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The Happiness Connection  

There's a fine line between persistence and being pig-headed

Persistent or pig-headed?

About 10 years ago I bought a convertible.

Her previous owner glued a plastic GPS mount onto her dashboard. He over-applied the adhesive but didn’t worry about it because he thought it would dry clear and be invisible. Unfortunately, it remained white and was something of an eyesore.

Being the creative sort, I decided to hide it with a large faux sunflower. While I was perfectly content with my solution, others weren’t. Pretty much every man who has seen my car has commented on the flower, and not in a complimentary way.

When I show them what’s underneath, they agree that it’s ugly but aren’t convinced the fake foliage is an improvement.

Removing the plastic mount didn’t seem to be an option. I asked many people for advice and surfed the Internet for an answer, with no luck.

Recently when I went through this same routine with another friend, he announced he was going to remove the offending base. I asked how he planned to do that. He said he wasn’t sure, but he’d find a way.

I smiled to myself, convinced I would soon be reattaching the sunflower.

My smile morphed into amazement when a few days later I was asked to come look at my car. The plastic GPS mount had been removed. How had he managed to do the impossible? I’m still not sure, but his belief and determination paid off.

Society celebrates persistence.

“Quitters never win, and winners never quit.”

“Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

But persistence has a shadow-side. It’s known as stubbornness, obstinacy or pigheadedness, and there’s a fine line between the helpful and harmful sides. Blind persistence can turn into an exhausting and useless quest.

Persistent people move relentlessly toward something but are smart enough to change directions if they have to. Pigheaded people plow ahead even when they hit a brick wall. It’s as if the idea of finding a detour is unacceptable.

I’m not suggesting it’s good to shy away from a challenge because you’re worried you may fail. But having a “win at all costs” attitude may not serve you either. Refusing to give up or change course regardless of what’s happening can be harmful to your mental health. There’s a time and place for giving up. Struggling on, isn’t always the best choice.

In the words of Henry Ward Beecher, “The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.”

So how do you know if you’ve gone over to the dark side?

• You believe it’s wrong to change your mind about what you’re trying to achieve.

• You’re obsessed with proving you can do something.

• You forget about the big picture and why you want this goal.

• You view other people as competitors not collaborators.

Ask yourself if the goal is still worth your efforts. If you’re doing it to prove you can, rather than because the outcome is something you want, you may have stepped away from the light. Being afraid of failure or changing direction isn’t a good reason to carry on.

How do you know when it’s time to consider giving up?

• Your quest to solve a problem takes over other aspects of your life.

• You can’t visualize a positive outcome and you stop believing it’s possible, but you don’t seem to be able to stop.

• You start to feel badly about yourself and wonder if there’s something wrong with you because you haven’t found success.

• When you wake up in the morning, your first thought is to give up.

Perhaps finding the right balance between not giving up too easily and knowing when to admit defeat is the definition of wisdom. Sometimes being a quitter is the wisest and most admirable decision you can make.

Healthy persistence comes from an eternal hope and belief that you can be successful. It involves refusing to be deterred by problems or discouraged by setbacks. But it also includes a healthy dose of flexibility.

If you feel like you’re becoming pigheaded rather than persistent, try a different approach. Sometimes success lives on the road less traveled. Listen to your inner voice. If it’s telling you, you’re banging your head against an immovable object it may be time to listen. Consider focusing your energies on a different direction.

The dashboard of my convertible still has a section of white glue on it. I’m choosing to be persistent about removing it, not pigheaded. I’ll continue to try different remedies until a solution reveals itself.

And if that never happens, I’ll put my creative mind to work again.

Maybe I can find some sunflower stickers.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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