Perseverance in the face of a challenge is a skill we can all learn and starts with maintaining a high level of interest and love for what you are doing with the belief that your current skills and knowledge will get you there, developing ongoing curiosity, and acquiring the self-control to avoid distractions.
LOOKING FOR AN EXCUSE
As I begin another day working on a course I’m creating, it’s taken everything in my power not to grab my phone and start scrolling through Facebook, check my email or just chuck it all and start bingeing on old episodes of the comedy series, “Episodes” with Matt LeBlanc. It’s been over a year since I’ve watched it so it’s probably going to feel new again, right? The other quick escape is endless games of Spider Solitaire in which I compete with myself to get through an entire game in less than 4 minutes. Just talking about it makes me want to hit the app on my tablet.
This is not just me in my struggle to focus on my work. There is hard evidence that simply thinking about doing something pleasurable (albeit momentary), gives you a squirt of the reward chemical, dopamine. It feels like excitement, enthusiasm and translates into a desire to make meaning by pattern matching similar concepts (keep scrolling on FB to find out more) and giving your memory a boost. When you feel it, you want more.
KEEPING THE INTEREST GOING
I am committed to the work I do with horses, coaching people, (mainly courageous women), and guiding them as they learn to find balance in their life, master important life skills and embrace the amazing person looking back at them in the mirror. Life Lessons with Horses began as a way to share what I had learned about personal growth while learning to ride and manage my own horses and is now my life’s purpose.
But how do I keep it going? How do I maintain a level of interest and excitement for the work of coaching and learning, staying on top of my daily list of clear goals so I can get to the high hard goals that impact people’s lives and create meaning and purpose? The answer is in that old expression, “It’s simple but it’s not easy.” If it were, we’d all be cruising through every difficult moment of our lives, from talking to a loved one honestly about what’s hurting us or feeling the letdown of spending weeks promoting a new business online with absolutely zero response. Like anyone who wants to succeed when the going gets tough, I need perseverance.
THE FIRST STEP-TALK NICE
First, I must stop talking crap to myself about how it’s too hard and I’m not experienced enough or knowledgeable enough and how nobody wants to hire me, yada, yada, yada. I used to just glance at the website of people who offered equine assisted learning with their big facility and their $2000 weekend retreats and convince myself it was never going to happen. Not helpful…
So, I made a list of all my personal experience and training including what I’d been doing since I was 18-the education as a teacher, the work in science and behavioral studies, the 30 years with horses, the job in healthcare, the training in Centered Riding, the workshops, the videos, the books I’d read, the class I taught at the local community college. It all added up to something my business coach said to me that finally sealed the deal and made me realize I do have the right stuff. She said, “Cathy, you have a shit-ton of experience.”
None of what I had lived and learned said “life coach with horses” explicitly but then no body starts out as a bestselling author or Super Bowl champion quarter back. Your dreams and desires should not sit on the shelf because you don’t have a degree or a certificate that says you are qualified. Life experience and the skills you’ve acquired over the years is more than enough to get you started. Here’s a short list of successful people (this is very popular on social media) who never got a college degree:
- Bill Gates. It’s hard to believe that he is a Harvard dropout. …
- Ralph Lauren.
- Steve Jobs
- Mark Zuckerberg
- Wolfgang Puck
Give yourself the credit you deserve and congratulate the wise and wonderful person you are. It all matters!
THE SECOND STEP-KEEP LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
The next thing to consider, if I want to keep the interest in and high quality of my work going even in tough times, is I need to stay curious and keep finding out as much as I can about the work I love- personal growth, psychology, life coaching and anything else that can help the women I serve. That means reading constantly-mostly books, because they have the most information in one sitting than any other source. I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of articles as well, but books are where it’s at.
This is a great metric for anyone wondering what they want to do with their life and haven’t come up with an answer. If you can sit down and read for more than an hour on a topic of your choosing, without being bored, then you’re on the right track. When I’m not reading about psychology, human behavior or coaching, I read books about history or biographies of famous people to find out how they made a success of their lives. I read about horses or animal behavior, and I LOVE to look at the science of how our body works, especially the brain. Put ‘em all together and it spells, coaching with horses. Not really, but you get the idea.
THE THIRD STEP-SCHEDULE YOUR BRILLIANCE
The third thing is I’ve got to learn self-control, so I’m not drawn to the 6 seasons of Downton Abbey that are calling my name as I pound out another page on the handouts for my next class or write my blog or create a new online course, one worksheet at a time.
Another word for self-control is willpower and according to Steven Kotler’s book, “The Art of Impossible”, it’s a resource that is in short supply. He explains that as the day wears on, our energy is depleted as well as our ego. Seems we just can’t sustain that “I’ve got this” attitude forever.
And from the research on willpower and energy from people like psychologist Ray Baumeister, it is now clear that the best way to counter the side effects is through scheduling. You don’t have to be a business owner or working at a job outside your home to benefit from setting a schedule for yourself that addresses the priorities in your life at a time when you’re best able to handle them.
I now start my day with the hardest task and work backward-from most important and difficult to least important and easily completed. I was never one of those last minute, “pull an all-nighter” students in college, able to finish a 20-page essay the day before it was due. It just never worked, and the quality of my papers was horrendous when I did. I stay productive by doing small amounts during a stretch of an hour or so. The clear goals list I mentioned earlier reflects this need to tackle the hardest things first and take a break once I’ve completed a few.
It’s always important to get a restful night’s sleep. Baumeister suggests naps (I’m not really a napper), meditation and snacks during the work can reset our physiology even more. A few moments on my stationary bike or a walk outside helps me to recharge.
THE CHALLENGE OF PERSEVERANCE
The challenge of persevering in the most difficult moments of our lives seems overwhelming but I’m here to tell you that you can do it. Now that you know the “secrets” (available in many books out there, including “Decoding Greatness”, “Effortless”, and “The Art of Impossible”), it’s going to take time and practice to stay with it.
I will say that you are going to need to learn to tolerate the anxiety and occasional overwhelm, so it helps to stay passionate and curious about what you’re doing in your life-from caring for your family and friends to running a business. You’ll need to reframe difficult moments as opportunities for growth and learning. As Kotler explains, “The ecstasy of flow (being your best, while doing your best) redeems the agony of passion” and perseverance.
YOUR REWARD IS COMING
Now excuse me as I step away from my computer and reward myself with a quick walk outside before my phone starts tempting me with the latest on Instagram. I still have some work to do!
The horses will show you the power of perseverance with their wisdom and intuition as they share their life lessons with you. Contact me or sign up for a class at www.lifelessonswithhorses.com