Does persistence really pay off?
My internet access was down again – for most of last week. It was frustrating to log on over and over again only to see a spinning disc that kept on revolving forever or to write a message and then find that I couldn’t send it. These problems have persisted for months, despite changes in internet service providers, modems, and routers.
The suspicion now is that the problem lies in the walls of my 123-year old house, or the telephone wiring coming into the house.
The problem comes and goes. It’s tempting to just sit there and keep trying to send an e-mail over and over again, mentally cursing when it doesn’t work. But my IT manager and I are on a detective hunt, and have not nearly exhausted all the options.
This is turn reminds me of all the times in life where we keep trying to make something work. How do we know when it is a good idea to keep trying, and when it is futile? Today’s article provides some guidelines.
Does persistence really pay off?
We’ve heard these phrases all of our lives:
“Persistence pays off”, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”, and “Success comes the day after you give up.” But are they really true? If you’re feeling tired, despondent and burned out, you may wonder just how long you have to persist before you achieve success.
I used to tell my students that if you keep hitting your head against a stone wall, something’s bound to give. I wouldn’t count on it being the stone wall.
Here are some guidelines for engaging in what I call “enlightened persistence.”
Take breaks: Being persistent doesn’t mean continuously pursuing a goal. Schedule breaks: a few minutes each hour to stretch and relax; one day a week completely free from effort on a project that otherwise preoccupies you; a weekend per month when you get away from it all. Make sure you take those breaks! Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is get away from your work.
Try different words: Are you trying to communicate ideas over and over again to the same people in the same words? If you need help and aren’t getting it, for example, you might switch from saying, wearily, “Do you suppose you could help me out with this?” to “I really need your help right now.”
Try different motivators: If you offer the same incentives (or disincentives) to the same person over and over, and don’t see any results, you need to back off and look at the situation…and at the person receiving the motivator.
One client was frustrated to find that her teenage daughter repeatedly violated the parents’ rules, even though the mother regularly punished the girl by grounding her. The fact that it didn’t work doesn’t mean the girl is incorrigible; it does mean that this was the wrong motivator for change in this person.
Try a different path: If you would like to be an enthusiastic member of a team, a friendly neighbor, an adventurous person who attracts similar companions, a success at selling a product you really believe in… whatever it is you want…maybe you’re trying with the wrong group of people, or in the wrong place.
Be willing to jettison groups or processes that aren’t being fruitful.
Continuing to persist in the face of failure sounds admirable, but without being willing to vary your behavior, you are setting yourself up for stress and its worst outcome, depression.
Enlighten yourself! To bring about change, you need to be willing to change.