Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Just What Makes That Little Old Ant...???

Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done and why. Then do it. - Robert Heinlein, 1907-1988

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When I was first married my husband said to me, "You love it when someone tells you that you can't do something, don't you?  It's kind of like waving a red flag in front of a bull."  I guess I hadn't really thought about it before, but the answer was, "Yes, I think I do!"  I really love to attempt the impossible and make it possible.  What I discovered early on in my life is that it's just a mindset.  Some would call it stubborn, some would call it persistence, but, along with my Uncle Clinton, I call it determined. 

Determination:  The act of making or arriving at a decision.
Determination:  Firmness of purpose; resolve.

Stubborn:  Unreasonably, often perversely unyielding; bullheaded.
Stubborn:  Characterized by perseverance; persistent.

Persistent:  Refusing to give up or let go; persevering obstinately.

Hmmm....Yes, I would definitely choose determination:  the act of making or arriving at a decision.  I don't usually have too much trouble making up my mind.  Certainly, I am aware that there will be consequences from any decision and I weigh the consequences, good and bad, carefully before I decide.  But I am very rarely stymied by the decision itself.  Firmness of purpose; resolve...yep, that would be me.  If I believe something is the right thing to do, I will stick with it until I am finished; until the work is done.  I understand that many times others would have walked away long before I did and that is certainly their choice.  But likewise, my choice is to stay and do my best to make it work.  I learned this from watching my father over the years of my life.  He hasn't backed away from things just because they were tough.  And at the same time, he has kept a pretty positive outlook on life.  After all, whether things are good or bad is all in how you look at them.  It's a choice, just like being determined or not.

It seems to me that if you've crossed over into stubborn, then you've taken a positive and made it-maybe not a negative-but it's no longer a positive.  It's somewhere in the middle and could very easily move into the negative area.  When you move into the unreasonable, often perversely unyielding category,  it is no longer a strength but a weakness.  Being unreasonable is never a good thing.  Being perversely unyielding will only enable you to spend more time being hurt and disappointed.  There is no  up side to being stubborn.  It may get you what you want, but it's not going to make you happy in the long run.

Being labeled persistent may fall into the category somewhere between determined and stubborn.  I'm always talking to my son about the world being, not black or white, but more gray.  Persistent falls into that gray area.  Refusing to give up or let go may be helpful in some activities or assignments.  It may provide success in your efforts.  In some cases, this can be a good thing, but when it moves toward the persevering obstinately end of the spectrum you must ask yourself if this is really a good thing. 

It seems to me that it's a very fine line between determined, stubborn and persistent.  On any given day, on any given assignment I might be labeled any one of these things.  So I guess what I have to ask myself is, "What is my purpose?"  If my motives are selfish and all about me, then I am being stubborn.  If what I am doing is in the best interests of others or my well-being, then I am determined and that is a good thing. 

It's been twenty-five years since my, then, husband made this comment to me.  Someone asked me today why I continued to do something when others might have walked away long ago.  Without thinking I said, "Because it's the right thing to do."  As I was walking home, I thought about that.  Have I moved into the stubborn category?  Nope, I think I'm still doing OK, but thanks for checking on me!

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