“Success is not to be measured by what one accomplished in life, success is to be measured by what one overcomes while trying to succeed.” – Booker. T. Washington
How do you respond to adversity or when things don’t go to plan? Do you become aggressive or do you disconnect from life and hide? We all experience difficult times in our work and personal lives often through situations or circumstances outside our control and struggle with some obstacles and hardships. But while some people endure hardships and overcome the adversity, some cannot. They might give up when faced with similar circumstances. How you deal with difficult circumstances and obstacles life throws your way depends on your patience and perseverance.
You can either let these obstacles bring you down and take you into a downward spiral or you can use them to motivate and lift you up. The key difference is how you perceive and respond to adversity or obstacles you face. If you consider them as bad and try to avoid, you end up closing your possibilities and avoid taking risks. On the other hand if you take them merely as challenges filled with opportunities to endure, learn and grow, you can profit from them both physically and emotionally. The ability to persevere such situations is the only difference between a successful outcome and a failed outcome.
When it comes to accomplishing your goals, you might face short-term failures along the way, or sometimes you may struggle as it might take longer than you expect. Even while making some change in your life like creating new habits, developing new skills or learning new concepts, short-term failure or challenges or difficulties can drain your motivation. They even might make you want to quit before you’ve put in enough time and effort to reach your goal. And how you respond to such failures, setbacks or difficulties when pursuing your goals depends primarily on your mindset and willingness to persevere. What ultimately makes you successful is your choice to persevere and overcome adversity or hardships. In the end, it is perseverance that translates into success.
So, What is Perseverance?
It is defined as your inner drive to persist steadfastly in pursuit of an undertaking, task, or goal even if hindered by difficulty, setbacks, obstacles or discouragement. It is continuance in a course of action in spite of adversity or opposition and is a necessary skill to overcome setbacks or failures. Perseverance enables us to take risks, learn from our failures, and forge ahead with new and better information.
It requires regular practice to develop the quality of perseverance. Only with strong determination can one achieve his/ her goal by perseverance.
Why is it important to practice perseverance?
Most often, people who accomplish great things no matter what field they are in, understand that failure or an obstacle is not a stumbling block but a stepping stone. They are the ones who have succeeded enduring hardships, challenges, or failures at some point in their life. Should you quit when you face obstacles or adversity? Should you quit if you are not able to achieve goals fast enough? Should you quit in case of disappointment or self-doubt?
The answer to above questions depends upon how much you are willing to and can persevere in times such as these and how hard are you willing to work towards overcoming such situations. And how much you can overcome further depends upon the foundations you base your life on. Those who built solid foundations as a base for their lives develop the persistence necessary to overcome adversity or setbacks. Take for instance, sumo wrestling, an ordinary person would have absolutely no chance of winning against a professional sumo wrestler. This is because of the gap in skills they possess. Professional sumo wrestlers practice in the ring everyday so they become strong, solidity and speed. When faced with someone like this, ordinary person would not be able to exert enough strength and naturally defeated. The same can be said of encountering troubles in life. By practising perseverance, you can be better prepared to face such situations in your personal and professional pursuits.
Strengthening your foundation by building on your internal resources like emotional and strength, resilience, courage and patience can prepare you mentally for any possibility and you can remain in control of your emotions and actions without creating much friction. And you can form a clear perspective to persevere. Through her research, Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit: The power of Passion and Perseverance, has identified four psychological assets that most perseverant possess.
•Passion– is important be genuinely interested in what you are doing so that you are intrinsically motivated to keep going even when things don’t work out the way you initially thought.
•Practice – The next step is developing the discipline to practice your passion. Your intentional actions help you develop productive habits that can support you to get better in case you facing obstacles or failure.
•Purpose – Developing a greater purpose where your work or actions or outcomes are beneficial to others and not limited to personal gratification can help you overcome short-term failures and struggles.
•Hope – Hope or optimism is what lets you challenge yourself when things get tough so that you get back up and keep moving forward. You can cultivate emotional strength and courage to persevere in the hope that you will overcome.
How to persevere through adversity
“Adversity causes some men to break, and others to break records.”- William Arthur Ward
Adversity often provides us with a learning opportunity that can help us in improving our true potential. However in order to turn adversity into an opportunity for growth, you must first be able to adapt yourself well to life-changing situations. And the strength to persevere through them often comes from your internal attributes and learnt skills like acceptance, resilience, and being self-aware. Here are some ways to strengthen your resolve to persevere and turn adversity into opportunity to grow.
Flip your thinking
Just think about how you see the situation and the story you are telling yourself. The attitude you bring to the situation is reflected in the thoughts you allow yourself to dwell upon consistently while facing adversity. These thoughts manifest in internal dialogue that manufacture your emotional experiences that either empower or weaken your resolve.
If you are thinking of the setback as a negative experience, then reflect on the story you are making up about the circumstances. If it is empowering then you will be more focused on solution that help you move forward. But if it is based on blame, excuses and complaining, then you fall victim to your negativity bias where you close yourself to positive alternatives. Stay self-aware if your thoughts and emotions you bring forth into the situation. Stay objective and try to change your narrative to more empowering and meaningful that can help you persevere through the obstacles.
Questions to reflect: Am I being self-aware of my thoughts and emotions? What story am I telling myself? Is it empowering? What is the problem here? What can I learn from this experience? What can be done to improve the situation? How can I move forward in a better way?
Let go of your expectations
Fully accept your present situation by letting go of expectations you are holding on to. Challenges will come while pursuing your dreams, vision and goals. When dealing with bigger goals, acknowledge that things don’t always go according to your expectations. Holding onto your expectations makes you confined to fixed mindset and will not help you effectively deal with the situation you are in.
Expectations not only create resistance to alternative perspectives but also create internal conflict. Instead of holding on to your expectations of a particular outcome, accept the fact that you are experiencing an obstacle and try to see things more rationally. Clinging on emotionally to a particular outcome or the way you want things to turn out may not let you see the things clearly. Acknowledge that there are certain things beyond your control and choose to respond to them in positive ways.
Questions to reflect: Am I holding onto realistic and helpful expectations? Am I being attached to a specific outcome? Are my expectations flexible? Are there other alternatives to consider? Am I reasonable in my expectations of the outcome I wanted? Which alternative perspectives can help me in overcoming this situation?
Take one step at a time
Adversity and setbacks can often become overwhelming or knock you off balance. Many of us react to such unexpected circumstances hastily or rather unprepared and cannot take actions that will help you better the situation. This will result in making other mistakes and eventually end up regretting. The best way to persevere in the face of obstacles is to take a pause, assess and identify the problem. Break down the problem into smaller steps.
This helps improve focus which subsequently allows you to gain more clarity about the situation and about possible options to solve. Think of why they arose in the first place. Although not every obstacle is a result or a consequence, a personal reflection always helps to understand your bigger aim or sense of purpose and can come up with solutions. This way, you can display resolve against the odds and lay down the action steps you can take to help solve the problem.
Questions to reflect: How could I present this situation in the form of a question? Is there some solution that I am undermining or not considering? What process must I follow in order to solve this ? What part should I tackle first? How will I tackle this part of the problem? What is the first action step I must take?
Build your external resources
Cultivate a supportive network of friends and family. When you feel overwhelmed and anxious, just talking through helps. Often you might discover a friend who has had a similar experience and can help guide you through the difficult time. Nurture supportive relationships. Psychologists call this social support. According to their studies, social support enhances your physical and emotional health. A mind open to communication will think a way out of difficult situations.
Supportive relationships shield you from the negative effects of stress. Surround yourself with those people on whom you can rely, talk to, open and share your feelings. It can also serve as an opportunity to share ideas and get to know alternative perspectives or solutions. Don’t compare yourself with others. Everyone’s journey is different. Instead be inspired by others to persevere when you face criticism and opposition.
Questions to reflect: Am I building supportive relationships? Am I aware of any friend or coworker who endured such hardships? Whom can I rely on to persevere in the face of any obstacles or difficult situations? Am I being supportive of other people in their struggles when they go through similar challenges and hardships?
Think about a goal or a dream you are currently working towards. What obstacles stand in your way that might take you off-course? How are you prepared to handle those and overcome? How do you respond to obstacles or challenges? How do you perceive or what story you tell yourself? What is your willingness to persevere? How strongly you believe in the purpose of your goals ?
There is no such thing as success without failure or obstacles. The question is not about whether or not you will encounter challenges but when obstacles arise, you mustn’t quit or change directions and must be prepared to endure and persevere through them. Turn them into an opportunity with the help of above strategies and questions to mentally prepare for such moments and to build momentum you need to move through them successfully.
If your focus is on succeeding in life, then you also should learn how to respond to adversity or failures or obstacles or hardships. Regardless of your situation, you need to develop these essential skills to put forth the necessary effort and move forward after setbacks. Set yourself a long-term goal, connect deeply with its purpose, take action towards that goal and allow that to pull you through.
“Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better.” – Jim Rohn