Thomas Edison tried over 1,600 filament materials before he found the right one for his electric bulb. Iconic film maker Steven Spielberg was rejected thrice from a film school but didn’t give up on making films. And author Tim Ferriss got a thumbs-down from 26 publishers before he found one who would publish his bestseller, The 4-Hour Work Week.
Science reveals that a key quality of creative performance is persistence – the ability to continue through difficulties. Researchers Brian J Lucas and Loran Nordgren asked groups of people to spend 10 minutes coming up with ideas. When the time was up they added another 10 minutes for the groups to continue. In every case, better quality ideas were generated during the additional 10 minutes. The conclusion: most of us quit too easily and as a result our best ideas remain undiscovered.
How can you cultivate your ability to persist? Try these practices:
Ignore your instinct to quit
While tackling a task, particularly a creative one, you might reach a point where you feel stuck. Lucas and Nordgren suggest: ignore this instinct temporarily. Consider a few more alternatives or come up with just a couple of more ideas. Chances are, it’ll be easier than you imagined. Also, remember that creative tasks are supposed to seem difficult. ‘Feeling stuck’ is part of the process.
Build deep desire
Motivational speaker and author Steve Pavlina suggests building a burning desire towards a goal. He also recommends an outside-in approach: fill your environment with desire boosters like posters that help you visualize your goals. Surround yourself with positive people and energy. And whatever the task is, take immediate action.
Develop a growth mindset
Carol Dweck, Stanford University professor and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, explains how a growth mindset creates motivation and fuels productivity. “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This creates a love for learning and resilience, essential for accomplishment.”
Persistent people are known to have strong habits shaped by discipline, grit, and a commitment to learning. Their determination takes them places, and to new heights that just talent or education can’t. Are you willing to keep going?