We all set goals at one point or another. Often, more times than not, we seem to work tirelessly towards those goals, but to no avail. Eventually, when we realize the monumental hurdle ahead of us, we give up, call it quits and throw in that proverbial towel. So how is that some people are able to stay persistent, never give up and eventually see things through? How are people able to achieve their goals, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve set a lot of goals in my life. But I haven’t always stayed persistent. Sadly, I gave up. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. I pushed and pushed. Still, for one reason or another, I didn’t see things through. I gave up on things like marriage, business, friends, learning instruments, learning new skills and more. It never felt good when I gave up. I felt defeated; like a failure. Worthless, even.
However, I also know what it’s like to see things through. I know what it’s like to be persistent and achieve my goals. I know what’s it like to refuse to tap out or head for the ropes. Still, I know that being persistent is difficult. How are you supposed to keep up your spirits when it seems like the whole world is against you? How do keep fighting that good fight when you don’t have it in you to go another moment, let alone another day, week, month or years, even?
How to Stay Persistent No Matter What
I’ve talked a lot about persistence. Not only here, but also in many of my books. In fact, I even wrote a book called, The Art of Persistence. Clearly, I believe wholeheartedly in the principle of persistence because it’s at the very core of achievement. All successful people who’ve achieved great things in their lifetime did so through persistence. They didn’t give up. Even when they failed, they got back up and kept going.
But we all know that staying persistent is difficult. In the face of huge pain, agony and upset, how are you supposed to stay persistent? What’s worked for me in the past has been to focus on the feeling of success. Mentally, I put myself there where I’m experiencing success in my mind. I can literally almost touch it. Through the use of my senses and my imagination, I actually put myself there.
Vividly imagining success is a platform to persistence. And, since persistence is at the heart of any successful person, it goes without saying that your ability to envision your dreams has much to do with your chances for success. Considering that all things in our lives today were once just imaginary in our minds, it’s easy to see why this is an important skill to have.
Think about this for a moment. When you’re looking to buy a car, what do you do? You imagine the type of car you want, don’t you? What kinds of thoughts spring into your mind? You probably think along the lines of what you can afford. Then, some particular makes and models might spring into your thoughts. They’re likely cars you’ve noticed in the past and kept a mental log of.
Suddenly, since you started focusing on and paying attention to that specific type of car, you begin to see it everywhere. And, once you end up purchasing that car, you could almost swear that suddenly they’re everywhere. Did sales randomly increase at the same time you decided to buy? Of course not. You simply focused on that particular car for so long that you began to notice it everywhere.
We always notice things that we’re paying attention to. Wherever our focus is, our mind’s eye follows. For example, right now, wherever you are, I’d like you to close your eyes. As your eyes are closed, I’d like you to name one thing around you that’s brown. Wondering why you can’t do it? It’s all about that element of focus. Anything that lacks our focus, lacks our attention.
This same concept applies to negative versus positive thinking. When our focus is negative, it’s easy to see everything negative about a situation. When you fail, what you think about are all the bad things surrounding you, the lack of opportunity, or how you’ll never achieve your goals. On the other hand, when think positive, you see all the positive things surrounding the same situation.
When Thomas Edison failed over 10,000 times to invent a commercially-viable electric lightbulb, why didn’t he give up? Even when the employees in his shop felt discouraged and couldn’t find anything to gain from those failures, Edison shifted their thinking. In one interview with American Magazine, he’s quotes as saying the following:
“I never allow myself to become discouraged under any circumstances. I recall that after we had conducted thousands of experiments on a certain project without solving the problem, one of my associates, after we had conducted the crowning experiment and it had proved a failure, expressed discouragement and disgust over our having failed ‘to find out anything.’ I cheerily assured him that we had learned something. For we had learned for a certainty that the thing couldn’t be done that way, and that we would have to try some other way. We sometimes learn a lot from our failures if we have put into the effort the best thought and work we are capable of.” — American Magazine
How to Harbor Unwavering Focus
Much of persistence is based on the fundamental prerequisite of focus. That’s why I referred to the example of the car or even the color of an object in your room. There’s a huge difference there due to focus. When you’re focused on something, it has your full attention and you can approach it persistently. However, it’s when we lose our focus that we can lose our ability to stay persistent.
For example, think about the person who you’re most attracted to right now. If I were to ask you the color of their hair, surely you could recall it quite quickly. Clearly, you’re focused on that person right now. But what about the last three people you passed on the street? If I asked you what color shirts or pants they were wearing, would you be able to recall it? Obviously, it would be more difficult.
Focus is the pathway to persistence. So, if it takes focus to stay persistent, what does it take to stay focused? Is there some simple recipe or formula to doing this? While nothing in life related to our long-term goals can really be categorized as simple or direct, there definitely are methods for staying focused, and in turn, being persistent.
#1 — Figure out what you really want
In order to achieve a high level of focus, you need to figure out what you want. I mean, what you really, really want. You need to be precise and exact. For example, let’s say the thought pops into your mind of moving to a new house. What then happens? Do you just say to yourself, “I wish I could move to a new house”? No, of course that’s not all that happens.
When you want to move, you figure out what type of place you want to move to. Maybe you want to buy or rent. Maybe you want a house or a condo. Maybe you want a small place or a big place. Maybe you want something with a backyard, or maybe it’s something on the beach, or maybe it has two levels or it’s just one story. You get the picture right?
As you begin to figure out the exact type of place you want to move to, your focus increases. You begin zeroing in on what you really want, refining it and shaping it in your mind until you have a precise picture of it. At that point, you begin searching through online databases, possibly even speaking with realtors and seeing homes in person.
Similarly, with your other goals, you need to figure out exactly what you want. I mean, right down to the very last little detail. People who say “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to be filthy rich,” or, even, “I want to travel the world,” are doing themselves a disservice. While these goals might sound real, they’re just abstract concepts. When they’re abstract, they’re less real and less likely to be achieved.
Once you figure out what you want, write it down. Be extremely precise on what it is you want, but also when you’re going to achieve it by. The more detail in the writing of your goal, the more likely you’ll be to achieve it. One study determined that you have a 42% greater chance of achieving written goals versus non-written goals.
#2 — Constantly remind yourself why you want it
If you want to stay persistent towards your goals by being more focused, you have to constantly remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place. There has to be a strong reason that’s motivating you. If it’s superficial, then you can forget about it. If you’re just trying to prove someone wrong, you can also forget about it. The reason has to run deep.
Deep reasons are one of the best ways to remain focused and stay persistent. Think about it for a moment. In the past, when you really wanted something and you had a deep-rooted reason, didn’t you do just about anything in your power to achieve it? Think about the single mother who’s working three jobs just to support her children. Why is she working herself to the bone?
A single mother who has no other alternatives, must do what she needs to do in order to survive. Her goal might just be survival. Or, her goal might be something else. When J.K. Rowling was living on government assistance in the U.K., clearly she wasn’t just interested in survival. She wanted to thrive. She had a deep-rooted reason other than the superficial to do just that.
Rowling was the mother to a beautiful little girl. She would sneak out of the house during naps just to get to the coffee shop so that she could write more in her book, the first Harry Potter book in the series. It took her 7 years to see that dream become a reality. And she ultimately achieved her goal, even after all 12 major publishing houses rejected her manuscript.
Find a deep-rooted reason to drive you. Maybe it’s family, like with Rowling. Maybe it’s security or freedom. Maybe it’s contribution to the world in some way, shape or form. The point is to zero in on something other than yourself. We will always do more for others than we will do for ourselves. That is the nature of human existence.
#3 — Focus on improving your habits
One easy way to lose focus has to do with our internal, pre-programmed behavior, otherwise known as our habits. When we lose focus, it’s hard to stay persistent. The goal moves out of the limelight and onto the back-burner. It’s easy to default to things we do on a daily basis automatically, especially when the going gets tough.
When our habits hinder us rather than serve us, it’s easy to see why many of us lack the persistence to see things through. It’s also easy to see why only 8% of people who set New Year’s goals, for example, actually accomplish them. There are a tremendous number of environmental and social factors holding us back, let alone our own personal thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
However, when you can conquer your habits, focus is simple and its easy, allowing the pathway to persistence and your goals to remain open. Let your habits get the better of you and it’s all downhill from there. The goal here? Improve upon your good habits by building a set of keystone habits while also working on quitting your bad habits.
Is it easy? Heck no it’s not easy. But it is worth it. Many of our bad habits get in the way of the things that we want most in life. The bad habit of procrastination, for example, can cost us our goals if we allow it to spiral out of control. Other bad habits can also help to push us in the wrong direction, help us veer off on tangents and end up in situations that are difficult to recover from.
If nothing else at all, focus on the keystone habits. The keystone habits will help other good habits to form and it will also help to eliminate the bad habits from your life. For example, working out for 30 minutes every morning is a keystone habit. It helps to bring on other good habits such as drinking more water, taking vitamins and eating healthy.
When you work out in the morning, it also helps you to avoid eating unhealthy foods. There’s a domino-effect at work here with keystone habits. That’s why they’re so important. And, since habits comprise 45% of your everyday behavior, creating the right set of habits needs to be an integral part of your life. This way, you’re ready to take on the world with gusto.
#4 — Harbor a sincere sense of gratitude
In a documentary entitled, One Dollar a Day, two friends head to rural Guatemala to a small farming village called Peña Blanca, where they wanted to experience firsthand what it was like to live on less than one dollar per day. The documentary follows the journey of the two friends, who brought along two filmmakers with them, as they battle life in sheer poverty.
Can you imagine what it’s like to live on less than one dollar per day? Can you imagine what it’s like not knowing where your next meal will come from or when you’ll have the money to pay for basic necessities? Can you imagine living without clean water or electricity, battling with unending fears, just trying to keep your head above water and support your family?
If you’ve answered yes to any of those questions, or if you’ve been in similar situations, then I genuinely feel for you. Most people don’t know what it’s like. The importance of this? Be grateful for what you have, no matter how small it might be. People joke about having first-world problems, so to speak, but have no real empathy for others that live life in extreme lack.
Harbor a sense of utter and deep-down gratitude for what you have. That will help you remain focused, and in turn, to stay persistent towards your goals. When you stop being grateful and begin being expectant towards things, that’s when everything takes a turn for the worst. Spend 15 minutes making a list of everything you have to be grateful for. Do it every morning. This is your morning gratitude.
Morning gratitude allows you to keep your focus and stay persistent by appreciating the little things in the here-and-now while pushing towards the bigger things in the future. Don’t lose sight of your hopes and your dreams, but also don’t forget about what you have in the present moment. Keep your focus. Do whatever you have to do to ensure that you stay on the beaten path towards your goals. And, definitely, don’t ever give up, no matter how long it takes to achieve your dreams.