Courage and persistence

“May I have the courage to change the things I can …”

Finishing up on the quote by Reinhold Niebuhr, how often have you wished something were different in your life, and you realize that it is within your control, yet you don’t do anything about it, or you start working towards a goal only to find yourself petering out on your efforts after a few short weeks?

Usually a great deal of courage is needed to deal with the tough stuff, whether it is initiating important difficult conversations with loved ones, close friends or business colleagues, leaving the familiarity of a steady job to move forward on a business idea, or dealing with anything else outside our comfort zone. 

Often we are afraid of the unknown or of the reaction of loved ones, and so rather than do what we want, we procrastinate and feel frustrated with our lack of action.  Somehow not doing anything is way less painful than doing what we need to do, and therefore we remain stuck.

So, how to get unstuck?  We need to shift our thinking so that acting becomes more pleasurable than not acting. Only then will action be easy.

Write a list of the reasons why it would be painful NOT to achieve your goal, and all the happiness you will gain if you DO achieve your goal, and take the time to really feel the emotions that surface with each list – the pain of not changing, and the pleasure of changing.

For example, losing weight is a common goal, but when faced with fresh-baked cookies, we often give in to the immediate pleasure of eating the cookies, even though that action will sabotage our long-term goal of a slimmer body.

By changing our focus from how good those cookies will taste to how awful we feel when we feel chubby and how great we feel when we lose the weight may be enough to stop us from eating the cookies.  We need to keep focusing on the outcome we want.

Frequently, the imagined problems are just that – imagined.  So go for it!  For difficult conversations, it may be worth spending some time visualizing the conversation going perfectly.  At the very least it will give you an opportunity to rehearse what you want to say.

Often projects are less overwhelming if they are broken down into smaller tasks and tackled one at a time.  A little bit done on a weekly basis can add up to a lot over a year! So schedule some time into your day-timer each week to devote to your goal.

Often one may really want the end goal, but the journey is extremely challenging. There may be many stumbling blocks along the way that make us want to quit.  Having the belief in the goal and the persistence to keep trying in the face of great difficulty is what will eventually lead to success. 

It is said that Sylvester Stallone, who wrote the screenplay Rocky, was rejected hundreds of times before he found a producer that would produce his movie and allow him to play the starring role, which was his goal.  What if he had quit after only pounding on 10 doors?   We certainly would not know his name today. 

Most of us quit long before ten tries.  We figure after trying two or three times and being unsuccessful that we don’t have the aptitude and we quit.  Not trying guarantees you will not achieve your goal. 

Instead, try something and if it doesn’t work, modify it and try again.  The key is to try different approaches to achieve your goal until you find a way that works. Modeling someone who has achieved your goal can shorten the journey greatly, so approach that person and ask for help, and follow their advice. As Nike says, JUST DO IT!

Related Tips:
FEAR False Evidence that Appears Real
Carefully tend the garden of your mind

Robbins, Anthony Unlimited Power Ballantine Books, New York, 1986.
Canfield, Jack The Power of Focus Health Communications Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida, 2000.
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