For success to happen it takes more than only perseverance and skill, you also need to have clarity, balance and energy. This is what I often discuss with my competition athlete clients, such as clay shooting champion Wendell Cherry, paddle board champion Sean Poynter or any of my pro golf clientele. And this does not only apply to sports, it is equally evident in life in general.
In this article, I’d like to go a step further and describe the role of perseverance in achieving greater success as it helps your ability to achieve peak performance in life, and whatever aspect of life you choose to put your attention to.
To help illustrate the value of perseverance in achieving greater success, I would like to share the following quote from 19th century’s social reformer Jacob Riis with you. It states: “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two and I know it was not that blow that did it-but all that had gone before.”
I chose this quote because so many times we focus so hard on our outcomes…looking at the end goal or destination, that we overlook all of the successes we have along the way. We can become so goal oriented and focused on what the goal is, what life will look like when we get there, how we can visualize our life, revving ourselves up mentally and emotionally in order to get to that point where we are ready…to feel like we are focused, we know what we want and we are going to stop at nothing until we get it!!
The problem with that is, since we are so focused on achieving our long-range goals, we often end up missing out on opportunities right in front of us. We end up not seeing the smaller successes and their opportunities, because our vision is so set on where we want to end up, that we do not see what is right here in front of us. We then tend to get frustrated or not see progress, as it usually takes time to achieve success. Or, we only look for progress that looks the way we want it to; meaning, we define and visualize sub-goals in order to reach the larger ones and if they don’t look the way we want, we don’t see our progress!
Riis’s quote really addresses perseverance as a way to achieve peak performance. Being steady or persistent; having a course of action or a purpose and in spite of all kinds of obstacles, challenges, discouragements or difficulties, you stay steady on pace…committed to the journey you are on. In theology, I like how they bring in grace as a part of this. The ability to be in a state of grace from beginning to end; being able to put your mind to something and have goals, desires and wonderful ideas for your life, but to come back and take action and commit yourself to the process with a state of grace…not with frustration, discouragement or set definitions of exactly how success should look.
It is when your ego get involved that you say: “this is exactly when this should happen and if it doesn’t happen like this, at this time, or look like this, then I am going to get frustrated and discouraged and think that things are not going the way they should.” If you do that, you might feel like you are not making any progress and you may want to give up on your goals altogether. Instead, with grace, you are capable of realizing that you are making progress, and progress is success.
Of course, you will see a lot less progress if you sit in your recliner watching TV all day. You can have all the goals you want, visualize things and have all these ideas of how you would like outcomes to be; but if you just sit like that all day with very little action on your part to participate in the creation of what you want, then you won’t see progress to keep you energized in pursuing your goals.
Putting that aside, let’s say you are taking action, making phone calls and stepping out, filling out applications and going on interviews, having regular get-togethers or events that are part of your business plan. Then it is just like that stone cutter hammering away at his rock. It may be the 101st blow when you finally see all of your hard work coming together…all of what you have been focused and working on, resulting in some great achievement. The point is that success does not come by thinking about achieving it alone. You must take consistent action if you are going to succeed.
So as you work towards your goal, keep in mind that you cannot chisel out a beautiful sculpture with just one whack of your hammer. You also cannot chisel it out by hacking away at it and being crazy with your hammer. You have to do a little at a time; have a vision, have a goal and come back to take the steps and see the progress of each success along the way. So in that, you will be able to slowly, gradually, with perseverance, diligence, and focus, make the kind of progress to have a really beautiful outcome – achieve peak performance.
It is the Journey towards the destination
Now think about being that stone cutter, and maybe how you just want to get the job done…you really want the outcome and are focused solely on that as a measure of your success. You want it to come out and you get frustrated as you chip it wrong, or something doesn’t work out the way you want, or it is taking too long. Obviously, stone cutters know better than that. But here you are in life, doing that with your own dreams, goals and desires. People do that every single day. Every day, they get frustrated when things don’t go the way they hoped or it looks like their hard work is not paying off. When outcomes are not exactly as people want them to be, they do not see success in what they have accomplished. They fail to realize that peak life performance does not just come from reaching a goal…it is the journey and all the work they put into reaching that goal that creates success.
Rather than being gentle on ourselves or realizing success comes with one hit of that hammer at a time; and sometimes one hit could change the whole plan because what we thought was going to be the shoulder, might have to be something else if we whacked a little too hard and a bigger chunk came off then we wanted. So now we have to recreate our plans and vision, but that’s okay. It doesn’t mean we have to destroy the whole piece. It means recreating our vision. We don’t have to get upset about that.
There are always obstacles along the way to achieving greater success. You will face challenges, but it does not have to mean the end of your goal or dream, or that everything is over. It could mean that you will evolve, accept and mold yourself with life and circumstances and still have your goals, dreams and desires, but be in reality at the same time. You could redefine success as you hit each obstacle and figure out how to persevere in spite of it. Perseverance is so important to achieving peak performance.
Success is a matter of not giving up.
That is persevering; of knowing that each little step along the way is building to the end result, and it’s with each success that your goal is achieved. Then when you reach one goal, you can decide what else you want to pursue after that – you never really reach ‘the end’. You want to pat yourself on the back, give yourself credit for what you have done, and see the progress you have made already. Know that success does not have to look exactly how you think it should look, and that’s okay as long as you are taking action.
How do you really achieve peak performance?
As long as you have really good clarity, put energy forth into your goals and desires (that you are clear on), and take action to move forward in spite of obstacles that arise along the way, you will achieve successes that propel you toward your best possible performance. You will start to see the evolution of the beautiful desires you are creating, the beautiful sculpture of your dreams, if you keep taking one step, one hit of that hammer, without giving up as challenges present themselves. Your successes come as you work around those challenges.
But have that clarity and vision first, like that sculpture for the stone cutter; and find the right level of emotional balance, so you avoid an emotional roller coaster if things don’t happen like you thought they should, or in the time you envisioned them to happen. Have balance and take breaks from your work to rejuvenate your batteries and have energy. Take care of yourself and other areas of your life so you don’t feel guilty, like you might be neglecting yourself or others. You want to have really good energy when it is time to focus on achieving greater success with your goals, and you need to maintain balance in order to do that.
As you are striving to be successful and reach your goals, be totally in the process and enjoy the moments, knowing that every step creates your peak performance and leads to the greater picture of success in your life. Never become discouraged or think your steps are small or insignificant, as you work towards greater success. Remember what Jacob Riis said: “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it-but all that had gone before.”
What peacefulness and grace that brings, to help you enjoy the journey. Have your destination in mind and just enjoy the journey. Steady persistence, perseverance in your course of action and purpose, your state of mind…especially in spite of obstacles, difficulties or anything that would be challenging or discouraging…that is what creates peak life performance and will bring you the greatest success. If you cannot enjoy the journey, what’s the point?