Climbing the hill: What helps you persevere? 22

This week, one of the actions on the Americans of Conscience Checklist is to ask someone you respect how they persevere through difficult times. 

If you want to share their answers—or your own—I invite you to write a comment below.

Here’s my own:

When I walked the Camino de Santiago (500 miles across northern Spain), I developed a love-hate relationship with hills. The unending strain of going up. The bliss of a gorgeous view at the top. The dread of steep, cobbly descents. The delight of a cool, running stream in the valley. And repeat.

One day, I realized that what made hills difficult was what I told myself about hills. Hills are bad, for example. Hills are hard. There shouldn’t be hills at all! Huh! I wonder what would happen if I didn’t harp about how awful they are.

So I tried it. One afternoon, I approached a long, winding hill in the sunshine. Instead of dreading, I just took it a step at a time. As I did, sensations through my five senses became more vivid: I noticed the sound of my breathing, the crunch of gravel underfoot, an unexpected breeze cooling my skin.

Instead of being in my head, I was in the moment. I was at peace with things as they are. It was a revelation.

Today, when the news feels overwhelming–like a huge hill I don’t want to climb–I look around and the good deeds happening around us become more apparent. I notice inspiring people taking risks. I focus on just the next step instead of trying to climb the whole hill at once.

What helps you persevere?

22 thoughts on “Climbing the hill: What helps you persevere?

  • Sandy

    Jen, you help me persevere! Know you’re not looking for praise, but before your emails, I would read the first news and turn it off. Now, through your encouragement, I take small steps. Your emails encourage me to believe that no matter what….and that could be a big awful what… the spirit you encourage will be there. And this is what I can do to keep big, awful whats from happening.

  • Peggy Lubozynski

    John Oliver, Sam B., Seth Meyer’s “A Closer Look”. All are fact-filled and amusing. They help to put the intentional cruelty by this administration into perspective and give me hope that there are good, informed, and active people out there still. Also, helping with voter registration and sending Jen’s thank you post cards, lift my spirits.

  • Vicci Johnson

    I am a retired teacher. I am grateful for the persistence and activism of the Florida high school students.
    As the students continue to respond to the shootings, I want to assure them of the millions of baby boomers (grandparents) who support their efforts. These students are not the children of the boomers, but the grandchildren of the boomers.
    The social activism genes jumped a generation.
    I have faith their generation will reduce the social injustices in the US by voting appropriately.
    At this time in world history, the most urgent issue is climate change.
    Kick ass grand-kids…Your grandparents are behind you.

  • Carter Bowersox

    Some days the daily barrage of horrible news makes me want to curl up in a ball and just give up. Some days I do just that. But then I I read a story in our local paper about someone truly doing something to make the world a better place. I am reminded that sometimes its the little things that make a big impact collectively. That and knowing that I don’t want this world left in a worse state for my children.

  • Karen Beal

    Focusing on community keeps me from feeling overwhelmed and reminds me that we are more alike than different. I very much appreciate the respectful and moderate approach of your action list, Jen. I try to be a respectful and moderate person – it suites me well. I’ll make the calls of action – not as hard as I thought at the start – but enjoy the thank you postcards more.
    I use my circle of like-minded friends to buoy my spirits, ask my Trump friends about their thought process without sounding snarky (a real exercise in respect) and I have stopped watching cable and major news stations on TV. Reading news is so much better for my soul. Commiserating via the politiComedy shows calms me – national eyes are turned to the issues and my thoughts seem amplified.

  • Rosemary

    I have found that doing is better than griping. Action feels better and has a higher chance of moving the needle in the direction I prefer. Calling, canvassing, marching, creating an advocacy group at church, tutoring refugee kids, etc. also reading about our country’s history in detail helps me see our struggles over time. Currently reading Sisters in Law about RBG and O’Connor and am learning a ton about how the Supreme Court works and the struggles for women’s rights.

  • Susan

    Nature therapy always helps me…a morning walk in the foothills with my dog helps me to center myself for the day. Also, l do not allow myself to watch any TV news and l do not look at any news on my devices after 5pm. Also, I take solace in the resistance that has been formed in the past couple years. I have lived long enough to know that the political pendulum swings… I trust it will swing back…
    Thanks Jennifer for your blog!

  • Kitty Williamson

    Thanks for your post on “climbing the hill.” Timely and needed and wise.

  • Susanna Natti

    What a great “aha”moment and thanks for sharing it. I had a similar moment when I realized that I was dreading heading downstairs to my desk to start work (I worked at home). One day I realized I was setting myself up for procrastination and misery and I resolved that when I approached my desk I would literally have a smile on my face. The facial muscles worked…and the spirit followed.

  • Anne Parlier

    You and the Americans of Conscience Checklist volunteers help me to persevere. When I think I’m too tired and overwhelmed I see the work that everyone does and think that I am a small part of that and that I am needed to make it happen. I also remember that one action may seem small but added to the actions of so many others it become HUGE and meaningful. Thank you for what you do.

  • jeanne barrett

    I welcome demands so I can rise to the occasion, with the assumption that I am designed to do hard things.

    I prioritize being effective over being important.

    Allow a bigger picture, as well as trust in unexpected support

    One step at a time: choose an area, and proceed step by step

  • Toby

    Sometimes I need help persevering when it feels like I’m not doing enough. I see the list of possible actions in this newsletter, and I want to do so many. But usually, I don’t have time to do more than one or even that. Then I remind myself: I founded a nonprofit. I worked for that nonprofit for years with almost no help. And today I run that nonprofit and help nonbinary, trans, and intersex people every day to gain new rights in a time that is very, very scary for the LGBTQ community. So when I can’t do more than that, I remind myself that that IS enough, today. And I keep reading Jen’s newsletter even on the weeks I can’t take additional actions. I persevere knowing that I am not alone, that everyone else is doing something, and that I am doing enough.

  • Evelyn

    Your post could not have been more timely. It’s mother’s day, so I have to say that my kids inspire me to persevere. I want to make sure they witness positive actions in the face of challenging news and situations. As a photographer, I find details, frame them in the lens, and notice the stunning colors, textures and compositions. And then I think about the power of compost which transforms decomposable refuse into nourishment for the planet and us. Sometimes it’s smelly and messy, but patience pays off. So I just keep showing up.

  • Elizabeth

    One thing I use to help me persevere is a trick I learned from the zenhabits website — let go of goals, focus on habits. So I just sit down during my weekly activism slot (3 hours on Wednesday afternoons), open up the two newsletters I subscribe to and anything else that I wrote on my “Do Something” list, and just go down my list, calling or writing my rep and then moving to the next item.
    When time’s up I delete that week’s newsletters, and move on to the next part of my day. Next week I come back and do it all again. I don’t get caught up in worrying about whether a specific letter or call will be effective, I just focus on putting in the time, putting in the effort, and trusting that if nothing else, speaking imperfectly is making more of a difference than staying silent would.

    The other trick I use is from work, and it’s really about compartmentalization. When I was helping to run a small alternative school, I could have thought about work 24/7 if I let myself — about administrative work, and the classes I was teaching, and the classes I wanted to teach next semester, and the conflict I’d mediated the day before, and the advertising we needed to do before the summer, and what to write in the next newsletter… If I let myself, I would be completely subsumed into the work. Instead, every morning when I sat down to work I’d play my Kick Some Ass music (AC/DC) and put on my work hat. When I was done for the day, I’d put on my ending music (Jimmy Buffett) and take off my work hat. Any time I thought of work when I wasn’t wearing my work hat, I’d just imagine putting taking the thought out of my head or off my chest and putting it in a bucket, even saying out loud to myself, “Put it in the bucket”. It didn’t work right away, but over time I trained myself to genuinely rest when it was rest time, and to leave work (mostly) for work time. And while there were folks who judged me for only working during my official work hours, not only was it better for my health and wellbeing, it also made me better at my job, IMO. And likewise, just deciding on a couple Activism slots in our weeks, committing to those slots and giving ourselves permission to live our lives and find joy where we can during the rest of the week, will make us better, more effective, more persistent activists.

    • Diana Veazey

      Great suggestions. I have “played at doing that” but not stuck to it. Healthy boundaries is what I need….Thanks for no only reminding me those are ok to set….but encouraging me as well!

  • Jessica Gibson

    I persevere because of my kids. My kids are little but my oldest is naturally curious about the world. I want him to know that even though things aren’t perfect, I’m trying to improve it in some way. I hope my actions show him that he too can make changes.

  • Krista Swager

    I did this suggested exercise and decided to ask 2 women running for office in my state what helps them persevere. The first is a candidate running for a state house seat from my own district. I have watched her at many events and am so impressed with her care and concern for everyone. She is a single mom with a child who is on the autism spectrum ( I also have a child on the spectrum) and another child who is gay. She works many jobs. Her faith is what helps her persevere. The other candidate is running for a house seat in another part of the state. She made national headlines when she called out in session the amounts of money legislators took from companies that affected a decision on mineral rights, a blatant conflict of interest. She was dragged out of the session. She also answered my question thoughtfully. She perseveres by taking time to recharge her batteries. She does gardening, goes hiking, restores her camper and writes. I’m glad you had us reach out to others to get their perspectives. I enjoyed reaching out to these amazing women and hopefully come November, 2 of our newest West Virginia state delegates.

  • Joanna Theiss

    Jen, thank you for this post and the opportunity to share! The single most helpful thing that helps me persevere is my cooler-headed partner. The news, particularly how it comes at us so quickly and forcefully now, often sends me into an anxiety tailspin, and I want to cry and rage and hide until it all (read: Trump) goes away. My lovely, calm partner listens to me cry and rage, watches me try to hide, and then reads THE WHOLE ARTICLE and/or researches the primary material and talks to me about it in a reasonable voice. After I’m done yelling at them for not panicking, I start to listen and calm down. And then, we plan concrete actions that can make a difference, even if a small one (which is where your checklist comes in)!

  • Eliza

    Our neighbor has a large sign propped up against their house that says “Resist Despair”. Everyday when I drive by it, I read it and am thankful for the reminder. I haven’t ever told them how much it means to me – maybe I should! : )

  • Celeste Chapman

    On perseverance: I imagine myself as a cowgirl lassoing the moon. I hold fast to the rope tied to my goal, there will be ups and downs, times you rest and focus on other matters, but never letting go of the rope.

  • James

    Sharpening my focus helps me persevere. In difficult times or when there is an overwhelming amount of sad news, it is very easy to lose sight of your life goals. In fact, the more you worry, the harder it is to persevere. So for me, I just direct my thoughts towards my own goals, eventually, every bad season passes. The positive bit is that due to the perseverance induced by staying focused, you are always getting close to achieving your life goals.

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