As was mentioned in the previous blog, difficult circumstances and uncertainty can cause a lot of anxiety and stress and it is important to keep these reactions in check and manage it pro-actively so that it does not overwhelm us and destroy our wellbeing and relationships. However, what is one to do when it feels like the tough times will never end, or when you try to come up for air just to have another big wave crash over your head and pulling you under once more?
A few weeks ago, when life was still ‘normal’, our family took part in a mountain bike race. It was the first official race for my 11 year-old twin boys and they were very excited about the prospect of getting their own medals. It was a beautiful day in the winelands, so everyone was cheerful and excited to enjoy the time out in the Stellenbosch mountains, and to do this together as a family. However, a few 100 metres into the race, things already started to get tough, and it just got worse from there. What was supposed to be a 10 km fun ride, turned into a never-ending, very technical and seriously emotionally taxing 15km track from hell on an extremely hot summers day. If you are wondering why it was emotionally taxing, just imagine having to try and stay calm and encourage a tired, sunburnt, angry, frustrated, irritated tween to keep on going when he is convinced that it is absolutely impossible to do so.
Life, in fact, is exactly like a mountain bike race. There will be uphills and downhills, there will be single track, mud, water, sand, rocks and obstacles. There will also be beautiful scenery and people supporting you and cheering you on– but you have to make time to take that in while you are racing to the finish line. There will be many good and bad surprises along the way, but if you don’t give up and persevere to the end, it is amasing how different the experience seem when looking back on it. In as much a one should be prepared for the ride, be fit and have the right gear, a can-do attitude is critical in helping us to persevere through difficult times.
So, how do we cultivate perseverance? Researchers agree that we need to:
- set worthwhile goals for ourselves,
- remind ourselves of previous times where we felt like giving up and succeeded,
- focus on the next task at hand,
- keep moving forward, and
- believe that we will succeed
As Martin Luther King said: “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”