Quality Magazine

Jim's Gems: The Road to Positive Change is Paved with Persistence

June 26, 2012


Any change is difficult, but the road to positive change is especially challenging. It takes more than new-year resolutions or simply writing down a few goals to achieve positive change. It takes persistence and determination. Calvin Coolidge said “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Persistence is the ability to maintain action regardless of our feelings or what’s going on around us. Even when we feel like quitting, we must continue to press on.

When we work on any big goal, our motivation may waver. At times we’ll feel motivated; other times to a lesser degree. But it’s not our motivation that will produce results-it’s our actions. Persistence allows us to keep taking action even when we don’t feel motivated to do so. Persistence is a matter of hanging on while others have let go; therefore, persistence is the ingredient that allows us to keep accumulating results.

Persistence will ultimately provide its own motivation. If we simply keep taking action, we’ll eventually get results, and results can be very motivating. For example, we may become a lot more enthusiastic about dieting and exercising once we’ve lost those first 10 pounds and feel our clothes fitting more loosely.

Sooner or later, however, we're probably going to be tempted to slip back into old ways, especially when we're feeling tired, lonely or sad. It is then that we need to have a plan ready that will help keep us on track.

What is the plan? One thing I’ve learned is to be ready with a list of alternative activities in which I can engage until the temptation passes such as: engage in positive self-talk; talking with someone who can give me positive reinforcement or encouragement; engage one of my classes in meaningful discussion; writing an article; focusing on helping someone with a challenge; reading; or just watching a good movie.

If you get through the temptation successfully, give yourself a ‘pat on the back’ and push on. If you don't do so well, forgive yourself as the world is not going to come to an end. Grant yourself the right to be human, get right back on track, and move forward. We are not talking perfection here; we are talking about fulfilled potential for creating positive change.

Persistence, therefore, becomes a powerful ally. Elbert Hubbard, an American writer, said “A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.”