How to succeed, and the incredible, freeing, transforming power of perseverance that I am learning about at the age of 40-something.
In my middle age, I am learning something.
It's nothing I didn't *know* before, if 'knowing' something in theoretical terms can actually be called 'knowing'. I mean, I've grown up and been taught it my whole life. But it's only just now, at the esteemed age of whatever I am/early forties/blah blah, that I am seeing the wondrous simplicity and beauty of it.
Here's what I'm learning.
There are no magic bullets. Success only comes by making good decisions, consistently, over a long period of time, no matter how you feel.
You. Just. Have. To. Do. The. Work.
It doesn't matter what you're talking about. You might be looking for successful relationships, a good career, a way to get fitter (or thinner). Whatever it is, you can pretty much guarantee some level of success if you do two things.
First, take a long view. Nothing happens quickly except things that are 'flash in the pan', which often don't last anyway.
Second, take the small steps, even when they are hard, and even when they are boring, and even when you don't feel like it too much. Sometimes you'll be able to run the small steps and go a bit quicker, but sometimes you'll be back to trudging. Either way, it's okay. Just take them.
What I'm talking about is called perseverance. It's something I hated as a kid. I was always looking for the quick option, or the thing I could do that didn't take so much effort or time. I wanted results immediately. Persevering was boring. And I didn't really do boring.
Of course, despising perseverance also meant I wasn't ever very good at anything. I was as good as someone could be who had a little bit of talent, but I never really got past that first level.
Now I see perseverance in a whole new light. Instead of seeing it as a trudge and a dreary burden, I see it as freedom and promise. I can try to play the cello today, but I know I'm not that good. I want to be good. I really do. And I know that if I do the work, commit to the practice and prioritise playing mindfully every single day, I am going to be as good as I want to be eventually.
I want to be fitter. When I started running, I could only keep going for about three minutes. Now I'm running for 20 minutes at a time, just because I kept going, and I added a little extra every single day. I want to be faster. I'm not fast yet, but I know I will be eventually if I push a little bit more every single day.
I want to write books. But they don't write themselves. And there's not a lot for it but to do the work. Write words every day and every week. The words add up, and eventually, the book will be finished. I just have to keep going, and keep choosing to learn more and put the effort in.
Perseverance is a gift. It's a treasure. It's a tunnel out of darkness towards the light. There's not much that's out of reach, as long as we are prepared to get on the right track, take the long view, make the good decisions, and keep making them, day in and day out.
It helps to be middle aged too. I can look back on the blink-of-an-eye that has been my adult life and know that time goes quicker than you think. A year is nothing. Five years is not much more. It's something you can't understand that when you're young, of course. Achieving success over a long period looks way, way more possible when you can look back on time as well as look forward.
Perseverance costs effort and, often, pain. But the repayment that comes is larger and sturdier and more lasting than you can imagine. I'm excited about my efforts in perseverance at the moment. And I'd say I 'can't wait' for the results, but I'm going to. It's the only way they're going to come about.