Many factors figure into success – vision, belief, planning, habits, willpower, etc – but there is one key element that trumps them all: persistence. Improving your ability to persist when the going gets rough can make all the difference.
Obstacles Are a Given
I regularly conduct goal achievement-coaching programs and I’ve noticed something interesting in each of them: the undeniable link between persistence and success. In these programs, participants commit to a significant personal or professional goal to reach during the 99-day run of the program. Their goals span the spectrum – weight loss, job changes, health challenges, business start-ups, writing a book – you name it. One thing seems to be common to each person who enters the program: at some point they are going to get knocked completely off plan, off the schedule, and completely off course. In my experience – except in the rarest of cases – this is a given. It’s not a question of if, but when.
Persistence Overcomes All Obstacles
Persistence can overcome almost any shortcoming in the same way a river cuts through solid rock to create a canyon. As mentioned in a previous post, if you look at any given success story, persistence probably played a role somewhere along the way. Whether it is a result of our ever more complex and demanding lives or just an inherent, inescapable fact of life, you need to be able to survive the squalls and overcome the inevitable obstacles if you want to succeed. At some point in the journey it becomes a matter of sheer willpower and desire to dust off, suck it up, and continue the pursuit.
As you have undoubtedly experienced, success oftentimes unfolds in its own time, not necessarily on your schedule. Sticking with it gives all the energy you’ve put in and projected out time to percolate and reach critical mass. In the process of selling “Perfect Breathing”, we acquired reams of rejections over several years and were on the verge of throwing in the towel (for the second or third time), when a publisher who loved the book contacted us with a contract offer. Success takes its own time.
A War of Attrition
Woody Allen famously stated, “80% of success is just showing up.” I’ve had a lot experience with start-up ventures and the most important lesson I’ve learned is that success almost always comes down to a war of attrition. Who is left standing after the herd has been thinned? Who has planned for the long haul? When opportunity finally gets around to knocking, who is still around to answer the door?
In Malcolm Gladwell’s fascinating book “Outliers”, he shows over and over how many “overnight successes” were the result of years if not decades of serious grindstone work that finally crossed paths with opportunity. It was summed up perfectly by movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn when he said, “Give me two years and I’ll make her an overnight success!”
3 Techniques to Improve Your Persistence
Maybe you were born with it (persistence), maybe not, but you can improve your persistence quotient. Here are a couple of techniques you can use to give yourself a boost and improve your chances of success:
1) Research shows that persistence increases if, when looking at your options, you include the option to do nothing. Examine the cost and consequences of doing nothing, keeping the status quo, and include it in your planning process. Knowing that you chose your course of action and specifically choose not to do nothing will keep you invested in reaching your goal.
2) Plan for and remind yourself how you are going to handle the obstacles, the setbacks, the forces that will conspire to keep you from your goal. You will get knocked off course – whether it is a project heating up at work, a family emergency, or catching a cold or flu. How are you going to handle it? How will you re-motivate yourself?
3) Review the benefits of reaching your goal on a daily basis. Remind yourself why you are taking on this quest and how it will change your life. Keeping the benefits top of mind will help motivate you to get back on track after getting knocked off.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Steady unwavering effort toward a goal will almost always pay off – not always in the way you imagine, but almost always in a way the ultimately benefits you.
Have a persistence success story? I’d love to hear about it!