Overcoming Quit Moments

The following is an excerpt from Jon Gordon’s newsletter that I came across the other day:

"Dr. James Gills accomplished the remarkable feat of completing two triathlons back to back. Most of the world, including me, couldn't complete one triathlon, never mind two. Yet, Dr. James Gills, a man in his fifties, was able to complete a double triathlon six times.

When asked how he did it, he gave the best advice I've ever heard.

He said, "I’ve learned to talk to myself instead of listen to myself."

He continued, "If I listen to myself I hear all the reasons why I should give up. I hear that I'm too tired-too old-too weak to make it. But if I talk to myself I can give myself the encouragement and words I need to hear to keep running and finish the race.”

This story highlights the importance of interjecting positive self-talk. It also aligns with a concept that I call a "quit moment."

Put simply, quit moments are the times when you have the option of quitting, stopping or slowing down. It’s when the voice inside your head is telling you it’s ok to quit. It’s ok to take a break. It’s ok to slow down.

That voice in your head is extremely persuasive. It knows exactly what button to press to make you believe that quitting is in your best interest. Here are some ways it can show up:

Your teammates aren’t working as hard as you so you can ease up. 

You just had a really good 2 weeks so you deserve a break. 

You’ll never play anyways so why keep working hard?


Whatever your weakness is, that voice will attack it mercilessly.

Your response to a quit moment is a signal of your mental toughness. Mentally tough athletes are able to face that quit moment and keep moving forward. It’s the ability to ignore the rationalizing voice in your head and interject your own positive message instead. Instead of listening to “you can stop now, you deserve a break,” mentally tough players encourage themselves to keep going with positive self-talk. 

Quit moments happen every day. The obvious example is when you’re doing physical conditioning and you’re tired. You're convinced you’ve had enough and it’s ok to stop.

But quit moments can also be more subtle. A common quit moment occurs when you’re writing a paper and it gets frustratingly hard to formulate a sentence. Do you take a quick check on Instagram to soothe that discomfort? Or do you stay focused on the task even though it's difficult?

As coaches, mindfulness training is an effective tool that we can use to help teach our players to overcome quit moments. Mindfulness practice trains the awareness to recognize that a quit moment is just a thought and not an order. Once we recognize it as simply a thought, we have the choice to either listen to it or to interject a positive voice instead. 

Suggested Reading: Why Mindfulness Training is Worth your Time

There’s a conversation that goes on in your head when you think about quitting or slowing down. One voice is rationalizing your quitting, the other tells you to push through the discomfort. Which voice is louder? Which one will you listen to?