My parents recently hosted us for a birthday dinner. In Kim’s card, my Dad had written something about us being the most persistent people he knew. Kim smiled, because we know how close a cousin “persistent” is to “stubborn,” which is a synonym for “unreasonable,” “pig-headed,” and “cantankerous.”
But we took it for the compliment it was intended to be.
Persistence, stubbornness, an abundance of sticktoitiveness…whatever you want to call it, we definitely have it.
It’s what allowed us to keep going for twenty years before making it to our dream home on Lake Michigan. We endured years of financial loss, crushing debt, the disappointing results of failed plans, and excruciating stretches of time when momentum was harder to find than Waldo in a candy cane factory.
That persistence served us well. It may have been our superpower, but it never seemed that special to me. Maybe because I know the secret.
There were many times I wanted to wave the white flag. But whenever it felt like the jig was up and bankruptcy was looming, I just assured myself that if all this didn’t work out, Kim could always go back to teaching. I could always get a corporate job or manage a fast food place somewhere. We’d be fine.
Then I’d think about how terrible it would be if I had to do that for the next twenty or thirty years.
And then I’d get back to work on the thing that excites me. Because moving forward suddenly wasn’t as hard, or hopeless, or impossible as it seemed. In considering the alternatives, I was reminded that I had a choice.
Even now, when I’m in the middle of hosting a one-man woe-is-me pity party about how difficult I have it, how much this sucks, and how I don’t think I want to do this anymore, I call a timeout. I reflect back to the summers of my teenage years, when I worked at a car dealership, enduring long days doing work that didn’t excite me. I remember how slow the clock moved as I counted down the minutes to freedom. I recall the pangs of dread that settled in on Sunday nights.
That job is where I learned that I’m employable. It’s when I made the choice that I was going after my dream, no matter how hard the road or how long it took. In that promise, persistence was born.
This is not a message about never quitting, which is sometimes the wisest course of action. It’s about reminding ourselves that quitting is only one of the options.
Adultitis prefers us playing the victim card. It very much enjoys us feeling powerless and without any choices.
But we always have choices.
We put its panties in a bunch when we play the perspective card. When we look at how far we’ve already come, or take an honest accounting of all the options at our disposal – while realizing how many of them are worse than our current situation – we can pull ourselves from the pit of hopelessness.
Laying all the choices out on the table can help remind us that we are on the right road after all. Sometimes, being faced with a less desirable scenario immediately brings to mind some new thing we can try in our present situation.
I’m sure there’s a little bit of persistence involved, and a dash of needing to be my own boss, but mostly, the thing that kept me going was simply reframing my situation.
What is the secret to being persistent? How do you keep going when you really want to throw in the towel?
You simply remind yourself of ALL the choices, and why “keep going” is the best one.