As a Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout Troop, I have had the pleasure of presenting the Eagle Scout award to six young men in the last 4 years. That number may not seem like many; however, the national statistic is that only 2.5% of the boys in Scouts actually make the rank of Eagle. Becoming an Eagle Scout isn’t technically difficult, but what makes it tough to accomplish is the perseverance required. In fact, all of my Eagle Scouts came to me at least a half a dozen times telling me they wanted to quit. Every time they told me this I told them that the decision to quit was only theirs to make. However, I also told them that quitting is a habit and one of the most important things to take away from making Eagle is that it is a learning experience and they needed to condition themselves to not quit when things appeared to be darkest.
Over the course of our lifetime, we’ll all face situations that test our resolve, defy our determination, and challenge our character. Yet, even though our personal limits may be challenged, defeat should never be accepted as an option. We always have to look “outside of the container” to find the solution instead of focusing on circumstances of the situation that appear to be challenging our personal limits. However, if we start to accept defeat then we have begun the habit of quitting and the next time we find ourselves in a challenging situation it will be easier for us to become quick to surrender to the challenge instead of staring the challenge right in the eye.
Way back in my days as the Officer-in-Charge of the Navy and Marine Corps SERE program, I remember a study done by behavioral psychologists studying the difference between victims and survivors, good athletes and champions….essentially why some people are so quick to throw in the towel. Here are some of their conclusions:
Lack of reality. When people are faced with an unexpected or significant challenge, they’re surprised, overwhelmed, and ill-prepared to rise to the occasion. They don’t believe it is happening to them and become paralyzed. Lack of action or delayed action by them results in failure.
Lack of confidence. Some people have a tendency to reach out for help as soon as they’re faced with a challenge. The problem is, the more reliant you are on others, the less reliant you are on yourself.
Afraid to lose or resignation. Some people give up before they even start. Their rationale is “Why make the effort when the odds of winning are stacked against me anyway?”
Lack of will. Some people don’t have the stomach to face adversity. They’ve given up so many times in life they accept defeat without making an effort.
Fear of accountability. Some folks leave their future to fate. They reason, “If there’s nothing I can do to change the outcome, why even try?”
Self imposed limitations. Some people not releasing that the only thing preventing them from successfully conquering the challenge is their perception that they just can’t do it or their perception that it just can’t be done. Therefore they spend their energy on “why not” instead of using their energy on “how it can”.
“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”
–Bernice Johnson Reagon
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”
– Vince Lombardi
So when that next challenge comes your way, first remember a previous learning tip that “calm is contagious” and then remember that “quitting is a habit.”