virgin islands scene

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.
-- Thomas Alva Edison


The MONTHLY Motivator - September 2017



As a concept, persistence is easy. Just keep doing what you’re doing, right? Just keep taking one more step until you’ve reached your goal. But life gets in the way. Circumstances get in the way. Unexpected development get in the way. Other people get in the way. Your feelings get in the way. Suddenly, taking the next step seems impossible.

But it’s not impossible. You can do it. You can find the will. And that’s really what it’s all about. Being willing. Because even when difficult obstacles get in your way, you always have the ability to do something, to take a positive step. What you don’t always have is the will to do so. Fortunately, you can get it. You can summon that will and once you do, the persistence is there.

On the front end, before you even begin, you can give yourself a powerful advantage when it comes to persistence. That advantage comes from your choice of what to do. If you choose to undertake something you don’t really care about in the first place, you’ll eventually have trouble summoning the will to persist. Plus, if it’s not meaningful to you, why would you even do it? So ask yourself at the beginning, before you even start. Do you really want this, and why? Is it something you’ll be willing to persist at doing when things get difficult and uncomfortable? Or, is it something you’re doing just because it will look good or because everyone else is doing it? Be honest with yourself, because there’s a lot at stake. If you’re not committed, if it doesn’t mean much to you, then you’re likely to waste your time and effort, and then end up quitting before you reach the goal.

Once you’ve decided on a course of action, and it’s something you really, truly want to do, then do something right away that will seal your commitment. Make it more difficult to go back, more difficult to give up, than it is to go forward. For example, suppose you’ve decided to clean out your garage. If you start in one small corner of the garage, and organize the stuff there, that’s a good start. But it’s all too easy to quit after you’ve done just a little bit. So what could you do at the beginning to seal your commitment, to make it more difficult to quit than to keep going? You could begin by carrying every single item in the garage out into the driveway. By doing that, you’ve put yourself in a position where you have to persist in organizing the garage. Otherwise all your stuff will be left out in the driveway. Now of course this tactic of sealing your commitment is only appropriate if you are absolutely sure of what you want to do. Otherwise you’ll create all sorts of new problems for yourself. So make sure it’s what you want, and then find a way to make sure you keep at it.

Even when you have tangibly sealed your commitment and cut off your escape routes, as you move forward you’ll still be tempted to quit, or to procrastinate. One big temptation comes in the form of perfectionism. When your efforts fail to yield perfect results, you begin to think that maybe it would be better to put the work off until later. You reason that later you’ll feel more like it. Later the conditions will be more favorable. But of course, later never comes. What you end up doing is disappointing yourself. To avoid this kind of thinking, let go of your perfectionism. Yes, do your best, give your best, but don’t stop just because you can’t get it perfect. Do what you can do, at the highest and best level you can do it. And keep going. That’s what matters. Yes, you can make improvements later, but only if you keep going now. Stopping and waiting for ideal conditions guarantees that those ideal conditions will never come. Just go ahead and work with what you have, do what you can, and keep it up.

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--Ralph Marston

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