How to Make a Difference (Part 4): Persevering toward the Goal

“Many persons have the wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”—Helen Keller

Perseverance is not a popular word in this day of instant gratification. We can be instantly rewarded by comfort or pleasure with any of a number of choices that are only an arm’s reach away. There are 400 channels on cable TV to watch, the internet has unlimited resources to meet every interest, and a pre-packaged meal of chips and a can of Coke (or a stop at McDonald’s) doesn’t require any extra effort. What hope do we have to help children stick to their guns and reach goals?
To answer this question let’s compare pleasure and happiness. Pleasure feels good at the time and results in a contentedness that is very appealing. But it may or may not move you towards long term happiness. Long term happiness has to do with becoming the person you want to be. It has to do with accomplishing something that is important to you in a very deep way; and it has to do with delayed gratification.
You have heard of the marshmallow test that is used by parents and some teachers to teach delayed gratification (or at least test for it). Place a single marshmallow in front of a young child and tell them they can eat this marshmallow. Or they can wait for 2 or 3 minutes and then have something they like better (more marshmallows, a cookie, or whatever). With this test the child is put in a position to chose instant or delayed gratification. By delaying their gratification, they come out ahead of those who choose the immediate option.
When we set goals for ourselves or for our children, we are working in the area of delayed gratification. It will require perseverance to check off all of the steps required to meet that goal. It may be the daily exercise sessions, or the wise eating choices, the decision to put your neighbor’s benefit ahead of your own. You must persevere to reap the rewards of any of these goals.
Inspiration is needed to meet difficult goals. There are great stories of people beating difficult odds in all sorts of arenas. I am inspired by people who try to attain a difficult goal, even if they don’t quite get there. Something about the self-sacrifice and the focus on what is good lifts my mood and motivates me. Consider Helen Keller’s quote, above. This rings true for me and defines the purpose of our programs and products at Fitness Finders.
You can set the stage for children under your care to persevere. Make this the goal. Create a place (a classroom, a program, or another environment) where children can follow a well defined process that helps them to, as Helen Keller said, show “fidelity to a worthy purpose”.

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