This story is a reflection on some of the things I learned in 2020. The story is a quick read, with a little food for thought. Comments and sharing are always welcome.
In this post:
Story: Patience passivity and perseverance
One of the things I learned from 2020 is the importance of patience and persistence. It is my nature to conceptualize on a large scale while finding the details of small moving parts overwhelming. Having this awareness does not make it easier to walk the many steps along a journey of 1,000 miles.
The biggest problem I have in accomplishing big goals is recognizing how the small steps gather to become pieces of a much larger whole. The fact is that I often find myself getting frustrated with the challenges associated with the many small steps that make up the journey to a much larger goal. I regularly find myself exhausted by the small obstacles that make up the components of a large project. Two pieces of advice that were critical to the completion of my PhD were:
- Just focus on completing one section of the dissertation at a time. There will be time for revisions after your adviser reviews it.
- A good dissertation is a done dissertation.
Early in 2020 I realized it would be a good year to focus on regrouping and working on some of the things I find tedious, frustrating, or just plain annoying. This commitment forced me to acknowledge my relationship with persistence and perfectionism. Patience calls me to be comfortable with the fact that things take as long as they do. I believe Norman Vincent Peele said “Don’t try to do everything at once. that’s why time is spread out.” I try to remind myself of this when I am getting frustrated at how long things take to accomplish.
Getting comfortable with being patient can be a slippery slope into perfectionism. I can easily fall into rabbit holes chasing small details that will need to be done at some point but are not on the critical path of the final goal of the project. This can put me in a paradoxical loop of patience vs. persistence: do not stress over the fact that a task takes longer than expected, vs. pushing through a frustrating task that could be put off but will eventually need to get done anyways. This loop wears me out. The combination of patience and grinding tedium can lead me into a pit of passivity. I learned in 2020 that a pandemic can be a great excuse to sit with this paradox of patience vs. persistence – just not too long.
On March 31, 1968 Dr Martin Luther King said, “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The killings of Briana Taylor and George Floyd brought the paradox of patience vs. persistence into sharp focus. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been around since 2014. Extra-judicial killings of black people are as American as apple pie. The ability to see people being killed, sometimes as the killings are taking place, forces the question what are the limits of patience? When it comes to dealing with entrenched injustice patience must have its limits.
In reflecting on the balance between patience and persistence I have come to recognize the importance of sorting the tasks from making meaning. The tasks of administering a distribution channel for my work supporting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in professional settings and in facilitating a community of practice for Servant-Leaders are just tasks. Sometimes they are tedious, frustrating, and seemingly irrelevant. The making of meaning, on the other hand, happens because of the tedium. To be in the room as wisdom is revealed, to share what I have learned through my research work, to deepen that research, these are the rewards of persistence.
Food for thought
Here are some of the questions I reflected on as I developed this piece:
- How do you balance patience and persistence?
- How do you sort tasks from meaning making?
- How do you determine when to be persistent vs. falling into perfectionism?
- How do you determine when to be persistent but not patient?
- How do you respond when you do not understand the urgency in the persistence of others?
- How do you use your gifts to support the journeys of others?
Note: This piece was in development at the time of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The author does not support or condone violence as a response to falsehoods and unfounded conspiracy theories.
- Black Lives Matter ñ Wikipedia. Retrieved 1/12/2021
- King Jr., Dr. Martin Luther, ìRemaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.î Speech given at the National Cathedral, March 31, 1968. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 1/12/2021
- Lao Tzu
Lao Tzu, ìA journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.î Wikipedia. Retrieved 1/12/2021
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