Ever say, “To hell with it” because you have a setback at work and throw your New Year’s resolutions to the wind? Studies show that the “what-the-hell-effect” is real. Suppose your plan is better work/life balance, yet you can’t seem to squeeze exercise or those microbreaks into your schedule. Or your goal of getting to bed earlier backfired, and you burned the midnight oil, hitting a wall the next workday. Then you condemned yourself and gave up. Scientists say this impulsive reaction is an attempt to bring quick relief to your misery. So you seek comfort in the very thing you’re trying to overcome—the what-the-hell-effect—and it adds heartache on top of heartache.
I sat down with the Queen of Stick-to-itiveness, Erin Brockovich, who offered sage advice for all of us who wanted to start 2022 off on the right foot. In case you don’t remember the name, in 1993, Brockovich used her pit-bull determination to help residents of Hinkley, California win a massive arbitration against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The company was found liable for dumping chromium-6—a carcinogen used to suppress rust formation at the Hinkley gas compressor station—into an unlined pond in the 1950s and 1960s. The chemical seeped into the town’s groundwater. The company hid the problem and misled the community on the effects of that specific type of chromium and its link to local health problems.
But the story didn’t end there. The environmental activist was extolled in the 2000 biographical film aptly titled, Erin Brockovich in which actress Julia Roberts won an Oscar dramatizing Brockovich’s true story. Brockovich told me she learned from her mom that everybody isn’t born with stick-to-itiveness. We have to develop resilience and perseverance, even if we don’t want to and we’d rather give up. She says when you get beaten down, you have to learn to pick the ball back up and run ten yards and get slammed. You don’t throw the ball down and walk off the field. “Imagine if we saw that,” she said. “We’d be going, ‘Boo!” Then she went on with her metaphor of the Super Bowl that can help us stay in the game:
“Be prepared that you could get pushed back five or ten yards, but also be prepared when you pick that ball up again you could rush thirty or forty yards. It’s a process, and it doesn’t happen on the first try. It took the ladies of Hannibal, Missouri three years to get the ammonia out of their drinking water, but that dogged persistence, that loyalty to your cause, that stick-to-itiveness is a process. You’ll have moments when you get pushed back, but you’ll also have moments when you push ahead. And that’s what you need to remember. A lot of times people think you’re going to give up and go away. I’m a huge believer in mindfulness because it’s a matter of what your mind is saying to you and how you deal with that voice.”