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Home » Confidence Building, Decision Making, Featured, Happiness, Headline, Inspirational, Leadership, Life, Motivation, Problem Solving, Self Esteem, Success

Persistence is the Key

Submitted by on November 18, 2014 – 2:43 amNo Comment

When people are pursuing goals, the initial excitement can fade quickly if the process turns out to be especially difficult or long term. Discouragement and the tendency to give up can set in quickly. However, the number one trait of successful people is persistence, a “bull dog” attitude of continuing to progress until the goal is achieved. In this article the importance of persistence and the ways to develop it are explored.

In the article I wrote last month, I centered on going after what you want in life and the first step often being the most difficult. Piggybacking onto that theme is another characteristic that must be practiced if you are going to succeed once you begin. And this trait is the one that highly successful people who have “made it” in their fields name as the number one reason they got there. What is that all important ingredient? The answer is persistence… developing the “I think I can“ attitude of The Little Engine That Could, the story probably all of us heard when we were kids. If you are serious about pursuing goals, you  must have the ability to persist when all is not going well – even horribly. A main reason for people failing is that they simply give up too quickly. However, people who practice dogged persistence when reaching for their goals are more successful … period.

What type of person are you? Do you surrender as soon as the going gets tough or do you dig your heels in and use the obstacles facing you as motivation, making you more determined than ever to fulfill your desire? Why do people quit so easily? Certainly for numerous reasons, many of them similar. People feel sorry for themselves, look at the obstacles facing them as insurmountable, possess a victim mentality, believe the process is too hard, blame someone else or use any number of reasons why they had to give up, oftentimes early on in the process.

I believe and I have read frequently that people who pursue high level goals must face an obligatory, invisible force in life that seemingly erects serious barriers to a person’s success, testing that person to see if he or she wants whatever it is badly enough to pay a steep price. Think of famous people in any given field, research their backgrounds, and you will find that they faced adversity of some type, oftentimes severe adversity that they plagued them as they pursued their desires.

Even more surprising is that many people whom we admire and say “Wow, I wish I could do that!” are ordinary people like you and I, and they would the first to tell you that. They started with little, possessed an average I.Q., did not come from the right families, or did not enjoy whatever advantages we oftentimes attribute to high achievers.  A quality they did have, though, is the tenaciousness of a bulldog, narrowly focused on an end goal. As Winston Churchill so succinctly stated, “Never, Never, Never Give Up!” That magnet is on my refrigerator door as a constant reminder to me.

Also, reaching high goals almost always requires extended periods of time. Overnight success in any field is a myth. How many of you remember Harland Sanders, Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Colonel?  At age 65 he was forced from his small roadside restaurant in Kentucky so that an interstate highway could be built. Instead of retiring, he took his first social security check, a whopping $105 per month, and used it to begin his aim of getting his fried chicken recipe out to America. He loaded some cooking pots along with his bag of secret herbs and spices, heading out in his old car. He would stop at roadside restaurants, offering to cook up his chicken and, if the owners liked it, they would agree to pay him $.05 for each one they cooked. Thus in a few short weeks he realized his dream and founded his chain of restaurants. Great story huh? The truth is, though, that is not what happened. Actually the Colonel spent the next five years driving the country in his old car, oftentimes sleeping in the back seat, visiting one restaurant after another. At that point he had signed up 190 franchisees.  From there the rest is history. How many of us would have that kind of persistence – beginning at age 65? Most of us many years younger than that certainly would have to have serious attitude adjustments to be able to persist for five long years without seeing a lot of return for our efforts.

On a more personal level, I work with students who have over the years set high goals for themselves educationally and achieved them. But I have also taught or worked with many other students who drop out of college, make poor grades or settle for less than what they had intended. What I do know is that the difference between many of the students who “make it” versus those who do not has nothing to do with intelligence. The major difference is that internal self-discipline and persistence that propels them forward when the urge to quit can be formidable.

So what if you are not a persistent person? You give up quickly – to your detriment. Where does this important trait come from? Are you born with it? If so, does that mean that you are now hopeless, not capable of having the persistence necessary to succeed? The ability to persist comes from within; nobody can make you do it, whatever “it” is but you. Fortunately that ability can be learned and honed through practice like many other behaviors.

I know because well into my adult life, I was the first to give up when something did not go my way. What changed my outlook? I finally woke up by beginning to read material in the personal motivation field … and a lot of it exists, that is why it is a multi billion dollar field. Why so much emphasis in this area? Because so many people are like me and need to learn about how to change attitudes and behaviors to start on a path that will help them reach their goals. If you are not now doing so and want to change your outlook, begin reading articles in the personal development field, subscribe to a monthly magazine like SUCCESS, listen to CD programs in your car, attend seminars, read biographies of people who have achieved a high point in their area, do whatever it takes to help keep you motivated.

A powerful method helpful to me was spending three years with two other guys in weekly meetings in which we talked about what we wanted to do in various areas of our lives, discussed how we wanted to go about it and then we held each other accountable about what progress we were or were not making. What a great experience and a way to keep yourself motivated. Have you begun working on a ambitious, long term goal? Do you have any type of accountability to someone else or a support group to lean on when times get tough? If not, you should.  If you have never heard of the mastermind concept, read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (which should be on everyone’s reading list).

Maybe, too, practicing persistence is not a problem for you because you are not attempting to change your life in any way. And that begs the question, “Should you be?” With everything going on in this uncertain economy today, does an area exist that you should be looking at that could give you some options if something unexpectedly happens in your life?  I heard a radio interview recently while driving. The man being interviewed observed that the reason so many people today in the United States are not succeeding or achieving as much as they want is that they are on auto pilot. The go to their jobs, do enough to get by and then go home. The rest of their lives is committed to entertaining themselves instead of further educating themselves or seeking to better themselves. Then they scratch their heads and wonder why nothing in their lives changes.

A reason you have continued to read this article to the end is because we all want to know more about how we can to learn to persist, knowing the all too human trait of becoming discouraged, giving up too soon.  If that were not true, then the multi-billion dollar personal development field with countless number of books, CD programs, and seminars focusing on motivation and persistence towards goals would not exist and thrive. Thus, we all need a good “kick in the rear,” reminding us that goal achieving requires persistence. What do you need to do to nurture your own persistence? Finding out the answer to that question and then addressing it can have a profound impact on your life.

Dr. Earl Paul works in Student Affairs at Hillsborough Community College. He is also a speaker and an author. If you would like more information about him, his programs or materialsArticle Submission, go to

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Dr. Earl Paul is a Student Affairs professional at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa Florida. He is also an author and speaker focusing on life skills areas. To learn more about him, go to

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