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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

It’s the ‘Persistence’ That Makes All the Difference!

The other day, I sat with a friend of high calibre in a restaurant sipping coffee… and conversing on all sundry. Suddenly our conversation veered to the novel project that he had taken up recently. As the conversation advanced,  to my utter surprise I came to know that he had given it up for he felt that he was reaching nowhere.

That at once reminded me of what Heidi Grant Halvorson, the author of the book, Succeed, stated:  It’s often seen that people of even high calibre/with high degree of IQ giving up a task the moment they feel that what they are pursuing is a bit difficult to achieve. In short, what she meant was: we often fail to achieve our goals because: we give them up too soon that too, for all the wrong reasons. She went on saying that on the other hand, we also see people with even modest abilities fighting with the venture that they have taken up till they succeed/accomplish the goal.

So, what matters for accomplishing a goal is not the ‘innate ability’ of an individual, —of course, if at all there is anything like innate ability—but ‘persistence’, persistence with the task till it is executed. As Confucius said, one needs to be diligent: once chosen a task, one must devote his/her effort for a long time to succeed at it. 

But then, the big question is: How to be diligent? How one could stay put with the task for a long haul? And, can it be learnt/cultivated?

The answer is: “Yes”, says Halvorson. It means, we can cultivate persistence by watching how successful people hang on to their tasks till accomplished. Some such traits are:

Persistent people hold different kind of beliefs: It is the selection of the very goal that makes all the difference, for selection of a right goal would automatically enhance the chances of your sticking to it for long. For instance, if a lean and lanky fellow attempts to enact the character of Julius Caesar in the play, he will be sure to end up in disappointment. Nevertheless, he can certainly become a good stage actor, of course, enacting such roles that his personality can carry forward, with determination and preparation.  Ability to act can certainly be improved with right effort. 

Secondly, some people are in the habit of explaining their failure thus: “I am unlucky” or “I am not smart.” As against this common approach, successful people are found to look at their failure as an indication that they need to put in more labour. For them failure means:  “you need to work harder.” And such reasoning automatically enhances the scope for your persisting with the task for longer.  

Persistent people are gritty: A gritty individual looks at achievement as a marathon. And psychologists say that this grit is heightened when goals are chosen autonomously or when they are pursued for their own sake.  When a goal matches with one’s own preferences, values and interests, it tempts the individual to put in extra labour and also pursue it till the goal is achieved, even if it takes longer time than usual. For instance, look at the toil that a sportswoman like Sindhu, badminton player, puts up to achieve a trophy at an international event. Day in and day out, both morning and evening … come rains or simmering heat of the summer or shivering cold of the winter, she subjects herself to rigours training under the analytical eyes of the coach. Practices the game with singular devotion till her ability matches the expectation of her coach and the demands of the trophy. It is the gritty perseverance with the training schedule and practise of the game to the exclusion of every other personal cravings that ultimately made her win the laurels. Similarly, it is the hope and confidence that one holds towards the accomplishment of the goal that makes one gritty-enough to persist with the task till success is achieved.  And, such people often proclaim, “I finish whatever I begin”.

And, now the question is:  what prevented you and me to declare the same? Perhaps, “nothing except our inertia”, says psychologists. For, they believe that everyone can improve his/her ability with training and can achieve goals when they steadfastly pursue them.  

They know, they can’t have all of them: Just as it is not right to abandon a goal simply because you think you have no ability to perform it, it is too bad to accept everything and anything that comes in the way for your execution.  Simply put, you don’t need to be afraid of abandoning a goal—like that of a  lean and lanky fellow with a feeble voice attempting to play the role of Caesar —when you sincerely believe that its accomplishment is practically impossible.

They know when the Price of the accomplishment is not worth paying: When you think that though the task is to your taste and is accomplishable, yet it would be perfectly alright to abandon it if its accomplishment is too painful, or you need to give up too much for its accomplishment. To put it otherwise, if the cost of accomplishment is too high, and it is not worth-affording, it would be perfectly alright to abandon a task half the way even.   

They also know when to give up a goal: At times, giving up a goal sounds more sensible than pursuing it endlessly. And there are two  very good reasons for such abandoning a goal: one, resources are limited and so in the interest of the important goals, you may have to give up some; and two, change in circumstances may make pursuit of a goal more unpleasant.

So, in the ultimate analysis, what matters for being successful in accomplishing goals is: hard work and persistence.  As a lyricist once said, “mohabbat karne waale gham se ghabraayaa nahin karte”, successful people don’t get frightened by the enormity of the task, come what may they hang on to it till they accomplish it.  


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