Persist Like a Postage Stamp
The most interesting thing about a postage stamp is the persistence with which it sticks to its job. ~ Napoleon Hill
To persist means to stick to a course of action in spite of obstacles and setbacks. Persistence is a skill you can develop with patient practice. Just because you are persistent in one thing does not automatically mean that you are will be persistent in all things. Persistence depends on commitment. You persist in things that are important to you, that motivate you.
Persistence has a bad reputation. It is generally associated with sales people or telephone solicitors who don’t take no for an answer. Perseverance and industrious are other words for persistence. Since I tend to root for the underdog, I will use persistence throughout this article.
What is persistence
According to psychologists Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, persistence is the voluntary continuation of a goal-directed action in spite of obstacles, difficulties, or discouragement. It requires patience, dedication and focus. The more ambitious a person’s goal is, the more they need persistence to achieve it. In addition, challenge is a prerequisite for persistence, without it, there is no need for persistence. If something is fun and easy, there is no need for persistence.
Success rarely comes easily. In any area of our lives it is only achieved through hard work, determination and persistence driven by a vision or goal we want to reach, it is this goal that drives persistent people. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, if you really want to do something you will find a way. If you don’t, you will find excuses. Things like repeated failures, dead ends and lack of progress do not stop persistent people.
Thomas Edison was very persistent. He and his team conducted more than 10,000 experiments before he successfully invented the lightbulb. He said: I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. He also said: Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. True persistence may be seen as a burning desire to reach whatever goal a person has set. Persistent people finish what they start.
Persistent people show other characteristics, including:
- Confidence: They know what they want and they rarely listen to the opinions of those who would dissuade them.
- Flexibility: They can adapt to changing situations, adjusting their action plans as needed. This allows them to focus on their goal and not their ego.
- Responsibility: They do not give excuses or blame others for their problems or failures. At the same time they are patient with themselves and others and readily share what they have
- Lifelong Learning: Persistent people are constantly learning new skills. They are naturally curious and seek out new information related to their goals.
- Courageous: They are willing to let go of established habits or processes if they are not working and look for new alternatives. Like Edison, persistent people readily admit when something is not working and they are willing to accept good ideas from others.
Self-discipline: They have strong habits that help keep them on track and working toward their goals even when the end id fa in the future
Benefits of Persistence
I never thought of myself as persistent – I was just a slogger. I kept slogging along until something was done. I am a female version of Sisyphus. No matter how many times the boulder rolls down the hill, I push it back to the top, not because I have to (like Sisyphus) but because I want to.
But surprise, surprise, when it (whatever it was) was done, I reaped the rewards of my efforts. It took me 10 years to complete my Bachelor’s Degree and six years for my Master’s degree. As a result, I have had an interesting, adventurous, rewarding, and contributing life. Reaping the rewards of persistence is probably the greatest benefit of persistence,
Persistence in completing one project helps you build confidence that you can complete the next project. I am an avid bicyclist and when I was able to ride 25 miles, I knew that I would be able to ride 100 miles and I did!
Persistence also opens new opportunities for you. As you develop new skills, learn new things, and meet new people, you have more options, get new ideas and find additional, sometimes unique ways to apply the skills you gained through persistence. Do you want a promotion or a new job? Gain the skills you will need by persisting in your current job. Learn all you can and apply it.
Persistence also teaches patience, which is an important character strength. Reaching your goals takes time. It also requires that you have an action plan with specific steps to be taken in sequence, along with keeping track of your progress. This helps you strengthen your planning and organizational skills.
Persistence helps you through the hard times, the failures, and the discouragement. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and he ended up as probably one of the greatest players even in the NBA. Persistent people are tough, failures do not stop them. They keep slogging along until they reach their goals. One of my favorite quotes on persistence comes from Winston Churchill: If you are going through hell, keep going.
Finally, according to NBA star Kevin Durant,
Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard. Persistent people work hard and keep going. I am far from a great painter. My style is unique and I have several vision problems that limit what I can do. You will never see a realism painting with my name on it. But, I keep going. I take classes, I watch YouTube videos, I read books, I talk to other artists and I keep painting. Consequently, my style is evolving, I am finally accepting that I cannot paint “like the artists I admire” and I am finding my voice as an artist I have even sold some of my artwork I do it all because I love painting, it is a challenge and I want to be the best artist I can be – whatever that looks like.
Persistence is about taking things one day at a time, doing something each day and regular practice is the key to success. For example, a young man was walking along the street in New York City, carrying a violin case. He stopped a passing woman and asked, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The woman replied, “Practice, practice, practice.” Okay, it is an old joke; and like many old jokes, it is true. That is why we remember them. Plan to work on your goal and persistence every day.
Suggestions for Building Persistence
Write down your well-being goal and post it someplace where you will see it regularly – on your bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator, by the front door. Read it every day. For example, I have my goal on my electronic device, which goes everyplace with me. Whenever I open it, there is my goal.
Plan your process. Make a list of the steps you must take to meet your goal. Break each step down into its components and make a schedule for when and how to do each part and step. Make a check list of things to do and regularly update it.
Keep score. Add a tally sheet to your posted goal and keep track of what you do each day to meet it. I keep a log (tally sheet) on my electronic device and I update it every day, sometimes, multiple times a day. I also use it to keep track of questions that come up or things that need follow-up
Give yourself rewards for your successes. When you complete a task step on your to do list, reward yourself by listening to a favorite tune or treat yourself to a “guilty pleasure” like buying a large cup of your favorite coffee instead of the usual medium. For me, it would be chocolate.
Visualize the result. What will it look like and what will you feel like when you reach your goal when a difficult associate says thank you or you run your first marathon?
Ask for help. My friend Katy has what she calls her “board of directors.” It is a group of friends whom she can call on for support when she needs help or just “needs a friend.” It doesn’t need to be several people; one person whom you trust and respect can be a great source of strength and support.
Be ready for setbacks. Be flexible and be ready to change and adapt. Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.” As you work on your goal, pay attention to how it is going and be ready to make changes as necessary. Remember, you may be your own worst enemy. So, don’t punish yourself when you experience a setback.
Remember that change take times and practice. Notice when you are impatient. What triggers your impatience? How does your body feel when you are impatient? Are you clenching your jaw or maybe your hands?
Your Inner Strength Challenge…
- Use My Persistence Inner Strength Development Plan to help you think through; develop a plan and your creativity.
- Share your experience with us in the Response section below.
You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain. ~ Tom Hiddleston
Riddle Me This…
Q: Did you hear the joke about the roof?
A: Never mind, it’s over your head!