No matter the type of business you're starting, running or working in, there will inevitably come times when you have to muster a good dose of persistence to keep going. "Persistence implies that there may be challenges or obstacles faced when working toward [your] goals," psychologist Marni Amsellam, PhD, who sees clients in Connecticut and New York, tells me.
While I may not run a startup, as a two-decades-long self-employed writer in the highly competitive and sometimes narrow field of book publishing, I know firsthand what it's like to struggle over hills that can feel like mountains and to feel discouraged by an industry that constantly throws up obstacles. I've had more rejections and setbacks than I could ever hope to count. But it hasn't stopped me from writing and publishing.
Obstacles don't have to be stop signs, however; they can be guidelines to help you re-route, change course and find another path.
Amsellam describes persistence as "Effortfully working toward your goals without giving up." Persistence involves "both behavior and attitude," she insists.
CONNECT WITH YOUR PASSION
It's true that becoming persistent requires an attitude shift before you can take a new course of action, so how does one go about getting to that shift? I discovered, when writing my book, A Writer's Guide to Persistence, that the root of persistence comes from reconnecting with your own inner source of passion and purpose first.
If your only focus is on a big payout or going public one day, rather than the reason you launched your business in the first place, you might be missing out on a powerful engine of forward momentum. Just like cities, dreams aren't built overnight - they are the result of incremental progress, driven by a vision of a better product, a profound company, a better world. Take some time to reconnect with what got you excited about your business in the first place and find a way to remind yourself of that every day.
"Think big picture," Amsellam says. "Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Remind yourself that the efforts you're putting out now are part of the process of achieving your long-term goals."
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Then, Amsellam encourages you to track your progress regularly, especially if it feels like you "may not have anything to show for your efforts." She cautions that this "does not necessarily reflect the full picture."
In my book on persistence, I say that everything a writer does for their writing practice counts toward the overall goal - thinking, taking classes, brainstorming, reading, they're all part of a larger practice, even if they don't neatly check off your to-do list. Amsellam suggests that entrepreneurs pay attention to the same sorts of elements in their own success. "Perhaps you've established key connections, done some informal marketing or practiced your elevator pitch," she says.
When you reflect on your progress, you're likely to find a lot more there than you realized, "evidence that can help motivate you to keep going."
And when you do start to recognize your progress, she encourages you share it with a colleague or loved one. "It's important to acknowledge your progress," she says. "Not only does it allow you the opportunity to share frustrations and commiserate, it also gives you the opportunity to receive encouraging feedback."
When you do have a success, no matter how small, Amsellam suggests you "integrate positive reinforcement in a way that is meaningful to you." Whether that comes from connecting with colleagues, celebrating with a night out, or giving yourself a gold star in your weekly planner, taking the time to pat yourself on the back is part of the larger behavioral shift in yourself away from criticizing yourself for failures.
I noticed the shift in myself: when I wrote because it was meaningful to me and I take pleasure in it rather than "to get it done" or "to be published," the quality of both my work and the time spent doing it vastly improved.