Persistence Pays

On a radio talk show the other day, I heard a speaker say that it takes multiple attempts to quit smoking – sometimes as many as 17! Imagine quitting for the 16th time and trying to muster up enough motivation, outside support or the belief that this time will be different. It sounds impossible! I felt like the listening audience would be discouraged by such an astounding number and wasn’t sure the speaker was doing them any service.

But then I realized that for those who had tried many times, this news would offer incredible hope! It indicated that change doesn’t always happen on the first attempt, but is possible with persistence. It supported the view that change is gradual and builds upon itself. Each attempt is not a failure, but instead provides a valuable a piece of the puzzle – knowledge about what works, what sets you back and what it takes to support your efforts. Consider the Robert Orben quote, ‘Don’t think of it as failure.  Think of it as time-released success.’

We each have our own answers as to how we can bring about change. But we share that a key part of any forward movement is learning to cope with failure along the way. When that happens, will we think our efforts are futile, or believe that each attempt is a step towards our goal? While I have never had to quit smoking, there are many areas in my life that I’d like to improve and I am choosing to see the 17 attempts as a call for optimism, not as a sign of doom.