Persistence is admired by most people. Finishing what you start, completing a task, walking across that finish line--I admire people who can do these things. Such behavior is rare enough that we notice when someone is able to persist until they reach their goal. Persistence is considered a virtue in our society, something all of us need to work toward. Most books about success, in business or any other field, tell us that to succeed, we need to set goals and then persist until we reach them. We teach our children to persist as they learn to read and other school related things. Keep at it, we say. Practice makes perfect, we tell them. And it is true.
But persistence is not always a good thing.
We all set goals in our lives, sometimes extreme ones, where we decide to lose 500 pounds by Christmas or run seventeen marathons in a year. Silly, crazy dreams, some of them. There's this image of Jillian Michaels in your head, and you want to BE her, by gosh! Slap one of those sweat suits on me right now! There's nothing inherently wrong with setting goals for yourself and trying to achieve those goals, no matter how extreme. Being persistent is something that helps us reach those goals. Persistence gets us to the gym at an ungodly hour and make better food choices. Persistence pushes us to finish that degree, to earn that extra certification, to take the stairs instead of the elevator.
But sometimes, persistence is just plain stupid. Counter productive, even. If your goal is to be a famous singer, and you're tone deaf? If you want to be the next Angelina Jolie, and you have short-term memory issues? There's a saying that really struck home for me: "If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you do is stop digging." Persisting at a goal when you realize the likelihood of achieving it is nonexistent? Stop digging.
Jillian Michaels, and other personal trainers, look the way they do because that is their JOB. Her goals involve getting paid to exercise and eat right. Nobody wants to work with an out of shape personal trainer, do they? Jillian doesn't have to be up at 5am to make the morning carpool line at the elementary school. All those extra little things that moms all over the place have to do, like homework projects due the next day? Jillian has people to do that stuff for her, allowing her to concentrate on her job. The average woman doesn't have those options. So why do many of us set the bar so high?
Most of us lose interest in our soybean and seaweed diet, if the scale doesn't move in the right direction. That's as it should be. Choosing not to persist is sometimes the healthier decision; continuing to persist is not. It's all well and good to have a dream, but occasionally it is time to
wake up. So maybe losing 500 pounds by Christmas is a bit much. Let's try for 50, or even 25. There's no sin in adjusting your goals to fit reality. We change our goals, we lower our expectations, we adjust. Sometimes part of adapting is letting go of some goals.
If you like to sing, keep singing, just don't keep trying out for American Idol in the hopes that Simon Cowell(or the judge du jour) will slap some talent into you. Adjust your dreams.
Church choirs need singers, too.
Go visit Mamakat's World Famous Writer's Workshop and check out some other fine posts for today. The prompt I used was to write about goals.