Hillary Clinton has endurance. Her journey from "mostly unpopular" politician to possibly "the most popular politician in the country" with sky-high approval ratings when she stepped down from public office a few days ago, as reported by NPR, is a testament to the winning strategy of endurance. Although she and President Obama started as bitter rivals, in the end, he heaped praise on her as his "strong friend" in his interview on 60 Minutes. She has been in public office for two decades and by all accounts has endured criticism of the worst type, for everything from her cold demeanor to the supposed foreign policy blunder in Benghazi. She survived the very public embarrassment of her husband's extramarital affair and the lies that followed it. She survived rejection from her own party as a candidate for the presidential office. She kept going against all odds.
On a personal level, this holds a message for all of us, regardless of what our personal undertaking is. One of the most important things Hillary did was to stick it out. On a much less public level, this reminds me of a friend who held a high-up position at Goldman Sachs, who said that when he joined Goldman Sachs, his then-boss gave him the best advice: Just stick around and you will make it. People came and people left, but my friend stuck it out to become a successful Goldman employee. On personal level, this also reminds me of my own fulfilling relationship with my husband, which has survived its crises because we both stuck it out against our own "good instincts" of the moment!
Just stick it out for a long enough time (and a little bit more) and you will most likely have your days of glory. This means keep doing the work you are supposed to be doing, to the best of your capability, regardless of the mood of the moment. Easier said than done! How do you develop the muscle to endure?
Do the following three things and see if you can reap the rewards of your hard work.
1) Watch out for the common reasons why we convince ourselves for not sticking it out. Some of us start a project because we like the newness of it. Once it becomes routine, we fall out of the "honeymoon" liking. In fact, we start finding it boring. We are supposed to follow our heart, but we find our heart not being in it. Our heart jumps to the next best thing.
Some of us are more tenacious and we don't fall out of love so easily. But then we may not get the constant validations we crave for. In fact, we hear others criticizing our work, and this discourages us from pursuing our tasks. Our love for the project depends on other people's judgment. This includes comparing ourselves with others who seem better at it at that particular moment. Then we start finding it hard to stick to the project.
Some of us find it hard to tolerate any distress. Any project has its ups and downs, and moments of failure along with moments of triumph. We have very little tolerance for the feeling of failure. The disappointment could generate self-criticism and it is hard to put proper perspective on it. If we fail, we think that we are not good enough for the project and then we quit.
Some of us have unrealistically fantastic expectations about the rewards from our projects. This keeps us perennially disappointed about our success. When we are reminded of our own limitations, we cannot take it. Accepting the reality seems like "giving up" or "then what is the point,"
When you have the temptation to just quit, think: Are you doing one or more from the above list?
2) Make sure that your undertaking is consistent with what you value. This is an important point, because what you are sticking it out for is your "value," not necessarily specific details/projects. For example, Hillary Clinton said that she cared about the country and hence she took up the job of the Secretary of State in spite of the rivalry between President Obama and herself. Specific projects come and go, but if the undertaking is based on your value then "sticking it out" will hold meaning in itself. If a good companionship with your life partner is your value, then it is worth it for you to stick to the same marriage, although you may not stick to the same way to make it work. If collecting expertise and respect in your profession is your value, then stick to the field as long as you need to, although occasionally your jobs may change. Whenever you are struggling with quitting a project, think about if you are quitting your own value.
3) Watch out for our tendency to think that the current mood or ambiance is going to last forever! Especially when there is a failure or lull, our discouragement comes when we do not recognize that things always change. Either we change or the environment around us changes. When things are not going your way, freeze the tendency to act out and just simply keep doing what you are supposed to. You will keep looking for realistic and flexible ways to move closer to your value, but you will not quit. If you learn to endure the pain on the current moment, it will set you apart from the fast rabbits as the winning tortoise.
On the other hand, imagine this. We are able to stick to our undertaking, whether we are loved or hated, whether we get momentary rewards or not, even when we miserably fail, in the face of mistakes, even when it seems really tough, in spite of mean bosses, unfriendly coworkers, uncooperative husbands, stubborn wives, wavering passions, and exciting temptations. We keep our flexibility and move along the learning curve. Then we are so much more likely to have a sincere plaque at work, a fulfilling relationship, an appreciative partner, a substantial body of work, a feeling of making a change in the world, the status of being an expert, or a feeling of accomplishment.
The next step is, of course, to know when to quit!
For more by Swati Desai, Ph.D., LCSW, click here.
For more on success and motivation, click here.