We come now to the 8th essential factor for success: persistence.
Persistence is the ability to ‘stick to it through thick and thin.’ It is the ability to keep going even though the road may be long and hard, full of pot holes and U turns.
Persistence can only come about as a result of 1) a strong desire and 2) an absolute faith in your goal. If you have only one or neither, then persistence becomes hard to impossible to maintain.
If your desire is somewhat weak, your motivation will be weak and your actions will be spasmodic and ineffectual.
If your faith in your goal is weak or non existent, your motivation will also be weak and your actions will also be spasmodic and ineffectual.
A third factor that enables and enhances persistence is to have a concrete plan to stick to. This allows you to keep focused on your goal and its achievement.
The plan should detail the individual steps to be taken along the way to your goal – even down to your daily tasks and priorities. As you complete each step along the way, you bolster your self belief and thus faith in the goal itself. It doesn’t matter how large or small the step is, so long as you can acknowledge your progress to yourself.
Persistence needs to occur despite setbacks. For some people, there is no such thing as failure. Thomas Edison was renown to have said ‘Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. ‘
Indeed, in relation to the light bulb he said ‘I did not fail 10,000 times – I simply found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.’ So when you encounter ‘failure,’ simply reframe it as Edison did above. Another way of saying it is ‘put it down to experience and move on.’
In summary, there are 8 enablers of persistence
- Definiteness of purpose. You need to know definitely and specifically what you want. As Stephen Covey said: ‘Start With The End In Mind’
- Desire – as discussed above, there must be a ‘white hot’ desire for what you want. This is the kind of desire that burns on and on in the background. It is not the red-hot desire that is temporary and burns out quickly. Not the hot bed motivation that you get in a sales seminar or rally!
- Self belief and self reliance. This is the sustaining force that pervades all of your activities, as discussed above.
- Specific Plans. We covered this in an earlier article – if you have a plan to work to, it makes your activities purpose oriented, and importantly, easily accountable.
- Accurate knowledge. Again this was covered in a previous article. You do need to know that your activities are likely to succeed based on whatever knowledge source you use. Many failures can be traced back to inaccurate knowledge. Yet anyone who persists will then re-calibrate their activities based on the new knowledge and move forward.
- Co-operation with others. If you work on a team you’ll know what I mean. Because you have multiple sources of input about a problem or task, you are able to reach decisions quicker. More importantly, presuming each on the team has the same goal, the ‘team spirit’ can help and encourage each member to persist in their individual activities. If you are not on a team, then consider creating one for yourself.
- Will Power. In other words, how well can you delay your desire for gratification?
There was a famous experiment done in the 1960’s called the ‘Marshmallow Test.’ Psychologists offered a group of four-year olds a choice: either accept one marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes and get 2 marshmallows. To add to the dilemma, the first marshmallow was placed on the plate in front of the kid and they had to wait through the 15 minutes with it in front of them.
Naturally there were some kids who couldn’t wait and ate the marshmallows before the time was up. But there was also a number of kids who did wait and were thus rewarded with 2 marshmallows.
When these kids were followed up over the next 20 years or so, it was found that those who were able to resist the temptation also had better success in life. They were better disciplined, had more stable relationships and a better financial situation.
In general, the ‘1 mallow kids’ were motivated by red-hot desire. The ‘2 mallow kids’ were motivated by the ‘white hot’ desire. This is the desire that underpins self control and persistence.
- Habits. If you have good habits, you will persist. Conversely if you have bad habits you will not be able to persist. The 2 Mallow Kids developed good habits throughout their lives, the 1 Mallow Kids did not.
As Benjamin Franklin said: