The Art of Perseverance

I recently overheard someone say, “Giving up on your goal because of one setback is like slashing your other three tires because you got a flat!” When you think about it like that, brushing the dirt off, correcting what you need to, and trying again makes perfect sense. And yet, how often do we just get out of the driver’s seat and slash the other three tires instead? 

Being successful doesn’t mean getting it all right from start to finish. It means persevering even when we falter, even when it’s hard, even when we need to adapt, even when we need to take a few steps back before we can jump forward. 

Like most skills, perseverance requires some practice. The following tips can help you develop a healthy habit of sticking with your goal even in the face of adversity. 

And Yet…

Before we explore how to not give up, we need to address the importance of knowing when to call it quits. Going back to the tire analogy, sometimes you just need to add air to your tire. Sometimes you run over a nail and need to patch the hole it left. Sometimes you need a new tire. Sometimes, on inspection, you find that not only is that tire in need of replacement or repair, but the other three are balding and need to be replaced, too. 

Perseverance isn’t the same as stubbornly clinging to a goal just because you set it. It’s being willing to work through the challenges to get to something that’s still attainable. That means there will be times when you step back and realize the goal you originally set is not the right path to continue on. Maybe it was unrealistic to start. Maybe it proves to be not the right goal for you. Take what lessons you can from the journey and move on. 

Be Clear

Goal setting is an art form. For many of us, goal setting looks like casting a wide, maybe even nebulous, vision and walking somewhere in that general direction. 

Where do you see your start-up in five years? If you said, “In five years, my business will be profitable,” head back to the table and get more detailed. Profitable could mean you net $1 more than you spent. Is that really what you’re aiming for? Do your homework. Understand the environment you’re going to be striving to attain your goal in. Understand the obstacles. Understand your weaknesses and strengths. 

Set clear, reasonable goals. What’s your sales goal for a year, 3 years, and 5 years? What’s your target expense budget during that span? What profit will that represent? It can be easy to give up on a goal when that goal is too nebulous to feel like we’re giving up on anything. 

Set Incremental Goals

There’s something to learn from a martial arts student when it comes to working toward your goals. In fact, it should be no surprise that one of the primary tenets of Taekwondo is perseverance. Regardless of what discipline you study, you step onto the mat with your eyes set upon that coveted black belt. You’ll quickly learn that the road between your crisp new white belt and the well-worn black belt your instructor is wearing requires a lot of dedication and hard work. 

While that black belt signifying your mastery of the discipline is your ultimate goal, you adjust and focus on a smaller goal – you’re aiming for step 1, the yellow belt. There may even be smaller steps along the way: you’ll earn stripes on your white belt indicating you’ve learned bits of what you need to know in order to pass your white belt test. The months will pass and you’ll earn one stripe, two stripes, three stripes, four, five, and then yellow. 

Each stripe, each belt, each new skill mastered gives you a taste of accomplishment and success and it’ll fuel the fire to move you closer to that black belt. Setting any goal should follow a similar pattern. Set your goal and then mark smaller milestones to move you toward it. 

Celebrate Success

Don’t wait until you reach the final goal to celebrate. Take a moment to savor success as you hit those milestones you identified. Reflect on what worked to get you to this point and learn from it.

Modify, Adapt, Pivot

Speaking of reflecting. While you’re evaluating progress at each milestone (and sometimes between), identify what’s worked well, as well as what hasn’t. Are there things you’re doing that aren’t producing results? Is the road map still realistic in the timeline you’ve set? Make the changes you need to make to continue toward your ultimate goal. Adapt your goals if the picture is getting clearer and you’ve got a better handle on what’s realistic and necessary. Change your target if it makes sense to do so. 

Have a Support System

There will be times when the voice in your head is going to struggle to be encouraging. You’re working long and hard days. You’re driving toward your goal and it feels like it keeps moving just out of reach no matter what you do. Whether you enlist coaching support from Creative Blueprints, seek out a peer group like Vistage, or build your own network of gurus to lean on, having a network of mentors and cheerleaders is essential. 

Your support system should be willing to offer honest feedback. They should have success in setting and reaching goals. They should be willing to hear you out when you need to vent your frustrations and then help you find your way back on track.