Persistence is a habit and habits are not easily developed. However, once formed a habit of persistence will follow you through life and it will be the only thing you will need to achieve all your goals.
In his classic “Think and Grow Rich,” Napoleon Hill says that the quality of persistence in the character of the man is the same what carbon is to steel.
It makes him unbreakable.
U.S. Navy SEALs can serve as a great proof of this fact.
Out of every one hundred that start the training to become the Navy SEAL only six percent -six individuals- make the grade and join the forces.
There are stronger and faster men among those ninety-four that couldn’t make it, however, nothing can substitute the habit of persistence when going gets tough. Those six who made it were nothing but that much determined to win no matter what!
Take my example. I remember when I decided to start living a healthy life, eat clean and go to the gym every day.
At the beginning of my decision, I was so enthusiastic about it. All I could think of was how this new lifestyle will do me so well.
While the enthusiasm was lasting, I was persistent with my goal.
However, after one month or so I suddenly stopped. I found myself in a struggle to keep going. My old habits were pulling me back so fast, and ultimately, they won.
Deep down in my soul, I knew that this new lifestyle that I dreamed of was a great choice and I wanted to try again.
And I did!
Some time went by, and I was doing good. But then again I slammed against the same wall one more time and decided to quit, again!
That day I made another decision, two actually!
The first one was to find out what is the reason for my lack of persistence and the second one was to learn how to develop this precious personal quality.
I have found both answers in Napoleon Hill’s personal development classic, “Think and Grow Rich.”
While studying his material, I found out that the most successful people in this world are not the smartest ones, or most talented. Those who achieve their goals in life, those who reach the top of the mountain are the people who managed to develop a habit of persistence.
Everything else falls in line when you persist in the face of failure.
5 Primary Reasons for Lack of Persistence
Most of the people are ready to quit as soon as they reach the first obstacle on their way. It is in human nature, and it is perfectly reasonable. When going gets tough, it is easier to walk away than it is to put in the effort to break the barrier.
As you already know the habit of persistence must be developed, and to improve it you will first have to understand what is holding you back.
You see, to develop a new habit you will have to dig out the old and negative one who is holding you back. Then and only then you will be able to replace it with a new and better one.
Otherwise, the old habit will keep coming back.
I have learned from my experience that these five were significant reasons for my failure. Moreover, once a made a self-analysis, and I compared my results with other people, I saw that almost everyone struggles with the same problems.
Search yourself carefully for these enemies.
1. Unclear goals or vision
It is easy to say I am going to do this or I am going to do that.
Words are cheap!
However, not so many people can describe their goal in as many details as possible to show that they really spent some time thinking about it.
One of the first symptoms of lack of persistence is a failure to define your goal exactly how you want it.
The decision to set a goal will fill you up with enthusiasm for a while, but not forever.
You will have to keep building your dream in your mind, or it will never happen.
An unclear vision means that you don’t have a firm goal in your mind. It says that your goal is nothing but a wish.
Wishing instead of willing will not bring any results.
2. Negative experience
We all fail. Failure is a part of life.
But what happens when you fail?
You don’t do or get what you have wanted to do or to have. At that moment you have two options.
Some people -majority- will begin to doubt themselves and their abilities after they fail.
The doubt is a mind disease which slowly germinates and grows without its presence being noticed until it digs itself into the mind of the individual and paralyzes every next attempt.
Some other -rare few- will take a break and step aside to analyze what happened and to learn from the failure.
Then, after the lesson is being made, those people will try one more time. And if they fail one more time, they will try again and again.
3. Holding on too many strings at once
Imagine a situation where you have to cook in ten pots at the same time, or to listen to ten people at once.
Oh what a mess, haha!
However, try to cook in one pot, and it will be much easier or focus on one voice, and it will be much brighter.
It’s the same thing with your goals. We want too many things at the same time. And this situation will eventually make you confused, disoriented and, in the end, it will make you give up.
There is an old time saying which is passed on to people who are facing this problem.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Self-satisfaction is probably the primary reason why so many people lack in persistence.
It is in our nature to quickly become satisfied when we recognize that we can do something.
Most of the people will try for a couple of times. When they see it can be done, they will decide that they are the kings of the world.
When you are satisfied with any kind of result, the progress is gone. You are sending a message to your mind that the work is done, and your body will act accordingly.
Maybe you will eventually want a bit more, but your self-satisfaction will stop you from moving forward.
Unfortunately, most of the people are not aware that this is one of their major problems in life. Seems like that very few can nurture ambition for a long time.
Instant self-satisfaction is the reason why there are too many dabblers out there and not so many masters of the trade.
5. Fear of criticism
Try to remember how many times you didn’t act on your goal just because you were afraid of what will “they” say.
Fear of criticism and any other kind of fear will destroy one’s chances for success in a matter of milliseconds. It kills one’s persistence to the point where it is almost irreparable.
As soon as it enters one’s mind, the game is over.
People usually start well before they begin to think about other people opinions. However, if a critic shows up -and it will because it is just a matter of time- the criticized person starts to decrease in activity and ultimately gives up.
Unfortunately, most of the time those critics come from closest friends and relatives.
How to Develop Persistence and Achieve Your Goals
Now, you know what is holding you back from staying persistent with your goals. The next part of the post will help you to develop this rare personal quality.
These four steps to develop persistence are coming from one of the most excellent personal development books of all time, already mentioned, Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich.”
In his classic book, he puts emphasis on the importance of having the persistence to achieve any goal in life.
He said that he didn’t found any other quality in those two men to explain significant success, except persistence. Moreover, he goes and says that persistence was the only thing Ford and Edison had when they started their careers and it was the only thing they had to have to build their empires.
Next four steps are exact footsteps used by Ford, Edison, Carnegie, and every other man or woman who succeeded in life having nothing but a goal and persistence.
1. A definite goal backed by burning desire for its fulfillment
We already stated that unclear purpose is nothing but a wish. The wish will lift you up for a brief time, and it won’t last long enough.
On the other hand, a desire is a mature form of the wish which has the power to keep you going until you achieve your goal. A strong desire will develop persistence in one’s character.
So how to develop desire then?
First of all, you have to have a goal of some kind.
Then, your task in this first step is to think about your goal.
You will have to know every detail.
It will take some time to reach the stage of desire. If you really wish for it, then it won’t be a problem.
For example, my fitness goal was nothing but a wish at first, an unclear vision of me working out. However, I knew that I want it!
After some time spent thinking about it, I asked myself a few questions. Why do I want to go to the gym? What do I want from this new lifestyle? What kind of body do I want? How much time am I willing to devote to the fulfillment of this goal? Do I need any type of help or special knowledge? What is my diet going to look like?
Those question didn’t come to me all at once. With every day that I had kept my wish in my mind, a new question popped out.
Those questions turned my wish into a small obsession. Those thoughts were slowly taking over every part of my being.
In the end, my desire was born!
I wasn’t wishing for it anymore. Now, I had a full picture in my mind of my goal and a burning desire to work on that picture to get it in my reality.
You see, a desire is a fuel which moves us into action. It is a starting point for every achievement. A small desire will give a small amount of movement just as the small fire will provide a small amount of heat.
And on the other hand, a burning obsession will move you far and beyond.
That is what everyone, including you, will have to do if they want to develop persistence to achieve any goal in life.
2. A definite plan expressed in continuous action
Napoleon Hill emphasized on a definite plan of action to be a crucial step in the development of persistence.
I agree and disagree because many people misinterpret the word plan, so they get confused by it. They think it has to be something special. However, the truth is it hasn’t.
When I read those words “definite plan” I was discouraged at the moment, and I thought “I never had a plan for anything, how the hell am I going to have one for this? What is the plan?”
And then, after some time I found my answer. It was so simple!
A plan can be, and it usually is, a simple straight line which connects A and B. In other words, a place where you are and a place where you want to be.
A plan is a thing you are going to do to achieve your goal.
That line will be straight in the beginning, and then it will start to get curvy as you go further. Success is never a straight line, keep that in mind all the time!
A funny thing happens when the road gets curvy. At those moments you develop more and more plans to keep you going. In the end, when you look back, you realize that along the way you managed to create a definite plan.
Steve Jobs said:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you will have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
In other words, keep on working and trust the process.
For example. I turned my fitness goal into a clear vision. I knew almost every detail of my goal. I knew the weight I want to achieve, the timeframe in which I am going to make it happen, the diet I will apply, etc.
A definite plan for acquiring my goal was simple. Every day, after work I went straight to the gym and worked with those weights.
At some days I found it to be easy, and some other times it was hard to move a muscle. On those days when it was hard, I was looking for ways and means to continue, and the search yielded more and more plans.
Therefore, you don’t have to have a plan worked out on ten pages or so.
All you have to know where are you going, what are you going to do to get there, and do it every single day.
3. A mind closed tightly against negative and discouraging influences
Sometimes you will get distracted by people who are not in harmony with your goal. They will tell you that you are crazy or that you are wasting your time.
We have a name for them.
Pessimists or naysayers. Those are the people who don’t have faith, and faith is just another word for persistence.
Some other times it will be you who will discourage yourself by your own inherited habit to think negative instead of positive.
However it may be, you will have to train your mind to think positive on your goal. Every day keep reminding yourself that you are doing good and that nothing and no one can stop you from achieving your goal.
Close your mind so tightly against everything that can ruin your persistence because that is the only way how you can achieve your goal. Think about your goal and nothing else except people and things which are in harmony with your goal.
4. A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage you to follow both plan and goal.
Chapter 10 in “Think and Grow Rich” is “Power of the Mastermind.” In this part of his philosophy, Hill says that when two minds come together in harmony to achieve a shared purpose, they produce something which is referred to as the “third mind.”
Then the power is born, and everything is possible.
It is a known fact that if you put two trees of the same kind to grow next to each other, they will push each other to improve in height. One tree alone can never reach the same height as it would if it has another one working in harmony with it.
To convince yourself in this fact take a look at the oak forest. And on the other hand, take a look at the oak tree growing alone in an empty field.
It is the same with people. When two or more people join forces to achieve a goal the progress is always faster.
For example, when I was going to the gym to work on my fitness goal, and I was alone in my mission, the degree of my persistence was low. Two times I quit.
However, once I found a goal buddy, which was my younger brother who had the same goal as I, the speed of results was fast, even too fast!
When I couldn’t lift anymore, he was pushing me to do one more rep. When he was lazy to train I was driving him to move his but. Together we grew stronger and faster.
Another analogy which explains this power comes from “Think and Grow Rich.”
One battery will give a certain amount of power in a certain amount of time. However, a few cells joined together will provide much more significant force for a longer time frame.
It is the same with human brains. One brain alone can do few things, two or more minds joined together are limitless.
Summary of four steps:
- A definite goal backed by burning desire
- A definite plan expressed in continuous action
- A mind closed tightly against negative and discouraging influences
- A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage you to follow both plan and goal.
In the words of Napoleon Hill, these four steps are the only thing you need to develop a HABIT of persistence.
Once you master these steps -and you can learn something only by constant time and space repetition, in other words, with practice- you will have the power in your hands to control your own destiny.
You will get the privilege of writing your own life exactly how you want it to be, and make the Life to pay the price.
When I first got my hands on these four steps, I thought there must be something more to it. But I was wrong.
It took me some time to realize that the most simple things in life are the best things.
I tried this formula from “Think and Grow Rich”many times so far, and I have convinced myself that they are sound and they work in my favor if I follow them exactly as the author recommends.
Great Examples of Persistence
I will give you three examples of persistence which had the most impact on my mind and had helped me to realize that nothing can substitute this golden habit.
Reread these examples for a couple of times, meditate on them, try to imagine the road these men took to achieve their goals. When you do that, you will understand how and why persistence may be the only thing you will need to succeed in life.
Thomas Edison’s example
The first one was dated back in 1879. That was the year when Edison patented the first commercially successful light bulb.
Many people before Edison had experimented with this invention but without success. However, unlike those men, he had a definite goal. He had a clear vision to perfect this invention and distribute it to every household in the world!
Edisons plan was simple. It was to work on his invention every single day until he finds a solution -definite plan- how to make a cheap and the reliable light bulb.
Now, he didn’t succeed overnight, no. Times and time he failed. Many people were telling him to leave it alone, that his idea is unrealistic, that he is wasting his time.
However, Edison was not listening to them.
Norman V. Peale, the famous author and a father of positive thinking was a close friend to Edison family. He wrote in one of his books that Mrs. Edison was the only person who believed in his invention when no one did. She was his close ally.
Finally, Edison succeeded after 10 000 failures! And the light bulb was born!
When a reporter asked him “how does it feel to fail 10 000 times?”, Edison replied “I didn’t fail 10 000 times. It took 10 000 steps to create a light bulb.”
Are you willing to fail 10 000 times before you reach your goal?
Arnold Schwartzennegger’s example
When Arnold was a kid, he had a wish to become a bodybuilding champion of the world and the highest paid action movie star.
He was living in Austria, and he had nothing to start with except his clear vision and a burning desire to bring his goals to life.
Arnold backed his goals with desire and a plan to work like crazy and to outwork his competition. And he did! However, it was not an easy task for him either.
After years and years of hard work, his bodybuilding goal came to life. But when he continued to pursue the second part of his dream, that is to become an action movie star, things were far from easy.
People from the movie business were ridiculing him at every step of the way. Agents told him he would never make it, that he has a huge body which doesn’t fit into the movies. They said to him that he will never make it with his accent and his last name, Schwartzer-schnitzel.
Arnold was not listening to them.
He closed his mind so tightly against all negative influences. Moreover, he surrounded himself with people who were willing to help him learn how to act and correct his accent.
He was persistent in carrying his plan until finally, he got his first big break. A role in the movie “Conan The Barbarian.”
Everything after that is history.
The persistence paid off in dividends.
Are you willing to stand behind your goal no matter how much ridiculed you will be?
Napoleon Hill’s Example
When young reporter sat down to interview the worlds wealthiest man, Andrew Carnegie, he didn’t have a clue that this event will alter the course of his life forever.
Carnegie proposed Napoleon Hill to compose a complete success philosophy which will help change millions of lives, some still unborn.
At that moment, the young reporter had nothing except a will to do it. He told Carnegie yes he will do it. However, he said him also that he has nothing except his will. No money, no experience, no knowledge.
Carnegie told him that all he needs is a clear purpose and faith.
Hill listened to him and went to work risking his whole future and life to fulfill his goal.
People told him that he is nuts, but he was not listening. They said he will go broke, but he was not listening to them either. A whole army of negative voices turned against young man and a dream that Carnegie gave him. However, his mind was closed tightly.
Twenty-five years later, in the year 1937, “Think and Grow Rich” was published.
Still today, this book is a Bible between all other success philosophies.
Are you willing to be patient and persistent for twenty-five years to see your goal materialized?
Practical Test to Develop Persistence
Now, if you have answered yes to all three questions from our three examples then you should give yourself a test to see are you serious or not.
I want you to take this simple test for a full thirty days.
If you carry on and make this test, you will discover a whole new world for yourself. A world where everything is possible.
This is what you will have to do:
- I want you to write on a card a small goal you wish to accomplish. Make sure it is a goal which you had never done before.
- Carry that card with you wherever you go, and look at it as much as you can during the day. You don’t have to show it to anyone. Keep it for yourself for the next thirty days.
- Every morning when you wake up, and every evening before you go to sleep, take out that card and read your goal out loud so you can hear your words.
- Don’t put any pressure on yourself during these thirty days. The key is to stay calm, cheerful, and relaxed.
- Visualize yourself doing the thing you want to do or having the item you want to have as much as you can in a calm, cheerful, and relaxed way.
- If, however, you fail during those thirty days, make sure you start all over again and begin with new thirty days.
Always remember, no matter what is happening, that you must stay calm, cheerful, and relaxed while visualizing your goal.
Take this test, and you will learn what the word persistence really means.
If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below, and I will be more than happy to help you out.
All the best,