Combat simplifies life real quick.
In that moment - you fight for survival with no time to worry or decisions to mull over - and how you react in a fight says a lot about how you approach your life.
You've probably heard of the fight or flight response - the two instincts that control how you react to a situation you perceive is threatening.
I'd offer there is a third response that doesn't get talked about but is much more dangerous than fighting or running - it's quitting.
You can't run in the boxing ring - there is nowhere to go. You can move around but you'll never get away from your attacker or get a break unless your attacker gives it to you, the bell rings or the referee stops the fight.
With running out of the question - that leaves two options: fight or quit.
No matter the outcome or how badly you are beaten - win or lose - if you stand and fight you win. Even if you lose complete with the bruises and blood as evidence of the beating for days after - your mind remains intact. You'll still climb out of the ring proud and able to hold your head up knowing deep down that you gave it all you had.
If you give up and quit - you lose a lot more than just the match. You lose confidence. Your pride, ego and self-esteem take a massive hit that you may never get back.
Losing physically hurts - but you'll heal. Quitting not only destroys you physically but mentally as well - and mental wounds do not heal quickly or easily.
Think back to a time when you gave up or didn't put 100% effort into what you did and how it made you feel. That sickening feeling in your gut sucks and is a feeling you never really get rid of.
How you fight in the present dictates how you fight in the future
We run on habit.
Our brains are wired to seek out patterns and automate as many things as possible to keep us from having to make a decision about every single thing that presents itself in a day.
Quitting once is not enough to form a habit - but it takes a huge step towards it.
Habits form when you have a trigger and a reward. In the case of a fight - getting in the ring is a very obvious trigger and quitting to alleviate the pain and humiliation of a beating is about as big an instant reward as you can get. Together - they form a deadly combination that will empower your subconscious mind to quit at every opportunity.
You won't even be aware that you are quitting. Like a computer program - your subconscious will start the program the second it encounters the trigger and it will run until completion - ending when you quit and climb back out of the ring.
Overcoming hardship is an important life lesson
Pick a saying:
- "when the going gets tough, the tough get going"
- "when life knocks you down you get back up"
- "if it's worthwhile, it's worth fighting for"
Those sayings are so common place because they describe situations that are common to every human being on Earth.
If you're thinking of quitting - you're experiencing something that everyone deals with in their lives at some point. Nobody is immune to it - and while it may not be a situation involving a physical confrontation with someone - it is something that causes enough pain and hardship that you will want to avoid it at all costs - and quitting seems like a pretty damn good and the easiest option at that time.
Quitting provides instant gratification - but the real rewards are beyond the hardship - on the other side of the obstacle.
Victory in the ring or out of it is not a result of passivity - it's a result of working through the issue and overcoming the fear and pain.
That's the habit you want to instill in yourself - to keep going when things get unimaginably hard, to exhaust all options and fight for what you want no matter what.
That is a habit that will leave you feeling good about yourself.
That habit will help you in every aspect of your life.
That habit makes you a stronger person.
Quitting destroys any chance of achieving any of that.
I'm pretty sure I didn't need to convince you that giving up is one of the worst things you can do - but some of you have probably made giving up a common part of your lives in and out of the ring without even knowing it.
Avoiding any hardship, staying in your comfort zone, and looking for the easy button in every situation is a perfect way to build a mediocre life. There is much more to living than constantly seeking to avoid pain and when you realize that - you'll discover the joy and reward that comes from conquering whatever is in your way.
How to Stop Quitting
The act of quitting begins in your mind - so remove the damn word from the list of acceptable actions in your head.
It's like murder - most of us would not consider killing someone to be an acceptable action so we would never cross that line and do it. Approach quitting in the same manner - it's just something you will never do - ever - period. So your first step is to:
Shift your mindset and put quitting in that "I'm never going to do" category.
Fear is the prime driver motivating quitters - fear of pain, fear of loss, fear of rejection, fear of failure.
We all experience fear - but fear is often not based on reality. Fear results from trying to look into the future and predict what is going to happen.
The unknown causes anxiety and you will worry and stress out over what might happen - not what will happen. Just because you got your ass kicked in the last sparring session doesn't mean it will happen again - especially if you learned from your last experience and modify your behavior accordingly.
Fear is a useless emotion in our time. It may have kept our cavemen ancestors alive in life or death situations by ensuring they didn't venture into the lion's cave, but we aren't dealing with a lot of life and death situations in the developed world.
You do not have to let fear or anxiety ruin your life or program your responses. Fear and anxiety are emotions and with enough practice - you can control your emotions - or at least how you choose to respond to your emotions.
Take a step out of yourself and assume the role of observer - rationally looking at what you are feeling and ask yourself if what you are feeling really has any bearing in reality.
Is every person you are going to meet in the ring really going to be better than you?
Are you really so slow or weak that you can't defend yourself?
Reduce the fear to its ridiculous conclusion and it holds no control over you.
At very least - analyzing a fear will point you in the direction of what you need to do to compensate for it or find the solution to overcome it - but it's something actionable. It's not a damn feeling - it's something concrete that you can work on. So your second step is to:
Be in the present and question the reality of your fears to make them disappear.
Imagine every fight as a life or death event - and decide that when you get in the ring you are going to live.
You can take a lot of punishment and keep going if you don't let your pride, ego, and fear get the better of you. When you get hit - and you will - and sometimes it will be really hard - you have to make that choice to want to fight and win - to battle back from that blow and punish the SOB that just hit you.
It's not about getting angry and losing composure - but it is about digging into your primal instincts, finding some aggression and using that to keep going.
The boxing ring is no place to become submissive or passive - you have to harness some aggression and come to terms with the fact that you are in the ring to fight.
The boxing ring - and really life - is no place to hope that someone will bail you out of the situation you are in. You have to take care of yourself.
The only alternative is to give up and quit - to drop your hands and lower your guard, close your eyes, and hope that someone will stop the fight - and I'm telling you right now that you must never quit in the boxing ring no matter how bad it gets. You keep your hands up - your guard tight and you look for any opportunity to turn things around.
If you quit - you will get hurt far more than if you stood toe to toe. So your third step is to:
Make it worth fighting for.
The quickest and fastest way to build up your confidence is by learning as much as you can and practicing enough so that it all becomes instinctual.
If you don't like getting hurt in the ring - then use the time between sparring sessions to fix whatever you are doing that is allowing it to happen. Take responsibility for your part of what happens in the ring and learn from your experiences.
If you don't do the work - you can't reasonable expect to get any better. So your fourth step is to:
Put in the work and get good - really good.
A plea to trainers and coaches
As a trainer or coach you will see it happen over and over during sparring matches or fights - especially with newer boxers. A boxer will take a hit and suddenly they become super passive. Their hands drop or they try to cover up. Their eyes close. They stop wanting to fight almost instantly and are hoping that you are going to yell stop.
If your boxer is new to the sport and getting in the ring for the first, second, third or even tenth time - they may not know how to deal with the pain and humiliation that comes with being beaten by someone far superior or stronger than them.
There are few opportunities left in life outside the ring to cultivate that "never going to quit" attitude - and if your new boxer doesn't have it - that sparring session may be the last time you ever see them.
We have to know how our boxers are going to respond to losing and prepare them to overcome it and keep moving forward.
It really pisses me off to see a trainer or coach drive a kid out of the gym who actually has great potential and skill but lacks the mental training. The trainer or coach will chalk it up to the kid not having what it takes to win. Well shit - maybe we could actually do a little more coaching and work on developing the fighter's mind and attitude as well as their physical skills so they have the resiliency to bounce back from bad situations - to keep them from quitting and throwing all their hard work down the drain.
Someone once told me that giving up on someone is the easy thing to do - the real challenge is developing them. It's been my experience that easy is usually not the most fulfilling option.
Please, please, please do not put a new boxer in a situation where they are going to lose until they can handle losing. Build their confidence - don't destroy it.
I'm also not saying that new boxers need to be coddled like a two-year old. They will need to deal with stronger, faster, and more skilled opponents and learn how to get back up after being knocked down - but not every kid out there has that foundation of confidence necessary to overcome this kind of situation.
As the trainer or coach - we need to watch our boxers and make sure that those with fragile mindsets have opportunities to strengthen those mindsets before they are tested.
In short - make sure the boxer is ready to fight and then control the outcome of the initial sparring sessions to ensure that boxer will continue to fight and doesn't turn passive and quit.
Try Again - photo by BK
It's normal to want to quit sometimes - but you have to recognize that desire and kill it before it happens. You must never quit - ever - not in the ring - not in practice - not in life.
When you're having a bad day - look for one small success. There is always one - even if just making it out of bed has been the pinnacle of your day.
Build on that - congratulate yourself for that achievement and use it to strive for another and another. Once you get the momentum going, those small successes will turn into bigger successes until you are moving so fast that nothing can hold you back.
If you woke up today and have experienced nothing but frustration and heartache, then keep going.
If you had the worst sparring session of your life and got your ass kicked - keep going.
Never ever quit. The only possible way you lose is if you give up.
It is black and white - a choice you have to make - and if you choose to keep fighting - you win.
If you settle for what you have now - that is your choice - but if you are not content - it is up to you to strive for something better.
The fight is never easy. Sometimes you will be completely exhausted. When you are spent - rest. Recharge and prepare for the next round. Then get up and continue fighting. As long as you never quit you will always be moving forward even if it seems like you are not moving at all.
You are in this world to make a difference - we all are in our own way. It's up to you to fight your way to glory and enjoy overcoming every single obstacle along the way. You will experience a level of joy, contentment, and fulfillment that if you had given up, would never know.
Never ever quit - period. Boxon.