“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston Churchill
Standing on the edge, high up on the mountains, looking down at the white powdery couloir that was so damn steep, I remember thinking “can I really ski down there?”, “will I be able to turn or stop in time, or will I fall all the way down?”
Self-doubt was creeping in, questions were rushing through my head; my palms were sweating, my knees were shaking…
I did not turn back, though. I skied down anyway, albeit with fear, only to realize that it wasn’t that bad. Perhaps if I’d been less in my head and more present, I would have skied better and enjoyed it more.
So I tried again and again until I no longer resisted. I let go, not thinking of the outcome, allowing my body and mind to just flow. It felt sublime.
I’m a climber and an outdoor lover. Yet it amazes people when I tell them that I don’t feel comfortable at heights.
It’s true, I’m not like a bird in the sky up there at all. I’m human, I’m used to being on the ground. But I do feel at home when I climb, so I try not to give in to my fears. I persevere, I push myself. And, through practice, I allow myself to surrender. That’s when the magic happens.
Perseverance and surrender – sounds like a contradiction. The two terms appear to be on opposite ends, but are they really? I found I need both in my life just as much. You may, too.
Do you throw in the towel in the face of adversity? Or do you pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and give it another go, knowing that it may take many tries to get it right?
Here, find out how you too can use the power of perseverance in everyday life and how to rejoice in the gift of surrender.
The definition of perseverance is “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Also called “grit”, it essentially means pushing through when the going gets tough, no matter how long it takes to reach your goals. It’s often what separates ‘winners’ from ‘losers.’
“It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.” – Miyamoto Musashi
Nothing worthwhile comes easy, and that’s precisely what makes certain endeavors so valuable.
It’s somehow ingrained in our human condition to choose the easier path, to be comfortable. But that won’t get you very far. On the contrary, engaging in challenging pursuits comes with great rewards. Progress is not possible without hardship and every time you pick the harder path, you build valuable life skills.
Our minds love habits and aren’t all that fond of change. But change is unavoidable; each and every moment throughout our lives we have to learn to adapt if we want to move forward. We must persevere and not give up. Otherwise, we become victims of our own circumstances.
Sure, there are times or instances when one must recognize defeat or know not to insist anymore. But not doing something just because you tell yourself it’s too scary, it’s not going to work, it’s not worth it, it’s too hard, it’s going to fail, well, that’s just avoiding life.
For me, giving up just because I got scared means accepting defeat by my own ego. And believe me, I get my ass kicked by my ego more often than I like to admit. But I manage to turn the tables every once in a while. And I constantly strive to do it more.
Knowing when to quit
I hate giving up. That’s just how I am wired. So, perhaps, perseverance came to me more naturally. However, over the years, I’ve had to learn when to give up as well. Mindless perseverance, doing the exact same thing over and over again expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, as noted by Einstein himself.
So, I’ve had to look deep and decide what is worth fighting for and what I should no longer invest my time in.
There’s a fine line between perseverance and self-delusion, stupidity, masochism, insanity even. Just like there’s a thin line between surrender and sadism. So, there’s great strength in knowing when to quit, too. It is liberating.
Read More: How to decide whether to quit or recommit
If a certain endeavor brings you nothing but pain and frustration, if you realize it’s no longer what you want, then by all means, turn away. Clinging on to an impossible dream will get you nowhere.
Healthy perseverance, on the other hand, is a whole different ball game. It’s the kind of fight that enables personal growth, it stems from a gut feeling, from motive and personal values.
Have you noticed how things run more smoothly when you give up control?
I like to dance. And I dance like there’s no tomorrow; when no one sees me, that is. When it comes to dancing in front of other people, I shy away.
I want to step on the dance floor, but thoughts run through my mind – I’m going to make a fool of myself, they’ll all be watching, they’ll remember me and make fun of me, and so on. How silly is that? No one really cares, everyone is just having fun.
So I get up the nerve to step on the dance floor. After a timid start, I let go. I surrender. The rhythm takes over, everything else disappears, and I just enjoy myself. Just like everyone else around me.
When climbing in front of other people, especially those that have known me for a long time, I have this sick scenario in my head that they have high expectations from me. That’s obviously not the case, but hey, tell that to my ego.
In truth, I’m the one who has expectations. So I get jittery, I don’t quite move like myself. It can be a real struggle to let go of those toxic thoughts, and I am not always successful. But when I am, the reward is magnificent – I surrender and break free.
I’m also a writer. Years ago, I used to think that the creative flow was some mysterious power that comes and goes, so I would have to be alert and catch it when it decides to visit.
However, in time, I noticed that if I stop beating myself up and resisting, I can create the right conditions myself. By surrendering and letting go of my ego, I get into the flow state and the ideas start to pour.
Sure, they’re a bit messy and might not make much sense at first, but after I chisel away at them, they speak the truth.
Many things still hold me back, mostly because I allowed them to. Yet I persevere. I say to myself “maybe today is going to be better,” “perhaps I’ll be able to do it this time, or at least accomplish more”.
Sometimes, I see zero improvements. But I never gave up. Then, when I least expect it, I let go. I make the choice, fully aware, to surrender. And it’s the most freeing sensation.
There is great strength in surrendering. Being alive and present, forsaking all of the thoughts that were holding me back, the limitations I’ve created in my head, is bliss. Through surrender, my true self comes up from the depths; pure, true, calm, relaxed, peaceful, focused.
Surrendering with consciousness is perhaps the most fulfilling feeling one can experience.
So, what is conscious surrender?
In a nutshell, it’s when you stop fighting with yourself and the universe, to accept, to no longer resist, to let go of your ego and allow your true self to come out from the darkness.
Don’t you mistake it for inaction; it is merely shifting your energy and surrendering to your highest existence.
What would we be if we had no limitations?
“Our only limitations are those we set up in our own minds.” – Napoleon Hill
Where would we be if we didn’t persevere? Where would humanity be if our ancestors didn’t hammer away?
We set limits for ourselves – that’s too hard for me, I could never do that, it takes up too much time, I’ll never be good at itat, I’ll never be successful, what’s the point… And knowing how our brains love to take the easy road, it’s so easy to get stuck.
But here’s the thing – our brains build habits and you have the power to change those habits.
Instead of being in the moment, we fear the outcome – will I fall, will it hurt, will I make a fool of myself, will I fail? There are infinite possibilities and, more often than not, it won’t be the end of the world.
When we stop obsessing over the outcome, when we no longer pay attention to the cues that trigger our habitual behaviors, new doors will open.
Looking back, I can’t even begin to count the times when I thought I could never do a thing and then did it and enjoyed it. Each time I stopped resisting, I took another step forward.
My limits blurred. And yes, I might have created others, farther away, that are now left for me to break. But the journey is never-ending and I have much to learn. I accept that, too.
Read More: Connecting the Dots
How to develop perseverance
They say if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. You should learn something new from each go. Keep on fighting, even when you might seem stuck, in the hope that one day things will change. Because they will!
Yes, it is possible to build perseverance. You can practice each day with simple, yet powerful exercises. Here are some I find particularly useful:
- Be patient. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, nor does it come fast. Accept that it may take time to reach your goals, and that great feats require trial and error.
- Adopt a positive mindset. There may be moments of doubt. Knowing that it’s all so easy to get absorbed into negative thinking, learn to recognize when this happens and shift your focus on the positive aspects. Aspiring towards a goal gives you meaning and can improve your mental health. On the other hand, giving up, having a cynical attitude towards life, avoiding challenges, and having a “what’s the point” mindset can take a serious toll on your overall well being.
- Set goals and break them into smaller steps. Know what you want and visualize your goal. Look at the steps you need to take with clarity and focus, and acknowledge each small win.
- Practice, practice, practice. Remember that any small step matters and that your abilities can and will improve over time. Embrace a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset.
- Shift your perspective. Look at challenges as opportunities to grow. Obstacles are part of everyday life, and when you accept that and no longer resist them, you are actually training your mind to respond faster and find quicker solutions instead of dwelling on them and stressing over them.
- Choose your tribe wisely. Who you surround yourself with can influence your decisions and mindset. Spend time with people with a similar attitude, who will lift you up. As difficult as it may be, try to avoid people who bring you down.
- Be flexible. Adjust your efforts to match reality. Don’t do the same thing over and over again. Welcome change, try a different approach. Perseverance is not mindless repetition.
- Know when to quit. Don’t mistake perseverance for delusion, grit for insanity. You may find out that your goal is no longer what you seek. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut, even when you’re working towards a noble goal. Recognize when something’s no longer working for you and let it go.
- Be kind to yourself. There may be days when it looks as though your efforts don’t pay up. That may be due to many reasons. Acknowledge that you are human and not all days are good days. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be called “good days”, just “regular days.”
- Think back on other times when you persevered and it paid off. That should give you strength to not give up and push on through.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. There will be failures along the way and you must be prepared to pick yourself back up. Keep your goal in sight and remember that by overcoming each bump in the road you are building valuable skills that you carry out into your personal life. The result you strive for will eventually come.
- Be joyful in your endeavors and enjoy the process. Setting a high standard and having high expectations often leads to over exhaustion and a rigid approach. Instead, you can choose to simply enjoy the whole process. That way, you’ll be more present and have even more to learn about yourself.
Persevere, my friends. Then, surrender…
I love outdoor sports; they’re something I just know I have to do, I’ve always felt it in my bones. In recent years, I’ve become more aware of what drives me, what goes on through my head, all of the sensations in my body.
I know I’m often the one sabotaging my experiences; I also have the strength to push past the limits I’ve unconsciously set for myself.
For me, this is the winning combination – persevering and then surrendering.
I look at the act of surrendering as the harvest, the gift I am bestowed for my endeavors. For finding the power to persevere, I am granted the gift of letting go and finding my flow as I allow my true self to shine.
Read More: The Art of Surrender
This post was contributed by Octavia Drughi. She’s a writer, blogger, rock climber, and nature lover who knows that the only way to unleash her true potential is to get out of her head and come to terms with both her bright and dark sides. Check out more of her stories at twodirtbags.com.