“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” We’ve heard this phrase over and again since our earliest school days – usually after experiencing repeated failure. It
epitomizes one characteristic that helps us develop into productive members of society: persistence.
Persistence is defined as firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. In by that definition it is neither a positive or negative activity. It just means we stick to whatever we’re doing. And in more than 20 years of working with kids I’ve seen persistence play out both ways.
When persistence is not productive
The dogged determination to accomplish some end goal by a specific means when that means is not working is not productive. For example, learning a list of spelling words by spelling them out loud over and over for hours on end – if it doesn’t produce an outstanding result on the spelling test – has done nothing but turn your student’s time and good effort into frustration and failure.
In such cases, while persistence may exhibited by the student, the old “try again” adage is not particularly relevant because success is not in sight. What comes to my mind in such cases are phrases along the line of “beating your head against a wall.”
Continuing to persist in doing something that simply is not working is absolutely NOT productive. And yet, I’ve witnessed well-meaning parents and educators cajole, plead, and otherwise try to motivate their students to attempt the same activity “one more time” in an effort to produce academic success.
Doing the same things over and over again is one common definition of insanity….
How to make persistence productive
If you want to help your student achieve success where he or she traditionally experiences failure, you need to help develop a new pattern of productive persistence.
TransformED trainers work with clients to help develop this important quality during their coaching sessions. Below are 3 things you can do to gain persistence:
- Set goals. Taking the time to outline your goals and then write them down gives you a tangible guideline for completing the tasks needed to accomplish your goals. By breaking large goals into smaller pieces, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed. As you work through your goals, keep the end in mind – the big picture view provides your brain with motivation to continue forward even when the going gets tough.
- Moderate your pace. Even the most driven person cannot work 24/7. To maximize your ability to persist in reaching your goals, alternate between times of intense effort and moderate effort. After a certain sprint to complete one of the items on your “to do” list, take a break – relax – and reward yourself with something that rejuvenates you. Celebrating progress activates the reward pathways in your brain and enables you to more easily persist when hurdles arise.
- Adjust your thinking. By seeing yourself as persistent, you will become more persistent. Neuroscience confirms that our brains are changeable and that the way we think directs our actions. Changing our thinking changes our actions. Though this sounds simple, it takes intentional effort to make it happen. Give yourself the reassurance that quitting is not part of who you are – that you are a person who stays the course and delivers.
If you find yourself struggling in your school or work life, an extra dose of persistence may help get you through. TransformED is here to help you transform your difficulties into life time successes.