Living Gently: Staying Positive, Staying Focused

“Perseverance is stubbornness with a purpose.” ~Josh Shipp

It’s January and ‘tis the season to make goals and promises to ourselves about positive changes we want to make in the new year. And about 8% of us are going to succeed.

When I think of New Years, I often think of “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” It’s one of my favorite books, largely due to how relatable the title character is. It starts off with a list of Bridget’s New Year’s resolutions. Always in the pursuit of self-improvement, our Bridget spends the year “journaling” her attempts to stay focused on her New Year’s goals and the hilarity that ensues.

After reading this book more times than I can count, I’ve figured out something about Bridget. She may spend the majority of the book trying to lose weight and re-invent herself into a better person, but she has a tremendously power life skill that is naturally hers: perseverance!

Let’s forget about New Year’s goals. Instead, let’s just talk about perseverance, the art of picking one’s self up and trying again. When we were toddlers, learning to walk, the act of getting up and trying again was natural. We didn’t let a tumble keep us from learning how to walk. But somewhere along the line, giving up became easy. Fear of being embarrassed kept us from putting ourselves out there, again and again.

Some of the greatest achievements were accomplished by regular people who simply refused to stay down when they were knocked down. Michael Jordan. J.K. Rowling. Stephen King. Oprah Winfrey. Colonel Sanders. Read about any of these highly successful and renowned people (among others) and you can quickly identify their common trait – perseverance. Each of them experienced failures, rejection, or disappointments over and over again before finding success and sometimes, even after finding it! But they didn’t let it deter them from their goals. They kept going.

Being the Harry Potter nerd that I am, I find it amazing that J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was rejected 12 times before capturing the attention of Bloomsbury Publishing (and more notably, the editor’s 8-year-old daughter who loved the manuscript!). J.K. Rowling was an unemployed, single mother fighting depression and writing during her daughter’s naptime. Though she eventually found a publisher, she was told to get a day job because she wouldn’t make a career out of writing children’s books. Seven books, eight movies, a theme park, and over a billion dollars later, I would hazard a guess that J.K. Rowling is probably glad she kept trying. As Rowling shared, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

The theory is simple. Jacob A. Riis was a journalist in the 19th century who gave this analogy, “Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

In 2016, let’s agree to work on NOT giving up and focus on that, more than we focus on the end result of whatever resolutions we are eager to make. Perhaps, by default of this one tweak in our attitude, it will impact our success rate in other areas of our lives. If, like me, you make an annual resolution about your weight, instead focus on the goal of not giving up. Chances are good you already know what you need to do to accomplish your standard resolutions. You just need the determination to not quit trying.