As children, we have such a marvelous capacity for endurance, it is surprising that as adults, we have to re-learn how to persist and be determined.
Persistence, as psychology defines it, is “personality trait that causes a person to persevere in a task despite obstacles or frustrations rather than simply giving up.” It is often associated with stubbornness and perfectionism, but it is a prime ingredient of success. (1)
However, when we talk about personality traits, many of them are something you are born with, meaning it is determined by your nature, and can’t be simply learned. Fortunately, persistence is not a trait like extraversion; persistence can be trained.
Manage your perseverance with adequate rewards
Psychology professor, Robert Eisenberg have found that individuals who had been rewarded for the past effort are more likely to persist on future tasks, even if those tasks are not related to previous ones. However, rewarding people with extrinsic rewards can lead to the opposite effect.
Individuals who perform tasks primarily for money, prizes or awards often lose interest when compensation becomes unavailable. This means best rewards you can give and get are positive feedback, an increase of competence and intrinsic motivation. (2) You should pay attention to these rules if you plan on motivating yourself, your child or employees.
How to become more persistent?
As persistence is key to success, everyone would like to know how to embrace it. Still, continuously giving yourself intrinsic rewards for the effort is a good general guideline, but it sounds too abstract. What does that even mean? Do I tap myself on the back and say: „good job“, is that all to it? Intuitive conclusion is that people need little more than that for developing new behaviours, habits, and traits.
Persisting, working on your goals, staying with the task even when it seems boring and pointless, is hard. It is not something you decide you will do and then you just change your behaviour in the light of that decision. It takes daily practice. Here are three things you should repeat every day in order to achieve the desired level of persistence:
1. Develop the Discipline and Habit
You can start by developing your morning routine. Wake up every day at the same time, drink a glass of water, eat your breakfast, meditate, exercise, go to work. Go to bed every day, approximately, at the same time. Make sure you have a good night sleep.
Routine doesn’t have to be boring, and even if that is the case it is still worth it. By practicing a healthy routine, you can train our organism to function more efficiently. Developing these positive habits will provide you with more energy and your basic discipline will make it easier for you to face the hard work that persistence takes.
Embrace the culture of making plans. If you are aiming to be persistent, you have to be ready for everyday effort. This means you work little by little, with constant continuity. If you have a big assignment ahead of you, divide it into smaller chunks, and then plan diligently.
Determine when, where and how long will you work on that task every day. If you don't meet your commitment, make sure to compensate for the lost work. Write your progress in a journal or calendar so you can track how far you have gone.
Don't quit at the first sign of a difficulty. No path to success is straight; things will surely get out of the way. Treat challenges as something that will make you stronger and shape. Don't forget about how many times you have fallen to your knees just by learning to walk.
When your strategy for achieving your goal is right, it is just the matter of a number of repetitions before you achieve desired results. (3)
2. Develop Flexibility
The word „persistent“ in clinical psychology often comes in negative context. It usually refers to something permanent, change-resistance or therapy-resistant. For example, a disorder that cannot be treated despite the patient’s and the therapist’s effort. Be aware that everything has the “flipside”.
Don’t let your persistence become complete stubbornness or single-mindedness. You have to stay flexible and open to change. Something will disturb your daily routine; it can be something unpleasant like your pet getting sick or something good like you finding a job. Either way, you won’t be able to continue your day the way you planned.
Persistent people have the ability to adjust and adapt. If they realize their plan isn’t working they are willing to revise and make changes. They are ready to admit if they made a mistake and quick to assimilate ideas of other people.
Leave some space in your plans for sudden changes. You can exercise this skill by slightly changing your daily routine once it has been established. Try to compress your morning workout. Skip one day of work on purpose, even if it is written in your schedule and instead decide how you are going to approach the double amount of work next day. Will you work extra long, or are you planning on working just a little longer for the whole next week? Be prepared for sudden events. (4)
3. Work on Motivation and Attitude
Ask yourself: why am I doing this, what are my reasons, what do I want to get from this?
Knowing why you want to achieve something will give you more energy to keep going. First determine your motivation for your general goal, after that explore your motivation for your daily tasks. It is important to know if you are sincerely interested in doing something or you just feel obligated to do it. Naturally, tasks that spark up your interest will be easier to finish.
Approach your challenges with a positive attitude.
A mind hack from Matt's YouTube channel
Negative thoughts, fears, and doubt will always be there to slow you down. This doesn't mean you have to get overwhelmed by them. Regardless the situation, keep your focus on taking actions toward the goal. Every day after you finish your task, let yourself feel the joy of success. Embrace that feeling. Try to make a mental memory of how good it feels. Every time you face a “negative thought cycle” just recall that feeling and remember you are striving for that inner happiness and peace.
If you find it easier, make a list of benefits that persistence brings you. Each time you feel demotivated, go back to that list and get reminded why you are persisting in the first place. (5)
You already know that going a little further every day will take you a long way. Stay patient and kind to yourself; persistence also means knowing when to include relaxation to your schedule.
“Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.“ – Jacob A. Riis
Keep going forward!
You know it’s worth it!
(Read this next: How to Stay Curious)