I begin with the ubiquitous quote by Calvin Coolidge which aptly sums up the quality of persistence:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
The conventional definition of persistence is: “Refusing to give up or let go; persevering obstinately; firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.”
Is it any wonder then, that persistence is the fundamental difference between a successful outcome and a failed outcome? In that case, it behooves us to develop the vital quality of persistence.
Here are some tips on developing persistence or perseverance:
Tips on How to Develop Persistence
➢ Decide what you want to accomplish and set goals. We all know how important setting goals is for achieving success in any endeavor, so take some time to figure out what it is you want. Do you want to lose ten pounds, graduate from college, run a marathon or be a business success? In a study done in New York several years ago researchers surprisingly found that people who set clear, concise goals succeeded in achieving them 95% of the time! Interestingly, the one caveat or stipulation was that they only achieved their goals if they refused to quit and continued to bounce back from difficulties along the way.
Indeed, no significant feat has ever been accomplished without the trials and tribulations that go along with it. In his wonderful poem Don’t Quit Edgar Albert Guest gives us plenty of inspiration and encouragement to forge ahead, particularly when the going gets tough.
➢ Prepare for Obstacles and Setbacks. Know and accept that there will be obstacles and setbacks; then prepare for them. Nothing important was every accomplished without adversity, setbacks and difficulties to contend with along the way. Henry Ford went bankrupt three times before he managed to design his first automobile. As we all know and are grateful for, he subsequently succeeded to become one of the richest men in the world. He said: “Failure is merely an opportunity to more intelligently begin again.” Thomas Edison is said to have tried 10,000 times to create the light bulb before he succeeded. His attitude was: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Persistence is definitely the difference between a successful outcome and a failed one due to giving up.
One of the ways you can prepare for setbacks and obstacles is to anticipate potential problems and have a contingency plan. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, you must know that there will be occasions when it’s not possible to stick to your weight loss regimen. In such cases, you will need to prepare alternative meals ahead of time or be mentally prepared to deviate from your regimen. Unfortunately, instead of allowing for and being prepared in such situations, many people give up entirely declaring it impossible to stick any diet. In doing so, they often sabotage all healthy eating and give up in despair.
Another example would be endeavoring to become a marathon runner and you fail on your first attempt at finishing a marathon. Should you give up and never try again? No, not at all! You would have to figure out where you may have miscalculated your fitness level, the type of food you ate and your training patterns. After doing some research to find out how improve, you would then give it another whirl!
Also keep in mind that when we are overwhelmed with a problem or difficulty, we don’t have time then to develop the persistence necessary to deal with the particular obstacle or set back. However, if we plan in advance for life’s inevitable ups and downs, we will be psychologically ready when they come upon us.
➢ Take the first step. You cannot persevere; much less succeed, if you never try to accomplish something. So many of us procrastinate, fear failure or are too frozen in our tracks to take the first step towards achievement. You will not fail if you don’t try something, however, you will never succeed either. As the popular saying goes, “The only real failure in life is the failure to try.”
➢ Review, reevaluate and revise. If things do not work out the way you hoped then review the steps you took and the process you followed. Reevaluate by examining what went wrong and where. What didn’t work? What could you have done better? Did you have all the necessary skills and tools? Your findings will be most illuminating, and in turn, allow you to set up a better, more comprehensive approach. You will revise and improve the current strategy.
➢ Garner support and encouragement. Stay away from naysayers; instead seek advice from those experienced in your field of endeavor and those who want you to succeed. They can assist you by making suggestions and recommendations based on their experience and expertise. You will still have to do the hard work, but there is nothing more encouraging than having positive reinforcement.
➢ Maintain focus. One of the obstacles to attaining success is losing motivation and focus. A good way to maintain focus is to visualize yourself accomplishing your goal no matter what it takes. Vividly see yourself accomplishing your goal – keep your eye on the prize. Likewise, avoid getting caught up in negative or unproductive thinking such as, “This will never work.” “I can’t do this.” Instead, keep inspiring slogans handy, pictures of those who have persevered in life, and whatever else will motivate and boost your drive.
➢ Enjoy! The greatest feelings of accomplishment derive from knowing you’ve overcome obstacles and conquered adversities to achieve your goals. Your ultimate success will be exponentially more satisfying and fulfilling when you know what it took to get there.
People who have persisted in spite of disabilities and obstacles:
- Ludwig van Beethoven (composer, pianist) became deaf at the age of 30 and composed most of his beloved works after he lost his hearing.
- Helen Keller (author) was deaf and blind from the age of 19 months. She wrote 12 books, various articles and was the first blind person to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree.
- Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder (musicians) both of whom are blind have achieved much in their genres of music.
- James Earl Jones (actor) known for his booming resonant voice was once a stutterer.
- Marlee Matlin (academy award-winning actress) is deaf.
- Itzhak Perlman (virtuoso concert violinist) has legs paralyzed from polio.
- Terry Fox (runner) was an amputee from cancer.
As you can see from the wonderful examples above, obstacles and adversity need not stop you from accomplishing great things. If anything, courageous persistence is the one quality more than any other that can guarantee success.