Despite knowing the importance of persistence, most people have trouble focusing singlemindedly and putting in efforts consistently in the area that they want to succeed in. Our good intentions or brilliant ideas don’t see the light of day, because of some of the habits we possess that seem insignificant and mundane.
More often than not, we find ourselves doing not what we wish to do but what we are accustomed to doing. For example, I had been thinking for months that I must wake up earlier by an hour each morning. Easy enough, right? But each night, I would find myself spending time on trivial things that I had not planned to do, like reading random articles, or surfing through emails or reflecting about some things that may have happened during the day.
These unplanned non-events led to late nights and consequently each morning I woke up no earlier than usual. Some of you may relate to this situation. Just replace ‘want to wake up early’ with ‘want to go for a walk’, ‘want to read every night’, ‘want to eat healthy’, ‘want to meditate’, ‘want to spend more time with my team’, ‘want to get to the office before time’, ‘want to learn a new skill’… by now you get the drift.
Perseverance is a trait that people with high emotional intelligence possess. As Daniel Goleman says in his book ‘Emotional Intelligence’ – “Studies of Olympic athletes, world-class musicians and Chess grand masters find their unifying trait is the ability to motivate themselves to pursue relentless training routine”. One would think that these people are wired differently. But they are not. Perseverance is not something that you either have or you don’t, it’s something that can be developed. Following are 5 simple yet highly effective ways to build perseverance and pave your path to success:
1. Start Small & Take Breaks
‘Many drops make an ocean’ is definitely something to think about. If we straight away start thinking about all the effort and resources that would be required to achieve something, the thought could promptly dissuade our minds from giving it a try, hence begin small.
If you want to run 5 km each morning, start with one or even half a km. The initial few days of trying something new can be stressful. It takes our body and mind, time, to get used to things. If eating healthy is your goal, start with one healthy meal a day. It takes a little less effort and helps you get used to the change. If you are working on a report, work in half-hour chunks with a five-minute break between every half an hour ( check out the Pomodoro Technique)
2. Celebrate Small Wins
Even if you have run just a kilometer on two consecutive days, while your aim may be to run 5, give yourself a pat. Well begun is half done. Reward yourself with something small. It could be listening to your favourite music, reading your favourite book or spending time on a call with your friend. The choice is yours but the celebration is a must to keep you motivated.
3. Surround Yourself With Cheerleaders
Share your goal and efforts with people who care for you. Those people who would be excited and happy to see you do well. Enrol their help, let them check on your progress and remind you how well you are doing. They will become your support system and give you the much-needed boost when you feel like giving up. All of us need cheerleaders to cheer us on.
4. Watch Your Self-Talk
What do you tell yourself when you set out to run a mile but are tired and end up walking half the distance instead? Do you cut yourself some slack or beat yourself up? Do you think that you will rest a little and try again or do you say, “There I did it again! Why am I sloppy, slow and incapable?” Watch out, the one person whose words have a significant impact on you is YOU! Pay attention to your self-talk. Reframe the negative lines with positive ones. So instead of saying “I couldn’t even run 2 km”, say “I did 1.5 km, an improvement from yesterday”
5. The Last Stretch
Many years ago, as a hotelier, I was once asked to make 100 cold calls, to inform people about the upcoming New Year event. It wasn’t a very pleasant task because often people would hang up even before I completed my first sentence. Every time I was tempted to stop and take a break, I’d tell myself, “Just two more calls and then its break time”.
Consequently, I ended up doing those 2 calls more enthusiastically and I was done with all the 100, faster than expected. This strategy works really well. Stretch your limits, little at a time. If you have run a kilometer and want to stop, push yourself to run just another 100 meters more.
If you have written 600 words for the day, write just 50 more before you call it a day. Slowly but surely you will have a bigger appetite, higher capacity and things will get easier, not to mention that you will be getting closer to the win you have been looking forward to.
Little at a time, turn these pointers into habits and just like insignificant small habits can veer you away from your achievements, these small winning habits will steer you towards your big wins. Remember, nobody was born a winner or a loser, your thoughts and efforts make you so. Like Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.