How to Persevere: 11 Best Tips on Boosting Your Chance to Succeed

Angela Duckworth in her impactful and famous book “Grit” says that grit is the biggest factor of success, if we ignore things that we have very little control of, such as luck.  She also mentioned that “grit” is a “clear long-term goal” plus “perseverance”.  In this article, it is assumed that you already have a clear long-term goal and let’s focus on exploring the latter.  Let’s try to look at the question, “how to persevere?” If you are reading this, it’s very likely that you already know the importance of perseverance and you are just finding ways to do better at it.  


You Need a Meaningful Goal

If your goal is not meaningful enough to you, why would you even start?  Knowing where you want to go is the first thing you need.  On the other hand, there are times when we are not exactly clear on what we want in our lives.  That long-term big goal of our life is sometimes called our life purpose.  Angela Duckworth calls it the “top-level goal”.  

“Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time.” - Angela Duckworth

In Gary Keller’s book “The One Thing”, he calls the life purpose “the one thing”.  In the book, he mentions that finding the one thing doesn’t mean that you are giving up your family for your one big career project.  Instead, you should have the one thing for different parts of your life.  For example, you should have the one thing for your career and the one thing for your family.  One person’s top-level goals could be to become the best writer that he or she can be and to become the best parent that he or she can be.  

Now, “being the best writer that he or she can be” is not a clear goal.  It’s common that a top-level goal is not a very specific goal.  That’s why you need mid-level goals, as discussed in Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit”.  That person’s mid-level goal may be to finish writing a book by the end of the year, and a low-level goal may be to spend 2 hours on writing daily.  

You just need your goals to mean a lot to you, so you have a better chance to keep doing your work in the tough time.  


You Need to Turn Your Important Tasks into Habits

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.” - John Dryden

Willpower is some type of energy that you use up everyday.  Yes, sleeping at night and eating right does recharge your body and give you some new willpower.  That means that you have some new willpower to spend everyday.  The fact is that the amount of willpower that we have each day is often not enough to keep ourselves disciplined for the entire day.  

Depending on willpower alone for achieving any goal doesn’t seem reliable at all.  One thing we can do is that we should manage our willpower and do the most important thing first thing in the morning while our willpower is relatively sufficient.  But that still isn’t reliable enough.  We need something stronger and more reliable - habits.  We need to turn our important tasks into habits.  

Science shows that it roughly takes 2 months to turn a daily task into a habit.  It means that if you have enough willpower to force yourself to go jogging at 6am everyday for 2 months, it will become a habit and you will no longer need willpower to perform this task after 2 months.  You can also use this technique for breaking bad habits.  You will be amazed with what you can achieve if you can learn how to use this technique of building good habits and breaking bad habits.  

Here are the steps for turning a task into a habit (let’s assume the goal is to jog for 30 minutes a day):

1) Define your daily goal clearly (e.g. jog for 30 minutes a day)

2) Choose a time to do it, a time that you have sufficient willpower to force yourself to do it for 2 months, also a time that you wouldn’t get distracted (e.g. 6am)

3) Do that for 2 months (e.g. jog for 30 minutes at 6am daily, do that for 2 months without take a day off)

4) After 2 months, you will find that you no longer need a lot of willpower to force yourself to go jogging.  You simply naturally wake up and go jogging at 6am.  


Get Back to the Treadmill After a Bad Day, Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Let’s say your goal is to jog for 30 minutes everyday.  Sometimes things that happen around you force you to miss a day.  Sometimes, you just don’t have the energy and miss a day.  Sometimes, you are just lazy and miss a day.  Regardless of the reason, you may tend to blame yourself when you miss a day.  The problem of self-blaming is that it discourages you from continuing doing the task.  If you miss a day, just get back up and continue to do the task the next day.  You don’t want to do double the amount, e.g.: jogging for 1 hour instead of 30 minutes, to make up what you missed your previous day.  Just do the task.  Don’t beat yourself up.  No blaming.  Just do the task.  


Enjoy & Trust the Process

It’s good to know your big goal, but it’s not good when you only care about it.  You have got to learn to enjoy the process and trust that your process is moving you towards achieving your big goal.  With that being said, it’s a good thing to check maybe once every few months how well your daily task moves you toward your goal.  It’s okay to have ups and downs but is your daily task on average moving you toward your goal in a time period of 3 months or so?  If it’s not, that could mean that your plan is not designed well enough.  Go back to working on your plan and figure out what your daily task should be in order to reach your big goal.   When you are confident that your daily task is moving you in the right direction, it’s much easier to persevere, knowing that what you are doing right now is going to be valuable.  


Appreciate Small Wins

It’s no secret that people like encouragement.  You don’t necessarily need someone else to encourage you.  Self-encouragement works.  To make yourself persevere, reward yourself everytime that you are able to finish your daily task.  Your reward can be one hour of fun time, a nice meal, or whatever that makes you happy.  Everyday, spend a few hours working on what is the most important, then reward yourself with one hour of doing your favorite activity.  That makes working much more enjoyable and sustainable.  


Have a System to Hold Yourself Accountable

Now you know that you need a meaningful and clear goal and you need to convert that into daily tasks.  The one million question is, “how to hold yourself accountable and finish what you are supposed to do, day after day?”  This is really the hard part and a system does help tremendously.  A traditional to-do list is a good start, but is not as effective as you may think.  A much better tool would be something that allows you to reflect on your progress and your flaws.  In recent years, a system called “Bullet Journal” is a great tool that combines a traditional to-do list with progress tracking.  More than that, it has a feature called “migration” to force you to reflect on why there are some tasks that are not getting done.  It forces you to ask yourself whether the task is still important.  Should you cross it off or should you migrate the task to the next month?  “Bullet journal” is simply a method of journaling you can use on any type of paper notebook.  It’s really a simple and effective tool.  


Get Someone to Hold You Accountable If You Can’t Do It Yourself

If you can’t hold yourself accountable, it’s not the end of the world.  It also doesn’t mean that you are incapable.  It simply means that you are not naturally good at holding yourself accountable, just like not everyone is naturally good at playing the piano.  Just like other areas in life, you can delegate the “holding you accountable” task to someone else.  You can get an accountability partner, sometimes known as an accountability buddy, someone that talks to you on a regular basis to check if you have done what you said you wanted to get done.  Another way to do it is to get an accountability coach if you have trouble finding an accountability partner.  


Don’t Check Your Progress Too Frequently, or Too Rarely

Let’s say your goal is to lose 20 pounds in a year.  In order to succeed, you will need to convert your one-year goal into daily tasks.  For example, you may need to jog for 30 minutes and eat less than a certain amount of calories everyday.  What happens if you check your weight everyday?  Your progress is never a perfect straight line.  If you check your weight daily, there are days when you would find yourself gaining some weight.  You would be discouraged and it might make you miss the next day.  It might also make you doubt your plan, which probably had no problem at all, and make you change your good plan for the worse.  On the other hand, if you check your weight every 2 months, there is a chance that you are executing a badly designed plan.  You could have discovered the flaws in your plan early if you check your weight more frequently.  If you want to execute your daily tasks and persevere, it’s important that you find the right frequency to check your progress for your specific task.  


Figure Out Your One Thing, and Focus On It (Stop Doing What isn’t Important)

If you have twenty things to do everyday, and you think they are equally important and you want to do them all, there is no chance you can sustain it.  Instead of thinking that you need to somehow boost your capability so that you can do twenty things in one day, you should find out what’s the most important one thing and tackle that first before you move on to do your second most important thing.  Call it a win if you can get your most important one thing done.  


Have Clear Priorities

“There can only be one most important thing. Many things may be important, but only one can be the most important.” - Ross Garber

Many people think they know which task they prioritize, but they don’t actually do it all the way.  For example, they may roughly know what project they want to work on for the day, but they don’t know the one specific task they want to start with that would make doing the rest of the project easier.  Another example is that some people may have decided doing a specific task at work is their priority, but they don’t know whether having a 30-min jog, kissing their spouse, or doing the specific task at work is their priority.  When you know your priorities and and when you know that you just have to finish a few important things to move yourself towards success, it’s much easier to persevere.  


Make Succeeding Necessary

Think about some of the things you have done in the past that you are most proud of.  How many of those things were done when you have your back against the wall?  For example, for some people, when they need the money to survive, they can just focus and build things that they either wouldn’t or couldn’t build when they are not as desperate.  That’s the power of necessity.  Find ways to raise your necessity to do your one thing.  

“This is what high performers do. Before they walk into that activity, they raise the necessity.” - Brendon Burchard

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