“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
As a little girl, tenacity was not in my nature. I was very sensitive, and if anything hurt my feelings or made me feel inadequate, I’d quit. When I was 5, at the end of the school year my kindergarten class had a picnic and kids race with an obstacle course to celebrate the upcoming summer vacation. I remember being really excited about being outside with my classmates and family, and was rearing to go when race time came. But at some point in the course there was an obstacle that I couldn’t complete (I can’t remember what said obstacle was), and I remember I just started to cry and gave up. My dad came to me and picked me up, and I just cried my five year old sorrows into his shoulder.
As an adult, that feeling of helplessness will sometimes creep up on me when I face tough situations. I can still remember that day vividly as a child. All these years later, that little version of myself still lies deep inside, reminding me of the weaknesses I felt. That will never go away. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve been able to harness a little something called perseverance.
Perseverance is the ability to work through a tough situation, with grace and without complaint. This doesn’t mean you can’t grab a friend for a drink and talk about the issue at hand. Sometimes, you just need to get some stuff out of your brain and let it deflate. But if you’re constantly complaining about your problem to other people? You’re forcing other people to constantly share in your big stinky pile of poo, and that might just put you on the fast track to isolation.
This time of year, if your mood is affected by the lack of sunshine and cold weather, it can become harder to persevere, even in everyday stuff. Suddenly your workout is replaced by a few episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” on Netflix. And the healthy dinner you had envisioned becomes drive-thru at McDonalds, because you’re just too tired to cook. But with a little self-encouragement, I bet you can accomplish the things you want to and then some. Here are a few things to remember…
It’s a state of mind – Keeping the attitude that you CAN do it, rather than just giving up, can work wonders for your thought process and state of mind. The reason a lot of us give up is that we’re afraid to fail. But failing can be just as productive, if not more, than the process of pursuing a goal. Looking back on my five year old self, I feel compassion, but also a drive to push that girl harder, because I know she is capable.
Don’t be afraid of failure – I know this is a hard one. It doesn’t feel good to fail. Back when we were living off woolly mammoth, failure probably meant death. But only in trying can we achieve a sense of accomplishment. Failure is part of the package, but failing is not a weakness. Giving up before you even start is the easy way out.
Keep your eyes on the prize – There are some situations that life throws at us that we have to persevere through, and some that we create for ourselves. In both instances, there is likely a positive outcome you want to achieve. Keep that outcome in front of you. Even if it seems a bit beyond your reach, having a positive (and realistic) goal can add excitement to your journey. Humans have a unique concept of time, and expecting a positive outcome in our future can make the here and now feel so much better. Attitude can make all the difference.
Know when to quit – Are you miserable because you started something, but you’re not willing to let it go just to save face? It might be time to throw in the towel, and focus your perseverance elsewhere. People that pursue a goal relentlessly are pretty darn impressive, but people willing to deal with the agony of defeat when they realize that goal is no longer right for them? That takes guts.
As we start to ramp up to a new year, keep in mind that perseverance is a positive tool in your mental arsenal. And when you need to switch gears, and pursue a new goal in place of an old one, it’s ok. You’ve got this one life to live, make it a happy one!