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  • Writer's pictureRyan Wilson

Are you a Quitter or a Failure?

As some of you may know, I recently started to work with a personal trainer.

It started because I try to say yes to most new experiences. That is how I ended up taking a weekend Outdoor Survival Course last year (I highly recommend it, here is a link to Becoming an Outdoors Woman) and learning to track animals by their scat.

That is also how I ended up taking up snowboarding and in Circus School (Atlantic Cirque and Studio in Essence both offer these classes for those who may be interested)- it was an eventful 2017!

It turns out, I lacked the upper body strength to use the Silks in circus school as gracefully as you see in Cirque du Soleil performances. To be honest, I was the Mr. Bean of circus school. I even got all tangled in the Silks one day and needed help getting untangled and down. I ended up with a massive bruise spanning my entire thigh…it turns out that even though they are soft and silky, when your entire body weight and gravity are pressing in one spot, it still hurts! I left every class with very little ego and determined to do better next time. It was REALLY hard for me.

I realized I needed some help and motivation in building upper body strength, which is how I ended up with my personal trainer, Logan.

I had never really done strength training before, and Logan introduced me to the concept of QUITTING vs FAILING.

QUITTING is when things get really difficult, we voluntarily tap out. In the world of exercise, this tends to happen at the beginning or end of a rep (i.e. at the beginning or end of a bicep curl).

FAILING is when regardless of outcome, you keep showing up and doing your best. There is no tapping out. In terms of exercise, this happens in the middle of a rep or exercise.

In short, QUITTING is choosing to walk away or give up when things get really hard, and FAILURE is when we just keep showing up regardless of outcome. 

Logan has asked me when I am struggling if I want to be a quitter or a failure, and when it comes to pushing myself to build strength so I can meet my goal, I WANT TO BE A FAILURE!!! 

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a super-keener, so those words do not come lightly.

Here is the thing- if we change our definitions of QUITTING and FAILING, it helps us change our relationship with mistakes. This helps us become more comfortable and makes it more likely that we will take risks in the service of creating a life we are excited to live. Words and labels create a framework we use to organize our world. We want to use these as a tool and adapt them when the ones we have been using no longer serve us.

It is also important to remember that there is no blanket preference for one or the other. There are times it is healthiest for us to quit, and times it is healthiest for us to fail. For example, although I am very motivated to build my upper body strength, so I want to fail at my exercises, if I was injured however, the healthiest thing for me to do may be to quit.


Think about some of the major events in your life, times when things were really tough. If it helps, makes a list of them.

Now reflect on whether you QUIT or FAILED in those situations? (Based on the definitions above)

Consider if those were the healthiest choices for you?

Is there a pattern where you tend to be a quitter or a failure? If so, has it helped you feel stronger (more alert, excited, engaged in your life) or weaker (more apathetic, lethargic, detached from your life)?

NOTE: You may notice some feelings coming up as you do this exercise. It is common to be proud of the times quitting or failing was in line with our values, when it moved us towards what is important to us and who we want to be. It is also common to feel regret or sadness about the times we perhaps quit when we should have failed or vice versa. Be careful not to beat yourself up when this happens.

We often treat ourselves as if we knew then what we know now, when in truth we were just doing the best we knew how to given what we knew and our circumstances at the time. It is much more helpful to respond to ourselves with compassion, by recognizing that was the best we knew to do at the time and being sad about that also. Don’t worry, the feelings will pass. They only stick around when we resist them- then we can end up “emotionally constipated” and that can last for years!

Watch this 2 min video that explains Failing Forward!

See you next week!

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