with starting my own business last year, I worked so hard to climb over obstacles, keep myself motivated even if no one showed for a class, and realize I can have five no’s before someone will have a yes.  I’m constantly quoting from the great film Field Of Dreams, “Build it and they will come.”

So, without knowing much about what I was doing, I just started reaching out to friends and contacts. I remember being so self-conscious about my skills – giving free workouts to my friends.  I didn’t want to make any mistakes and/or injure anyone who trusted me to work with them.

But over time, I started to get the hang of it. I’ll never claim myself to be the greatest trainer in the world, but I do believe I have a lot to offer with my knowledge and ability to communicate to others – something I’ve worked very hard developing my whole life.  My whole life has been about building relationships – personal training is just one way I get to practice communicating.

So what’s the point?

I’m not as afraid to fail anymore. I’ll continue to use my Barb’s Personal Training as an example, but I’ve many other ideas we could throw out there.

When I first began training clients, I was so afraid of what they would think, what they might say about me or my philosophy on fitness. But one day I realized that the only way I can learn is by doing and taking action.

There were a few clients who didn’t like my style of training.  I was sad that it didn’t work out.  But I had many other clients that really clicked with me and I still workout with them and/or consider them very good friends.

It’s Rarely Comfortable

I try very hard to overcome my failures and keep trying.  I keep networking and trying out new ideas.  Look….I’m even trying to write a blog!  If I would give up now, I’d never be able to see my business grow.

It’s like the girl who wants to ask someone out.  Let’s say, over 20 years ago I wanted to ask this guy Brad out.  My fear of rejection could have kept me from running back to him after saying goodbye for the night.  I would have never ever known if he had any interest in me.  I could have been so afraid of getting a “no” that I could have easily got in my car and drove away.

Now the chances were highly variable as to what Brad might have said, depending on my approach. But one thing was guaranteed – I would get some kind of result because I took action. He could either say yes or no.

And regardless of his response, I would have known if he had any interest in having a date with me.  I would have known that I needed to step up my confidence and approach more boys, or I would have a shot at going out with this new guy.

I did ask Brad out for our first date, and he (luckily) said yes.  But without that first step, without having the nerve to push for a result, I would have just settled for another lonely night out.

Why You Might Need To Suffer A Bit

I hate to say it, but sometimes, suffering a few bad blows is what we really need. Sometimes, it’s that kick in the pants that gets us going again.  As my grandmother use to say, “A kick in the pants is and knock up stairs.”

When I was working in my most recent human resources job, I had such a hard time partnering with management who had very different values.  I hated going to work, I was constantly complaining about my boss, and I just couldn’t get myself to change my views and values to meet theirs.

One day I had a horrible encounter with two of the company’s leaders.  They wanted me to change some of my research on equitable compensation so we wouldn’t have to give pay increases to employees.  Words were flying and tempers were heated.  I was beside myself.

That night I looked deep and hard into my conscious.  As much as I loved human resources and working with many of my employees, I just couldn’t live with myself if I was cheating people.

There was only one way to change it and it began by taking personal action to fix what I could.  In a nutshell, I struck a deal with management to leave my position with unemployment and a decent reference.

I took advantage of an unemployment offering of returning to school and changing my career.  It was one step at a time.

Shortly thereafter, I began pouring myself into my education and networking.  I worked very hard at finding new avenues to work in my new career of physical education and fitness.  I simply threw myself into what I wanted and trusted that it was going to work out. I developed the mindset that I could have/do anything I wanted as long as I push and continued to push.

But How Does This Apply To Fitness?

In many ways. I find a lot of people develop some fairly lofty goals when it comes to their personal wellness goals.  The problem doesn’t lie within their ambitions – I feel it can lie within their mindset and eventually their approach.

A common problem we all face is having the gumption to develop a plan, be realistic with time frames and then being objective enough to make changes when necessary (or when to leave stuff alone when nothing’s broken).

It’s not a matter of having what it takes/talent – because I believe we can all achieve something worthwhile when it comes to strength and physical development. It’s more a matter of developing the mindset for success, being resilient and never giving up.

Without a goal, you’ll never reach it!

Never, Ever Give Up

So my challenge for you is this.

If you’ve been struggling with weight loss, go find someone who can help and keep you accountable. Get so sick of your current situation that you make the changes you need to make. Get downright fed up with your lack of progress – hire a trainer or coach if you need to.

Be gentle and patient with yourself.  Real results don’t happen over night!  This journey is a marathon, and hardly a sprint. Your goals should revolve around getting strong and eating well.

If you’ve been injured or coming back from not paying attention to your body and/or mindset – realize that you’ve been in great shape before and it’s something you can invariably achieve again.

If you’re brand new to this fitness stuff, soak up the information.  Try new exercise classes, read reputable information on the Internet and take articles from major magazines with a grain of salt.  Even though it’s published doesn’t mean it’s accurate.

Finally, you know yourself best:

  • Develop a plan and work that plan
  • Do not waiver
  • Ask for help if you need it
  • Never give up
  • Keep pushing and fighting as if there is no tomorrow