It is ironic that although advances in medical science have increased our average life span, we are finding it ever more difficult to enjoy life.
Our fast-paced lives leave us little time to stop and think about ourselves. Fast-food, fast promotions and even fast relationships are characterising our world as we run helter-skelter at dizzying speeds in search of instant gratification.
Our world today is fiercely competitive, where everything must be achieved “now.” The result is that good old values such as perseverance and endurance seem to have lost their prominence in our lives. But, not acknowledging them doesn’t diminish their timeless merit. The problem is that sometimes the truth is repeated so often, it loses its significance.
From childhood, we’re taught the value of patience and perseverance. We read fables and true stories of how perseverance pays off. Yet, when it comes to living our lives, we seldom put this lesson into practice. Most “failures” are a result of giving up too soon. This applies to us across the board – our health, our careers, our relationships and even our personal growth. No matter what the sphere, lack of perseverance continues to be the biggest reason for failures. Come to think of it, failures are nothing but outcomes where someone gave up too soon. Stories of sudden fame and wealth have only added fuel to the fire. But, sudden success is always an exception to the rule.
Impatience is unhealthy
Lack of perseverance is not only detrimental to our long-term success, but also to our physical and psychological health. When we’re impatient, and things don’t go our way, we often become angry and frustrated, which, in turn, is harmful to our health.
One 15-year-long study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that those who were impatient faced a higher long-term risk of developing high blood pressure, independent of other risk factors. Some experts concur that those of us who crave for instant gratification, ignore vital health issues, such as weight. In fact, psychologist and author, Sylvia Gearing, PhD, calls impatience “lethal for your health.”
Patience is genius
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson was a poet tuned to nature. He knew that a bud takes its own time to blossom into a flower and no amount of prodding or nudging will make it happen faster. In fact, most great achievers acknowledge the role of perseverance in their lives. “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer,” said Albert Einstein. Good ol’ Al was patient with himself and that is what made the difference. Abraham Lincoln, Marie Curie, and countless others like them owe their success to their steadfast determination and perseverance, in spite of repeated setbacks.
Perseverance in practice
To many people the word perseverance is synonymous with idleness—they sit around waiting for things to happen. Perseverance is not about waiting indolently. It means to work as hard and as long as necessary, and be willing to do what it takes, without giving up, until we achieve our goal.
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm,” said Sir Winston Churchill. We must learn to view failures not as the end of the journey, but as direction signs on our path towards success. Failures only indicate what corrective actions we might take in our pursuit. The pertinent question we must ask ourselves is: what is our true goal and what is stopping us from achieving it?
When we look around, we find countless examples of how perseverance pays off. We don’t even have to remember great successes. We can reflect on ordinary people who have refused to give up in spite of the struggles and challenges they faced. Their success may not be legendary, but it is success, nevertheless, and we can draw the much-needed inspiration from them.
Perseverance and detachment
In Enjoy, Don’t Fixate I highlighted the importance of detachment in attaining and living a fulfilled life. Detachment applies here too. Getting attached to “our” way is a sure-shot formula for disappointment. Trying the same thing over and over again is not perseverance. Genuine perseverance means that we are willing to reflect, and change our approach, if needed, when something is not yielding the desired results, in spite of our genuine efforts.
Perseverance with others
We tend to lose patience when we’re treated unfairly. This is especially so in our work environment, where interactions with others result in feelings of insecurity and competitiveness. It is in these times when our perseverance quotient is put to test. Patience is not only about being steadfast and waiting. It is also about enduring provocation and mistreatment without harbouring resentment, anger, or bitterness.
Perseverance in relationships
Perseverance binds, heals, and supports relationships. Lack of it is disruptive. It severs friendships, breaks up marriages, disintegrates families, and shatters hearts. Perseverance in relationship means owning up responsibility for whatever happens. If things aren’t working out as desired, perseverance gives us the tolerance and courage to resolve the problems.
Persevere, don’t resign
I quite like Josh Billing’s example of perseverance, “Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing ’til it gets there!” Perseverance means sticking to your purpose till you get there. No matter what the situation, do not give up.
In his classic, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells us the story of Darby and his uncle who hit the fortune trail during the Gold Rush. They made an initial find, went back to town to mobilise funds, and men and machinery to go for the “kill.”
They continued from where they left. But, one wagon of ore later, they lost the gold trail [vein]. They drilled for days on end for the elusive vein. Frustration forced them to call it quits. Worse, they sold their machinery as junk, and hitched a ride back to civilisation.
The man to whom they sold their “junk” consulted a mining engineer, who evaluated the abandoned excavation. He figured that the gold vein was just three feet away from where Darby and uncle stopped drilling. Three feet later, the “junk” man emerged a millionaire.
But, how do we cultivate perseverance? Simple—by changing our attitude towards the events of our life. We must put everything that happens in perspective and remind ourselves that things worth having in our lives often take time to build. If we’re sure of our purpose, yet are tempted to resign due to temporary setbacks, we ought to gently, but surely remind ourselves about the merits of perseverance.
I am opting to end this piece with two of my favourite quotes. Oliver Goldsmith said, “Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall.” “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail,” voiced Confucius.
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