A Dream is a Wish…
Perseverance has become my word for the year. Like so many others traveling through life, I decided to pursue a path with more meaning and creativity. So I decided to work on my dream of building a website where I could blog about movies, books, angels, and my faith. What I dreamed of happening over the past year most definitely did not even resemble what I had imagined. My dream was much rosier than my reality which basically is fast becoming a record-breaking year of Murphy’s Law type activity. It’s been a long road…And lately, I’ve become very curious about learning what makes some people persevere in life and others want to toss in the towel.
Awaiting a Knight so Bold as to Rescue Me!
Several years ago, my local pastor gave a great homily on the power of story. Many times after mass, teenagers would approach him and ask if his stories were real. The frequent question caused him to ponder on what makes a story real to someone else. He came to the conclusion that a story is real if it touches people’s lives, if it answers a question, applies to them, or challenges something in their life. A real story to me? The movie Shrek.
Like Princess Fiona I, too, was hoping for an epic rescue. In this movie about love conquers all, friendship and forgiveness and an ogre who is genuinely sympathetic, it’s almost hard to pick out a favorite scene, but one of them is the rescue scene.
But wait Sir Knight. This be-ith our first meeting. Should it not be a wonderful, romantic moment?
Yeah, sorry, lady. There’s no time.
Hey, wait. What are you doing? You should sweep me off my feet out yonder window and down a rope onto your valiant steed.
You’ve had a lot of time to plan this, haven’t you?
For quite a few years, I had envisioned my own rescue: a miraculous situation that would allow me to create and write with carefree abandon and with no monetary or time restrictions. I know it’s unrealistic, but it gave me hope during daily, two-hour commutes and excessive overtime that became the norm. Never home before 7:30 or 8:00 and with a family, shopping, bills, I found it hard to pursue my goals. Finally, I reached a breaking point when I asked myself, “Am I going to wait to be rescued or take a leap of faith?” Somehow, I found the courage to take that leap of faith.
Perseverance: The Keep on Keeping on.
As I look back over the past couple of years, it now feels like I leapt off a cliff. With all the complications continually cropping up, I’m wondering how to stay motivated. I found the perfect article at Psychology Today by Christopher Bergland called, “The Neuroscience of Perseverance.” Here are some of my favorite points.
- Perseverance is the key to success in sports, competition and life.
- When he interviewed Dr. Jean Wiecha’s about her work with childhood obesity and asked what she thought the biggest predictor of long-term success was, she simply said, “Perseverance.”
- Wiecha also believes that regular physical activity is the most effective way to begin to hardwire the habit of perseverance. “Anytime you lace up your sneakers and start moving your body and achieve a goal you are reinforcing a mindset of perseverance that bleeds into all aspects of your life.” (I’ve read many times where famous people walked to think—Charles Dickens, Tchaikovsky, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs. They certainly persevered in their fields. Maybe, my daily walk at the community center is fueling my desire to persevere.)
- In Bergland’s seven simple steps to help you create the habit of perseverance, step six affirmed my own personal habit of having a daily checklist. Literally checking items off my to-do list systematically releases a hit of dopamine (see article for explanation of this reward molecule called dopamine).
- And, playing word games and solving puzzles not only flexes your mental muscles, it will keep the dopamine pumping.
I will definitely be referring back to this article for encouragement and perhaps checking out Christopher Bergland’s books, especially, The Athlete’s Way.
There is no Prince Charming
So back to Shrek. Just after the scene where they escape the dragon, Fiona discovers that her rescuer is an ogre. Andrew Adamson, one of the directors of Shrek, said during the movie’s commentary that the expression on Shrek’s face upon removing his helmet is his favorite. Mine too, very poignant, considering Fiona’s response. “This is all wrong. It’s not how it’s supposed to be.”
Those words are all too familiar in my own life…this is not how my life is supposed to be. I am not exactly a risk-taker, very conservative, and when I took that leap of faith, a stadium-sized safety net would not have been unwelcome. Giving up a job that kept our financial situation stable was extremely hard (my husband is in 100% commission sales). I couldn’t help thinking of Henry Ford’s quote prior to the leap, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” But there is also the Yiddish proverb that says, “Man plans and God laughs.” Or Woody Allen’s version, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
Which brings me to the title of this section, “There is No Prince Charming.” I borrowed it from Nely Galan’s book titled Self Made. For me, it really hit home. It’s a great chapter in a book about entrepreneurship. She tells how she’s met women of all ages and backgrounds and how they tell her some version of the fantasy of there being a Prince Charming. Ms. Galan says, “Whatever form the rescue fantasy takes, it plays off a lesson we’ve been taught since childhood—namely, if we play the good girl and work hard, someone is going to recognize how amazing we are and make everything okay.” I wonder why we all have this deep desire to be rescued.
Holding out for a Hero?
Not anymore. Ms. Galan recommends that we be our own Prince Charming. Deciding to make the change (without a rescue) is the scariest decision I have made to date.
Somehow, task by task, online class by online class, I have at least moved from point A of knowing absolutely nothing about websites and blogging to point B where the words WordPress backend, SEO optimization and Google analytics are no longer foreign words. I did as Ms. Galan suggested and relied on myself. And inadvertently, I created habits that actually helped me to build up my dopamine reserves and want to persevere. Who knew how important to-do lists and walking could be?
Despite the obstacles, I’m still optimistic because even one of my favorite heroines didn’t get her Prince Charming. She got something a whole lot better—Shrek. And Mike Myers, who voiced the title character, said this about Shrek. “I think the movie proves that you can’t wait for your “happily ever after” to come to you; you have to pursue it with unwavering dedication and, yes, passion.”
That describes perseverance perfectly!