Ep 94: When is it okay to quit?

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We all know that saying, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” Is that true? There are plenty of folks in history who stopped doing one thing that wasn’t working for them so they could pull a lever on something that does. But how do you know?

We can get a few clues from this weekend’s kerfuffle over NFL quarterback Andrew Luck. He’s a quitter. For all the right reasons. Here are a few things to take away from his story.

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Full transcript 👇


Ep 94: When is it okay to quit?

Hi. I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

This past weekend all of sports was aTwitter over the sudden retirement of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Literally days before the start of the regular season, Luck decided to pull the plug on a pretty great NFL football career.

In spite of some injury challenges in the past couple of years, he’s been able to soldier on to remain one of the top quarterbacks in the league.

And all at the age of 29, which seems very young when you haven’t been 29 for a while. 😂

One of his reasons for retiring was the mental game that came with the physical game. Battling back from injury is just as hard emotionally as it is physically, because of all that injury can represent.

  • Will it end my season?
  • Will it have long term repercussions?
  • Is this all worth the wear and tear on my body?

That narrative is always running in the background for athletes at his level.

It seems Andrew Luck got weary of that battle.

Most of the responses I heard to his announcement were similar to my own when I heard the news: Hey, you’re 29, you’re wealthy, live it up!

But I wonder how hard it is to quit your life long dream.

I’ve never done that. I’ve quit some jobs, sure, but none of them were representative of my entire work history since I was a kid.

What is it like to intentionally remove yourself from all you’ve ever known, while things still seem to be going well?

Quitting something big and important SHOULD be hard because quitting shouldn’t be taken lightly. But it should be something you’re willing to do.

As much as we’re encouraged to never give up, sometimes giving up what we’ve been working towards is what might actually move us forward.

There’s no easy way to know what’s not working for you anymore but we can draw a few clues from Andrew Luck’s story.

One thing that keeps us distracted is all the resources our race to the dream may be giving us.

As you keep moving up and hitting new goals, there are benefits and perks. It’s exciting to see what extra stuff your hard work can bring.

But sometimes the chase becomes more about those resources than the dream itself.

Who has more resources than an NFL quarterback? Imagine that your week starts with everyone focusing on what YOU need to be successful.

  • Here’s your training schedule, just show up and a trainer will tell you what to do.
  • Here’s some films to look at. You don’t have to watch all of last week’s game. We already curated the most important parts for you to watch.
  • Your nutritionist has coordinated with your personal chef to make sure your nutritional needs can be met.
  • Make sure you get your nap in before today’s practice so you can be fresh.
  • And everywhere you go people applaud you for your performance at work last week.

Is that how your job goes? I’m guessing most likely not. But there’s probably really good stuff about your goals and pursuits that makes it hard to walk away.

It’s easy to lose sight of yourself in a place like this. This is why it’s so important to interact with your values and internalize them. It helps keep the seductive extras in their proper perspective so you don’t get stuck.

Another measuring stick for quitting is what that dream is costing you.

Is your health at risk? Does your goal or dream keep you from a healthy state of mind? It seems this is where Andrew Luck hit a wall.

No one expects that playing football at such a high level is going to be easy on your body and mind. That’s the trade off and that’s part of the negotiation for their crazy expensive contracts. Even the best dreams have a cost.

But when that cost starts affecting your ability to function well or keeps you from what you value most, that’s a problem.

We tend to glorify this intense approach today. If we look at our business heroes, many of them encourage this extreme version of hustle and grind.

Now, you definitely can’t move forward with anything unless you apply some pressure.

But hustle at any cost can leave you empty, angry and alone. I’m pretty sure that’s on no one’s bucket list.

The mental game can wear you out because you’re so deep in your head you can’t see what others see. So it’s hard to take any constructive feedback, and it’s really hard to know when you’re getting to an unhealthy place.

Taking a step back can sometimes reveal what you can’t see when you’re in the middle of it all trying to move everything forward.

This is why it’s so important to make time for reflection. When you’re on the field all the time you just can’t see what others see from a higher view. So it’s harder for you to know when it’s time to move on to the sideline for a bit.

Here’s a less compelling reason for quitting something hard: it may be time for you to let others take the field.

This is especially true when you’re in leadership. If you’re effective as a leader, you will have someone coming up behind you who is preparing to be the next one with the ball.

This sounds good on paper but it’s hard to reconcile in real life. Chances are you have made your mark in your own way in your pursuit of this goal. Others have noticed.

Why would you give this up so someone else can get the recognition?

Andrew Luck knows that his team has been working with his backup to be ready for any situation. No doubt he has played some role in that preparation, too.

It takes a lot of humility to understand that the team may be better off with this fresh approach than if Luck stayed in his current disengaged state.

Moving out of that spotlight allows someone else to shine, sure. But it also lets you find a new light for yourself.

You can’t explore that if you’re not willing to let others move forward in their journey, too.

Andrew Luck made a decision that most of us are unwilling to make even without as much at stake. In today’s world of material success, people just don’t walk away from that kind of future.

I’m certainly not saying you should quit something because it’s getting hard. There’s a part of the pursuit where the difficulty builds endurance and resilience in you.

But I think you also have to be willing to quit sometimes to go to the next level.

Part of our stress today comes from directing our efforts at things that just don’t matter to us. Or that we’ve simply outgrown. Or that we’re doing because that’s what we’ve always done.

There are no absolute clues for when to step back. That’s why knowing your values is so important.

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the very pursuits that used to bring you joy, or you’re emotionally exhausted from the hunt for your goal, it may be time to assess your game plan.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself good questions about where you are and where you want to be.

You can catch episodes of Mental Health Moment by visiting mymentalhealthmoment.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Just search for “Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller.”

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