Debra sat before her manager in tears. After almost two weeks of sales training, she could no longer bear the pressures. Debra passed her tests, she even excelled at some presentations, but she didn’t participate much with the class, and worst of all, after she stood outside an Operating Room to witness a procedure, she nearly fainted. Her apparent frailties portended poorly for her potential success as a surgical sales representative in one of the most challenging territories in the U.S.—New York City.
“Maybe this is not the right fit for you,” her manager said.
“I can do this,” Debra responded. So with reservations Debra’s company allowed her to continue on a probationary status.
Fast-forward twelve years. Debra won every major sales award offered by the company and became one of the most successful sales persons in its history. Ask Debra the key to her success and she will say, “I never give up, and when someone tells me to give it up, I try even harder.” That is the mantra of a successful person, and it’s spelled p-e-r-s-e-v-e-r-a-n-c-e.
No personal success, achievement, or goal can be realized without the self-discipline to persevere. It is without question the most important attribute needed to achieve any type of personal excellence. Take note of every great leader, of each outstanding contributor, and you will find perseverance in the face of trials as their surest mark of authentication. They never give up.
Winston Churchill’s famous “Never give up, never give in…” speech at the Harrow School in 1941 preceeded Germany’s failed attempt to bomb England—a turning point in World War II—by three years. Faith in oneself and in God, as Churchill demonstrated, leads to a moral conviction that can override seeming defeat in pursuit of a fixed goal.
Psychologists suggest that people trying to develop perseverance must think positively. Failure is not an option. That requires self-control when doubts arise in order to maintain a view of the horizon through the din of others declaring defeat. Perseverance is a mindset that must be trained through sheer resolve.
An assimilation of several studies now proves that we can accomplish this form of self-discipline in order to develop perseverance through these nine (9) validated ways:
- Practice humility, otherwise known as self-denial. Learn to say no to some of your feelings and impulses. Train yourself to do what you know to be right, even if you don’t feel like doing it. Skip a favorite TV program once in awhile to do something more worthwhile. Pass over that dessert on occasion. Resist the urge to scream at someone who has angered you. Ask forgiveness when you fail someone, even though you don’t feel like it. Pause and consider the consequences. When you practice self-control it helps you develop the habit of keeping on track toward loftier goals.
- Engage in some form of activity, exercise, or hobby. A regular regime like a sports activity or learning to play a musical instrument helps develop the self- discipline to persevere when you’d rather do something leisurely, like sitting in front of the computer or fiddling with your smart phone. Doing something that challenges your ability trains you to tackle stretch goals, and focuses your mind onto something with a fixed point of attainability. Participating in a routine like exercise creates a situation where you learn to work diligently, and it integrates a disciplined thought processes that can translate into your everyday life.
- Finish what you start. Finishing is indeed an art. We have to fight distractions, perfectionism, and what Steve Pressfield calls “the Resistance.” Whatever you choose to do, the art is to get it done. Establish deadlines. Keep yourself accountable and ask others to help you be accountable. Wrap your finished plans up and send them out completed. The legendary basketball player, Michael Jordan, was cut from the varsity squad in high school, yet he persevered. He always maintained that his greatness as a basketball player came as much from his willingness to work hard at his craft, as it did his talent, by always completing his practice schedule.
- Visualize the rewards. Few things are as gratifying as accomplishing your goals. We can attain our goals by practicing the technique that top athletes and other high achievers use. Project yourself into the future. Visualize your desired outcome. Mentally place yourself at the end of your goal and feel the reward and the many benefits you will enjoy. Athletes do this all the time. They see the result they want clearly and rehearse it over and over again. This breaks through doubt and develops the confidence to succeed. Visualization constructs an inevitable knowing that your success will occur.
- Take full responsibility. Once you take 100 percent responsibility for your outcomes, you overcome the inevitable frustrations and you empower yourself as the leader of your own life. Notice great leaders: they rarely if ever make excuses. Leaders know they have more to gain by admitting their mistake and moving forward to correct it than they do from dwelling, blaming and wasting time.
- Don’t major in the minors. Focus on what’s most important – don’t focus on the things that don’t matter. Only focus on what brings you the greater return. Center yourself on the 10% of what’s most critical first, before doing anything else. For example: if you’re a sales person, the most important thing is maintaining your customers and developing new ones. All the recreational activities like Facebook chatting or blogging won’t return anything of lasting value unless you make those sales calls, first.
- Limit bad stress and take advantage of good stress. Bad stress is actually distress, and manifests itself in a chronic or ongoing stress that begins to hinder your everyday life and stops you from completing necessary tasks. Good stress is not debilitating; rather, it inspires and propels you to complete a given task or goal, thereby improving your brain’s cognitive ability. Important to understand is that good stress only manifests itself for a short period, like participating in a sports competition or making that important presentation. Practice the good kind of stress and dispense with the bad kind whenever possible.
- Just do it. Sitting around the house all day and doing nothing leads to nowhere. You can’t achieve anything lying down except catch up on your required sleep. The same goes for waiting too long. Many people go from analysis to paralysis by over thinking their way to success. They prevent themselves from achieving by succumbing to fear, and end up doing nothing. Sometimes, we need to override our brain, put on our clothes, and just do it! If that’s a problem, and you’re caught in paralysis mode, try noting the benefits you will receive from taking action, and keep those benefits top of mind as you persevere toward the finish line.
- Expect only the best. Refuse to give attention to disparaging thoughts. Think positively. Refuse to engage in those masochistic thoughts that portend a bad outcome. These negative thoughts drain you, cause bad stress, and prevent you from moving forward. When this happens, focus on the present moment. Think with a fresh attitude through a beginner’s mindset by focusing on the here and now. Try a little humor to feel good by laughing, smiling, and remembering pleasant times. By focusing on those good thoughts inspiration will begin to bubble-up again. And this will reinvigorate your motivation.
When all else fails, and circumstance say “give-up,” draw on your faith and declare: “I’m getting up to give it one more try!” The world often tells us to stop and just wait for a better day. However, that better day can start now. Each time you conquer a fear or an obstacle it makes you stronger. Sometimes you just need to take a baby step – accomplish something small and grow from there. Taking small steps turns into bigger steps, creating a momentum of success that eventually builds great things. Consider the giant trees that tower over our heads – they all started from small seeds. Your greatness starts with persevering through the small things.
– Randy Kay is a CEO of TenorCorp/PACEsetters, a strategic and talent development firm. Prior to this he has overseen training and development for top performing companies, been a biotech CEO, Board Member for over 20 organizations, executive for Fortune 100 companies, and has published four books and several articles in business magazines such as Switch & Shift and Forbes as well as conducted interviews through numerous networks. Do you want to grow and develop your career and life? Contact Randy Kay directly or discover more at www.pacesetters.training
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” – Dale Carnegie
“You’ve got to say, ‘I think that if I keep working at this and want it badly enough I can have it.’ It’s called perseverance.” – Lee Iacocca
“Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth.” – Julie Andrews