The printer was chewing up paper again. I’m the kind of person who then sees if my document can be emailed to the local office supply store to be printed. Possibly even get a whole new printer. Maybe I raise the lid to see if it’s an easy fix.
My husband, Bob (known in my blog as St. Bob) is the other kind. He is willing to invest however long it takes to monkey with the inner workings until he gets the printer to print. He has endless patience and is willing to read link after link about how to fix a printer. He will comb through the shed for the appropriate tools. He will not stop until victory is won.
I raise a white flag within three minutes. So it seems there are two kinds of determination: The I-Will-Not-Accept-Defeat kind, and the more common I’ll-Stick-With-This-If-I-Like-It kind.
Needless to say, we should all have the first kind. Like many folks, I actually do have determination if it’s something I like. I can be a determined mom, gardener, cook, writer, organizer, speaker, and missionary. These things all appeal to me and give me fairly quick sparks of success.
But electronics, tech issues, taxes, athletics, plumbing, and automotive repairs have never yielded success for me, so I abandon them quickly. I’ve done this since childhood, preferring those feel-good moments over the frustrating ones.
But this is wrong. In fact, it prevents us from growing and conquering, from expanding and learning. Not only that, but we should be willing to do the difficult even if we fail because it still teaches us some skills, and the fact that life can go on with a few blunders along the way. We learn that we’re still good people. We remember that we’re all given different talents. We learn to applaud those who excel in areas where we do not. We learn to laugh at ourselves. We learn not to take everything so seriously. There’s a host of reasons why we should tackle things outside our comfort zone.
I once read an article about an employer who sought after B students. These are the people, he said, who have learned to struggle, to work hard. Sometimes everything comes too easily for the A students, and he wanted people who knew how to roll up their sleeves, who had sheer determination. Yes, many A students worked hard for that, but he felt B students were less perfectionistic, even more well-rounded.
Think about what’s tough for you. Each of us has challenges. Scripture study, healthy eating, generously serving, forgiving, controlling our temper, not judging others, managing money, and so on.
Now think how much time you spend working on those areas. If you’re like my husband, you work very hard to conquer your weaknesses. But if you’re like most people, you procrastinate, or throw up your hands and give up altogether.
All couples have disagreements and misunderstandings. Often we discuss our feelings and reactions, frequently ending with each person expressing love and promising to work on A, B, or C. Bob actually does this. I say I’ll do it, but because I secretly think I was right, this goal sometimes goes on the back burner. I’m admitting this because I know there are others like me out there, who also do this.
Here’s an example. One time Bob asked me to please keep the dog out of the dining room while we’re eating. I was stunned. I grew up with indoor dogs as pets, and they wandered into whatever room they pleased. Not only that, but dog-training is on the same list as automotive repairs and taxes. (I have a photo of myself at dog obedience school, uselessly pushing down on my dog’s hips to get him to sit, while all the other dogs are obediently sitting beside their masters.)
We discussed it, and I could see this meant a lot to him, so I agreed. Bob, who knows me pretty well, said, “Do you really mean that, or are you just saying it to get the conversation over with?”
I turned and sighed. “I’m just saying it.”
If, like me, you’ve avoided unpleasant tasks, here’s how we can all develop better discipline:
- Think of others more than yourself. If someone makes a reasonable request, put yourself in their shoes and make every effort to accommodate them. You’ll be happier and they’ll be delighted.
- Take the task apart into baby steps, and pat yourself on the back as you conquer each one. Just inching in the right direction is great. Could I learn one tiny thing about car engines? Probably. And then another, and another.
- Scoot the task closer to the top of your list of priorities. If you’re taking on too much in your life, pare down and allow yourself to focus on areas of needed growth.
- Pray for help. Earnestly. If you truly want to change, enlist God’s help.
- Consider counseling. If this struggle is getting in the way of your happiness (or that of your family), find out why you refuse to change. Make a plan with a professional who can help you break through and find peace.
- Look up Steadfastness in the topical guide of your Bible (there isn’t much under Determination). Study what the scriptures teach. You may find you’re steadfast in many ways, which is greatly encouraging when trying to tackle other ways.
- Keep a diary of your efforts and mark your progress.
- Ignore what you can’t control. Don’t put such things on your shoulders or you’ll wind up frustrated.
- Practice delaying gratification. Often we want quick success, but we need to learn that it isn’t always immediate.
- Think about what’s blocking you. Is it fear? Of what? Sometimes we can pinpoint this and realize it’s an irrational fear.
- Include loved ones who can support you along the way.
- Define yourself as a finisher, not a quitter.
Often, when we take this task seriously, we make marvelous discoveries about ourselves. Yes, this wasn’t one of our talents, it didn’t come easily. But we did it. Wow. You may discover you can do more than you ever realized.
Perfect for Mother’s Day, Hilton’s books, along with her humor blog and Youtube Mom videos, can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Inter-Faith Specialist for Church Communications.