Running through the dark cabin, the sweet smell of fresh cream drew the curiosity of two tiny gray mice. Whiskers twitched at the end of pointed noses, smelling earnestly to find the source of a wonderful odor.
The wooden kitchen floors were easy on their little feet and they gracefully scaled a cabinet in search of the prized liquid.
Like fighter jets in tight formation, the leader jumped toward the bucket ahead, his wingman following as they splashed into the silky white cream.
But their elation of reaching the sea of sweetness disappeared when they realized the bucket sides were slick as ice, requiring them to swim with earnest to stay afloat.
The lead mouse grasped the seriousness of his decision; reckless enthusiasm led them to this desperate situation. Overcome with guilt for causing their certain death, he stopped swimming and sunk beneath the surface, letting his emotions strong-arm his will to go on.
Mouse number two refused to quit, and while he mourned the loss of his friend, the determination to survive was never stronger.
And so he swam like his life depended on it, clawing at the bucket walls with all his strength; his mind laser-focused on making the climb.
Minutes passed, then hours. His legs burned and his breathing labored. His heart pounding in his chest to keep the brain energized; his determination unwavering.
But he was getting tired.
Just as he felt he’d given his all, he noticed the cream seemed thicker, and while he still had to swim, the effort to stay afloat was easier.
Encouraged, he paddled harder.
The faster he struggled against the cream, the thicker it became and suddenly, he was standing on a firm surface. He hadn’t noticed the level of the cream rising as he churned it, but now with the last bit of strength summoned, the little mouse pulled himself over the lip of the bucket and fell, exhausted onto the floor below.
He survived, and for only one reason.
The character Frank Abingale eloquently delivered this story with less embellishment to his son as a lesson in persistence, and while part of a movie script, it provides a great mental picture of extreme perseverance.
For me, it’s personal.
I fell in the bucket several years ago, and I’ve been swimming to keep my head above the surface ever since.
Some days, the desire to just give up overwhelms me; to concede defeat and let the world win.
But not yet.
I still believe the cream in my bucket will turn to butter one day, so I carry on; struggling to look toward tomorrow with confidence.
What about you? Do you ever struggle with staying the course, seeing your dreams and still doing whatever it takes to move toward them?
Are your goals nothing more than lofty dreams, or do you feel the passion you need to make them reality?
I believe that perseverance is the key for changing wishes and dreams into successes and encouragements. The ingredients we need for making a positive difference in our tomorrows and bringing that influence to our fellow travelers.
In her book, Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, (Amazon Affiliate link) Heidi Grant Halvorson talks about strategies to improve persistence.
I try to incorporate a few key ideas into daily living. They are all research-based to back up their core principles.
Here are two I find interesting:
1. Get Specific. Research shows when we set goals that are general, i.e., “I want to lose weight,” we are less likely to reach them. When we set a specific target; “I want to lose 5 lbs,” we see what success looks like in a clearer picture and are more likely to reach our goal.
2. Stop focusing on being the best at something and focus more on getting better at what you do. The studies show we improve our mood when we look at progress rather than reaching for constant perfection in what we accomplish every day. Improving our mood is key to increasing our productivity.
As Eric Barker points out in Barking Up The Wrong Tree (Amazon Affiliate link), finding interest in what you do and believing it has inherent value is one of the most effective ways to stay motivated despite difficulty, setbacks, and unexpected roadblocks. In fact, a recent set of studies shows that interest doesn’t just keep you going despite fatigue; instead, it replenishes your energy.
I’ll add a few more of my own techniques to getting through the day:
1. I build on little successes. I tend to focus on things I’ve failed to accomplish rather than turn my attention to things I’ve done well. I find when I use self-affirmations to strengthen my memories of accomplishments, I move away from the anchor that failure becomes otherwise.
2. I look for things that stir my own passion. Trying to please others and do what I think will make me popular or better liked always leads to disappointment because I give up myself and my real motivations anytime I use someone else’s likes or dislikes to replace my own. (consider my story, Why People Pleasing Behavior Slowly Robs Us of Our True Self, for a more in-depth look at this topic)
3. I use self-examination to understand my own processes or bad habits when looking to move forward. I know that I will shy away from things when the difficulty level overcomes my desire to continue. Challenges can be a way to determine priorities. When I give up, I need to ask if I am stopping because things got hard, or do I lack the passion I need to push through the obstacle I face? For me, the passion is the answer, but I believe I also use it as an excuse to let depression or laziness stop me. I need to learn to distinguish the correct response in a more productive manner.
4. I try to remember that I can walk around or climb over any wall. Again, the need to have the energy or the motivation is key to moving beyond what otherwise might become a perceived impasse. The theme of a “passion for what I do” shows up once again. Still, when facing a challenge that appears to block my progress, I try to step back and find the path that will take me around it. If my desire to succeed is strong enough, I attempt the climb over.
5. Sometimes I fail, and that’s still OK. Failure is not an end. Failure is always a chance to reconsider goals, rethink processes, and find creativity on the next try if that’s what I need to do.
I hope that persistence is a common word in your vocabulary. I believe persistence builds small success and these, in turn, build our confidence to try again tomorrow.
If the little mouse can do it, so can we.