Making Friends with Perseverance

Five reasons why you should keep on keepin’ on
Are you one of those people who loves a challenge? Do you live to endure a ka-jillion miles of running and cheer at the end of a race? Do you relish in the long-term glory of a goal set waaaay long ago? If you are, you could probably write this article better than me. But, since you’re unavailable because you’re off climbing a mountain or something, I’ll talk to us regular folks about why it’s good to make friends with Perseverance.

1 THINGS will change…or YOU will
I’ve found that, faced with something that requires an enormous amount of pressing on, that if I’m open to staying the course, things will change and evolve. The place you are in right this second is not forever. Either the circumstances themselves shift to something new, or if we are open to it, our attitude changes, our perspective shifts, and our expectations adjust. Persevering allows for that metamorphosis to take place.

2 There is almost always something around the next corner
It’s easy to feel like this is the end. That the one thing we wanted so badly that we didn’t get…well, it’s just the end of everything. That the thing that we’ve been working through for-e-ver is never going to end. But, guess what? You aren’t stuck. There is hope because there is almost always something around the corner that right now is completely obscured from your view. We have to exercise our awareness and gratitude skills to appreciate that the “something” may be a simple shift, not a lightning bolt or a winning lottery ticket, but something to be grateful for nonetheless.

3 You learn stuff
Hey! We learn from challenging times that require us to keep going. If we give up, we miss out on lessons that help us embrace life with all of its ups, downs, joys and sorrows. We miss those moments of enlightenment that improve our relationships, hone our weaknesses into strengths, bolster our faith and enrich how we do life if we exit the journey too soon. If you’re going to learn, however, it’s important to check your stubbornness at the door, and release your resentment of the challenge you find yourself facing. Only then can you be open to learning, to hearing from others, to adjusting how you think about things.

4 Accomplishing something difficult feels good
Trust me, I’m the last person these days to bounce out of bed at 5:30am to go for a run. But, man, when I do (or did) and made it the four miles around my neighborhood without going into cardiac arrest, I was pretty proud of myself. With shoulders back, and head held high I had a different perspective and confidence in myself and in what I could accomplish that day. Challenges are called that for a reason. Persevering through to finish a mind-bending task or long-term goal (picture graduation, training for a marathon, saving to buy a house) is one of the most satisfying and grounding feelings we humans can have!

5 You build resilience for the next time
Practice makes perfect. Well, maybe not perfect….but the more we commit to persevering through challenging situations, the more we know we can! I have a good friend who helped me navigate through hard times with this little tool. When I was feeling at the “end”, totally stuck and certain that things would never be different, she would tell me to take until 8am the next day to feel bad about it, and then be done and move on. Now this is a challenge in and of itself. However, the concept applies. It’s not that we ignore our reactions to the challenges and dismiss the difficulty with a nice Stepford Wife smile and crazy eyes (you know what I’m talking about). It’s that we feel it and then regroup. And, the more we exercise this mental muscle, the more equipped we will be to push through the next challenge that comes our way.

BONUS TIP: Don’t beat yourself up if it’s hard to make friends with Perseverance
In our American, success-and-achievement-is-everything culture, it’s easy to think we should all just be able to take on anything and with enough self-help and tips like those above, we’ll rise above it all. Sometimes, it takes a lot longer than til “8am the next morning” to suffer and wrestle with the depth of some hardships. Sometimes a really long time. And, sometimes we need others to do the persevering with us or for us. Be gentle with yourself. Tackle the Perseverance friendship at your own speed–it is your journey after all.

And finally….
While applicable to life in general, it is interesting to see perseverance at play as we lead people through our art classes. Some of you can relate as you have lived it! Faced with the challenge of a blank canvas and limited or no previous painting experience, painters must engage that perseverance muscle to push through, trusting that it will get better, knowing that while right now the canvas shows a picture that is terribly incomplete, it will change and become something really beautiful.