Never Give Up!

IMG_9543Imagine you are trying something for the first time. Let’s say riding a bicycle. Your goal is to learn to ride a two wheeler. You listen to instruction, focus on pedaling and finding your balance, and push forward. You successfully make it a few yards….and then you fall. You get back up to give it another try, only to fall again and again, never really getting too far on your two wheels. What do you do? Do you get frustrated and throw in the towel? Or do you persevere and keep on trying until you get it right?

Perseverance, that “can do” attitude that keeps us moving forward toward our goals, despite challenges, difficulties and discouragement. Perseverance may determine our chances of success more than any other single characteristic. It’s the ability to keep trying, no matter what, in order to live up to our own expectations.

What makes some of us give up easily and others persevere to reach our intended goals despite a delay in achieving success? This question recently came to mind after observing a group of children body surfing for the first time. The body surfing was on simulated waves you sometimes see on a cruise ship or at an adventure park. The kids had to hang on to their boards while a fairly strong current of water enabled them to body surf…or not. Most kids were knocked off their boards and sent flying up the ramp of water on their first (sometimes second and third) attempt. It looked like a lot of fun, but also quite frustrating to master. Here is where I noticed a difference in the kids. Some kids got right back on line to try again. They were determined to master the skill of body surfing and not let the current take them out. Others got knocked off and walked away. They did not get back on line to try again. They got discouraged and quickly gave up. I wanted to shout from the sidelines “hang in there, give it another try, you can do it”. It was hard to see them walk away from the challenge. The kids that kept trying, despite being thrown from the current, time and time again, eventually learned to body surf. They were having the best time and you could see how proud they were of their accomplishment. The kids that gave up were watching from the sidelines looking a bit defeated.

Some of us may be born with a greater sense of optimism, hope, confidence, and determination to keep going even in the face of difficulty, but all of us can practice perseverance and reach our intended goals.

The ability to keep moving forward after setbacks made me think of camp.   The summer camp experience is so rich in teaching, encouraging and practicing perseverance. Many camp activities and challenges that campers take on require a certain degree of patience, focus, and determination to push through in order to achieve success. Setting goals and mastering new skills are an important part of camp. Camp fosters aIMG_5575 “can-do” attitude by helping campers set realistic goals and meeting them one small step at a time. It takes time and effort to hit the target at archery. It takes courage and grit to get up on water skis for the first time, or coast down the ramp at the skateboard park. And for kids that are used to giving up easily, they have instructors, counselors and friends who encourage that they keep at their goals until they find their own personal success.

Learning to persevere is a lifelong skill that will benefit a person both personally and professionally. When we live up to our expectations we develop hope and confidence in ourselves. To commit to a goal, to believe in that goal, to be hopeful and courageous, and to persevere, is the true success. Dr. Michele Borba, educational psychologist and author, says “perseverance makes the critical distinction between whether kids succeed or fail. Children who learn to bounce back and not let setbacks get them down have gained a valuable skill for life”. Without perseverance, little that is worthwhile would be accomplished.

“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries”. James A. Michene