Four signs that perseverance won’t pay off

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going“, so the saying goes.  If I’m honesty, I always felt a little confused by this statement. On the one hand, the meaning of “get going” could suggest “get on with it”.  But at the same time, “get going” could also mean “walk away.”  In this post, I thought we could explore the fine line between perseverance and “flogging a dead horse” , because with the level of time, energy and patience we invest in work and life, it’s important to know when to call time.

Nobody likes a quitter” also rings true for most of us.  In fact, for some, such as the Finns, they have this down to a fine art, in the form of Sisu.  You have to put sufficient time and energy into something to get the return.  Any decent entrepreneur will tell you that you fail 1000 times to get to the successful product.  Whether in work or life, no-one wants to look back with regret because they didn’t try hard enough.  So perhaps there is a sensible balance between perseverance, and knowing when to walk away.  Here are four signs that it’s time to do just that.

Everyone else is in agreement – Whilst it’s OK to be the Voice of One, as I’ve previously blogged about, there are occasions when you need to stop and listen to the majority.  We should never lose the humility to say “I was wrong“, but only at a point when you have been able to validate this fact.  Is your strongly held view purely gut instinct?  Can you balance the subjective AND objective perspective?  If not, it might be time to stop trying to convince others that your idea is the right one.

Time is precious, so don’t waste it – Patience is a virtue, but there are occasions when we become so engrossed in delivering a tasks that we loose sight of the original outcome.  We spiral ever deeper into detail, powered by stubborn determination that we can and WILL find that elusive solution.  If a task has taken considerably longer than expected, and when you review your progress, and consulted with others, don’t keep doing what you have already tried.  Change your approach or reconsider why you are doing it.

Pride comes before a fall – Stubbornness is never a good thing.  Determination is a different behaviour – it balances perspective with fact and courage to focus on a task.  Stubbornness  is a pointless and destructive state, which is rather hard to spot when you are the stubborn person!  We’ve all seen a friend or relative trying to put up a picture, change a tyre, deliver some simple DIY tasks.  We may chuckle as they try and fail over and over to achieve the task, adding to their misery and frustration.  Give it up, and ask for help from someone who is more adept at that task.  It’s OK to give something a shot, but know your limitations, and don’t let pride and stubbornness get in the way.

When the love has gone… – No matter how passionate, capable, intelligent, determined, committed or patient you are, when your heart isn’t in it, there’s very little chance that you will succeed.  Out of duty, obligation or misplaced loyalty, you might keep on trying over and over and over again, but in reality, even if you were to succeed, you would derive little pride or satisfaction.  It’s OK to acknowledge that your heart’s not in it, and to allow someone else to deliver the task who feels more connected.

Of course, this is all opinion, and I would hate for you to think that I don’t understand and value persistence and perseverance.  Nothing new or exciting would happen in this world without it.It took me almost a decade to quit smoking, and two decades to get over my fear of skiing, but I stuck at it.  I did, however give up on an earlier dream to be a James Bond-style spy, and after much soul-searching, I have accepted that I wont be the best at growing orchids, no matter how hard I try!  Take a step back, reflecting on the task in hand, and consider these 4 signs – is it time to come up with a fresh approach, or accept that it’s time to move on?

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