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I Quit!

BY TAYLOR BROWN
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER

Think of a time in rowing when you wanted to quit. 

It’s OK. We’ve all had them. 

Maybe you were in the middle of a grueling winter erg workout or three lengths down to a crew during a spring dual race. You looked over your shoulder and realized the competition was out of reach, your stomach sunk, and the thought crossed your mind, “I quit.” 

Traditionally, quitting means to resign or discontinue, but this is not true for everyone, and in fact, experiences of quitting can vary significantly. 

A coach of mine once said, “If all else fails, just pull harder.” What I found out later in my career was that pulling hard and putting myself in a lot of physical discomfort was, in fact, my comfort zone. 

I was very comfortable being uncomfortable, as the saying goes. Whenever things were going poorly in a race, I reverted to my comfort zone, threw all technique to the wind, and began pulling as hard as I could. In essence, this reaction was my way of “quitting” because continuing to give full focus and effort would mean maintaining good technique and pulling hard. 

If I could say I still pulled hard, even if we lost, then I could hold my head high and keep my ego intact. Pulling hard didn’t mean much, however,  if I  lost focus completely. It takes a lot more to win a race than pulling hard. 

One’s comfort zone and what it means to quit are often very different. Your version of quitting could be feeling sorry for yourself, easing the pressure, or thinking, “What’s the point?” Another person’s version of quitting may be letting go of technical focus and just pulling hard.

What is your version of quitting? 

What does it look like when you check out? Quitting comes in many forms, such as disengagement, frustration, anger, or even, counterintuitively, perfectionism. It’s much easier to keep chasing perfection than to accept the reality of mistakes or failures. Therefore, “quitting” while trying to achieve perfection becomes a shield to protect you. 

Not all of us have developed the awareness to recognize our own version of quitting. So here are some steps to help figure it out:

  1. Identify someone who knows you well and will be honest. This could be someone on your team, your coach, or perhaps a family member. 
  2. Ask him or her, “How do I act when I give up, quit, or check out?” 
  3. Listen with an open mind. 

It’s hard to hear how other people perceive you, but it may lead to an important breakthrough in how you handle situations when you’re tempted to give up. Becoming more aware of how you respond in these situations will prepare you to handle them better in the future and perhaps make  behavioral choices that are more productive.

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