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Persevering, minute by minute

I don’t think any of us understands the concept of perseverance until we have persevered through the darkest times. I can tell you to hang in there, things will get better, but until you’ve experienced your share of crucible moments, those words will ring hollow. Your greatest learning occurs when you are persevere when every sign seems to be telling you to give up.

It would be easier if you knew a) when you are going to prevail or b) if you are going to prevail. Unfortunately, once you start getting tested by obstacles, you seldom have a clue when or if there is going to be a payoff. All you can do is keep on keeping on. Or, you can quit.

I once took a cycling vacation in Colorado that began with a 10,000-foot climb up the merciless Grand Mesa outside of Grand Junction. Although I’d had a strong history of cycling in the mountains, I’d gained weight and hadn’t really trained for the vacation. That mountain beat me up harder than any other. At some point, I realized that this would be the first mountain I would not be able to conquer – no matter how stubborn I was.

Halfway up, I got to a rest stop where the sag vehicles were shuttling the quitters and their bikes up to the top. I knew I would have to do that, and the thought of quitting really ate at me. I’d long adhered to the saying, “Death before SAG.” I felt dead, but I did not want to get in the SAG wagon. So, I made a decision to take a good, long break – for as long as I needed – before trying once again to make it further up that brutal mountain.  If I were going to SAG, it would be further up the road, where I literally could not ride another mile. I would stop only when I could not ride another inch.

I waited at that rest stop for more than an hour and a half. Finally, I started to ride again. I made up my mind that I would stop every mile if I had to, and there were some points when I stopped two or even three times a mile. But, I would keep on going as long as I could keep on going.

Mile by mile, I moved closer to the top. That climb was so hard and the weather so hot that more than three-fourths of the cyclists took rides to the top. I was prepared to do that, but only when my legs were truly done.

I remember the moment when I realized I was less than a mile from the top. I knew I would get there. I had persevered through every excuse to quit. I’d silenced every desire for the ordeal to be over. I felt proud. I got to the top and climbed off my bike, laying on the ground – truly exhausted. I’d learned something about perseverance. You don’t quit until you absolutely have to quit. Sometimes, you just need to slow it down and move forward a little bit at a time. As long as you continue to move forward, you will get where you are going.

Remember that when you encounter obstacles and start to doubt whether you should keep fighting. You might lose your battle, but you won’t know for sure unless you push as hard and as long as you possibly can.

I learned long ago that you never know how close you are to turning the corner until you actually turn the corner. All you can do is be determined and remain focused on moving forward. Take it one day at a time. When it is really rough, take it one minute at a time. Don’t quit until you have to quit. When you finally do turn the corner, you will realize how much more your success means. That which comes hard is always more meaningful than that which comes easy. And the fight to persevere through adversity will grow you into a stronger, more resilient person.

What to remind yourself when you are hitting the wall and feel like the universe is telling you to give up: Adversity is only temporary. Things will get better, sooner or later. You are learning and growing, and the moment will come when everything makes sense. The obstacles you are experiencing will grow and define you as a stronger, more brilliant individual. See them for the opportunity they give you. Remain focused on your goal and just keep moving toward it.

When you are ready to give up: Delay the surrender! Decide to give it one more hour, one more day, one more round. Only quit when you realize you truly cannot persevere another minute, or when you realize you are on the wrong track and want to do something different.

When you know it is okay to give up: If you can say, “I don’t want this anymore and I have no regrets,” or, “This is not worth it to me,” or, “It’s time. I’m done,” then give it one last push – just to make sure – then do another gut check. If you are still thinking you are done, you may really be done. But only quit when it is truly time to quit.

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