No Grit. No Pearl.
“How can I make a million dollars?”
“How can I start my own successful business?”
“How can I become the best soccer player in the world?”
“How can I buy a big house with a pool and 10 Lamborghinis in the garage?”
“How can I lose weight and get a six pack?”
We’ve all asked ourselves these kinds of questions one time or another. In fact, we usually start to focus on these questions when things aren’t going very well in our own lives. We look around and we see people who have more than us, and we wonder why we don’t have that. After all, don’t we deserve it? We work hard, don’t we? We struggle, don’t we? So, what do they have that we don’t have? What is the secret ingredient?
It’s actually not a secret. The way to be successful — the way to get everything you want in life — is fairly simple in theory.
You must always persevere.
Perseverance is the not-so-secret ingredient to success. Perseverance is what determines who will have the life they want and who won’t.
But let’s back up a little bit here and start at the beginning.
What is perseverance?
According to the Oxford dictionary, perseverance is “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”
In other words, perseverance is about playing the long game.
This seems easy, but in reality, this can be quite challenging for many people. 2/3 of people struggle with delaying gratification, and this was actually proven in the Stanford Marshmallow test.
In the 1960s, Michael Mischel went out to see the difference between people who delay gratification and those that need instant gratification. He took children, aged 4, and put a marshmallow in front of them. He told them that if they didn’t eat the marshmallow and waited for him to come back, he would give them two marshmallows. He then left the room for about 15–20 minutes.
Around 1/3 of children ate the marshmallow immediately, while some others waited a little longer before eating the marshmallow. 1/3 of the children waited until the researcher came back.
They followed up with the students during their high school graduation. The difference between the two groups was obvious — the students who had delayed gratification were more optimistic, persistent in the face of their difficulties, and had learned habits of successful people. In the end, these people ended up with more successful marriages, higher income jobs, and overall more fulfilling lives.
On the other hand, the children who had eaten the marshmallow quickly were more stubborn, indecisive, less self-confident, and they still couldn’t put off instant gratification. They ended up getting distracted more than their classmates, and ultimately, their choices led them into unsuccessful marriages, low job satisfaction, bad health, and unhappy lives.
So, not only do we know that perseverance is hard, but it’s also integral to being successful.
But if perseverance is so hard, how do we master it? If it’s not something that comes naturally to us, are we bound to forever wander aimlessly in unfulfilled and unhappy lives?
No, not necessarily. It will just be more of a challenge to master.
Learning to persevere requires effort. You need to change your mindset and implement a workable structure so that perseverance eventually becomes a habit or routine and it takes the effort out of it. If you do the initial work, the rewards will follow later. Consider this your first exercise in perseverance.
Step #1: What do you want to accomplish?
You need to have a goal to work towards. This will depend mostly on what you consider important in your life or what you need to improve on. You can have physical goals (run a marathon), employment goals (increase sales by 5%), money goals (save 10% of income for a down-payment), educational goals (get 100% on the next essay), etc. There a million different goals out there. You need to pick ones that you think are important.
So, sit down with a pen and piece of paper and write down the goals you need to focus on. Imagine the future and ask yourself:
- What does success look like to you?
- How will you achieve your goals?
- Why is this important to you?
- What are the benefits if you succeed?
People with written goals are 50% more likely to achieve them than people without goals, so make sure you write them down (or type them out), and even keep them in a place where you can look at them often.
Step #2: Recognize and plan for hardship
Things will go sideways. They always do. In fact, that’s why most people get off track from their goals. Something goes wrong once, and then they can’t pick themselves back up.
The best way to avoid this is to plan for it. Write down situations that may come up that make your goal harder.
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, what things will prevent you from accomplishing your goal?
- Your birthday is coming up within the next month.
- Your coworkers love going out for drinks after work.
- If you have to work overtime, you don’t feel like cooking when you get home.
You get the point. Look at all the factors that caused you to fail before and then figure out different mindsets that can help you work around them. Perseverance means pushing away instant gratification and focusing on the long-term - knowing what things may cause you to jump ship ahead of time will make that easier.
Some solutions to the above problems:
- Invite everyone over for food at your place for your birthday, and cook a healthy meal. Include a healthy dessert instead of cake.
- Go out for drinks with your coworkers, but limit yourself to a low-calorie drink such as vodka and soda. If that will destroy your willpower, get a tea or coffee.
- On Sundays, prepare healthy food that you can defrost within 15 minutes so you’ll never be tempted to grab McD’s on the way home.
After you deal with certain situations multiple times, you’ll start knowing ways to work around these problems that come up and it will become second nature. Your mindset will have shifted to the long-term and it will be easier to fight your natural instinct for instant gratification.
Step #3: Be Determined
If you are determined to make things work, generally, they’ll work. It may not go the way you planned, but if you have a steadfast belief in yourself and your purpose, you’ll get where you were headed. It may take longer than you think. It may cost you more than you think. It may cause you more stress than you think. But if you’re determined to finish something, then what’s stopping you?
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” — Leonardo Da Vinci
For some people, this is a struggle for them. When problems come up, it’s hard not to feel defeated. When someone rejects a proposal you worked hard on, or the scale doesn’t go down even when you’re at the gym every day, or a project goes south because of things outside of your control, it’s hard not to throw in the towel.
Sometimes to power through these setbacks, you just need to change your mindset. Instead of thinking of these moments as “failures”, consider them learning experiences.
A fixed mindset is believing that you are as you are. If you aren’t good at sports, you will never be good at sports. Period. People with a fixed mindset don’t really believe that they can learn something they don’t already understand. They think success is intrinsic. In their minds, they don’t think they can improve past a certain point and so why bother. They shy away from challenges because they’re sure they can’t overcome them.
On the other hand, a growth mindset is one that believes that everyone can improve and learn from their mistakes. It focuses on challenging the individual, so that they can grow stronger. The growth mindset focuses more on the journey rather than the destination — it is knowing that even the most crushing failures can teach us something new about ourselves and the world. People with this mindset will often go into situations that could spell disaster, because they don’t consider failing something to avoid; it’s just another moment they get to learn something new. As Thomas Edison once said, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
So be determined to make it work. Forget about failure, forget about making mistakes and getting it wrong….consider those opportunities to learn something new. Believe in yourself and your goal and have the determination to follow through, and you’ll be surprised by how far that can take you.
Step #4: Keep yourself accountable
Why are marriages and weddings such big deals? In essence, they’re just big parties where you gather your friends and families around and sign some documents. So why do some people think marriage is so important? I mean, you can stay in love with someone for your entire life without getting married, so why do most people put a lot of importance on it?
Because marriage stands for accountability.
When you stand up there in front of all your friends and family and say your vows, you’re telling everyone “I’m in this forever.” When you sign the papers, you’re now accountable to your spouse and the government. It’s harder to back out of something when you’ve told everyone you’re going to do it. It’s harder to just walk away when your pride is on the line.
And that’s why accountability is important in achieving your goals - it gives you the drive and motivation to keep going when you want to give up. We all want to do what we say we’re going to do. When there are other people that are aware of our goals, we don’t want to let them down.
It’s not hard to see this in the fitness sphere.
For example, Standford University found that people who received a check-in call asking about their progress at the gym every two weeks increased the amount of exercise the participants did by 78% on average. Along with that, statistics show that working out with a partner can increase your success rate to 95%, while working out alone can have your rate of success drop as low as 43%,
So, use this knowledge to your advantage.
Tell people about your goals. Tell your team that you plan to up sales by 5%. Tell your partner you plan on going to the gym 3x a week — Mon, Wed, Fri. Tell your parents that you’re going to be buying a house within the next year with the money you’ve been saving.
Better yet, get these people involved in your accomplishments. Have a meeting with your team where you go through your plan to increase sales. Ask your partner or friend to go to the gym with you. Go house hunting with your parents and ask for their opinion about areas they think are nice.
Make it impossible to back out of your commitment to yourself without losing face. Stand up proudly and say, “Hey! I’m going to do this!” and have people involved in making that happen. If you know that you may struggle in your goals, create a support group around you that will follow up with you. These people can be family or friends, but they can also be paid professionals. If we’re talking about fitness, then perhaps think about hiring a personal trainer. If you’re trying to save money, then have monthly meetings with an investment professional. Find more people to have to have on your team.
In the end though, you have to have enough pride in yourself to take responsibility for your actions. You have to own up to what you do and how you do it. You must own your successes and failures. You must be willing to be vulnerable with your support system and ask for help when you need it. Be accountable to other people and yourself in equal measure.
Perseverance isn’t easy. It’s focusing on moving forward in small, incremental ways every single day. It’s knowing what you want to accomplish, having the foresight to plan for the challenges, being determined enough to continue on when the going gets tough, and by surrounding yourself with people that will help you achieve your dreams. It’s never giving up. It’s continuing to run when you’re tired and want to sit down for minute.
So don’t go into this thinking success will just magically appear in front of you. It won’t.
Work for it. Fight for it.
Go get that pearl.
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