If you persevere long enough you will eventually confront that thing that holds you back from all the other things you tell yourself you want in life.
How that self-made obstacle manifests is different for all of us. But what we all have in common is this: that thing that holds you back is fear. Fear is the opposite of love.
Why do we let fear get in the way of our happiness? How do we maintain perseverance in the face of it?
Recently I’ve had the chance to take a step toward my fears of coming out of my safety zone. Scary? Hell yes! But luckily impermanence is on our side. If you commit to being present, set an intention, and simply show up, then your life will change.
That’s what perseverance is: showing up. Again and again. Even when you’ve long since let go of hope. Once you give up hope of attainment, that’s when you have a chance to arrive. But here’s the tricky part; you can’t fake giving up hope in hopes of attaining something. It doesn’t work that way. You have to actually let go of hope. And then show up anyway.
This is why practice is so helpful; it mirrors this process perfectly. Because what on earth are we trying to attain through practice? It’s so intangible. Much easier to simply stop altogether. But just when you start to wonder whether getting on your mat or your meditation cushion every day is really worth the effort, or whether your creative project is doomed to fail, this is just when things start to get interesting. So when your motivation wanes, you get stuck at the halfway point, or when you lose your way, remember these 3 steps to find strength to continue the journey.
1. Commit or Recommit to a Mindfulness Practice
When you practice training the mind to be present, you learn to focus on what matters to you. This can be taken in an absolute or a relative sense. We could say the ultimate purpose of life is to be present, relaxed and happy. A trained mind can help you to do that. But if you forget your intention, it’s easy to get distracted by the onslaught of thought that often terrorizes the mind.
These days, with so much information coming at us nonstop every day, it can be overwhelming to remember our intention.
Practice: Choose a contemplative practice such as yoga and/or meditation, set a schedule you can maintain, and stick to it. Here are some tips for how to do that.
2. Set an Intention
Developing a mindfulness practice also helps you recognize what your worldly goals are—it allows you to check in with the body and mind to identify what actually makes you happy, and what doesn’t. It allows you to recognize the path your life wants to take.The practice here is to identify what will make your heart truly happy, so learn to identify that feeling.
Get clear on what you want, even if you have no idea how you are going to get there. Reevaluate influences that may constrict your ability to thrive and consider alternatives.
Once this secondary intention is identified, practice then helps you focus your energy to realize your goals, allowing the mind to stay on task as each step toward progress is realized.
Practice: Set a new intention for yourself for one week, even a small one such as “I will try not to check email before breakfast.” When you wake up in the morning, first thing, call to mind your intention. Just before you go to bed each evening, reflect on your progress and feel good about that. If you lapsed in your efforts, forgive yourself and set the intention again for the following day. Repeat every day for one week.
3. Show Up.
99% of success is simply showing up. When I first started practicing yoga and confronted difficult asanas, some days I had no idea where I was headed. I didn’t know how to start approaching it, what it should feel like. And yet by virtue of showing up day after day, open to the process and willing to try new things, I would eventually get a clue: a bodily sensation that told me I was onto something, or suddenly I would be able to lift up whereas before I was unable. Things would suddenly shift in a dramatic way. Many days it felt like nothing was happening, like there was no progress at all. Then one day, it happened, like the first day I was able to jump back. Those weeks, months and sometimes years of prep time were necessary, even though they often felt frustratingly devoid of any signs of progress.
Chogyam Trungpa talked about the gradual path to sudden enlightenment. The art of perseverance has to do with commitment. When you are committed to something or someone, it is like a laser that cuts through all the garbage, you pay less attention to the distractions that threaten to sway you off course (distractions like thoughts and judgments about the situation.) You become more focused on the journey. It’s not a chore, but a choice. You can turn down the volume on the background noise and instead focus your attention whatever it is you choose.
Life is never a linear progression. It’s more like 2 steps forward, 3 steps back; 1 step forward 8 steps back; 12 steps forward. And then you get a flat tire. We progress in increments, often far too slow for our lumbering, hyperactive mind to recognize as anything remotely satisfying.
Practice: Identify one concrete step forward to take you to the next stage of development, one step at a time towards your goal. Then, commit! Here is a map for creating those steps.
“Never give up,” the Dalai Lama often says. When you get thrown to the ground, perseverance is developing the muscle to stand back up again. This not only builds strength and character but it also trains you to remain humble.
When you confront fear head on through remaining present with it, you give love the chance to shine through. Then you can share your gifts with the world, in the form of love. Your love is your gift. Persevering with your full loving presence allows your creative efforts to bear fruit so that others can share the love.