Measuring Your Degree of Persistence. Sometimes when people set out to accomplish a new goal, they put all of their interest in taking that first step. In fact, they make all kinds of plans and goals before they ever begin and then focus solely on the first portion of the journey.
It’s almost as if they enter a race at a sprint but then tired out before they ever finish the first lap. If you ask any runner for the key to success, they will tell you that it is endurance. If you want to be successful in any goal, you need to learn persistence.
Persistence is important in your life. It will mark how well you accomplish tasks that you set for yourself. It will determine whether you are going to finish or quit before you have actually reached your goal. You can have many great ideas for your business and personal life.
However, if you do not have the persistence to see them through, it is a waste of time to get started. Do you know how to measure your degree of persistence? Before beginning any task or setting a goal, you need to understand your level of persistence and commitment. It is not exactly easy to measure your own persistence.
If you are going to be honest with yourself, the only way to measure your persistence is during a task. Then you can measure your persistence level based on when or if you give up. This could take days, weeks, months, and even years. Most people do not have that much time to waste just to find out their persistence levels. Instead, you can ask yourself a few questions that can help you figure out your level of persistence.
Cal Newport over at Study Hacks wrote an interesting article where he claims that getting started is overrated. He argues that too many people get started without commitment. As a result, they waste valuable time and energy on pursuits that they will give up after a few months of haphazard effort. Action without persistence is a waste of time.
Be determined to work longer on your goals. Pick any goal you want to measure your persistence for. Now, ask yourself how long you would be willing to work on the goal, without any positive feedback, or without being able to see any results from your efforts.
That length of time, I believe, is a rough estimate of your commitment to a project or your goal. For example, If you want to get in shape, ask yourself how long you would be willing to go to the gym every day, if you didn’t lose a single pound, didn’t increase at all in strength, or didn’t look any different. How long would you be willing to continue?
If you want to start a business, ask yourself how long you would be willing to keep experimenting and producing without earning a single dollar of revenue. Or receiving any indication that your business would continue.
Obviously, working forever without any results means you’re doing something wrong. Either you’ve picked an impossible pursuit (try flying by flapping your arms) or your approach is completely broken.
However, as a thought experiment, this question is still valuable. There are going to be periods in the pursuit of any goal, where you will completely lack positive feedback. You won’t have any motivational fuel to encourage you forward. The question is based on how long you feel you can continue in spite of this total absence of results.
To go back to Cal’s original article, about the dangers of starting without commitment, I’d argue that you should avoid starting projects that have low persistence values. If you can’t honestly give a high persistence value for a project, don’t bother starting it.
What’s a high persistence value? It depends on the pursuit, but I’d say the safest value is, “forever”. “Forever” in the literal sense means an infinite amount of years, your entire lifespan or some other unimaginably long period of time. But in this context, it simply means that you aren’t relying on positive feedback to motivate you forward.
If you were able to continue towards a goal forever, without seeing results, you’re in the safest position to pursue a goal.
Once again, this is a thought experiment, not reality. Even if your persistence value for a goal is “forever”, that doesn’t mean you don’t expect to see results somewhere along the way. It just means you won’t give up, even if they don’t appear.
Few of your projects will have such high persistence values. But, you still think a high value is important, even if you wouldn’t devote your entire life to a project.
Steve Pavlina suggested that most online small businesses take 3-5 years to become successful. This means that if you’re planning to start a website, but your persistence threshold is six months, don’t even bother starting.
Similarly, I believe the minimum persistence value needed for getting in shape would be a year.
Although it is possible to make significant progress in just a few weeks, that isn’t always the case. You might spend months at the same level as new habits are forming or you reach a plateau in your conditioning.
Measuring Your Degree of Persistence. Having values of “forever” for some goals isn’t a matter of motivation. Motivation is the urge to seek positive feedback. Persistence is the ability to continue forward in the complete absence of any. Motivation can’t push you forward in a pursuit you would continue even if you never received any positive feedback.
Instead, persistence is a combination of patience and an intrinsic desire to do the activity. Running a business for me is a near “forever” in terms of persistence.
I’m patient in that I don’t expect any immediate feedback for any business effort I take on. In addition, I love writing, creating new ideas, and being my own boss. Even if I was forced to run these as a no-income hobby, the value would be enough that I would be able to continue.
Finally, always know that Life isn’t a video game. There are often huge gaps where there is little reward for hard work. The longer and more difficult a project, the larger these vacuums can be. Motivation is important, but it’s also important to be able to persist through those seemingly infinite valleys.