Five Questions to Ask in Tough Times

Margaret Wheatley's book Perseverance addresses the importance and relevance of remaining strong and steadfast in times of uncertainty and change.
To help us when we encounter difficulties, Meg has put together this list of five questions to ask yourself to help you stay aware, focused and clear in those moments when you feel like giving up:

1. Who do I choose to be for this time?
This is one of the most important questions you can ask yourself. Perseverance is a choice and you have to consciously make the decision to persevere, to not give up. When everything is going wrong, when we’re being unjustly criticized, when we’re exhausted, it helps to remember our deeper identity, who we’re trying to be, what we’re trying to accomplish.

2. Who do I know that has persevered in hard times?
Everybody has someone in their family, now or in the past, who have gone through much more trying times and persevered (otherwise we wouldn’t be here). Learn more about them and their stories. If nothing else, you’ll know that your struggles are not that big a deal; it’s just your turn to persevere. And our loneliness ends as you become aware of the many strong shoulders of those who’ve gone before that you now stand on.

3. How am I being negatively affected and influenced by my current situation?

The negative dynamics of this time—anger, aggression, anxiety, fear—can’t help but affect us. The only way we avoid being dragged under by them is to notice when they show up in us. How often are you getting angry these days? What’s your personal level of anxiety or fear? How impatient and urgent are you?

4. In my current situation, what’s the opposite of persevering?
The surprising fact is that the opposite of perseverance is not giving up, but withdrawing. We decide to protect ourselves, to not be bothered by others, to just get on with our life and abandon any notions of serving others or making a difference. Self-preservation works for the short-term, but it never leads to long-term steadfastness and satisfying contributions.

5. How have I weathered hard times in the past?

Now that we’re adults (or appear to be), it’s important to notice that we’ve gone through difficult periods in our life and we’re still here! If we can recall these difficult times, we’ll be able to notice what skills, perspectives and relationships gave us the capacity to persevere. It’s important to give ourselves credit for having gotten this far, and to consult our own hard-won wisdom for the challenges that confront us now.

Thoughts? Chime in below.


Steve Byers said...

I love this book and have already given away several copies to people who now use it in their teams and organizations. They use it to begin work, to check in with themselves, to encourage genuine inquiry, and to uplift the whole enterprise. Personally, I find myself intensely aware these days. Question 1, Who do I choose to be for this time, feels most relevant at this point because I am already convinced that it is my choice. I can ask this question daily and on any "scale" - a particular interaction, a new project, or with respect to various communities.

Eileen McDargh said...

Perspective is the other part of perseverance. I find that seeking other viewing points gives me a critical survival skill: multiple choices.

In biological terms, this is known as requisite variety. The organism with the greatest number of responses is the one that survives.Viewing points create that variety!

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