Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Perseverance or Insanity?

I’m sure you’ve all heard this saying, right? “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

But wait a minute…that’s perseverance, isn’t it? Frankly, I’ve been using so many precious resources of time, money, and energy for decades trying to publish a novel—always failing, but expecting a different result next time—that this is important for me to consider.

As I attempted without success to find out the author of the quote, I came across a blog by therapist Ryan Howes, blasting this pithy little proverb: “Repeating the same constructive behavior over and over, hoping (one day) for a positive result is difficult but virtuous. It's the effort made by eating oatmeal every morning, brushing your teeth after every meal and daily journaling. It's weekly therapy, consistent workouts and taking time for spirituality. It's Rudy trying over and over to get into Notre Dame. Or Mother Theresa tirelessly serving the poor.”

Howes does admit there is perseverance (above) and something destructive called perseveration—like repeating useless actions in an obsessive-compulsive disorder, or repeating unhelpful behavior patterns. He says it’s an important distinction to make, because “perseverance is a strong, valuable quality. Perseveration is a troubling issue needing clinical attention.”

So…have I been strong and virtuous through the years? Or do I need help from a good psychiatrist? And help for what? To keep me striving on toward my goal—or to help me stop an unconstructive and often stressful drain on my resources?


I’ve given this a lot of thought, particularly over the last year, and I’ve made a huge decision. One that I hope everyone will support me in. I’ll let you know about that decision next time.