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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Perseverance

Persevering at something is a powerful happiness factor.

Unfortunately, it often takes an awful lot of time before you live your dreams.

I've wanted to be a runner and a writer all my life (basically since I was about 10 years old). Different things get in the way of our goals. In my case, I was afraid. Afraid of failure, AND afraid of success. That didn't leave much room for "let's just try and see".

Sometimes you have to refine your goals along the way. Running 100 m sprints at the Olympics (I first fell in love with running while watching the 1984 Summer olympics in Los Angeles) is out of the equation for me now, but running races at my own pace and coming back with the generic medal might be just what the doctor ordered. After all, another one of my running inspirations was the story of a woman who was still running marathons in her 70s. It's certainly not to late for that!

As for writing: for the longest time, I didn't want to write anything substantial (I did write a journal for a good 20 years, though, and I do have a Master's degree in creative writing) if it was not gonna win a prestigious litterary prize (think Goncourt in France or Pulitzer in the U.S.). I kept coming up with ideas that I would scribble on yellow Post-Its... only to lose them in a pile of paper and never come back to them. Needless to say, my improbable expectations were very effective at keeping me away from the page. Nothing beats unrealistic goals for giving you the writer's block! With time, I have come to know myself better; specifically, I have come to realize that I need almost instant results and very quick feedback. Spending months, even years, on one novel, is just not an option for me. All the while I was struggling to find a way to write that would fit these criteria, along came the blogging age. And my problem was solved. No prizes, no big frills, no snobbish intellectual circle, but my thoughts are on the web, and my friends are enjoying it. Do I really need anything more?

The problem with pursuing goals, as Gene C. Hayden puts in The Follow-Through Factor, is that "the worst that happens to those of us who fall short in follow-through is nothing. Life goes on as is. Nothing happens. Just as the opposite of love isn't hate but indifference, the opposite of success isn't failure, it's status quo." Who would have known if Mozart had never written any music? If he had simply played (very well) what other composers were writing?

So motivation has to come from within. Unfortunately, most of the obstacles we encounter on the way to our goal also come from within. To name but a few (according to Hayden):
- lack of belief in oneself
- not being sure that's the right project
- not knowing which of the good ideas to pick
- not knowing if it's passion
- not knowing how to proceed
- being afraid (of failure, of getting bored)
- lacking time, energy, money, a mentor, patience

Let's be honest with ourselves: those are all excuses.

Being realistic is fundamental. According to Hayden, "the difference between those who follow through and the rest of the world is that people who persevere don't expect that opening a dance school or bread shop is going to be an earth-moving experience. They accept that it's going to be a lot of hard work and hassles." They also understand that going slow and taking small steps is perfectly fine... as long as you do something!

One of my favourite slogans of all time is Nike's "Just do it". Stop thinking, pondering the pros and cons. Don't even ask yourself if you "feel like it". Most athletes and creative people would rather stay in bed or lounge in front of the TV than train or work on their creation. But they do get up and start working. Because they have a goal in mind.

To stay within the perseverance/follow-through theme, here is a nice little song called "Let's Do It". The pleasure of jazz and Ella's lovely singing are yours to savour. Enjoy!

(If you don't like jazz, you can always try Joan Jett's version.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I've been called "a persistent little bastard," lol!

    I'm sure it was well-intended :-)

    ReplyDelete