Yesterday was my 29th anniversary. My how time flies. It seems like just a short time ago that Vicky and I were saying “I do” in a small church in rural west Tennessee. It was pouring rain too, which was great because my fraternity brothers had all driven miles to decorate my car and get me back for doing their cars. Too bad.
Good times, like times with my wife over the last 29 years, go by in a seeming flash. Certain events like moving to Tulsa almost 14 years ago seem like mere months; kids graduating from college, weeks. But there were those periods that seemed to last forever; times of unemployment or uncertainty, difficult jobs, poor health. Viewed in small chunks, painful times seem to take forever. When you’re doing something you don’t enjoy or working with people you don’t like, life seems to go in slow motion. You feel stuck in quicksand where every movement makes things worse. However, looking back at 29 years, Vicky and I have had some wonderful times.
Every person and every leader faces challenges over time. Persistence (continuing steadfastly or firmly in some state, purpose or corse of action) results from faithfully doing the next thing every time. Sometimes that’s faithfully doing the same thing. Sure we talk about leading change on this blog quite a bit, but sometimes you have to lead same. Sometimes it takes more than laziness to stay the course. Often it takes courage and determination to stay. Some changes aren’t good.
I feel I can persist when I have the courage to discard certain options outright. I have never seriously considered divorce. I’ve quit many things in my life but I never considered quitting in my marriage. At least for me, persistence is simply refusing to quit.
Quitting becomes an option when you can’t think of anything else. It’s either the status quo or bail. At that moment, persistence or character or “who you are” insists there is another alternative.*
Persistence is hanging on to the promise of an idea until you find a win-win alternative. Recently I read The 3rd Alternative: Solving Life’s Most Difficult Problems by Stephen R. Covey. In a conflict, the author points out that the 1st alternative is my way and the second alternative is “your way.” But sometimes the second alternative is no way. If you work with the monkeys from the Career Builder ads or if you just can’t stand the work you’re doing the 2nd alternative is quit. Often in a divorce, the only thing a couple can agree on is the divorce.
Persistence hangs on until a win-win 3rd alternative becomes obvious. Covey calls the 3rd Alternative synergy. Synergy occurs when we seek the other out for their perspective and their difference. We stop looking for same and we stop trying to manipulate the other and we work together toward a 3rd alternative.
Persistence commits to the 3rd Alternative. It appreciates the value of a relationship or a purpose as greater than any single alternative, including quitting. Persistence is remembering the value of the relationship or the objective or the promise.
Are you about to quit? I’m not talking about the little things, but the big ones. Are you about to give up on a career or a mate? If so, spend some time remembering the promise. Is the promise worth another day? It may be that the 3rd alternative could come to you tomorrow.
* There are times when quitting is the only sane option due to physical or emotional abuse. If you’re experiencing anything like that, please don’t just stay, seek professional help.