Perserverance and Perspective

The skill is knowing exactly how long the 'last minute' actually is.
The real source of my power

It’s a Monday morning, I’ve just hit a new PR in the Squat and I’m running out of childhood mystery dilemmas to reference. Suggestions on this front welcome, but please message me privately so it isn’t obvious that I stole it.
As some of you may have noticed, and a couple (literally 2, but not an actual couple) have pointed out, it has been a little while since I last wrote something. In part this is because I had a three thousand word essay on land law due this week. Not the most exciting piece of work I’ve ever completed. The main reason though, is that I’ve not really been sure what to write about.

I don’t think it really qualifies as writer’s block for a couple of reasons. Primarily because I don’t think of myself as a writer. But on a practical level I just haven’t meaningfully attempted to write anything. It is difficult to write any number of words if you do not put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard as the case may be. I’ve had a few ideas, there are just none that have struck me as being particularly good.

In whatever I’m doing, I always like to think that I’m doing my best at it. It’s a personal pride thing. When applied properly, this can be an incredibly powerful tool. If I’m in the right mindset generally, I can really push myself to work hard at something that I don’t necessarily care about. In the past, as long as I’ve had a specific project or objective to be complete, this has served me fairly well in place of any sort of long term goal.

The downside of this is that when I lack any sort of external focus point, I very easily find myself becoming listless and de-motivated. I find myself not starting things because I know deep down that the end result won’t be my best. The lack of blog posts over the last week being a great example.

A common theme that occurs when people describe me is that of being stubbborn. I’m not going to deny for a second that I can be. In my head, I used to equate this with perserverance. But I’m coming to realise that they are not the same thing. They’ve got a lot in common but they’re more like cousins than siblings.

I very rarely achieve anything resembling a long term goal. Admittedly a big part of the reason for this is that I very rarely think about things long term. The longest commitment I’ve ever made was four years at University which was essentially a four years dedicated to avoiding any sort of long term commitments. If I do articulate any sort of long term goal it tends to be nebulously formed e.g. “I want to be paid more”. Even with a vaguely lomg term plan it gets treated as an impatient short term objective without any real regard for how practical it is to achieve in the short term.

Rather than viewing progresss towards the long term goal as successes, I’ve been inclined to be disappointed that I haven’t met the long term goal yet. A payrise gets measured against where I want to be, not where I’ve been. I don’t see how far I’ve come, only how far I’ve still got to go. As I’m writing this, I’m still not sure if this is a good or a bad thing.

Yes.
Better to fail whilst aiming high?

On the one hand, it can often be a source of discontent. I would obviously rather be happy than unhappy, but I want to engage with life rather than just passively receiving it. There are many maxims and pithy quotes along the lines of happiness is being content with what you have. I don’t tend to agree with them. I think it’s a thought process to incorporate, but not to be the single source of truth.  There is a balance to be struck with it. If I was completely content with what I have, what would be the reason to try and improve?
As I see it, the trick of it seems to come down to how you judge success. I’m simultaneously my own biggest backer and fiercest critic. Just not always at the same time. Some of the goals I set myself should be viewed over the long term, achieving them isn’t going to happen overnight. At other times I’m too lenient on myself with stuff that it is completely within my power to achieve, “I’ll do that later”. The ability to set realistic timescales on this sort of thing is not something I know how to do, but better a late start than never.

I need to learn to take a step back from longer term goals and to judge whatever progress I have made more objectively. I’m not going to stop pushing forward, just try and make sure that I don’t lose progress by being demotivated when I think I haven’t progressed enough.

As always any thoughts appreciated in the comments.

Alex

3 thoughts on “Perserverance and Perspective

  1. I think you are right, in that long term goals take perserverance, so often become unachievable. The solution definitely appears to be create many short term goals that all lead to the same thing.

    I’ve also often force myself to consider rate of achievement to be a better marker for success or contentment. So consider relative change (where you were, are and are going to be) and on what timescale it has occured.

    But then, should you instead learn to be content with who you are… works well for some.

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    1. Yeah I’d agree with that. I frame a lot of ‘achievement’ through a video-gamey lens. I think I’ve become too focus on completing the big goals (main quest?). Maybe need to start recognising the small achievements (side quests?) for the achievements they actually are. I’m just wary of starting to celebrate things that aren’t really achievements.

      I think whatever system I adopt, a better perspective is going to be key. Timescale is something that’s really been missing from any of my thinking around this.

      I reckon I’m close to this in some areas of my life. I don’t particularly covet material possessions for example. In others it is that discontent that pushes me to be better. Tricky balance.

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  2. Perfectionism can be a disabling trait as much as it can be an enabling one. When you set out to do something perfectly, its easy to find yourself unwittingly changing the scope of that something changing, and the point of completion disappearing off into the distance. The only tool that I’ve found really helps deal with this is breaking down tasks (or goals) down into smaller ones. Once you tick those off you find yourself realising that you have made progress, rather than just reassessing the task to be bigger than you initially thought. There’s a couple of useful little apps that make this organisation of sub-tasks a little less hellish; trello is probably the one I’ve found most useful, but there’s another called todoist that works better for deadline-oriented goals.

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