A drop of success will create a pound of persistence.
I’ve always wondered what factors made the difference between when I’ve stuck with something and when I’ve given it up. At first I thought it was strictly willpower and later I felt it had more to do with beliefs and circumstances. Now I can see that the most important requirement to keeping persistent with your growth in any area, or even your life is simply this. A drop of success.
Virtually no success is immediate and new research is even beginning to show that inborn talent has little influence. What all success requires is dedication, persistence and passion. This success could be learning a skill, improving your career or making your life better. Unfortunately persistence seems to be a scarce resource and it can often be hard to muster up when times get tough.
What I’ve found to be true in my own life is that a tiny bit of success can create a huge amount of momentum forwards. When you get that first trackback from your blog (I still remember mine). When you see a drop in the scale after starting a new diet. When you got the first kiss from your partner.
These magical moments of success usually fill you with extreme elation and instantly recharge your motivation to trudge onwards. Just one of these moments can overcome a lot of future frustrations. Because this feeling of success is so potent to your ability to persist, it begs a question. How can you get more of these moments?
You might believe that the answer is simply to persist until you find one. Unfortunately this forms a catch-22. You need to persist until you get some success and the success will cause you to persist. I think this circular logic is the reason people have so much initial trouble trying to grow in their lives.
I don’t believe the answer is that simple. I think if you know how, you can always find these drops of success, even when they are diluted in a pool of surrounding failure. Finding these drops may be difficult, but it can mean the difference between motivation and desperation. So how can you find them?
Reinterpret Your Reality
The first way to find success is simply to reinterpret how you view the results you have received. Ultimately success and failure is simply a perception, not a component of reality. It is up to you to decide what results mean each. For some people earning a million dollars and marrying a Nobel prize winning supermodel would be success. A monk who values poverty and celibacy might see this as a failure.
You need to start reinterpreting any and every result where you tried, as a success. If you want to become a successful salesman and the first customer shuts the door in your face. You need to see this as a successful attempt at getting the courage to make an interaction.
I know you’ve heard this before but there is no failures, only success and growth. Because growth itself is a success, there is only success. This may sound a little loopy, but it is how you need to see the world.
Unfortunately, telling you to reinterpret the world won’t actually help you. Your beliefs about what constitutes failure and success can’t be changed with a few platitudes. Although you might feel a bit better, even an ounce of neutrality isn’t as powerful as a drop of success. So from this point you need to move to the next step.
Success and failure are determined on a scale. You have chosen some arbitrary point to decide what a reasonable outcome is. If you are starting a blog this might be getting a thousand visitors a day in three months. Anything above is success, anything below is failure.
So what happens? Your first figures come in and after a month you are only averaging thirty readers a day. You’ve been dealt a blow of failure and you give up. But was the problem that you were a failure or simply that you didn’t know a reasonable estimate for what your traffic should be in three months? I would suggest the latter.
Some self-help experts tell you to expect the best and plan for the worst. I disagree. This line of reasoning is only effective when you completely understand what your chance of success is and the variables involved. With most new endeavors you will probably have a lot of difficulty accurately gauging what is a probable outcome.
Aware of this fact, when I set up my Adsense account for this website I asked a few bloggers with similar traffic ranking and content type what their level of earnings were, approximately. Quickly I found out that I had unreasonably high initial expectations. By reframing what would be a successful amount of earnings I was able to appreciate little increases in revenue as they came.
I’ve talked before on this blog about how you need to use both pessimism and optimism when moving towards your growth. The reason is that when starting out in a new area it is better to have low short-term expectations so that you can feel the success when those expectations are blown away. High short-term expectations make everything feel like a failure and quickly sap your emotional willpower to stick with it.
Setting goals and being optimistic in the short-term is only a good idea when you completely understand the variables involved. If you’ve been a salesperson for ten years and you want to increase your sales by 10% in one month, you will know whether this is a reasonable goal based on past growth rates and experience. If you’ve only been a salesperson for one month, determining an appropriate growth rate will be difficult and a very high, short-term goal could easily be unrealistic.
Keep in mind I’m only referring to the short-term. In the long-term be as optimistic as you can. What is long-term depends on what area you are talking about, but in most serious pursuits I would say that a long-term projection would need to be at least a year to five years in advance. But setting a ridiculous one-week goal is shooting yourself in the foot.
Look to the Past
Another way to get drops of success is by simply looking backwards and finding them again. When you see past growth it can motivate you to push ahead. No matter how long you’ve consciously pursued growth, you probably have a bunch of successes buried deep into your past. It is time to resurface these successes and use them again to push you forward.
Whenever I am feeling down or frustrated about an area of my life, all I need to do is look around at just how far I’ve come. My life doesn’t even resemble what it did a few years ago and I know that I am responsible for that. When I look at the challenges I overcame and the immense growth I experienced, my future challenges look tiny by comparison.
Remembering a past success in a similar vein as your future challenges can motivate you even when there is no current success to be found. Spend a few moments each day to look around at all the things in your life that you now have that once weren’t there. The things you created and paid for with past struggles and failure.
Do this exercise right now. Stare around you, what things that you once felt were impossible for you, you now own. I only have to look at my amazing social life, my blog and who I am to feel an immense sense of satisfaction. Even if you don’t think you’ve grown that much over the years, there are undoubtedly experiences of immense success that you had in your past that you can use in your future.
With this experience of success, be it a current relationship when you were once alone, a successful career when you were once broke or a sense of self-respect and confidence when you were insecure and scared, I want you to see how those defeated challenges apply to your new challenge. Magnify the success of your past compared to your current challenge. Do this and the feeling of success will pour in.
Every day you need to spend time finding these precious drops of success. They are your resource to push forward despite the pain and struggle. Take a new look at your current results and see the success hidden within. Reframe your current failure to be a step in the right direction. And look to your past for greater challenges you’ve already overcome. If a drop of success creates a pound of persistence then it will create a tonne of results.