The movie “Ride Like a Girl” tells the story of Michelle Payne, who was born in Australia in 1985, the youngest of ten children. Her father Paddy was a racehorse trainer. When Michelle was six months old, her mother had a fatal car accident, leaving Paddy with a family to raise and a business to run. The children grew up taking care of the horses and stables in between going to school. Paddy trained all of his children to ride, and eight out of 10 became competitive jockeys.
Michelle had the greatest passion for racing of all the children and announced, at age seven, that she was going to win The Melbourne Cup. She chafed under her father’s training, always wanting to do more than he thought she was ready for. After a major argument she stepped out on her own to enter the male-dominated world of jockeys. She was laughed at, ridiculed, and told to go home. She stayed, continued to enter races, and even though she did poorly in early competition, she continued to learn on the job. In 2004 she fell during a race, and her injuries were so severe she was told she might not walk again, much less race.
After a year of hard therapeutic work, although barely able to climb on her horse, Michelle slowly started riding again. She was determined to follow her racing dream and willing to do the work to make it happen. Gradually she began competing, always remembering her father’s instruction to “look for the opening and take it when it happens.” Her persistence paid off and she began winning races until she qualified in 2015 to run in the most prestigious race in Australia – The Melbourne Cup. She was a relatively unknown rider on an unknown horse, so the odds of her winning were set at impossible, or 100:1. As the race progressed to the final push toward the finish line, she saw the opening her father had talked about, slipped into it, pulled ahead, and became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.
It was perseverance that kept her training through tensions with her father, injuries, prejudice, and moments of discouragement. Perseverance is the ability to keep going despite obstacles, setbacks, or challenges. It’s the staying power to exert effort until the goal or dream is achieved. It’s the ability to keep going one step at a time when the finish line is nowhere in sight. People who persevere know hardships and failure at some point along the way, but, with clear vision, they keep their goal in sight.
Here are a few ideas for harnessing the power of perseverance. First, we need to be clear about what we want to achieve, including ideas on how to get there. Then, when setbacks happen we need to break down the problem into small steps so it isn’t overwhelming. People who persevere ask for help when they need it. They actively seek advice, support, and encouragement when times get tough. They are hopeful and optimistic about finding solutions. Then we can take the Dhali Lama’s attitude, which is, “If a problem can be solved it will be. If it cannot be solved there is no use in worrying about it.”
Taking care of ourselves is essential to any success, so we need to pay attention to diet, exercise, rest, social contacts, and staying hydrated. Perseverance can flourish when we keep ourselves encouraged by eliminating negative self-talk, reading inspiring stories, and participating in support groups. We must avoid comparing ourselves to others, knowing each of us has our own individual journey, with our own timeline.
We harness the power of perseverance when we do what brings us joy. In Joseph Campbell’s words, “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” Showing appreciation to others through acts of kindness and expressing gratitude are two powerful ways to increase joy and fuel perseverance. Let’s remember that people who love and support us are a treasure.
Perseverance through challenges makes us stronger and more confident in our problem-solving. It’s perseverance in the tough times that heightens our appreciation of everyday life. Through perseverance we learn to build resilience and accomplish more with renewed wisdom. With the power of perseverance we become more focused in decision-making and clarify exactly what we want. The more we practice the better we become at it, so every small accomplishment can be appreciated. Perseverance is an ongoing process, so let’s keep each other encouraged. Like Michelle, we can take whatever life gives us and continue to follow our dream. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.” We can handle that.
Until Next Time – Sylvia