More or less, overnight success is a myth; the vast majority of entrepreneurs encounter success only after working incessantly to achieve their career goals. They endure sleepless nights, endless days, and countless rejections. Whether it is in business or another field such as entertainment, sports, or politics, perseverance is more than just a personality trait to the accomplished. It is a way of life, a willingness to work hard and constantly apply massive amounts of effort. Difficult goals require both diligence and determination…and we should recognize the value of what these individuals fight through on the way to accomplishing them more often.
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck says that the grit or “stick-to-it-iveness” when working towards goals is usually even more important than the actual achievement itself. According to Dweck, the whole self-esteem movement has taught us erroneously that praising intelligence, talent, and abilities too much backfires because it sends a message of abjuring growth and staying stagnant. So what should we praise? We should always recognize our achievements, of course, but even more we should highlight the persevering process: the effort, the little wins, the strategies, and the resilience in the face of obstacles along the way. If perseverance is celebrated above natural-born inclinations and talents, the results are overwhelmingly positive. We perform better, staying motivated to continually push ourselves and embrace the challenges we face along the road.
Take into consideration these famous success stories:
Walt Disney’s first animation company went bankrupt. A news editor once fired him because he lacked imagination. Legend has it, he was turned down 302 times before he got financing for creating Disney World. Yet, he ended up being a cultural icon and a pioneer in the entertainment industry.
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team only to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
J.K. Rowling’s first book in the Harry Potter series was actually rejected by 12 publishers. The series has now sold more than 400 million copies.
While these are extreme examples of great perseverance, always keep in mind that this habit, or virtue, doesn’t necessarily require a lifetime of struggle and battle. Simply getting through the little frustrations of our daily lives in a noble manner while working towards good goals is equally as virtuous. Since practically living a virtue is like using a muscle, the more we “work it out” and practice perseverance, the stronger our integrity becomes.
Whether we find ourselves working on mastering a new learning technique with our toddler or learning a new professional skill at our job, the ability to focus and refocus (and refocus again) on our goal will determine our ability to accomplish it. There are incredible benefits to growing in our persistence. Not only will we find ourselves confidently taking ownership over our future and future goals, others will take notice and find us more trustworthy because we don’t give up in the face of obstacles.
Every human on Earth is well aware that life comes with struggles and rough patches. After the difficult season passes, the benefits of perseverance while achieving our goals become extremely clear. We experience the satisfaction of looking in the mirror and finding a more restored, stronger version of ourselves. Even greater, embracing perseverance tranforms our lives into an unfinished masterpiece with endless, continuous opportunities for even more success and happiness.
By Stephanie Corder, Operations Manager for Families of Character