Reality Check: New Year’s Values

It’s the traditional season to make promises to ourselves: how we’ll change our lives, what we will achieve, what disciplines we will force on ourselves…

While each day is as valuable as another, taking stock of life at New Year’s is better than never taking stock at all!

In John C. Maxwell’s tiny book entitled, “Make Today Count,” he discusses the importance of acting according to values. So this year, instead of New Year’s resolutions, I thought I’d take a look at some “New Year’s values.”

When one mentions values, warm, feel-good sentiments might come to mind: kindness, honesty, being nice to puppies. In the next few columns, I’ll suggest some less-exalted, but still important, values. The first one is the value of “persistence.”

You might refer to persistence as follow-through, responsibility, commitment, or just plain “showing up.” Folks who value persistence act differently than those who don’t.

Consider this decision: “I don’t feel great. Do I want to get out of bed and go to [work, school, or wherever it is that I have committed to be]?” Putting the obvious “don’t spread infection” rule aside for a moment, your decision is based on a value. How prepared are you to do what is necessary to follow through on your commitments? 

Persistence isn’t a glamorous value but it can make up for plenty of shortcomings. If you lack (or perceive that you lack) talent, skills, smarts… you may still be able to achieve your goals through persistence.

Granted, it would be easier if the universe would just align itself for your convenience, but when it doesn’t, being prepared to put in the dull, plodding work can often get you there. Even if it doesn’t, persistence will definitely get you closer than if you don’t bother to continue.

Look around and you will see folks for whom everything seems to fall into place: they have loving relationships, good jobs, educational accomplishments, respect. See if you can detect the role that persistence has played in their lives.

It’s persistence, for example, that has a young person forego expensive nights out with friends, eating oatmeal instead of going out for pizza, to meet his goal of saving the down payment for that first house.

It’s persistence that keeps a student (adult or child) rewriting their homework after class even if the notes still don’t make sense to them.

It’s persistence that is the sheer, hard work you do when you don’t feel like it.

Persistence is carrying on, one foot in front of the other, doing what’s necessary even when you can’t see any immediate, pleasurable reward.

Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, and others are credited with coining a phrase along the lines of, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Few people run through life without stumbles or setbacks. The question of whether you get up to continue the race, so to speak, is largely connected with how highly you value persistence. 

Do you hold persistence as a value? 

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