Discarded Anxiety - When it Feels Impossible to Go On

“I don’t think I can do anymore, I can’t go any further.”

Those were the words of my high school basketball teammate Roger after we had just finished running lines.

If you’ve never played basketball, running lines is a conditioning drill where all the players on the team line up at one end of the basketball court and waits for the coach to blow his whistle.  Once the whistle is blown, the players are to run as hard and fast as possible to the end of the court and touch the baseline, then run back to the starting position.  Then, without stopping, the players run back down to the foul line on the far side of the court and back.  Then, to half-court and back, and finally, to the closer foul line and back.

Normally, this drill is timed and if any one of the players on the team doesn’t make it in time, the whole team has to do it all over again.

On this day in practice, my team was struggling to make the time.  We had gone up and down the court 5 or 6 times after already completing some other conditioning drills and my teammates and I were exhausted.

“We’ll do this all night long if we have to, but we’re not leaving until we make our time.”
My coach was adamant about conditioning.  “Just beat 40 seconds and we can move on.”

40 seconds wasn’t an outlandish goal.  In practice a week earlier, we ran the lines in 39.7 seconds.  But that day, for whatever reason, we couldn’t even come close.

We ran again… 43 seconds.  Not good enough.

Again…45 seconds.  Failure.

Each time we ran, there was one or two guys who kept missing the time.

Roger kept coming in last.  He was dripping sweat.  He had his hands on his knees, trying his best to catch his breath.  He was struggling.

Some of the other teammates were upset with him for not running faster.  They yelled at him, “COME ON ROGER!”

We all knew that if we met our goal, we’d be able to move on to the rest of practice.  But, we also knew that our coach was serious about making us run all night if we didn’t make our time.

Roger looked up at his team and said, “I can’t make it guys, I just can’t do it.”  He was about to accept defeat and quit the practice.

Then coach yelled out, “You’re free to quit anytime, but you’ll be benched for the next 2 games!”

This seemed to land a fatal blow to my friend’s confidence.

I remember watching him as he debated whether or not to accept that he couldn’t run anymore and sit out for 2 games.  He stood up straight but kept his head down.  He began to shake it from side to side as if to acknowledge that he no longer believed in himself and was ready to give up.

Have You Ever Been on the Edge of Quitting?

While you may not have played high school basketball, I’d bet you can relate to Roger.

Perhaps your seemingly impossible task isn’t running lines. Maybe your struggle is trying and failing to lose weight.  Or perhaps you struggle with procrastination, waiting for the last-minute to complete a task, only to rush through it and not give your best effort.

Maybe your struggle is a constant stream of negative thoughts that you can’t escape, or worse, you’ve already decided to give up on the life of your dreams, and just live out your days in misery.

Life can beat you down.

We all have days that just aren’t fair.  We all have struggles and setbacks and problems that seem impossible to overcome.

But in those moments when we are ready to quit and give up, it’s important to find some kind of encouragement!

So many of us never realize how close we are to turning things around.  Even when we are sick and tired of being sick and tired, we are often right at the break we need, but we stop looking for ways to keep going.

My friend Roger, was ready to quit.  He was ready to throw in the towel and ride the bench for the rest of practice and the next 2 games.  We all knew that, if Roger gave up, that it was likely he wouldn’t play much in the games even after being benched.  The coach would see him as someone who gave up on himself and on his team.

I didn’t want to see that happen.  Neither did a few other guys on the team.

What You’ll Need to Keep Going

We didn’t let Roger quit.  We encouraged him, saying that he could do it, he’s done it before, and he only has to do it one more time in order to move forward.

We decided as a team that Roger needed a running partner, someone who would run the lines along side him and encourage him every step of the way.

I was nominated and lined up next to Roger.

Coach gave us 1 minute to rest before we ran again.

I told Roger that as long as he ran with me and didn’t worry about the time he’d make it.

We lined up and Coach blew the whistle.

Roger ran as hard as he could.  Whenever he began to lag behind, I’d look back and say, “You can do it, stay with me!”

After we crossed the finish line,  Roger fell to his knees.  He’d given everything that he had.  All the guys on the team came over and helped him up.  The coach, who was on the other side of the gym, was now walking toward Roger.

One of the other guys on the team asked, “Did we make it?"

The coach said nothing, he just kept walking.  When he reached the team, he took off his stopwatch and handed it to Roger.  He told him to read the time out loud.

Roger, looked at the watch and smiled a happy but tired smile, “39.2 seconds.  We did it!”

We all cheered and celebrated Roger.

Life Lessons from a Basketball Coach

Coach smiled and gave Roger a Hi-Five.  Then, coach told him something that I overheard and never forgot.  He said:

In basketball and in life, you will encounter difficulties.  But as long as you believe enough in yourself and have just one person to believe with you, there’s no challenge or difficulty you can’t overcome.  You must be willing to encourage yourself and believe it.  You must be willing to accept encouragement from others, and finally, you must be willing to try again.

While those words were from a coach to his high school basketball team, those words are even true for you and me today.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to encourage myself and believe it.  I struggle to accept encouragement from others because of my own beliefs about myself, and I definitely struggle with trying something again after failure.

But just imagine how much stronger you might be, if you did those 3 simple things.

For the rest of this month, you and I will be talking about encouragement.  We’ll discuss how to seek out encouragement from others, how to encourage ourselves, and how to use encouragement to reach our goals.

Come back on 02/24/2016, and we’ll get started, OK?

We can do this, together.  I’m right here with you.

Next Action Steps

We've all experienced failure to some degree and sometimes after failure we quit.  But in the comments below, share a time when you failed but kept trying and succeeded.  Then share something that you quit doing, but are willing to try again.  These don't have to be anything major.  I look forward to your comments.

For example: One blaring example in my mind is how many times I failed at starting a blog.  But it's something that I kept trying and have now found some success with.  One thing that I quit doing after trying a few times is making a video for you guys.  I feel like I'm not a video person.  But, I'm willing to try it again in the near future.  Plus now that I've told you, I'm sure you'll be asking me about it soon.

Photo Credit: Coloradoan