Perseverance is a terribly important character trait for making it through life.
We need it for the day to day challenges which seem determined to ruin our schedules and to steal our joy. And we need it for the long-term struggles every individual and family must face. Perseverance unfortunately is a hard-earned trait. Like patience or Olympic level gymnastics, it requires a lot of work and development.
There are endless barriers between us and our goals in life. These barriers are often the things which break us down, derail us, and stop us from developing the perseverance we need in order to weather the toughest moments of our lives. Victories in our life almost always come on the other side of perseverance, so we need to find ways to overcome these barriers as we overcome our struggles.
Past Failures Won’t Stay in the Past
We are supposed to learn from failure and move on. If taken correctly, failure can be the greatest teacher. It is how we bounce back from failures which speaks more about our future success than even our past successes do. That’s all fine, but our failures don’t always stay in the past where they belong as we try to carry our important lessons forward. Our failures haunt us. They can tear down our confidence and weaken our courage. As we try to learn from the past, we relive the negative emotions and the heartache of the failures themselves.
How to overcome failure...
Overcoming this obstacle does not really mean suppressing our failures or ignoring our past. If this worked easily, this probably would not be a barrier against pressing on toward future success at all. The key is to put failures into perspective – the proper perspective. You are not defined by your failure. You are not stopped by past mistakes. You do have to learn the lessons which will help you move forward, but that lesson is not that you should quit and it is not that you aren’t good enough. You have to take away strength and motivation from your past experiences and use that to push you forward instead.
Perfection Ruins Everything
We will drive ourselves mad running after perfection and we often do. This is not to say we should not try our best. We should strive for excellence. We should try to be the best – definitely the best and truest version of ourselves. We should set high goals and lofty bars. Perfection can become an obsession though. It becomes a barrier when you cannot move forward because you seem to always fall just short of perfection. By being paralyzed by anything less than perfection, you go the complete opposite way into shutdown, incompletion, and failure. An irrational notion of perfection can ruin your life and unwind all your forward progress.
How to overcome perfection …
You have to give yourself permission to be less than perfect. You can still strive for greatness, but don’t throw your hands up and give up when utter perfection is not achieved. Your view of perfection might be askew because of how hard you are on yourself. Give yourself a break. Recognize great and really good work for what it is without dying on the pyre of perfection. You have the right to improve and the time to improve. You often have the ability to go back to edit, adjust, revise, and revisit. This can be a more effective way to move closer to perfection than coming to a full stop because perfection did not materialize on the first attempt.
Plans that Don’t Work Out as Planned
This can knock us right of the race. We have prepared for everything. Maybe we have been through this struggle before and this time we are ready. We have done our homework and we know how to make this work. Then, it doesn’t. The plan comes apart on step one or two and we’re already improvising. We find ourselves adrift and we find we might as well have not planned at all. This seems like a great time to quit!
How to overcome plans …
Your planning was not a waste. Things just didn’t go as planned. The time you spent preparing and conditioning yourself for what lies ahead can be more important than the actual steps in the plan which seem to have gone out the window. If you have to improvise and roll with the punches or steer into the wind, you are in fact better prepared for “winging it” than if you had not planned at all. You have a foundation. Things just changed from there. Maybe the heart of the plan still works and it is a mistake to abandon it entirely. Trust yourself to find your way forward and to “replan” based on new circumstances. It did not go as planned, but that happens a lot. You have made it before and you can do it again.
Life is Full of Surprises
This may relate to the previous barrier about plans, but life throws us curve balls whether we have plans or not. We think we are prepared for the day and then that is the very day that the wheels come off. Life changes in a dramatic way and everything is about to be different. It is almost not worth listing examples here because we all understand how life comes at us at the worst angle at the worse times on some random Tuesday which was supposed to be uneventful. For every example I could give, it would be the next thing that comes along that I didn’t think of which would be another surprise. This can be a huge barrier to perseverance because once this happens to us enough times, we can fall into the mode of waiting for the next disaster. We can’t enjoy life and all its surprises because we are bracing for the next nasty surprise. It is hard to move forward, if you are always on guard and hunkered down for trouble at every moment.
How to overcome surprises …
Life is more than just sailing through the calm waters as we wait for the next disaster over the horizon. We make guesses about how our life will be, but it will inevitably be something different from that image. If we pay attention, the places we find ourselves in life are better suited to our skills and needs than the smooth, surprise-free path we wanted. We do not want to go through hard times, but we know we will. Perseverance will see us through and we’ll be at a place we couldn’t have gotten to along the smooth path we might have preferred.
Lack of Support
The people we surround ourselves with influence our thinking and our attitude. There are plenty of people in life who naturally tear you down either intentionally or unintentionally. We can’t do life alone as much as some of us might wish we could. We need a support system and it is better if that network of support runs through people we trust and people who are interconnected. Isolation is destructive. It can be as bad as surrounding yourself with unsupportive people who are in opposition to you and your goals.
How to overcome lack of support …
You have to let people in. You can go faster by yourself sometimes, but it is also easier to burn out. You are more likely to go far when you are supported by others. We feed off positive energy and like-minded people (when we are in the right mindset). At the same time, you might have to let some people go. Negative influences or people who are in opposition to you may have to be kept at a safe distance no matter how close they are “supposed” to be to you. They are not going where you are going, so you can’t get to a good destination together.
Falling into the Wrong Goals
I wish this barrier were harder to fall into. It is called falling into the wrong goals because we don’t always have to work really hard to end up attached to the wrong goal. Sometimes the wrong goal just finds us. You have a purpose in life. You may still be searching for yours, but you have one. Often times, goals get made for us by people on different paths than us or people who have some sort of influence on our lives. Their vision is not yours. We go along to get along and then we end up working hard and constantly toward goals which do not fit us and in which we really do not believe.
How to overcome wrong goals...
You have to be true to yourself. Oh, that’s new. No one has ever said that to you before, huh? Who hasn’t read that a thousand times in swirly scripts on Facebook memes? But you need to find out who you are, what your purpose is, and in what direction you are meant to go. You have to say “no” to things sometimes. People will survive if you don’t live up to their every expectation and desire. They will. Every minute you spend going the wrong direction is time you are wasting on your intended goals. Don’t be afraid to change direction to find the right goals.
Fatigue is Just Tiring
If you dare to persist long enough, you will get tired. We all burn out and we are often not recharged before it is time to take up the race again. The longer we have gone through a struggle, the more fatigue will set in and build. We are limited creatures. Our bodies and minds will give out sometimes under certain circumstances.
How to overcome fatigue …
Give yourself time and permission to rest. You may sometimes feel you have no choice but to keep going and really that is what perseverance is and what it is for. But you have rest and recharge sometimes and regularly. You are no use to yourself or anyone else if you are spent and destroyed the moment you try to start up again. Part of perseverance is pushing forward even when you are tired. Another part is knowing when to rest so that you can continue the fight tomorrow.
Pain is the Gift that Keeps on Taking
Chronic pain afflicts so many more people than many of us realize in so many walks of life. Even people suffering from chronic pain feel like they are alone in it. Having gone through kidney failure and a transplant, I shared my story with many people and was overwhelmed by hearing all the stories of others who were suffering and needed someone to understand what they were going through. It broke my heart because I know what it is like to be in constant pain and I know what it is like to be delivered from it. That gives me great empathy for those who are unable to escape ongoing pain. In this same light, we could add to this particular barrier those who suffer pain through anxiety, depression, or losses which cause grief or emotional distress. This barrier is a tough one because it saps our strength. At any time during the day, your energy could be gone mentally, emotionally, and physically and there is nothing left to give. It limits how far you can go and what you are even willing to attempt, knowing those limitations.
How to overcome pain …
Always seek help. This means medically and with your support system. This is a situation which definitely should not be faced alone or in isolation no matter how tempting withdrawing can be when you are in pain. If you are in a situation where you are having trouble convincing doctors your pain is real, keep pushing. Perseverance in this moment can be the very thing you need to demand the help which may relieve some or all of your pain. And know that it is not weakness to take proper medical solutions regardless of the sources of our pain. Without the proper medical help, there could always be a temptation to self-medicate in many ways and that is not the outcome you want or need for your life. Also, understand that persevering does not mean being invincible or immortal. It is okay to step aside from things in life when you hurt. Perseverance means trying again tomorrow or the next day even though it hurts. You rise up again and if the day falls short of expectations because of your pain, you give yourself permission to celebrate your smaller victories and you rise again the next day. The weakness you feel in pain can often be your hidden strength because you have had to develop a level of perseverance just to get out of bed some mornings and to put one foot in front of the other. Recognize the strength you have from living your life and give yourself credit for that, especially when you feel you are weakest.uild us up. It opens the possibility for courage and it makes our victories over the things that scare us more powerful. Fear can also be paralyzing when it is not handled properly. Our fears can consume and control our lives.How to overcome fear …You already do this every day in big and small ways. Many things bring us fear, but we move forward anyway. The fears which become are barrier are typically bigger though. It is important to know that the same processes and strengths we used to get by our smaller fears can be applied to the bigger things which scare us and make us want to quit moving forward. Don’t try to face everything at once. “Everything” is way too big when piled together, so worry about today. Plan ahead, but handle each day and each thing in its own time. You can and should work ahead, but don’t waste all your time “worrying ahead.” This grows the fears instead of shrinking them into a manageable size you can get through as you press onward.
Having to Hurry up and Wait
Who wants to wait when we are striving toward a goal or when we are putting our all into something? Who wants to wait when we are in a bad place and we want out? Who wants to wait ever when there is something we really want? No one sane. Timing is everything and sometimes the timing for our life or our deliverance is not on our desired schedule. There are a lot of things at play in life and the right solution for our lives could require other pieces to fall into place. This may mean we have done all we can for the moment and the next step in our path is something we have to wait upon. This can feel very much like wasted time and wasted life.
How to overcome waiting …
Do not lose track of your goals. We can become anxious in moments of waiting and make rash decisions. Sometimes with have to trust the process. We do not want to become complacent either though. We can get so used to waiting that we are no longer active in our pursuits. We might miss the signal that the wait is over and the opportunity is upon us. Even while waiting, we can be alert and vigilant. We can and should be actively ready.
There are very few barriers bigger than fear. In some ways, every barrier on this list and every single additional one we could possibly name involve some varying levels of fear. Fear has the potential to build us up. It opens the possibility for courage and it makes our victories over the things that scare us more powerful. Fear can also be paralyzing when it is not handled properly. Our fears can consume and control our lives.
How to overcome fear …
You already do this every day in big and small ways. Many things bring us fear, but we move forward anyway. The fears which become are barrier are typically bigger though. It is important to know that the same processes and strengths we used to get by our smaller fears can be applied to the bigger things which scare us and make us want to quit moving forward. Don’t try to face everything at once. “Everything” is way too big when piled together, so worry about today. Plan ahead, but handle each day and each thing in its own time. You can and should work ahead, but don’t waste all your time “worrying ahead.” This grows the fears instead of shrinking them into a manageable size you can get through as you press onward.
Doubting Yourself at the Wrong Times
Obviously, this connects to fear as well, but there is more to it. There is nothing wrong with doubt. Faith only exists in combination with doubt. This includes faith in ourselves. The element of faith that makes it powerful, whether we are speaking spiritually or secularly, is the ability to capture assurance which allows us to move past doubt. This is necessary for perseverance. It is not wrong to question ourselves or our motives. It is not wrong to reevaluate and make adjustments along the way. The problem is when self-doubt shuts us down, which it will inevitably do, if we let it grow.
How to overcome doubt …
Believing in yourself is key. You have to choose to. It is important to know your skills and your shortcomings, but you must also have the ability to see where your strengths are capable of more. You have to be willing to take a gamble on yourself from time to time. It is a risk, but one worth taking because this is your life. You sometimes need to believe your own myth enough to strive for something greater than you have done before. Sometimes you may fail partially, but you have to believe enough to try. Otherwise, greatness will always be out of reach.
We all fall into this from time to time. We are very distractible people. We buy all sorts of things in our lives for the purpose of distraction. Some of the games and pastimes we engage in use up large chunks of time that might be better used other ways. Sometimes we take on projects which are off course from our primary goals and purposes. A sidetrack can very quickly become the main track and then, the only track.
How to overcome sidetracks …
You have to discover what it is you were meant to do. If you have not yet discovered your individual purpose and calling, you need to keep seeking it out. This will involve some exploration of various paths. You must quickly recognize when something you are doing or some path you are following is not bringing you joy and fulfillment. This is not to say that hard work or trouble mean it is time to quit. That would be the opposite of perseverance. But it does mean that even when you are still seeking what you are about and what you are meant to do, you need to develop a sense for when something is a sidetrack or a distraction in your life and then remove yourself from that.
Losing Hope in Hope
Hope is a fleeting thing. It is powerful and it is important to the human spirit, but losing hope is also very human too. The light fades and we find ourselves in endless shadows and deep valleys. Hope is like faith in that our reasoning mind wants to push back against it. All the evidence of our eyes and experiences may make us want to believe that faith, religious or otherwise, has no basis. Dark times want to push us to believe that hope is a foolish notion. When everything around us pushes us to give up hope, it is sometimes very hard to hold on to it and that is a barrier to perseverance.
How to overcome losing hope …
Hope is being in the shadows, but still believing in the light and the possibility of reaching it again. Hope is being in the valley, but still believing the mountain is reachable. It is very much tied to faith in that way. That belief, that core principle of hope, is where perseverance is allowed to thrive to get us back to the light and the mountaintop. Very likely your hope is not truly lost no matter how much it feels that way. More likely, your hope is just lying dormant and waiting for you to dare to engage it again. No matter how far down you have gone, it is never too late to hope. No matter how dark your path, you are not walking it alone and others around you may know the way out. Find your hope again.
Listening to the Wrong Voices Inside and Outside Your Head
This is very closely tied to the barrier involving your support system. The same outline applies. This is bigger though because it includes a wider circle. These are people outside of just those in a position to support you. It includes everyone close enough to make comments on you, your life, and your struggles. This includes the comments you make to yourself. So, voices … if we’re hearing voices, maybe that’s our problem. Right? We do hear and listen to voices all the time though. There are voices we invent inside our heads, not because we are crazy, but because self-talk is how we work out problems and make sense of the world. Everyone around us becomes a voice outside our heads too. Both types of voices can become negatives. They can build up around us and within us to drag us down and take us off course. There may well be people in your life who do not want you to succeed for a variety of reasons. Your defeat becomes a powerful motivator for those types of voices and they become the loudest voices because of that. They want their damage to become your damage.
How to overcome wrong voices …
You need to reshape your thinking, first of all. This is a “habit building” process. You need to purposely fill your own head with positive affirmations for yourself. This does not have to be cheesy or cliché, but it has to be done for your success and your perseverance in order to reach success. The more you build yourself up and tell yourself you can do it, the more positive your outcomes will be and the wrong, negative voices will retreat because they have been replaced. This is not delusional thinking. The negative voices in your head which tear you down are the delusional ones. Replace them starting now. When it comes to the wrong voices outside your head, you need to replace them starting now too. People who have decided to be toxic and to fill your head with negative thoughts about yourself and your abilities have to go. This is especially hard to do if you are a person who is most loving, kind, and relational. We don’t want to cut people off just because they are broken. We don’t want to leave people when they are going through hard times. There is a difference though between being broken or in hard times and being downright toxic. If you take a long, hard, honest look at the people around you, you will see and have to admit you can tell the difference too. Keeping these people near you when they are tearing you down and undermining your success, does not serve you or them. They may get their lives together some time in the future, but the toxic relationship between the two of you has to end. You need to find like-minded people to replace them. This does not mean people who agree with you on every subject. You’re not building a bubble; you’re building a support team which mutually respects and builds up one another. These are people with similar goals and motivations. These are people on a positive track which compliments your journey. They can be different from you in all sorts of ways, but the drive for the same positive trajectory you are all seeking is vital. These are the right voices you need in your life to persevere together.
Stopping Just Before the Finish Line
The trick with any of our adventures in life is that the finish line for a particular goal isn’t always cut and dry. We might sense it is coming, but sometimes we won’t. Especially if it is along a difficult path, the finish can seem much farther away than it really is. Victory can be so close, but because of what we are going through, we feel like it is nowhere near our grasp. This is the time we are tempted to quit and sometimes it happens right when our perseverance and sacrifice were all about to pay off.
How to overcome stopping …
The difference between those who make it and those who don’t in almost any industry or aspect of life comes down to the fact that some people just plain refuse to quit. Every person who has succeeded at anything meaningful or worthwhile can look back on multiple, specific moments when they could have quit, they should have quit, and it seemed insane to keep going. Something in them decided to keep going anyway. They got to the other side of that smart exit or that quitting point and they kept going while others did not. It very rarely happens just once along the journey either. It happens to most successful people on multiple occasions along the path to victory.
You may have no idea how far you are from the victory you are seeking. The key to getting there is simply to refuse to give up trying. It is as simple and as nearly impossible as that. Perseverance isn’t something you grasp in your hands or find lying around you. It is who you are. You were designed to put up a fight and to push your limits. You were created to succeed at your life’s purpose and calling. Keep going. We’re rooting for you.