“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.” -Ovid
You lose five pounds--one step forward. You twist your ankle and the treadmill becomes dusty--one step back. You get the interview--one step forward. You child becomes ill and you have to cancel--one step back. You wrote two pages of brilliant prose--one step forward. Your computer crashed and you didn't save the document--one step back.
It is a familiar pattern for most. After all, our life rarely takes us in a linear direction. Instead, our paths tend to veer to the left when we wanted to go right; we fall into potholes, trip over vines and stumble into brambles. Life is challenging, messy and always throwing us off course so that we can never walk in a continuous forward motion. So how do you ever get where you want to go?
Persistence. Keep making those steps forward. Patience. Know you will end up where you are meant to be. Wisdom. Learn from those back steps so that you when you take your next step forward, you will be stronger and ready.
But the question is how do you handle the setbacks in the meantime in a way that is productive and inspirational?
I recently experienced my own series of setbacks, leaving me feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. I believed that my step backward undid all my steps forward, making me want to quit. But although I took a step in a direction I didn't choose, it turned out it was the right way for me to learn what I needed to move forward once more.
Since childhood, I was the type who set a goal, put my head down, aimed towards it and pushed forward. I focused only on the target, seeing only the end result. I ignored the means; I disregarded the journey. I pushed through personal pain, upset and struggled to move forward refusing the back step any consideration. I never stopped even when I should have. I thought this was persistence. I was wrong.
It is only now that I am realizing that using brute force whether mental, emotional or intellectual to accomplish a goal can hurt one's mind, body and soul. Persistence isn't blindly pushing forward; it is resilience during adversity. Persistence is taking the next step forward even after taking many steps back. Persistence is the continuation of trying even if you have to try a different way.
My latest setback provided me with a new perspective. I started to think about prizefighters in a ring. The fighter who is standing at the end isn't the one who put his head down and rammed it at his opponent. The fighter who forces his way forward is the one left bloodied, bruised, exhausted and inevitably knocked out in a few rounds. The winners; the fighter who can go several rounds with only a few hits knows how to take the punches, duck, dodge, and yes, step back.
I realized the steps back are actually what can help us to take the next step forward. There are lessons, knowledge, and even direction in the steps backward. So one step forward and one step back may not move you towards your goal as quickly as you want. And the course you set may not be the one you take. But if you believe that you will end up where you are meant to be in the right time and in the right way then those steps back can be productive and inspirational by giving you the knowledge and perspective you need to step forward--stronger, wiser and ready.
Causes Sherry Parnell Supports
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, Heifer International