(Videogames are just the example here. This is not a gaming post as such. It's more about language, and how having mainly negative terms for a concept makes it hard to view it positively.)
Before I praise myself for the incredible staying power that led me to finish a video game (which I shall review, in detail, in another post
), I have to admit that it was a short one: other players managed in two hours, it took me three; the moment of sticking it out came after around one hour. So the amount of willpower I would need was always fairly limited; we're not talking about the person who spent 93 hours learning to play Dota 2
(a brief venture into message boards brings up people who have played 800-1200 h and who still don't feel they're very good... that's one time-intensive hobby!)
I have, in the spirit of my previous post, invested half an hour into watching a beginner's introduction to Dota 2
and... no. Good luck to people who love this, but I will not even start.
This is a post where I try to get my thoughts in order in regard to sticking things out, giving up, and the things we invest time and willpower in. ( What I learnt from sticking it out, and why I won't do it again )
In my mind, at least, going back to a game I do not care about again and again just so I could beat it wasn't worth it. And rather than going 'see? I can overcome these hurdles and develop the skills necessary to do this thing' and going 'ok, I'm going to reinstall [games a, b, and c that I gave up on recently]' I'm going 'I'm grateful I didn't slip into that _super-determined, sticking-my-lower-jaw-out, must-do-this-or-die_ mode for any of the others; I totally give myself permission to bail from future games even earlier if I'm not feeling the love.'
Maybe we need a more nuanced vocabulary. Which we have, it's just all jumbled up inside my head, so maybe I should start by defining them, because 'in the future, I'm going to give up sooner' does not sound like a very positive statement, so the next thing I'm going to do in this post is look at how we talk about the cluster of things you invest a lot of time in, sticking with something, and walking out. ( An attempt at taxonomy )
I think most people - at least in theory/retrospect/from a distance - can tell the difference between these perfectly well: when something takes over your life (or all of your mental/physical energy), it becomes a negative force, even if it's a fun thing. Even if it's a selfless thing that helps others.
Which brings us to staying power and its opposite.
I found that when writing this post almost all of the terms - direct or metaphorical - I could come up with for continuing to invest time and energy into a situation were positive. I say this as the owner of a 'determination' icon which I often use to signify 'I will push through this, I will not give up, I will not let this beat me'.
But let's bring the last one back to gaming, for a moment, because that's bringing out the issue so very, very clearly: there is a school of video game design that tries to set players puzzles they cannot solve easily. You're pitching your skills against the guys (usually guys) who _created the bloody playing field_. As I see it, failing - or deciding that you don't want to play - is not anything to be ashamed of: if someone wants to beat you with a deck of their own construction, in a game of their own making, of course they can.
Over on captainawkward.com there are regular discussions about how to recognise that a situation isn't working for you - whether friendship, partnership, workplace - and moving on. (I really wish more people would divorce _while they still kind of liked each other_.)
Pulling the plug on a bad situation is a positive action, yet we have mainly negative words for it. Staying in a bad situation is, by definition, a bad action, yet English has plenty of ways to praise staying and very few negative terms for it.
I have twice in my life stuck things out when I should have walked away. Both times mildly abusive situations. At the end of the first, I walked away with the knowledge that I'd stuck things out and a borderline nervous breakdown; at the end of the second I walked away with nothing after all and a severe crash and having to rebuild my life from scratch over a very, very long time. Both times, quitting would have done me immense good - I would have been able to seek a better situation much, much sooner. There are a number of other situations I've walked away from, and came out slightly bruised but in much better fighting spirit; because knowing when you cannot change a situation and extracting yourself from it IS a positive action.
And yet. The only negative persistence term I could come up with is 'banging your head against a brick wall'; I'm still looking for a positive way to say 'I quit'.
The fact remains that persistence is not always a good trait: if you're in a bad (or even just meh) relationship, a dysfunctional workplace, or something that should give you joy makes you feel more stressed and less competent, then you should get out, cast off your shackles (which is not always easy), and start again.
Sometimes relationships need work (but that's another rant for another day), sometimes you cannot simply walk out of your job (then again, I've left a dysfunctional job, which led to me having to move out of my home and it was STILL the best decision I could have made!), sometimes work is boring and learning is hard or frustrating, but if you're trying to learn a complex skill and not feeling moments of success, you are probably not using the best method for you. Taking control over my learning in both programming and art has been the best thing I could have done; I was getting nowhere with 'how one should learn' or 'how everyone learns' and it would have been far too easy to give up and feel that I just had no talent at all... but I had to stop what I was doing in order to reflect and find something better to pour my energy into.