Monday, December 10, 2007

JMO - When quitting is winning

I love the Sunday New York Times and especially the Sunday Magazine. This Sunday's (12/09/07) issue was the "7th Annual Year in Ideas (image link above). It's one of the best issues of the year because they showcase a lot of people and their ideas and work. And one was of particular interest.

It was "Quitting can be good for you" (requires login) which talked about the research into the physical changes in the body when people try to persevere for a goal that isn't obtainable. They discovered that people will eventually sustain near-permanent physical damage if they continue past a certain point. They don't know where or when the "tipping" point is between still being good or becoming bad for you.

And this clearly flies in the face of traditional American thinking and teaching where we're consistently told that perservence to your goal is the best path to success. In many cases it isn't and is the road to disaster or personal failure. And against what many will say, failure isn't always good for you and won't make you better. It depends on you and your goals, and your ability to see when it's not attainable to make adjustments.

It's the argument against the saying, "A winner never quits and a quitter never wins." And we're consistently shown examples of this mentality where someone or a team succeeded against all odds, circumstances or adversity. But we're never shown the many examples of those who didn't get there or those who failed along the way. We like to reward the winners forgetting all those who tried and didn't become "winners."

And we're consistently told if we aren't wining, we're not doing it right or trying hard enough. We need to just keeping trying and work harder. What we're not told is that this doesn't guarrantee success and can easily lead not to failure - because it's about trying than winning - but to a physical and/or mental collapse, especially if it's life threatening work or goal or potential deadly or suicidial.

We'll consistently blame those who suffered badly or even died as not have known enough to do better or siimply failed. We fail to recognize and acknowledge the price of perseverence in the face of reality. We fail to teach being realistic and moderation, that maybe we can adjust our goals or our effort to succeed for ourselves than someone's artificial goal. We're not told being blind to the reality of things or ourselves isn't good.

What we should be teaching is the effort, to find what works for you and do that to your best, and be aware of where or when you've past the point of physical or mental damage and it's obvious that success isn't achievable or only at a high price of yourself. That's harder to teach than a simple slogan mentality. But it's more humane and realistic.

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