Importance of Persistence

One of the big adjustments I’ve had to make in adult life has been learning persistence.  When I was younger I usually did stuff that was easy or fun and for a variety of reasons (being the oldest child, being good at school, etc) people rarely called me on it or forced me to do stuff.  The interesting thing is how much I’ve been hampered by this and constantly need to work on improving.

Probably the most helpful tool has been distance running.  I’m an awful runner but I’ve found amazing value in ‘exercising my persistence muscle’ by running.  I think it’s a bit of a way to learn discomfort management.  The rule I’ve generally learned is that it’s important to have decision points.  This means pre-planned points in time when decisions are made while the rest of my time in between these points should be focused on execution.  I came to this conclusion after several experiences trying to do long distance runs.   I’d get into the middle of the run and feel pain / discomfort and quit and then I’d feel really awful later for not pushing thru the discomfort and finishing.  Over time I’ve learned to quit less and by waiting to make decisions after completing the task, there’s a sense of accomplishment and a better perspective on the full arc of planning and acting.

Today I went and played golf.  I was playing poorly, it was extremely hot and the people I was supposed to play with never showed up.  Thus, I was wandering around sweating profusely, feeling lonely and angry.  Around the 10th hole I started considering quitting.  I started doing all the intellectually smart quitting questions.  Is this sun good for your skin?  Are you wasting your time golfing when you could be doing work stuff? Etc.  I decided to stick it out but not take things seriously.  I started playing weird shots, with clubs I don’t usually use and tried to not take things so seriously.  This helped and the shots got a bit better and I got a bit less bitter.  Then 2 holes later another single player showed up and asked if he could join me.  We ended up playing 5 or 6 holes together and chatting and generally having a nice time.  This isn’t always going to happen.  Sometimes things will get worse.  But I think there is still some kind of psychic value to working thru unpleasant situations even if there’s no magical resolution.

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