Thinking about persistence,
I turned to a book which has inspired me over the years – The Magic of Thinking Big, by Dr. David J. Schwartz. Persistence is only a small part of this great book but he emphasizes the importance of persistence in achieving your goals.
Persistence is a key element of success. Nothing good comes easily or without struggle. It’s the struggle itself that produces the good result because it causes growth and change. But struggle is unpleasant and uncomfortable. It gets our hands dirty. It makes us work. We might look untidy or unprofessional while struggling to make something work. It takes time to struggle while we miss using our time for more pleasant activities. In short, while we are struggling, there is very little good to say about the process and we would prefer to skip it altogether. It’s not cool.
Dr. Schwartz says that “People that have bull-dog persistence, who can grab something and not let go, have an essential success quality.”
It’s a troubling thought. There is something unpleasant about the image of a bulldog. Those teeth and the aggressive posture don’t seem to fit with achieving success. Success should look confident and comfortable but it is actually the product of getting down and dirty with our lives. Success shouldn’t look hard.
Dr. Schwartz continues with a further qualification. Persistence alone would mean continuing to do the same thing over and over again in spite of a series of failures. It is only when persistence is combined with experimentation that results occur. As an example, think about wind-up toy cars. When you wind them up and let go, they continue on a fixed course until they run down. It they encounter an obstacle; it makes no difference to them. They just keep moving in the same direction they started. Without a course change, there is no way they will get around the obstacle. They definitely embody persistence but if the goal is to move beyond an obstacle, persistence alone will not produce results. Persistence, when paired with experimentation is the key to success for Dr. Schwartz.
But how do you fit these two together? How can you be persistent if you change your techniques?
The consistency is in the goal that is driving your action. You don’t change your goal. It remains fixed throughout the entire process. Your path and techniques in reaching that goal are not fixed. You can change them again and again and so long as the objective remains constant, you continue to move closer and closer to the goal with each change. You account for the obstacles and look for a new approach that will take you there…
Dr. Schwartz suggests two ways to open your mind to experimentation while retaining your goal:
1. “Tell yourself, there is a way.”
Don’t let yourself believe that your goal is impossible to achieve. The mind is an amazing tool. So long as you believe that there is a solution, your mind will search for it and ideas will come.
2. “Back off and start afresh.”
Let your mind turn away from the problem and engage in some other activity. Provide an opening for new ideas to penetrate the thicket of failed attempts.
Persist in your goals. Keep them in your mind and before your eyes and believe that you will accomplish them. But be flexible and open to how you reach them.