Jay Rifenbary

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Perseverance – A Tough Choice in Difficult Times

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Perseverance is defined as, “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success”. Has there ever been a time in your life when you just wanted to give up on an endeavor you initiated, to throw the towel in? A moment where you wanted to give up on your dreams because the path to get there appeared too daunting? Throughout all of our lives there are circumstances and situations where decisions have had to be made whether to persevere or not. I certainly have experienced those times, and possess the emotional benefits and bruises from past attempted ventures as a result. Two major reflections for me that immediately come to mind were the decisions to persevere through West Point, and the U.S. Army’s Ranger School. Even more significant was the decision to continue to pursue a career in public speaking and consulting after almost losing everything in 1993. The choice not to quit did prove to be beneficial in the long run, but not without sacrifices along the way. Through experiencing the successes and failures of many such journeys, I have concluded the primary factor in deciding to persevere or not is a result of the competition between desire and risk. If desire for your life’s passion out weighs the risk in attempting to achieve that passion and you quit, there is a strong likelihood that you will regret that decision now and/or in the future. However, if it is determined the risks outweigh the desire, it may become apparent to change course from that desire or dream.

Early on in our lives the risks may be minimal because there are less responsibilities to contend with, and less to lose in “going for it”. For example, if I do not have the responsibility of family, or an established career, then the risks to my relationships and financial security would be nominal. On the other hand, the more responsibility we create in our life journey the more difficult it is to have the freedom to pursue a different dream or a new career. Many of us reach a point in life where we are inspired to invigorate our future, aspire to new creative challenges, and potential new careers. Does mid-life crisis ring a bell for anyone? Personally I came very close to destroying the things I had created to pursue a dream I was unsure I could succeed at. I am thankful and humbled for the belief my wife and children had in me to see my desire come to fruition. As a result, their support in the process of the attainment of that dream made the risks less prominent.

If you decide the risks outweigh the desire, a necessary step needs to be taken to alleviate the emotional struggle and disappointment you may experience by not pursuing that desire. That step is to comprehend the importance of becoming more accepting than expecting. I may desire more in my life, but if the risks to achieve that, such as destroying my family, my health and my finances might occur in the process, it might be necessary to forgo that dream. I must become more accepting of the choices I have made and the life I have created. Another advantage to acceptance versus expectation is to realize that if I am never satisfied and always expecting how can I be content and at peace with myself? I am not suggesting you give up on your dreams, but to fully understand the potential sacrifices needed to be made to achieve that dream. A final advantage of accepting rather than expecting is the reduction of stress in our lives. Many of us are high expectation people, and I realized a little too late in life where I would get myself the most in trouble was when I would put all my expectations on everyone else. Well not everyone is like me, and not everyone is like you. When I accepted this understanding my stress declined and I was happier day to day. It was a relief not to expect the world and everyone in it to be on my agenda. This does not mean I am accepting of behaviors that violate my values, or performance that is less than expected, but what I have come to realize is the total benefit of understanding what makes others wonderful. Enjoy new peace in your life when you reflect and appreciate what you have already created and accomplished.



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