We shoot for the stars, at work and in our lives, because we’re told there is no limit to our achievement. That’s true, too. We set the goals and get to the difficult task of achieving them. Difficult, because the bigger the goal, the larger the amount of effort it needs. We need to persevere.
Such perseverance is also known as grit. Researcher Angela Duckworth says, the capacity to stick to a task, particularly when faced with difficulties, is crucial for success. Persevering in the face of adversity promotes a growth mindset, which helps treat challenges as opportunities for development and better performance.
All of this is valid. But, is it possible for our perseverance to run us down? Yes. Here’s what can happen:
It can put blinkers on us. We are committed to success, so we pick our goal and keep at it. Even if it doesn’t work. Think about new actors who make their way to Hollywood. They struggle endlessly, with long hours, low pay, and even humiliation. Sometimes just to get a 3-sec body double role. They continue for years because they dreamt of making it big as an actor. But, in doing so, they miss out on careers that are more lucrative. Ones that might give them a better life. So, what’s the cost of sticking to the goal?
It can cause dissatisfaction. To test this, researchers studied college students who were searching for a job. They found that students who were fixated on achieving the best possible job, did end up getting a job that paid 20% more salary than the others. However, they were more dissatisfied with the job they got and found the search process more painful. Unchecked perseverance can take the joy away from achievement.
It can cause health issues, both mental and physical. People who struggle to disengage from impossible goals tend to feel more stress, show more symptoms of depression, have insomnia, and are plagued with anxiety. They have higher rates of headaches, digestion issues, high blood pressure, and body inflammation. In other words, facing an unattainable goal creates a problem for a person’s quality of life. Is the dogged persistence then worth it?
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t get ambitious. There is ample merit to dreaming big. In doing so, the task is to set a goal that is big enough, so we can achieve it without causing ourselves significant distress. And when you feel distressed, it’s time to let go. Take care of yourself and re-energize.