Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Power of Perseverance

Yesterday, while having some time to reflect and think about anything that my mind so decided to, the thought of perseverance came into my mind. I thought about many things in my life that for some reason I had decided to embark on (knowing it was not my talent, skill or something I enjoyed) which I knew would be a challenge - yet I completed with a smile.

The first that came to my mind was a 5K race back in high school. My business marketing teacher said that if anyone was willing to run a 5K race in Salt Lake City that weekend we would get enough extra credit to bump up our grade. Not knowing what a 5K was or what it had to do with our class I was game - just for the extra credit!

I'm not an athlete, I don't enjoy running and I have never trained for anything. Being 17, I was invincible and figured it couldn't be that hard. I talked my brother into going with me. When we arrived that Saturday morning, it was cool outside and we were 5 minutes late. In fact, by the time we ran over to the starting line, we couldn't even see the backs of any of the runners. They were all long gone. We signed in, put our numbers on and began to run. We decided it would be a lot of fun to try and come in first place. Yes, we were very confident.

We ran full speed ahead! No steady jog, but rather running as though we were being chased by some wild animal. Panting for air, not stopping for water, we found our way through the crowd of runners and pushed our way to the front. Laughing and joking the entire way, we never knew if we'd really come in first - but forgoing stopping for any bathroom breaks was quite the sacrifice.

Finally, we saw our destination ahead. We picked up steam and pushed our limits until we crossed that line. As we came to a stop and fell over panting for air and struggling for a drink of water, we looked around and saw no other runners. After talking to someone sitting in a chair, we learned that we were the first runners to cross the line! That was an empowering moment!

No, never again have I run another 5K nor do I desire to, but knowing I completed something that I did not enjoy, and exceeded my expectations - was powerful!

Last year, when building our new home, I was excited to decorate my kids' rooms. The bedspread I had in mind for my youngest - did not exist. I could see it in my mind and it was cute! I searched online for weeks and found nothing even close to it. Finally, I realized my only option would be to make it. Hiring someone to make it was too costly, so I knew I was on my own.

I happened to own a used sewing machine that I had found 10 years prior. It was from the 1970's and missing some parts. I had only used it to hem some things and even then it was quite the feat! I never knew if I really was just a bad sewer or if it was the machine's fault. What I did know was that sewing was not enjoyable to me at all.

I found some ladies in my ward who are expert quilters and asked for their help. I picked out my fabric, bought the supplies and we got to work. Whenever I took the quilt home to work on it alone, I messed it up every time and they would have to help me take it apart and redo what I had done. This was very frustrating and what I thought was going to save me time, actually used up more time.

Finally after 2 months, my quilt was finished! (Funny thing is, I only put it on my daughter's bed for special occasions because I don't want anything bad to happen to it. I'm afraid if I ever wash it, it will be destroyed) I was proud of myself for completing it and not giving up!

No, I don't plan to ever quilt again, and I ended up selling my sewing machine on KSL, but I am so happy I had that experience because it taught me a lot about myself. It was humbling to be challenged, to struggle and to rely on others for help. At the same time it was powerful to know what I had accomplished. I had turned a beautiful vision in my head into something wonderful, without using a pattern of any kind!

To give a little more insight as to why this was so empowering to me, let me go into a little more detail. I don't know about you, but I am the type of person who lives outside of the box. I don't do well with systems or pathways set in stone - that are not flexible, or allow me to improvise or implement my own ideas and get great results. So, basically anything like chemistry, math, following patterns, knitting or crocheting, playing sheet music, etc. I am terrible at. If I don't do it by the rules it turns out wrong, sounds horrible, or falls apart.

In fact, in High School I almost failed a creative writing class because I could not write within the box that the teacher had set for us. He had his own style and set of rules, anyone who wrote outside of that did not excel. Being a writer all my life and winning awards for my creativity - this was a struggle indeed! Nevertheless, I worked hard redoing every paper and in the end was able to get a C.

In Jr. High School, I had an art teacher who never found it in his heart to give me an A on any assignment. I learned that in his class, art was not in the eye of the beholder. He had set a standard with guidelines, if we painted outside of the rules we did not excel. It put a poor taste in my mouth for art, and took the joy out of it. However, I did my best and never gave up! I got a B.

I later learned that I excelled in areas where I had the most freedom - cooking, decorating, and creating! I hated following recipes and always tended to change them. I liked to decorate with unique items that I could make myself. Anything technical though - such as french braiding hair, making homemade rolls, performing a music piece, etc. I was horrible at because they each had a set of rules that needed to be followed. Homemade rolls involves chemistry and following a formula/recipe exactly. With braiding hair, it involves patterns and skill; and with music - if you play the wrong notes or mess up on the timing, you ruin the song.

With public speaking, making a salad, or decorating my living room - it was impossible to mess up. There were no rules to follow. It was easy to improvise if I forgot a thought, was out of an ingredient or bought the wrong paint color. In the end people were always pleased with the results, and I enjoyed it.

We all know what our strengths and weaknesses are but it doesn't mean we should ever runaway from a challenge - just because we are not good at it. If we can take on tasks that test our abilities and limits, and we persevere - we will be strengthened!

It's not about the outcome, it's about what we learn along the way. Not giving up or quitting even though we may come in last, or worry that me might embarrass ourselves through the several mistakes we make along the way - is the real test!

In these times we are living in, it will become very tempting and all too easy to give up because a task seems difficult. We may be asked to perform a task or serve in a capacity that does mesh well on our comfort level. That's okay. Embrace these opportunities, because you will be strengthened through them! It is that strength you are going to rely on to make it through the difficult times that lie ahead. There is Power in Perseverance!

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