“Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.” ~Robert Strauss
We love stories about people who never quit. From the movies like Rocky and The Pursuit of Happyness to The Little Engine that Could, we are inspired by stories of perseverance. But what if it were possible to become like one of these persistent people (or trains)? The truth is it is possible for each and every one of us to build a persistent mindset.
Perseverance is believing that every obstacle, no matter how big or small, can be defeated. Determination is a key ingredient to accomplishing our goals and dreams. It would be difficult for me to think of one widely successful person, business, or idea that did not come to past without perseverance.
When we run into problems, we have the option to either give up or to keep going. The decision to keep going builds our perseverance and makes us stronger and more capable to handle the next obstacle.One early Saturday morning, I learned a valuable lesson about perseverance.
I Hear Voices
It all started on a Friday afternoon when I decided to treat myself to a snack: a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut. I pulled into the drive-thru and ordered one doughnut. When I pulled up to the window and handed the lady a dollar, she handed me a box. Being sure that she had made a mistake I said, “Excuse me, I only ordered one doughnut”.
She said, “The person in front of you cancelled their order so I gave you a few extra.”
I thanked her and drove home. When I got home I realized that there were six doughnuts in the box. “I wanted only one doughnut. What am I going to do with six? There is no way I’m going to eat them all.”
So, after I ate the six doughnuts, and somewhere in between the sugar high and sugar crash, I decided to run an extra mile on top 3 miles come next morning.
The next day I woke up early and prepared myself for my morning run. I drove to a nearby lake and began running with the intention of running 4 laps around it. It was dark, cold, and quiet. I really did not want to be out there but I had made the commitment to run the 4 miles.
As I was on my last lap around the lake, I could hear the voice of doubt loud and clear. I began to think about how tired I was. I started to mentally complain about how my legs where feeling heavy and how I was out of breath. I wanted to stop running and walk the rest of the way because I was convinced that it was too hard.
Then I thought, “What’s my problem? It’s not like I’ve never ran 4 miles before. Why am I entertaining the thought of giving up?”
Once I realized what was going on, I knew that I had to fight the temptation of giving up. I had to fight the voice that was telling me to quit. I began to run faster and faster until I was in a full sprint. The closer I got to finish the lap, the louder the voice got, and the more I wanted to give up.
I combated the voice by running as hard as a possibly could, determined to finish the lap strong. When I finally finished the lap, I was exhausted and out of breath. It was still cold and quiet. The voice of doubt was gone and the feeling of inadequacy was replaced by a sense of accomplishment. It felt like I had just defeated a giant; and truthfully, I did.
I learned so many very important lessons about persistence that morning that have stuck with me. Now, whenever I come across a problem or an obstacle, I think about that morning. I think about how hard it was to finish that last lap. I think about how much I wanted to stop running. I think about how close I came to giving up and how good it felt when I didn’t. I learned that having a persistent mindset can be achieved, but first you must be able to silence the voice in your mind.
Silence the Voice of Doubt
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’
then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
~Vincent van Gogh
Self-doubt can rob and steal excitement from your life. When we entertain and allow doubt to overtake our lives, we are essentially choosing to miss opportunities for growth. The little thief in the mind can have a big influence on our actions. Your voice may be saying you are too young, too old, too inexperienced, or not good enough. Silencing that voice is essential to building a persistent mindset.
Ways to silence the doubts:
Make the Decision -There is a lot of power behind making a decision. When you truly make a decision towards what you want, resolve to do whatever you can to make that decision a reality.
Don’t fear mistakes -We can often be afraid of making mistakes. That fear prevents us from taking action towards our goals. Mistakes can create learning opportunities that are needed if we truly want to advance in our lives.
Avoid doubters - Stay away from people who reinforce the doubting voice in your head. Finding people who encourage and support your goals can help quiet the voice of doubt.
When in doubt, do - Self doubt prevents decisive actions. Action is the key to success. If you come across a situation where you begin to doubt your ability, take action.
Find Other Avenues to Practice Perseverance
There are many different ways to accomplish something. We sometimes allow the little obstacles and excuses stop us from reaching out destination. Instead of letting those obstacles stop us, we should find ways to get around those obstacles with perseverance.
If you were on your way to work and there was an accident on the highway that stopped you from getting there, what you would do? If you valued your job, you would get off of the highway and take another road to work. It may take you a little longer to get there but the route will get you there. Very few would say, “Well, the road is blocked, so I guess I should go back home”.
We must find other avenues that will get us to our destinations. One road block, rejection, or failure should not prevent us from reaching our goals. If you have a tendency to let obstacles get in the way, begin to think of alternate ways to accomplish your ambition.
Do the Impossible
Most of us keep a mental list of things we are unable to do. You may have told yourself that you are not a social person, aren’t athletic, or perhaps you told yourself that you cannot succeed in a certain profession.
Why do we allow ourselves to believe we are unable to do something just because it seems too difficult or because we were unable to do it in the past? Perhaps it is because of the amount of work that is required to do it. Or maybe it is because the sting of failing in the past is still fresh in our minds so trying again would just be too painful. Whatever the reason be, a great way to build perseverance is to resolve to conquer those challenges.
I was a pretty good student all through school; but math was the one subject I could not seem to conquer. I was happy with a ‘C’ and would expect a celebration if I pulled off a ‘B’. Even though I would miraculously pull off a good grade every once in a while, I was convinced that being good at math was impossible for me.
When I got to college, I knew that I was going to face a familiar enemy. The level of mathematics would be much harder than in high school and I knew that if I didn’t conquer my inability succeed in math, it would limit me in future careers. I decided that I would try my very best until I completely understood the math courses that I enrolled in. I took my learning very seriously and asked questions in class the moment I didn’t understand a concept. I would use my free time to do problems that were not assigned to the class and I would review every lesson two or three times.
After hours of study and dedication, I ended the semester by having the second highest grade percentage in the class. It was an empowering moment and I learned that the reason why I was never good at math was because I told myself I wasn’t good at math. I now have a lot of confidence in my math abilities and use them effectively at my job.
Create a list of things that you think you cannot do. It can be something you have struggled with for years like I had with math, or it can be something that you may have never even tried. Challenge yourself to do just one thing on your list. Commit to going the extra mile to accomplish that thing to your satisfaction.
Stay Focused (The “Punch Buggy” Reminder)
Focus is extremely important when developing persistence. The more we can focus ourselves on where we are trying to go, the easier it will be for us to get there. One of the best ways to stay focused is to constantly remind yourself of your goals and direction.
The Cadillac CTS-V has caught my eye recently. Over the past few months I have grown to have a crush on this particular beautiful piece. As with past automobile crushes that I have had, I am now seeing this car everywhere. I have decided to use this fact to my advantage.
As a child, you may have played a game called “punch buggy” on long road trips. The rules are pretty simple, whenever you see a Volkswagen Beetle; you punch the person next to you. As an adult, I have learned to use this game as a way to stay focused on my goal.
First I choose an affirmation, goal or quote. Then I begin to associate this phrase with my assigned car. Whenever I see the vehicle on the road, on television, even in a magazine, I repeat this phrase. No matter where I am or even if I am in the car with another person, I repeat this phrase out loud when I see this car. This has been an amazing exercise that has increased my focus.
Keep a Log of Perseverance
Whenever I enter a task or challenge that I think that I cannot get across, I think about what I have accomplished in the past. A victory log is a place where you write down all of your accomplishments and how you accomplished them. Whenever the need to give up comes around, you can refer to your log to see how you were able to overcome previous obstacles.
I’ve written down many things in my victory log. I have even gone back to when I was a child and how I was able to learn how to tie my shoe laces. It may seem unnecessary to list something as simple as learning to tie my shoes but I recall the day that I learned how to do it. I remember how much I wanted to learn and how good it felt when I finally got it. Remembering how good it felt helps me to persist towards my current goals and I think about how good it is going to feel when I accomplish them.
By keeping a victory log you will have written proof of how strong and capable you really are. With every page that you turn, you may see that you have what it takes to conquer the new challenges.
How do you practice perseverance? Got any useful tips?
Photo by Jon Jacobsen
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