"How Long Are You Willing to Work on it?"

Every 4 years an assessment called the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is administered around the globe.  This assessment is given to the students of different countries to see how they rank in their abilities in math and science, as well as to compile information about current trends.  

Along with the results of the TIMSS assessment the researchers gather a lot of data on the background of the students who are taking the test.  To accomplish this the students must also complete a long, 120+ question intake questionnaire.  It's so long in fact that some students fail to finish the intake questionnaire and leave 10-20 of the questions blank.  

Looking at the intake questionnaire, a researcher out of the University of Pennsylvania discovered something fascinating.  He found that if you rank the countries in order based on their willingness to complete the intake questionnaire, the list created matches the list of how the countries scored on the test itself.  And I don't mean that there was just somewhat of a correlation.  He found that the two lists were identical.

He essentially found that you could discover how well students would perform on a math and science exam without having them answer any questions about math or science.  All you would need to do is see how hard they are willing to work.  It would seem that a willingness to work on a problem longer was a key indicator for success.

When I discovered this, I couldn't help but draw parallels to my own work in health and fitness.  

Time and time again I find that the people who are able to achieve the change they seek and live fulfilling lives are not necessarily the ones who have the smartest approach, but the ones who stick with an issue and keep working on it.  It's not as simple as saying, "work more and work harder".  Having a better approach makes the work easier and more fun.  But at the end of the day the people I see who have the greatest success are the ones who are able to sit with a problem and stay with it until they've figure it out.

That's not a bash on anyone who has tried and failed before.  It doesn’t mean you're lazy.  But maybe you didn't give yourself enough time to figure it out.  We think in the short term and we want to see results yesterday.  But that's not how problems get solved.  Things take time, especially when it comes to our health and lifestyle.

So if you're seeking change within yourself give yourself the time needed and sit with the problem.  Change your time frame and allow things to breathe a little bit. Like kids who are making their way through a difficult math or science question on a test, ask yourself, “how long am I willing to work on it?”