As I work my way out of my lifetime of anxiety, depression, and other fun detours from a fulfilling life, three words are taking on great import. One is values, which I wrote about last week. The other two, which are related, are willingness and perseverance.
(I gave that away with this post’s title.)
The sad fact is that, at some point, in order to move forward, to move past whatever it is that has held me back or tripped me up, I have to be willing to do things I don’t want to do. And then I have to be willing to keep being willing, to persevere even though I want to run away and hide.
Running away and hiding is, of course, the exact opposite of willingness and perseverance.
Willingness, it turns out, is not discipline. It’s not courage. It’s not strength. It is desire: the desire to not run away, to not hate myself for running away, the desire to be and live in ways that I really long for. Because I do want my life to be different (even as I accept that it is what it is, and that does not make me a bad or failed person), I am finding I am willing to try new things.
And to stick it out when trying those things is hard or even painful or scary.
Values are critical to this because simply trying hard is never enough. I’ve tried plenty hard in the past, but I’ve not had the focus that comes with knowing what my values are. My hard work went towards an unspecified goal, which is to say, towards nothing.
I wasted my time and energy. And I grew discouraged, which fed my self-hatred and confirmed I was correct to think of myself as a loser. Because I am starting to understand what I value – what the things I want to do in order to pursue and accomplish what is important to me – my efforts are not going nowhere. They are going in the direction of my values.
The added bonus here is that when I make a misstep, instead of the collapse that is inevitable with nothing solid under my feet, I am only down for a short time. I am able to look at what went wrong in terms of “what went wrong” and not “omg I am such a fucking loser”.
Subtle distinction that makes all the difference.
I’m still a long way from the confident artist I want to be, but I see the foundation coming together. I feel a different way about myself and what I do – not a huge difference; no miracles allowed. I feel enough of a difference to recognize there is growth happening and that it can be sustained.
All I have to do is continue to be willing to push myself and to not give up however a specific task goes.