What is behind persistence?

October 22nd, 2011 @   -  No Comments

He was an orphan, his father passed away before he was born and his mother died when he was just a little kid. He was brought up in modest surroundings with no formal schooling; he was illiterate. He spent his teen years as a shepherd. Later in his life, he was given a big mission to fulfil. He carried the mission for a number of years but nothing seemed to happen. There were no concrete results to show for it but poverty and hardship. He and his family were forced to leave their home under extremely difficult conditions. If you were faced with similar challenges, what would you have done?  You most likely would have quit. And if you did, no one would have blamed you. You have many valid excuses to present.

The Prophet (PBUH) went through the same stages of life.  He had been preaching for 13 years in Mecca and he had nothing concrete to show for it but torture and poverty. However, after a few years had passed and from a modest environment, he laid the foundation of a great civilisation. One of the qualities that lead to this great achievement is his persistence. Yet how did he find the strength to persist when he hadn’t yet seen results? How did he find the motivation to stay the course against all odds?  The prophet (PBUH) persisted because of his:

  • Faith - He had unshakable faith that The Almighty is in absolute control. When we cultivate this belief, we get the comfort that we are not alone and we will find hope and positive outcomes in all kinds of conditions.
  • Knowledge and belief in the cause - He knew and believed in his mission; he was clear about what he wanted.
  • Belief in a positive outcome - He had a strong belief that he will succeed by the will of God.
  • Effort - He put in the necessary effort and used different strategies to make things happen.
  • Support from committed people - He was supported by committed companions who deeply believed in the mission and were ready to make sacrifices for it.

What can we learn from this? And how can we develop and cultivate persistence? Here are 5 steps:

1. Find a purpose – Know what you want

The way to find enough motivation, commitment and strength to keep going is to answer the question WHY? Why do you do what you do? Why do you study what you study? Just being busy is not going to make you successful. Without a meaningful purpose, your entire life will be the sum of disconnected meaningless activities that usually lead to frustration and ultimately giving up. Finding a purpose will help you:

  • Set your priorities
  • Focus on what you do
  • Give you the fuel that powers persistence

Having a sense of purpose is what keeps a person going in the midst of difficulty. When you are clear about the WHY, you will figure out the how.

2. Find the right strategy – Draw the map

How do you get there? What action steps can you take? What obstacles or challenges could you face? What are the possible solutions? Once you answer these questions, you can move to the execution phase. If an obstacle blocks your way, think of ways to overcome it. Remember that the value of any accomplishment increases with every obstacle you encounter on the way.

3. Be committed – There is no success without commitment

Many people are interested in doing things but they are not committed enough in doing them. For this reason they easily quit. Ask yourself this question: Are you committed or just interested?  When you are committed, you will do your best and follow no matter what. In contrast, when you are just interested, you do it when convenient, quit when facing difficulties or find excuses why it cannot be done.  

4.  Execute – Take one hop at a time

Starting with small actions and finishing is better than starting big and giving up. Starting small helps us build confidence in our ability to execute.  Sometimes because of fear of failure, many people quit even before they get started. Starting small helps us conquer this fear. Just look around you and learn from nature. The tallest tree started as a small seed.

When you feel tired or worn out, remind yourself why you started in the first place.

Don Bennett was the first amputee to climb Mount Rainier (elevation 4,392 meters) and descend on one leg and two crutches. When he was asked how he made it to the top, he looked down at his leg and said: “On hop at a time.”  You can also make it to the top one hop at a time.  A small series of regular actions will have significant effects on long term results.

5. Look for support  - You cannot do it alone

Ask yourself this question: who are the people whose help and commitment would boost your chances of success? The prophet (PBUH) started with his family members, then his closest friends before he invited everyone in. This is how we can gain momentum and keep going in the midst of adversity.

In any endeavour, do not forget to use Dua during your Sujud, especially during the night prayers.

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