Persistence matters

Forging ahead despite setbacks will produce results

All of us live with a feeling of inadequacy. Of smallness. Of believing that there is something one can accomplish or would like to do, which is not within our reach or perhaps not even worth trying to achieve. Running strongly alongside these feelings is the conviction that one doesn’t have the capacity or courage to set out and do it. It could be something simple — how to set up a terrace vegetable garden, or how to play chess. It could be something intellectual like learning a new language or attending a course on film appreciation. It might not be about personal improvement and growth but about outreach —“I wish I could go to the slums once a week and teach children” or “I wish I could do something to help animals in distress”.

Indeed, no significant feat has ever been accomplished without the trials that go along with it. Know and accept that there will be obstacles and setbacks; prepare for them. Nothing important was ever accomplished without adversity and setbacks to contend with.

Henry Ford went bankrupt thrice before he managed to design his first automobile. “Failure is merely an opportunity to more intelligently begin again,” he said. Thomas Edison is said to have tried 10,000 times to create the light bulb before he succeeded. His attitude was, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

Keep at it

Take that first step. Make that phone call, write that email. Be psychologically ready when blocks pop up. You cannot press on, much less succeed, if you tell yourself that it is no use trying. So many of us procrastinate, fear failure or are too used to listening to our nervous inner voice. You will not fail if you don’t try something. However, you will never succeed either. As the popular saying goes, “The only real failure in life is the failure to try.”

If things do not work out the way you hoped, examine the steps you took and the methods you followed. See what went wrong and where; don’t be afraid to ask people around you: what didn’t work? what could I have done better?

Look at this list of people who overcame life-defying obstacles:

Ludwig van Beethoven (composer) became deaf at the age of 30 and composed most of his works after he lost his hearing. Helen Keller (writer) was both deaf and blind by the time she was two. She was the first visually-challenged person to receive a bachelor of arts degree. James Earl Jones (actor) overcame a bad stammer. Terry Fox (sprinter) was an amputee from cancer. Abraham Lincoln’s rise to Presidency was not at all smooth. In 1858, after he lost a Senate race and recovered from a complete nervous breakdown, he wrote, “It is a slip and not a fall.”

As you work towards a goal, sometimes you will for no clear reason, be filled with hope. Sometimes you will be flooded with negative feelings. Remember that while motivation is like fuel, it is not your motivation that will produce results — it is the engine of your action. The decision to persist, to keep at it even when you don’t feel like it.

Mini Krishnan is series editor, Living in Harmony (Oxford University Press, India).

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2020 12:17:39 AM |

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