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Published January 08, 2014, 02:06 PM

Positively Beautiful: The power of perseverance

Now is the time of fresh intentions, new resolutions and heartfelt goals. The best ones have meaningful motivation and a carefully crafted action plan.

By: Dr. Susan Mathison, INFORUM

Now is the time of fresh intentions, new resolutions and heartfelt goals. The best ones have meaningful motivation and a carefully crafted action plan.

But it takes the power of perseverance to hang on past February and beyond to make these lofty goals manifest.

To persevere means to dig deep and hang on despite difficulty, opposition and discouragement. Thomas Edison tried more than 1,000 times before he successfully created the light bulb. And Colonel Sanders visited 1,000 restaurants before one wanted to take a chance with his chicken recipe. Babe Ruth kept swinging: “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

Some people lose weight, slowly and surely. Others run marathons. Some rehabilitate from injury or stroke. Others plant gardens and trees. Some create masterpieces. Others create change.

Chip and Dan Heath, authors of “Made to Stick,” cite the work of Sally Herndon, who led the state antismoking initiative in North Carolina, the heart of tobacco country. Beginning in 1990, she slowly chipped away at the problem. She identified winnable fronts, like schools, because “Even tobacco farmers don’t want their kids to smoke.”

In 2000, 10 percent of school districts had a no-smoking mandate. In 2004, it was 50 percent, and finally in 2007 it was 100 percent. Then, through Herndon, hospitals and businesses discovered it was good for them to go smoke free. In 2009, bars and restaurants became smoke free.

During Herndon’s relentless 20-year campaign in North Carolina, the adult smoking rate dropped by almost 25 percent, and millions of people were been spared the effects of secondhand smoke. They called her “true grit” in action, and her work stands out in our quick results culture.

What makes people like Herndon tick? How about the artists, the survivors, the runners? Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

According to an unknown author, those who persevere and persist seem to:

1. Be motivated by purpose and passion.

2. Have confidence and self-belief.

3 .Have a plan that they reverse engineer to action items.

4. Be OK with small steps toward incremental improvement.

5. Continue forward motion despite setbacks and use problems as guideposts.

6. Focus with discipline and be able to choose what they want most over what they might want right now.

7. Be immune to excuses.

8. Pursue excellence rather than perfection.

9. Be OK with the long haul. “Difficult things take a long time. Impossible things take a little longer.”

We are struggling with perseverance at our house. My 6-year-old Grant signed up for his second year of hockey. This surprised me because his only fond memory of last season was the end-of-year pizza party and participation trophy.

But he said that he really wanted to try again. So here we are half-way through the season, and he has changed his mind – with vengeance. The helmet’s too tight; he’s too tired; he has to go potty – It’s always something!

We made it to the first few practices and games. His hockey picture was awesome, and I complimented him on what a good player he looked like.

“Mom, I really don’t like hockey. I just like to smile,” he retorted.

His reluctance has gotten to the point that getting his gear on is like trying to stuff a wriggling, crying sausage into its casing. I’ve tried the team angle. I’ve tried the commitment angle. I’m trying to persevere and teach him about it at the same time, yet I’m feeling like a failure.

Maybe hockey is not Grant’s purpose and passion. But I’ll keep trying. I’m grateful to Uncle Dave Mathison for the backyard rink to get him more comfortable on skates. Maybe I’ll offer other sports and activities to see what he connects with. He seems to be very good at drama.

Author and speaker Charlie Jones said, “Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.”

I have many things that are a work in progress, yet parenting is likely my ultimate test of perseverance. What’s yours?

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at shesays@forumcomm.com.