We all have reached these points at one time or another in life; moments when our current course of action seems to bring upon us failures or difficulties that are too great to bear and seem hopeless to surpass. These are times when we are forced to make a decision: A decision to either push on through the hardships and difficulties or throw in the towel and give up.
I would like to share a rather extreme situation I found myself in that strained my willpower to its furthest limit. In 2008, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attempt one of my major goals in life, to endeavor to reach the top of the highest mountain in the world. It was a two month expedition that I embarked upon along with the other four members of my family: My father, mother, brother and sister. There were many hardships along the way but the most relevant to this article was when we were climbing above the South Col, on the Nepalese side of Everest.
That particular section we were climbing during the night and we found ourselves in a blizzard of howling winds and swirling snow all around us. The conditions were horrible and only were getting worse. It was an uphill battle and I was gradually losing hope. In addition to the harsh weather conditions around me and the severe difficulty of the steep face I was clinging to, I was very ill from the effect of high altitude on my immune system and my body was slowly shutting down from lack of sleep. Everything seemed to be against me at that point and I reached my lowest moment when even the mechanical ascender that I had grown used to relying on to save my life if I slipped, began to malfunction. The blowing snow was coating the climbing ropes and turning to ice in the small teeth of the cam within the ascender and the unit would release without warning, causing me to slide several meters backwards down the icy slope. At that particular point, it seemed as though there was no possible way I could continue and that I should just cut my losses and head back down.
Whatever the situation may be, there are times in life when we feel we just cannot continue on towards our goals. The pain is too great or the stakes are too high. There is almost always a time during any project or achievement plan that we reach this point and feel we cannot endure, we have to give up or turn back. At these points we have to make a choice and there are strong forces pulling us in opposite directions. The question is which force is stronger and which will we listen to? These are the times when we have to look deep inside of ourselves and find the energy and drive to continue on. We have to find our perseverance.
Perseverance is a choice. A habit we can and must develop if we want to be successful in achieving our goals. Inside of each of us we have the drive and ability to continue through any situations although it is often very difficult for us to convince ourselves of this fact. Unfortunately, perseverance is not a common trait for most of us and this is the reason why many people spend their lives hoping and wishing and creating excuses for themselves instead of believing in themselves and pushing through the difficulties on the path of action they want to take and they ultimately know they should take.
The subconscious part of our minds is crafty and its automatic response is to try to free us from any pain and hardship we find ourselves in. For this reason, it will often suggest and try to legitimize the decision of turning back or giving up. It is at those times in life when we have to make a decision. Either we listen to our subconscious mind and allow ourselves to be convinced that the pain is too great or we take control of our mind and through willpower force ourselves to persist, over and over if needed, until we prevail. So how does one continue on in spite of the pain and hardships that are holding them back?
The answer is in finding a way to convince yourself deep down of the fact that the happiness and satisfaction of your potential achievement is worth more than escaping from the pain you feel during those difficult moments. It is through changing your focus and not allowing your mind to consider defeat as an option. Our bodies are always capable of continuing on and finding the energy even when it seems as though we cannot. It is our minds that give up first and only if we allow them to do so. Instead of permitting our minds to focus on defeat, we need to change our focus. There are a number of ways to accomplish this and each of us must determine which way works best for us individually. If your end goal seems unattainable in your present situation, one good way to accomplish this change of focus is to concentrate on smaller steps or smaller tasks that will still ultimately lead you in the direction you need to be going.
The way I was able to continue on in spite of the dire situation I found myself in on the south face of Mount Everest was through this exact method. The summit at that point was still ten to twelve hours away and when I thought about it my heart sank as it seemed as though there was no possible way I could make it that far with all the obstacles that were holding me back. However, what I did was change my focus. Instead of focusing on the summit and how I could almost certainly never make it to the peak, I instead focused on a specific object, in many cases a jagged rock, ahead of me that I could just see illuminated at the limit of the small beam of my headlamp through the blowing snow. That was my goal. In that moment that was all I had to achieve. Although it seemed like a miniscule accomplishment in the grand realization of how much further I had to go, I was able to accomplish that small step and it gave me hope. Once I reached that first jagged rock I rested for a moment and then chose a new goal. I repeated this technique hour after hour for twelve hours of continuous climbing. Every small step I accomplished gave me hope and encouragement to continue. It was a painstaking and tedious process but by changing my focus I was able to convince myself to move forward and upwards inch by inch. Through this method of perseverance I was able to accomplish one of my major goals and along with my father, brother and sister we became the first family of four to reach the summit. It was an incredible feeling.
The power of perseverance is truly an incredible force. If we can learn to control our focus, there is nothing that we cannot achieve. I am a firm believer that you cannot fail if you continue to persevere. Learn from the temporary failures along the way and adjust your plan accordingly if needed but do not dwell on these temporary failures. Keep your focus on moving forward towards your goal and don’t allow your focus to be swayed by your own thoughts or outside influences. Wanting and wishing for something will not make it a reality but true perseverance will, no matter how lofty or unrealistic your goals may seem at first. Temporary hardship and defeat are inevitable. In the words of Helen Keller, “Defeat is simply a signal to press onward”. Understanding this fact and learning the practice of perseverance is a necessity for anyone who wants to accomplish their dreams. No matter how impossible a situation may seem this steadfast determination and refusal to turn back will ultimately lead to success.