The Truth About Perserverance and Goals
If you really want to be successful, you probably spend a lot of time reading motivational books and articles. You want to know what qualities are required for success. When we read about the tools required to achieve success, very often we are told that if we really want to be successful, we must have persistence. Persistence is the quality of never giving up when we encounter challenges. Of holding on to our dream. Of refusing to be discouraged no matter what the odds, no matter what happens.
And when you read the life stories of very successful people, they will often tell you about all the hardships they encountered along the way. They will tell you about the discouragement they occasionally felt when they encountered failure, and about all the people who laughed at them along the way. And then they will often tell you that the reason they are successful today is because they were persistent. They perservered in chasing their dream, no matter what happened. So if you have been facing a bit of discouragement while you pursue your dream, reading these success gurus can give you the boost you need to keep on doing what you’ve been doing.
After all, persistence is the key to success. Almost everyone says so. And all those people who encourage you to be persistent are wrong! Persistence can lead to certain failure if you do not apply persistence in the right way. Let me explain what these people are leaving out when they tell you to be persistent. Every day as I drive to work in the city where I live, I always see a middle-aged blonde woman who paces back and forth on the sidewalk in front of a big government building. She is always carrying a big protest sign. She smiles and waves at all the cars that pass. I’m not sure exactly what her sign says because the words don’t really make any sense. There seems to be something about an injustice that happened to her when her husband’s pension was divided up during their divorce. And there’s a few comments about a government conspiracy to cover up the injustice that was done to her.
I guess what she’s trying to accomplish with her protest is she’s trying to get this divorce decision changed. Every day, no matter what the weather, this woman comes out to walk back and forth for two hours in front of this government building and wave at all the people. Her smile never fails. After the first two hours of protesting are up, she goes to another place downtown. She spends another two hours walking back and forth, smiling and waving, in front of a different building a few blocks away. She has been doing this every day for at least seventeen years. She is certainly persistent. All that persistence and dedication for so many years does not seem to be having any effect, but she does not seem to notice. If seventeen years of her walking back and forth carrying this sign hasn’t had any effect, I don’t think that one more day of walking with this sign is going to change the outcome of her divorce. But she is persistent in continuing her protest.
Probably every big city has a few people like this woman, people you can see standing on the sidewalk. People who spends years holding some sign that doesn’t make sense. These people can teach us all about the real value of perserverence and persistence. These people are certainly very persistent, but usually they are not successful. When success gurus tell us that persistence is an important quality on the road to success, they are often leaving out something important. When successful people tell you that they got to where they are today because they were persistent, they are actually leaving out part of the story. A very important part of the story. And the part that they are leaving out is this: They forget to tell you that before they were persistent, they had a goal, and they had a plan on how to get there. And all along the way, after every step they took, they stepped back to evaluate the results to see if the results they were getting were the results they wanted. And if they weren’t getting the results they wanted, then they would change the steps they took, and try something different, until they found a method that worked for them.
These successful people did have persistence, but they were only persistent about holding on to their vision. They were never persistent about the method they took to get to their goal. All along the way, they were prepared to be very flexible and experiment to see what techniques and strategies worked best to get where they wanted to go. Why do so many successful people leave out this important detail when they tell us the secrets to their success? Why do they so often neglect to mention that if a strategy wasn’t working, they abandoned it quickly and moved on to another strategy? I don’t think that successful people deliberately leave out this key information because they don’t want us to be successful. I think that successful people often leave out this key detail because they assume it’s very obvious to everyone already. They assume that everyone already knows that you test each step of what you are doing to see whether it’s working or not. And if it’s not working, you change it. And you keep trying new approaches til you get something that works, something that gets you closer to the result you want. People who admire persistence often use the example of Thomas Edison who kept trying to produce an electrical light bulb even after ten thousand failed attempts.
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