How many times have you started something with lots of enthusiasm just to leave it forever after just a few days? It can be something simple like finishing a book or eating healthier, or it may be something more challenging like getting a professional title or creating a stable business, we begin many things, but for one reason or another we don’t follow through.
There are many times we leave things for no apparent reason, or maybe just really weak reasons and after a while we start to wonder why, ‘why did I stopped practicing football if I was really good at it?’, why I never finished that dessert course if I know how to cook and it was fun?’, why I stopped fixing things around the house? It made me feel handy and the sound of that leaking sink drives me crazy every night’. There are all kinds of answers for those questions but from what I’ve learned most of them are excuses that try to cover up the real answer, a lack of persistence.
So, here are 7 advices to keep in mind about how to gain persistence:
1.- Make a plan
Just because we like something it doesn’t mean that’s going to fit right into our daily life, we are usually already booked up for the entire day with work, family issues, a TV program, etc. So, if you want to be persistence at something you’ll have to be smart and figure out how you’re going to include that activity in your life, some things can be re-arranged, others can be eliminated and others you just can’t touch (like that awesome TV program!). It is your life so you’ll have to figure out your own priorities before making a schedule that makes sense for you.
When you’re making a plan, it’s very important to be realistic, don’t set the bar too high, because if you don’t get even near it after a while, there’s a good chance you’ll get frustrated and stop trying, but don’t set the bar too low, when you accomplish an easy goal it doesn’t really feel like an achievement so you won’t get the motivation to keep moving forward.
2.- Keep your eyes on the prize
When you’re at the middle of something you started, it’s very easy to forget why you started it in the first place, especially when it’s something challenging which results you may see after a long time, in these moments is really helpful to remember what you’re attempting to achieve, the benefits of completing that challenge, the satisfaction you’ll get when you’re finally able to say ‘I did it’, or, on the other hand, how miserable you’ll feel if you don’t try hard enough and after a while you say ‘I could have finished that, if only…’.
Concentration is the key and to improve it is a process, you have to learn to control your mind, don’t be too hard with yourself if you get out of focus, you just keep trying, if you want to improve your concentration I recommend meditation, I wrote a little about it, here is the link if you´re interested: A Short Intro About Meditation.
3.- Join a team that shares your passion
This is one of those advices you’ll find in most self-help books and that just makes sense, but if you’re an introvert like me, it’s really hard to follow, nevertheless, is something to keep in mind. Whatever your goal is, it’s much easier to achieve if you have the support of other people that’s going through the same things as you, and if you share your thoughts with them I bet they’ll be able to motivate you enough in order to keep going.
I remember when I was at law school, and to be honest, I can’t say that I had friends in there, but there were many times before a test that out of stress, I opened my mouth and spoke my frustration to some random classmate, and to my surprise, most of the times they were eager to explain things to me or other times, just listening to them having the same doubts and fears, reduced my stress.
4.- Cut out negative people
Start listening to what people really say to you when you tell them about your goals, sense the tone of their voices and the meaning of the words, many times you’ll find out that for no apparent reason they are discouraging you in every way they can. This is pretty common with some of the closest relations we have in our lives, in my case I realized that 70% of my family members were always putting me down, and the sad part is that I’m 100% sure that it is with the best intentions, so, why do they do it? The thing is that many times, these people are really trying to help you from their perspective, the problem, is that their perspectives are full of their own insecurities.
Learn to avoid the themes that may trigger a negative speech towards you, and if that just seems impossible take them out of your life as much as you can, in my case that meant meeting that 70% percent of my family exclusively on Christmas and New Year (couldn’t take them out entirely, after all they are family)
5.- Keep it interesting
So, you started something, set your goals, made a schedule and you’ve been following it for the last three months keeping your focus at all time, but wait, somethings wrong… you´re bored to death, it’s been the same week after week, and now, you’re starting to hate it and quitting doesn’t sound so bad. This is pretty common, but, before you give up, answer this, have you tried a different approach? Is there something you could do to make it more appealing? What are the parts you think are boring and what are those you like?
Sometimes, all you need is a different point of view, a new tactic, to re-order and reshape your goals, not everybody learns in the same way or enjoys the same things, try to surprise yourself constantly and be creative. I’ve had weight problems since I was a kid, I tried different diets and sports but nothing seemed to work, the problem was that I got bored pretty fast, what did I do? I learned to vary things, now in a normal week, I run at the park, practice kickboxing, go out biking, and play tennis (ok, I just hit the ball against a wall, but still), now I’m seriously considering to enter a local marathon of 15 kilometers (9.3miles), the thought scares me, but I’m certainly not bored any more.
6.- Take a break
To make an effort to accomplish a goal is ok, to force yourself up to a point that all you can feel is stress is not, like I said, you got to keep focus in what you want to accomplish, but not at expenses of your health or all enjoyment. I get it, a little suffering is part of growing in life and there’s no reward without some sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean you have to live the life of a martyr, it’s ok to take a break, breathe, enjoy the little things (as cliché as that may sound, things become clichés for a reason).
Take a good look from the outside at what you’ve been doing, what you liked, what you don’t, what you could do better, and when is the right time, go back into chasing that goal, just remember not to take too much time into that break, the objective is to recover in order to go back stronger and more motivated, not to cheat yourself by procrastinating silently things into oblivion.
7.- Know when to move on
There’s a window of time when leaving something is the right move, you’ll have to learn to identify it. Not everything is going to seem awesome from the start, give it a try for a while, don’t quit in the first class, you’ll get better with practice, that’s a law for everything, however, there’s a fine line between being persistent and stubbornly stupid. If you’ve tried something for a while, you really made an effort to like it, tried different angles, but it just isn’t for you, don’t be afraid to leave it, there are many other activities for you to try, nothing is more valuable than time, don’t waste it in something that clearly isn’t for you.
You don’t have to finish everything you start, who cares what other people think, if a book seems boring as hell after a few pages, don’t feel sorry for it, pick another, there’s an entire world of books to choose from, if you started medical school but when you’re at it, you realize that the sight of blood makes you want to vomit, the smart choice is to get the hell out of there as soon as you can, don’t mess your life just because you’re afraid of leaving something unfinished. If you want to increase your persistence you’ll notice that’s much easier when it’s at something that you really like, find it, and don’t be afraid to be wrong, you’ll learn from it and will be better prepared for the next challenge.