Most people who know me know that I like to push myself. I'm constantly taking on new challenges. And while I may face setbacks and obstacles along the way, I typically don't quit until I've accomplished whatever goal that I've set for myself.
That's why I was a bit surprised, while participating in a half marathon about six weeks ago, when I abandoned my run about two-thirds of the way through the event. It was just one of those days. From the start of the event, I wasn't feeling my best. Then at the start line, someone stepped on the back of my heel and I nearly lost my shoe.
As the run progressed, I felt worse. I soon realized that if I continued running, I likely could be sick for the next week. I found myself debating mid-run whether to continue what I had started or if it was OK to quit.
To be clear, I am nowhere close to a competitive runner. I run for my mental and physical health, and my competitiveness is limited to how well I perform on my current run as compared to my previous runs.
Even so, quitting is not something that normally is in my vocabulary. As such, weighing whether or not to continue running in the half marathon was a very difficult decision, particularly with my personality being the way it is. However, in this situation, I decided that continuing this run wasn't in my best interest. Once I made that decision, I had to feel comfortable with it.
You may be questioning what any of this has to do with internal auditing. That said, I'm viewing it from the perspective of an internal audit career — or honestly, any career.
Over the course of anyone's career, there will be good days and bad days. I sometimes dwell on the negative — the things that didn't go the way that I wanted or the times when I wasn't fully pleased with my level of performance (the bad days).
While there is value in reflecting on your shortcomings or mistakes so that you can learn from them, there also is merit in recognizing that some days will just be better than other days (and some days might be bad days). Although it is important to focus on routines and habits to help you perform at your highest level, there simply may be some days when your performance is not as good as it is on other days.
With that in mind, one of the things that everyone can learn from my situation is that you shouldn't let the one bad day or the few bad days define you. Recognize that though your performance was not optimal or what you wanted it to be, you can't let the one bad day or the few bad days keep you away from your overall goal — the big picture of what you want to achieve.
Although I'm not a competitive runner, I appreciate that my capabilities as a runner are not defined by one event. Likewise, an internal audit career is not defined by one day or a limited period, but rather a person's career accomplishments over time. Another way to think of it is that an internal audit career isn't a sprint or even a half marathon but rather an ultramarathon.
Further, even though I wasn't having my best run, I tried not to let that impact my attitude. Yes, I was frustrated that, even after preparing for the run, it wasn't my best event and I didn't finish it. However, I also recognized that I couldn't let that negatively shape my attitude. I knew that if I didn't stay positive and continue focusing on my overall goal — the mental and physical health benefits associated with running — I could quickly get off track even further.
Similarly, in an internal audit career, if one allows setbacks to negatively impact one's attitude, it can further distance that person from achieving his or her goals.
One final thought about when it may OK to quit. Have you ever had a conversation with someone — a family member, friend, or audit customer — who fundamentally disagreed with you? In this particular situation, the best solution may be to temporarily end the conversation until the emotions of both parties are in check.
Thinking back on my recent experience with quitting mid-run, I made the right decision for me at that point in time. I'm also proud to share that three weeks after abandoning the run at mile 9, I completed my ninth half marathon.
As I think about the situation from a different angle, maybe I shouldn't frame the first run as quitting; maybe I should frame it as deferring my run until I was better equipped to complete it.
What do you think — is it ever OK to quit and what are those situations?