The leaf in this photo was the sole survivor on a tree in front of our offices one winter. It kept hanging on, through snow, high winds and heavy rain. It kept hanging on after all the other leaves on that tree and adjacent trees already gave up and drifted to the ground. The staff facing this tree began to notice the little tenacious leave, and it's fame spread. Eventually it inspired a colleague to take a picture. Only at the approach of Spring did it let go to be replaced by the new.
Tenacity, the ability to endure, to keep going when others in a similar situation give up. What is it that drives endurance? Can it be generated? If you Google “mental endurance,” you will be provided with an abundance of sites offering you just that: the knowledge of what endurance is and how to increase it. Since there are so many sources of insight available on this topic already, the topic I would like to explore is: Why do so few endure? Why is tenacity such a rarity that it inspires us when we see it being done, even if the feat is accomplished by a leaf on a tree?
First a disclaimer: too much tenacity can become a bad thing in itself. Sometimes the wisest course of action is to walk away. That said, back to the question, “Why do so few endure?”
People being as wonderfully complex as they are, have more than one reason for quitting before the finish line, the one I want to focus on is: so few endure because we do not pick our battles.
Endurance requires an enormous amount of mental energy. So much energy in fact that there is simply not enough available to apply towards many goals. Unless you are an endurance heavy weight, our endurance-energy reserve can only serve about one high demanding goal, or a few less demanding goals at a time. For the left brain dominant under us, think about it this way: If the average person has 10 EE’s (Endurance-Energy) available per day, then you are going to run into problems if you have demanding goals that add up to requiring more than 10 EE’s a day.
This is the EE budget of many people: "I'm going to be an outstanding parent, while working on my relationships, (yes, relationships require work and time), while being an outstanding worker, while participating in some form of social or sport activity, while taking on this volunteering task, and working on that project at home, and holding on for dear life to my hobby I enjoy so much." Some even add studying to the mix in order to ensure a better future.
Due to our bad EE budgeting, sooner or later we have to give up on our goals, one at a time. But before we are down to just one, we’ve picked up a few new ones. And slowly over the years the following lines begin to creep into our self-talk: “I’m such a loser. What is the point of even trying? I’m just going to give up again.”
If endurance is a sore-spot for you and it is something you would like to improve on, study and borrow from the many good tips and tricks out there on how to increase mental and physical endurance.
But also do an energy audit:
Evaluate your goals in terms of difficulty level (the more difficult the more endurance-energy to complete it).
Pick your battles. Evaluate your goals in terms of importance to you. Which are most important, which can you let go - at least, at this stage of your life? Statistically speaking, chances are that you will grow old – very old. So you have time, theoretically, to achieve many demanding goals – one, or a few, at a time. So you don't have to give up on a goal or dream, just table it for later.
Which goals do you absolutely have to do at the same time (such as being a spouse, parent, and worker) and how can you ‘balance the books’ so as to most efficiently apply your available energy resources.
Manage your tenacity energy reserves and never say die, let your tenacity inspire others – they may even take a photo of you :-)