Building a modern perception of perseverance
Ever since we first printed “Hang in there” posters, sought out inspiring quotes or poured through autobiographies, perseverance has been closely linked to business success. Self-help Gurus and CEOs alike encourage us to stick it out when tasks get difficult and pursue our goals no matter the cost and despite the opinions of others.
However, in a new age of options, alternative paths and rapid change, it may be time to adopt a different approach to reaching our goals and how we view perseverance.
Is perseverance really a prerequisite for success?
If you asked Steve Jobs in 1995, he would have been a huge advocate for grit in the business world.
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance,” he said in a Computerworld Information Technology Awards Foundation interview.
“It is so hard and you pour so much of your life into this thing, there are such rough moments in time that most people give up. And I don't blame them, it's really tough.”
Similarly, Co-founder of Twitter Biz Stone also agrees with the sentiment of working tirelessly towards your goals.
“Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success,” he said in a September 2010 blog post.
However, it is important to recognise the phenomena of survivorship bias in these situations. As Michael Shermer pointed out in a September 2014 Scientific American article, discussing the successful cases alters the perception of odds. This may lead to individuals believing they have a good chance to achieve their goals, even though statistics are working against them.
When we look at anecdotes of success, preservice did in fact prevail, yet these stories do not acknowledge the crowd of people who tried to match them and ultimately failed. While this can seem cynical, it is important to understand the odds of your venture and that failure is a possibility.
Having grit in hard times is a very valuable characteristic. As a report from Association for Psychological Science explains, the ability to delay gratification and work towards bigger goals tends to lead to more success in the future.
However, this only works if there is gratification down the line at some point. If ventures are proving to be fruitless, it’s time to look for a new orchard.
As American Entrepreneur Warren Buffet once said “Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” ‘
This mindset is vital as success doesn’t necessarily mean taking one straight and narrow road. Re-evaluating your approach, dropping projects, trying different strategies and even exiting markets and industries is becoming essential in modern business. Without this flexibility, you may find yourself bogged down in a commitment that is only doomed to head south.
In order to develop a better sense of direction, there are some points you should consider:
• Understand the things you truly want
It’s not often that we take a good look at why we are fundamentally driven to achieve something. Knowing your ultimate goals and primary drivers is a key step in building a balanced vision for yourself. Whether you want to bring benefit to society, provide a stable future for your family or even becoming a respected member within your field, understanding these will ensure your endeavours do not act as a double edged sword and unwittingly jeopardise your happiness or wellbeing.
• Having a smart outlook
Ambition is often a positive trait but without direction, it can lead to disappointment.
Taking the time to research your ideas, plan ahead, accept that there could be possible setbacks and re-evaluate your strategies as you go is key to avoid this. It is also important to be realistic with your goals and the possible outcomes that come with a new venture.
• Take things a step at a time
Although this seems like soft advice, it has a proven scientific basis as Christopher Bergland explained in a December 2011 Psychology Today article.
Achieving goals releases dopamine into the brain, a chemical which creates feelings of satisfaction and happiness. Even if a task is large and daunting, breaking it down into a list of smaller jobs gives the brain small boosts of dopamine, motivating you to help reach your goals.
The release of dopamine is also dependant on expectations and mindset. Recognising your victories, however small, is important to maintain a positive outlook and help keep you on track with your goals. Even the belief that something good will happen can fuel your brain.
• Building your support network
Although we are ultimately responsible for our actions, decisions and well-being, it is important to have people surrounding you who can offer advice, support and guidance in trying times.
According to a recent analysis from Statistics New Zealand, individuals with a higher count of family and friends tend to have “much better overall life satisfaction”.
Swallowing pride and asking for help can be a challenge at times. However, bringing in some outside assistance can help keep you on track or recognise when it is time to call it a day.
Perseverance can be something to emulate but you need to support it with shrewdness, flexibility and vision. Striving towards your goals can be difficult and it is smart to ensure you understand the endgame and whether there are better ways to get to your ultimate goals.