Developing Resilience: Perseverance

In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins – not through strength, but through persistence.

Do you recall waiting in long lines to get your driver’s license?

One of my students told me recently of going with his dad to get his learner’s permit. They made several trips to the office, but each time the mindless process took too long and they left before completing the task. Dad was too busy, the clerks were too slow, the other customers were too unprepared. Several weeks passed; no permit.

We’ve conditioned ourselves to expect instant gratification. In the words of a song, “I want it all, and I want it NOW.”

I recall discovering a small ledger in my grandma’s attic. When I asked her about it, she explained that she and my grandpa used to play Chinese checkers for a penny a game. I scanned through pages of neat columns of numbers, the running totals of literally thousands of games.

I observed that their pastime sounded boring, and she explained the environment of the Great Depression. No television, no video games, and no money for movies and restaurants, so they actually spent time together. The games and the pennies provided context, but the real point involved talking, sharing, and connecting.

To my impatient eyes that ledger documented countless wasted evenings. My grandma saw something different; those meaningless columns of numbers evoked fond memories of laughter and shared struggles.

One aspect of developing resilience involves perseverance. Some important tasks aren’t enjoyable, easy, or efficient. No matter how much society objects, you can’t have it all and you can’t have it right now.

Technology trains us to surrender quickly. If the electronic game isn’t succeeding, hit “reset” and start over. No phone book required—press speed dial or call 411. Internet’s too slow? Just re-boot.

There’s nothing inherently evil about these conveniences, but together they foster a culture of impatience. This expectation of instant results encourages a habit of hasty capitulation in the face of disappointing results. Quick submission inhibits the development of resilience.

Important goals often require extended time. My student won’t get his treasured permit until he and his dad move beyond the myth of immediacy.

Question: What’s something you can do today to enhance your personal persistence?

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