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When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going


By Sonia Hickey

Believe it or not, this funky little 80s pop song by Billy Ocean, with its easy uplifting beat and its cheesy lyrics has a lot to teach you about success in your career and in life.

The difference between successful people and us mere mortals is talent, right?

If not, then it’s opportunity? Money? Time?

Surprisingly, no. It’s none of these things.

There are lots of bodies of research that delve into the mindset of successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, sportspeople, politicians, actors and actresses …. and a lot of these pieces of research point to one commonality. These people have perseverance and persistence in abundance.

In the face of bankruptcy, impossible feats, rejection … they have each picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and started all over again.

In his book “Losing my Virginity” Richard Branson talks about being up against the wall financially many times. The story of Apple firing Steve Jobs from his own company before hiring him back several years later is the stuff of 20th Century legend. Henry Ford went bankrupt three times designing his automobile. Einstein went down in the history books for being kicked out of school.

I know what you’re thinking … ‘they’re the one-of-a-kind geniuses that come along only a handful of times in a generation, right?’

How does any of this possibly relate of us? Those of us who don’t have this kind of unshakeable self-confidence and seemingly ‘superhuman’ belief that we can succeed despite all odds?

Well, my friends, we too have the ability to persevere.

Perseverance is human nature.

We’re all born with a strong survival mechanism. But both nature and nurture contribute to our mindsets. And herein lies both a blessing and a curse, depending on which way you look at it. While we’re born with certain abilities, over time, as we learn and grow, we are as shaped by our experiences as we are our genetics.

Because humans are social creatures, we’re influenced by those around us – our parents, families, friends, teachers, mentors …. It’s natural for us to want to ‘fit in’ with others, feel acceptance and be part of a ‘tribe.’ We’re not wired to cope with loneliness, and in fact, studies have also shown that loneliness can be as detrimental to our health as smoking.

And it’s a complex thing, our human need for interaction, because it also comes with an inevitable desire to compare ourselves too – and more often than not, we sometimes end up feeling like we don’t measure up in some aspects: we’re not good enough, smart enough, rich enough, brave enough…. And the list goes on.

Invariably, most of us, at some point, accept the status quo too. We don’t step outside the box. We do what’s expected of us. We go to university, get a job, pay the bills … and along the way, we let go of our childhood dreams, considering them whimsical fantasies we’ve outgrown in the quest to become adults and move forward with life.

In doing so, many of us lose our ‘shine’ and our passion and our hunger. We lose ourselves. We end up unfulfilled and plodding along, asking ourselves if this really is a good as it gets.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Life coaching and personal development have become a multi-billion dollar global industry as we strive for more. As we strive for happiness.

This is why a lot of coaches talk about ‘biohacking our brains’ so that we can undo all the negative thinking and behavioural patterns we’ve ‘learned’ and re-program our brains for a healthier, more positive, more fulfilling life.

We are, after all, what we think and what we believe.

But if you think that sounds complex and a little exhausting, you’re not alone. Frankly, who's got time for all that? On top of career pressure, financial burdens, and perhaps the relentless demands of a family to care for too? What happens to those of us who don’t have the time or the luxury to go defying our responsibilities and commitments to chase our (pipe) dreams?

Well, folks, here’s the cheat sheet: We persevere.

It really is as simple as that. And here’s why.

Perseverance is at the very core of shifting all the things in our lives that we want to change. Maybe the middle-aged weight gain, the late nights bingeing on Netflix, the stress-related drinking, the longing to take up art classes, the desire to change jobs … whatever.

Not only does perseverance disrupt inertia, it’s more easily achievable than you think.

So how can you cultivate a mindset of perseverance?

  1. You take the first step.
    Seem obvious? Remember, you have to actually try, before you can succeed. After you’ve taken the first step, you take the second. And then the third. Break whatever it is you’re aspiring too, down to bite-sized chunks. Rome was not built in a day, and nor was Tesla. Rarely is anything an ‘overnight’ success, (unless winning the lottery is involved) so give yourself a break. One. Step. At. A. Time.
  2. Set goals.
    In a study done in New York several years ago researchers found that people who set clear, concise goals achieve them 95% of the time! If that sounds a bit too new-agey for you, then just write yourself a good old-fashioned ‘To Do’ list. And start to tick those items off. It’s pretty much the same thing, so long as you remain accountable.
  3. Don’t underestimate the power of passion!
    Interestingly, in the same study mentioned above, the one caveat was that these people only achieved their goals if they staunchly refused to quit. This is not ‘be resilient’ mumbo-jumbo. It’s plain old one-eyed focus. You can do this. Keep your eye on the finish line.
  4. Plan … and be flexible.
    Not everything goes according to plan. So … if you have to take a detour, do it. But don’t get distracted. Re-evaluation is all part of the process, if it means getting to the end result.
  5. Have fun.
    If you’re seriously not enjoying what you want to achieve, then re-consider your goal. Sure, those first few workouts are tough when you haven’t exercised in awhile. Sticking to salad when everyone’s eating cake is not easy. Do what you can do. One set-back is not the end, it is simply a chance to try again.

And don’t forget to celebrate the victories along the way. They’re just as important as the end result.

About the author:
Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice, and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team.
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