It should come as no surprise when the process of practice is tedious and difficult–especially at first. It should also come as no surprise that the rewards of seeing something through are much, much greater than the very temporal relief of giving up.
As a homeschool parent teaching my daughter to write, it’s hard to keep the bigger picture in mind–the idea that small progresses on a daily basis are the goal, not perfection the first time around. It’s the struggle–wrestling with something difficult until one is strong enough to conquer–that matters more than the final product. Small progresses do add up. Soon larger progress is made, then comes the occasional breakthrough. It’s not the other way around for most of us.
So why do we get discouraged and give up when we don’t see an immediate breakthrough? Something in our mindset must be terribly off. Listening to this news piece on the Morning Edition on NPR ( http://www.npr.org/2013/09/02/218067142/why-eastern-and-western-cultures-tackle-learning-differently ) brought home this issue. In American culture at large, we downplay the importance of struggle and practice. We think to ourselves, “Why can’t I get this?” and are tempted to give up when we have not truly put in the effort required to gain the basics of whatever skill we are trying to learn.
Americans were not always this way. We used to be a people of sticktoitiveness. We settled an enormous land, faced grave dangers, and fed our families in the wilderness. We went up against the British and won. We used to have a strong work ethic in academic realms and in the plowed field. We used to do it because it was what pleased our Heavenly Father, or because it was expected of us. Now our children are not willing to sit in a desk and work at a math problem for more than thirty seconds before giving up. That should tell us something.
We should look at struggle as a way to gain strength, not as a stamp of failure on our lives. Real failure is giving up and not doing one’s best to meet a good challenge, intellectual or otherwise. Let us pursue the art of the struggle and teach our children the process of character-building practice.