For the month of December, I’m taking a bit of a diversion from my typical articles about creating professional, supportive, and nurturing work environments by eradicating workplace bullying and incivility.
Instead, I thought it would be nice to focus on the gifts bestowed by successful nurses. In my 27 years as a nurse, I’ve admired, been humbled by, and worked along side some of the most amazing nurses in the world. These nurses not only inspired me to be a better nurse, but a better human being as well. Like Rita Gabriel; who taught me how to be a good cardiac nurse; Joanne Turka who taught be how to be a good educator (Game Master!); Louise Jakubic who taught me how to be a successful nurse business owner; and Pamela Triolo who taught me how to be a leader.
All of these nurses shared similar traits, which I’d like to share with you!
Over the course of the next month I’ll be sharing a four-part series called “The Gifted Nurse” with you. We’ll cover perseverance, continuous learning, compassion and optimism. These are the four traits I feel you simply must have in order to be truly successful in the nursing profession.
WHAT IS PERSEVERANCE?
Perseverance is a beautiful thing. Thomas Jefferson described it best when he said “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” It’s perseverance that allows you to keep going long after others have thrown in the towel. Without it you wouldn’t be in nursing because nursing school without perseverance is like macaroni without cheese. No thanks.
In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth shares her extensive research demonstrating the power of persistence and passion, in other words – GRIT. I first learned about her research on this topic when I watched her TED talk. She studied the debate between natural talent and I.Q. versus practice and plain old hard work. Her research is fascinating and actually, makes me feel a bit better about the fact that I wasn’t born with certain talents but with passion and perseverance, I can achieve almost anything I want. So can you!
She explains that grit is very SIMILAR to resilience but not quite the same. Resilience is the ability to spring or bounce back from adversity. However, grit is all about the perseverance you need to accomplish your goals – no matter what. It’s getting up at 4:30am to train for a marathon or spending hours and hours practicing IV insertion until you master it.
It isn’t by chance that perseverance is first on the list, because let’s face it; you wouldn’t have made it through nursing school without it. It’s likely there that you figured out how to harness the power of perseverance in a way that has benefited you throughout your career, but why is it so important?
WHY PERSEVERANCE IS IMPORTANT
Nursing isn’t easy. We have days when we leave work feeling really good about the work we’ve done. Then we have those OTHER days when we leave work questioning our decision to become a nurse in the first place. “What was I thinking?” It’s on THOSE days that nurses with perseverance are able to rise above the muck and come back the next day to do it all over again.
One parable Duckworth shared in her book Grit made me immediately think of the nursing profession and why some of us struggle with “those” nurses who aren’t in it for the right reasons – who don’t have the perseverance it takes to keep moving forward.
Three bricklayers are asked, “What are you doing?”
The first says, “I am laying bricks.”
The second says, “I am building a church.”
The third says, “I am building a house of God.”
The first has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.
What is nursing to you? A job, career, or calling? If nursing is a calling, you have perseverance.
Only perseverance can ward off self doubt and giving up by helping us remember our ultimate goal, which gives us the strength and resolve to push past any difficulties and focus on what really matters. It reminds us why our work is important. Perseverance is all about committing to “building a house of God”..not “laying bricks.”
It’s easy to start thinking that anyone and everyone you know who has ever achieved even a shred of success throughout their lifetime has done so through some sort of natural ability, but in reality they simply persevered when others gave up. In order to be successful you have to consistently work harder than you thought possible with no guarantee of success. This is TOUGH and no amount of talent can give you this ability.
And I’m no different than any of you! Quitting a really great job to start my own company 6 years ago required a healthy dose of courage and a TON of perseverance. I knew I was a good speaker but had NO IDEA how to build a COMPANY as a speaker. Early on there were many days when I would hop on the job boards to see what was out there just in case I failed as a business owner. One day, I was feeling discouraged and my sister reminded me that if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. That if I really wanted to build a successful speaking company, I would have to be okay with the slow path to success. What kept me going was knowing that no matter how long it took, I was going to succeed.
Perseverance helped me stay the course then and still helps me stay the course now!
HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR PERSEVERANCE
Most of us aren’t naturally gifted with perseverance; we have to build and strengthen it! Here are a few tips to help you along your journey.
First and foremost, always set SMART goals! This means they should be:
- Time bound
Let’s say you’re applying for nursing school and want to set a goal to go along with such a huge step in life. Your SMART goal might look like this: I will be accepted into nursing school in Spring 2018, start the RN program in Fall 2018, and become an RN in Fall 2022.
This is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound – making it an excellent goal!
Remember Your Why
Things rarely go as planned and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any career that doesn’t have its setbacks along the way. This is why it’s important to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing! If your goal is to get your MSN your why might look like this: I want to provide a better financial future for myself and my family while still helping and caring for patients.
In order to ensure you don’t quit you’ll have to find what keeps you focused. This is different for everyone, so it’s important to find what works for you! This could be pictures of the family you’re working hard for and/or things you hope to achieve by meeting your goal, practicing visualization or affirmations, or having an accountability partner you can call when things start to get hazy for you. Whatever route you decide to take make sure you travel it regularly!
Surround Yourself With Support
No one accomplishes large goals on their own, so surround yourself with people that will support you in your on your journey! My family and friends have always been my biggest support system. I have no idea where I’d be without them, but I don’t want to find out. Choose to spend your time with, and confide in, people who truly value you as a person and want to lift you up in all you do.
After many years as a nurse, I’ve learned that success has nothing to do with the school you attended, the organization you work for, or the credentials after your name. Success has everything to do with adopting a mindset of success and it all starts with perseverance!
Take care. Be kind. Stay connected.