Expert tips to improve your tenacity

Cambridge Dictionary has declared ‘perseverance’ the word of 2021, with editors saying NASA’s mission to Mars led to a rise in searches on its website.

The word was looked up 243,000 times this year, with a major spike in searches following the final descent of the Perseverance Rover in February.

Defined by Cambridge Dictionary as “continued effort to do or achieve something, even when this is difficult or takes a long time”, perseverance is a useful trait to have, but why are some people better than others at working doggedly towards their goals?

“There are a number of different factors which create a level of perseverance in people,” says psychologist Lee Chambers. “They come from experience and the challenges [people have] already faced in life.”

But just because you’re not naturally blessed with an abundance of tenacity doesn’t mean you can’t learn ‘sticktoitiveness’, to use another popular term. Follow our experts’ advice to increase your grit and achieve your aims.

Set out your goals

Even the most epic journey starts with a single step, which is why it’s important to have an overarching goal that you break down into manageable chunks.

“If someone sets out an ambitious goal, say to get to a certain level within their career, that’s the ‘big vision’ goal,” says Mr Chambers. Perseverant people “understand why they want it and start to think about how they can get there”.

Read: How to set goals to kick unhealthy habits

Take responsibility for your own success
A ‘woe is me’ attitude doesn’t go hand in hand with perseverance, as explained by the ‘locus of control’ theory.

“People with an external locus of control will say, ‘Things always happen to me’, ‘Things always go wrong’, ‘Life is difficult’,” explains counsellor Louise Tyler. “Whereas people with an internal locus of control will say, ‘Obviously I wasn’t the right person for the job’ or ‘The person that’s being very rude to me is having a bad day’.”

If you feel you’ve got “an ability to influence what happens in your life”, you’re more likely to take control and look for solutions when something does go wrong.

Be willing to make sacrifices
Hard work is, of course, one of the keys to success, which may mean sacrificing time, money – or both – to get where you want to be, particularly in the world of work.

Mr Chambers says: “It might be you need to earn a professional qualification and that is going to financially hold you back from renovating your kitchen, or you might have to swap the time doing that qualification for one of your hobbies.”

Read: Six secrets to boost your confidence

Learn from your setbacks
“You have to accept there are going to be obstacles on that journey,” says Mr Chambers, and how you handle those setbacks is crucial.

Instead of seeing hurdles as a reason to give up, he advises: “You almost need to reframe it from being a threat, to getting where you want to go – [turn it] into a challenge that can actually help you to see where you might need to improve.”

Try to determine what changes you need to make to improve your performance and get to the next level.

Don’t compare yourself to others

“People that have the ability to persevere understand we all have different personal strengths, so they don’t compare themselves to other people,” Ms Tyler says.

Determined people don’t get disheartened by other people’s success, they simply “focus on their road ahead [and have] confidence that, when faced with adversity, they will be able to rise above it.”

Read: How to beat the jitters, whoever you are

Ask for help
When faced with one challenge after another, you might be on the verge of giving up. That’s when it’s time to call for reinforcements.

“It sounds a bit counterintuitive, but you should never quit when you’re right in the depths of the trenches,” says Mr Chambers. “You should be thinking, ‘Who can help me?’

“It’s about realising there will be a whole bastion of other people who will help you to get through the challenges, and not being scared to reach out. It seems like sometimes in society [asking for help is seen as a] weakness, but actually, it’s a massive booster of perseverance and grit.”

Have you had to make sacrifices to get where you are today? Do you wish you had more perseverance? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

– With PA

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Written by Katie Wright

Fashion and beauty editor at the Press Association.

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