The Curse of Perseverance

“Don’t give up.”

“Don’t quit.”

People of solid character, it is believed, don’t give up. They see things through. I must attest that many of the good things that have happened to me were a result of sticking it out in a difficult situation, sometimes past the point where it appeared to make sense. The other side of the coin says…

People who continue to bang their heads against the proverbial wall are foolish or stupid. We feel sorry for them and their misguided idealism. While perseverance has brought me good things, it is also true that this same tenacity has caused great difficulties.

Heart like a ball of rubber bands
Keeps getting caught on things

Part of it is sentimentality — a general unwillingness to let things go. And a competitive streak — unwillingness to accept defeat. Again, this can be a great thing. Leaders, competitors, and many stories of success contain a pattern of unwillingness to accept defeat.

The trick is in knowing when to push on and when to give up. Yes, if we could all know that, life would get easier. But would it get better? I have my doubts. Those things I’ve achieved in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles wouldn’t have happened if I had given up when I logically ‘should’ have. Plus the character building aspect of it (pushing on when it appears impossible) is extremely important. The price for all that is…I also carry a lot of baggage from the things that haunt me, that probably do need to be cast away.

How does one improve the skill of having the intuition (or whatever it is) to know when all hope truly is lost, versus the character affirming and building that is part of sticking it out longer? I think we would call this skill wisdom. It comes from and is informed by experience. The more of that we have, the more things we try (really try, not half-heartedly), the more of it we get, even if we do get a little bloody and bruised in the process. So you push on…perhaps foolishly, but who knows…

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