I kind of chuckle to myself with this blog, coming on the heels of the one I wrote before talking about the Dogpile That Changed My Life .
I’m proud of what I accomplished in my soccer career. Namely, probably my biggest accomplishment is going from grade 9 Canadian club benchwarmer to playing regularly on a team, Fortuna Hjorring (Denmark) that made the UEFA Champions League Final 10 years later becoming the only Canadian female in history to do so, and the first North American female player, with my teammate Stacey Peterson.
And absolutely a large part of that was purely on my ability to keep going when most people would have thrown in the towel.
Some highlights of that journey.
- I only started on my club team for the first time at the beginning of grade 9. This was not based on ability, only that my teammate had got caught sneaking out and was grounded for a month.
- I got cut from the BC Canada Games team in grade 12 (shout out to my old coach Ajay Patel who took my hysterical phone call from a phone booth at the side of the road in Richmond)
- I had the coach of Ole Miss tell me and my 3 teammates that he would be coming to our houses to offer us scholarships after watching us play when I was in grade 12 and in the thick of the recruiting process. He went to my teammates’ 3 houses, and just didn’t show up at mine and never called (cue another hysterical phone call this time at midnight to Coach Ajay). I remember sitting on my kitchen floor crying, convinced that my dream of playing US college soccer was never going to happen.
- I started one game in my Yale career and didn’t get chosen to play in many others
- I tore my MCL and had to red-shirt my senior year at Yale
- I got a medical redshirt fifth year at UConn. The night before leaving to go on my first trip to Notre Dame which I was over the mood with excitement with, I tore my MCL again at practice the night before we left and missed most of my fifth year season.
- I cried for my first month every night in Denmark and only because of making a deal with my Dad that I would stick it out a month, didn’t hop on the next flight home, painfully lonely and out of my comfort zone, not understanding anything going on in a different language around me.
I could go on, but the above shows pretty clearly that my most important soccer skill had nothing to do with touching a ball, but rather it was pure grit and perseverance, what seems to be the opposite of quitting, that allowed me to accomplish some things that I’m pretty proud of.
So why am I talking about quitting when very clearly the above shows the merits of continuing to persevere in times of hardship?
A few weeks ago after road tripping down to Portland to see one of my best friends, I was messaging with a friend that had recently decided to step away from playing in the NWSL. With a 6 hour car ride ahead, we got on the phone and started talking for a couple of hours about her range of mixed emotions about walking away from the sport and all the negative connotations that we face as athletes especially, but people as well, when it comes to quitting.
For some reason (a billion sportswear commercials perhaps?), success is equated with winning and championships, scoring goals and accomplishments, and second place, or quitting is what losers do. We literally get that message embedded in our heads over and over again. We buy into it, and we climb the ranks because of it.
Black and white. No room for grey.
The more we buy into this message (sometimes without even realizing it), the more that our psyche messes with us, when clearly something isn’t making us happy anymore and we know in our hearts that we are on a path that we know deep down we are just on because quitting is what losers do and that’s not us.
It’s hard to change that mentality and not feel massive amounts of self-doubt when part of where we’ve gotten to has been tied in with our self-worth, which has been tied into our ability to keep going to keep accomplishing.
On a personal level, I find myself also not being able to walk away from things in all capacities, as this sports message has engrained itself so deeply into my psyche. Shitty relationships that I’ve stayed in way longer than their purpose or ignored raging red flags for, friendships that have run their course, or even that big order of sushi that I ordered but am too full to eat, but still do, because Ciara-McCormack-does-not-quit-on-anything.
Because the best things in life come from sticking through things, even things that make us miserable and unhappy. Right?
I’m starting to realize that’s not always the case.
So without further ado here are a 5 reasons when quitting is actually a good idea:
- Quit If You Are No Longer Enjoying the Process
You have to enjoy the process, no matter what you are doing. Without that, I guarantee even your best possible outcome will feel empty.
You have to, have to, have to be enjoying the process.
In that list above that detailed a whole lot of crying and not much joy at first glance, there was always something else that I was getting out of being in those situations, that in a lot of ways gave me the strength to continue.
In high school, I loved soccer and the feeling of working towards a goal, and once I got out of my socially awkward phase, making friends and just all the fun we had off the field.
At Yale, despite hating my life on the bench and crying behind bathroom stalls at the disappointment of it all, I was getting an incredible education, meeting insanely talented people, and as a little Canadian girl, getting the thrill out of something as simple as taking a train into New York City.
At UConn despite my immense sadness that my fifth year resembled nothing of what I thought it would look like, I got a masters degree for free and enjoyed the opportunity to be in a big time school sports culture and met some amazing friends.
In Denmark, I was getting the chance to learn a new language and culture, and play with world class players.
The bumps were bearable because there was always joy in some capacity through the opportunities and learning I had outside of soccer.
You have to be enjoying the process. You live life once. Your process is your life, and you’re wasting your life if you’re not getting joy out of your days.
2. Quit If You Are Being Negatively Affected By the People Around You
At one point in my career I had a coach that could be described as manipulative at his best and in many ways and forms, abusive at his worst. I was on a mission to make the national team however, and this coach was essentially the gatekeeper of this opportunity.
So I was faced with a dilemma.
Do I continue to stay in an environment led by a horrible person that I was miserable in, or do I walk away.
After enduring as much as I could, I decided that if this is what I had to deal with to accomplish a goal, my lifetime goal at the time, to play for Canada, then it wasn’t worth it, and I walked away.
I quit the Whitecaps and said goodbye to the pathway to the National Team at the time, and I went to play for the Ottawa Fury.
And I went straight from the worst experience of my soccer career, to one of the best, led by one of the best coaches and people I’ve ever come across and I wondered what the hell made me wait so long. And soon after my path took another turn and I ended up playing for Ireland, enjoying my experience immensely.
Don’t stay in shitty situations with shitty people. It’s always ok to quit no matter how big whatever the goal you’re walking away from is.
No accomplishment is worth sacrificing your mental health and happiness for, no matter how big you think it is.
3. Quit If You’re No Longer Being True to Your “Why”
I love the motivational speaker Eric Thomas. He’s awesome. He talks about knowing your why. And it gives me chills every time I listen to it.
Watch Eric Thomas talk about the importance of your “why” here: Click Here
One of my closest friends went from a third string at a world championship, to getting the starting role when the 1st string didn’t do well, and the coach just had a hunch that she would crush it. And she did. Led the country to it’s best ever finish at the event.
Now part of what I love about this friend is that she’s a critical thinker and isn’t influenced by messages that we get rammed down our throats all the time.
As athletes, the constant messaging we get about success, worth etc, is the notion that we should all be shooting for the highest level, the Olympics, the World Cup, the FIFA Player of the Year, and that’s where “success” and the “why” is found.
For my friend, it was working mentally and physically to get into “the zone”. That zone of her highest level of mental and physical capacity she found at the World Cup the year she dominated it, and for her, once the event was completed, she had reached her goal as an athlete.
She stayed in it longer after the sport gave her joy because she was confused with the messaging around her, as who quits a national team at their peak?
But realizing that she didn’t care about accolades or wracking up World Cup and Olympic medals, the spotlight, the status of playing on a national team, social media followers or who knows what else, she walked away right before an Olympics that she likely would have made. She made this decision because she had the courage to live authentically and soccer was no longer bringing her joy for the time required to play at the highest level. Furthermore, she’d already accomplished her goal, even though it looked a lot different to what her goals were “supposed” to be as an elite athlete.
Have the courage to be true to your “why” and don’t be afraid to quit if how you’re spending your days and your “why” don’t align.
4. Quit If Your Ability to Be A Good Person is Being Compromised
An old friend Georgia Simmerling, recently came and gave a speech to the athletes at my TOPP Western Canada Soccer Showcase Easter Weekend in Vancouver.
She’s accomplished a lot of things, one of which is being Canada’s only 3 sport Olympic athlete in history- but instead of laying on a myriad of topics or directions she could have gone on with her accomplishments, her main message to our young athletes, was that success is found simply, in striving to be a good person.
Quit if you’re ability to being a good person is being compromised.
5. Quit If You Are No Longer Growing
In my opinion, life is about growing and learning. It’s what it’s all about, through the good and the bad. I think most of us know deep down when we are in situations that we are learning and growing and when we are just going through the motions and no longer want to be somewhere, a sport, a relationship, anything.
A core value for me and anyone that’s I let close to me, is being with people that are humble and motivated to grow and learn and work to become the best versions of themselves.
No matter where you are and what you’re doing, if you are no longer growing, it’s ok to quit, and it’s ok to move on.
We don’t hear enough that at times, in certain situations, it’s ok, even a great idea to quit.
And it has nothing attached to your worthiness as a person.
Quitting sometimes may mean catching a breather. It may mean getting some perspective, it may mean finding another path to get to whatever our top is. Or maybe it’s getting off the trail altogether.
Despite the lack of billboards proclaiming it’s greatness, the weirdest thing is, that sometimes quitting will be the smartest thing we will ever do.
You don’t need a medal, a relationship, a degree, or a national team to be worthy, to be successful. Sometimes quitting will be the bravest, smartest thing you will ever do and lead to things far better than you ever could imagine.
Most importantly, more than any accomplishment or any title, being true to what your heart is telling you, is where joy and success lies.
If it’s telling you to quit something, or someone …. listen.