Tackling Challenges One “File” at a Time

Sometimes I wish life was easier, that things could just magically fall into place. Take potty training for example. Wouldn’t it be great if toddlers understood the whole process and got it right on the first try? Imagine how glorious it would be if your child could tap you on the shoulder and inform you oh so calmly, “It’s potty time. Don’t feel the need to rush because I’m letting you know a whole two minutes in advance. Just point me to my porcelain throne so I can do my business.” That would sure be a lot easier than having to hover over him all day, waiting for him to make “that face” and then clutching him like a football and sprinting down the hall to the bathroom, wouldn’t it?

But alas, this is not how life works. Things rarely go the way you’d like them to, especially on the first try. It usually takes more than one job interview to get a job offer. More than one scraped knee to learn how to ride a bike. More than one rough draft to produce a novel. More than one heart to heart talk to strengthen a relationship.

It often takes more than one disappointment, one struggle, one failure to get you to where you want to be.

(Yes, now’s the time to sigh if you’re feeling discouraged.)

But (here’s where you can start feeling encouraged), there’s an upside to all this. When we push through our disappointments, our struggles and our failures, we develop something inside us that makes us stronger, more resilient and more hopeful.

Let me introduce you to that something. It’s called…



1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

Perseverance is like a friend who doesn’t cheer you on from the sidelines but actually runs alongside you. It reminds you that distance is measured not only in miles but in steps. It teaches you to focus not only on the finish line but to also consider how far you’ve already come.

My first test of perseverance (the first one to really make an impact on me) happened years ago when I worked in Human Resources at a biotech company. I started out as a “paper pusher”, typing out offer letters and putting employee files together. I remember being given a task at one point that completely overwhelmed me and had me questioning, “How in the world am I ever going to get this done?!” My task was to audit each and every one of the employee files for the entire company, which included branches in the east coast and also the UK. The total number of files came out to be around 1,400.

I spent weeks in a freezing cold file room, shivering and groaning as I pulled out file by file… by file. I started out working on file #1, made it to #376, then #599, then #819… had a small party when I hit #1,000, and finally, finally arrived at #1,400. It was a happy day when I finished my task and emerged triumphantly from the file room. I may have come out a bit blue and frostbitten, but I was also a lot more confident in my ability to persevere.

Image courtesy of krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net

Is there something you are currently struggling through? I hope you will continue to persevere through it. Whether you feel like you are stuck in your own “file room” working on file #101 or #1,101, take heart and know you are that much farther from #1. Just take it one “file” at a time. 🙂

Take a listen to Miley Cyrus’, “The Climb“, a great song about perseverance.

What situations have you persevered through in your life, and how did they change you? 

Leave a Reply