The Art Of Perseverance: 3 Steps To Get From Stuck To Unstuck
You know the drill: you have a goal, set an intention to get there, and a truckload of obstacles blocks your path. Traffic makes you late, unhelpful people throw you off-course, politicians thwart your efforts to protect your back-yard, your own confusion blocks what is right in front of you-for, oh, a couple of decades. Perseverance seems super-human in the face of never-ending hold-ups. I mean seriously, why bother? Here's why.
Getting stuck is a part of the path--it's a part of life. Losing your perseverance happens when you lose sight of this fact--you assume staying stuck is a permanent situation. Feeling stuck shows up in a variety of ways: as an obstacle, a limited mindset, or circumstances: the wrong place. The wrong time. Wrong people. Or you simply lose your mojo.
These self-made obstacles manifest differently for all of us. But what they have in common is this: fear. Fear is the obstacle. Because even if we can "blame" our circumstances or a seemingly irreversible twist of fate, if we hit a road block, it's fear calling us out.
Fear is the opposite of love.
Why do we let fear get in the way of our happiness? How do we persevere in the face of it?
Recently I’ve been challenged to coming out of my safety zone. I'm being asked to show up in a different way as I get ready to put another book out into the world. Scary?
Hell yes! There's a good reason I'm a writer (and live in a town with a population of 73): I'm an introvert. I don't really like being "out there" all the time. But with the prospect of sharing my personal stories with the world in a new book, my fear is that I'll have to do just that. So I've noticed myself throwing up all sorts of distractions to avoid getting it done. I've been working on this book for over 10 years now, and some days I feel like it will never be finished. I'm excited that it has found a publisher, but some days, honestly, it feels like a long, hard, slog.
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.
Hopelessness is not always a bad thing.
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.
Luckily impermanence is on our side. When you commit to being present, set an intention, and simply show up, things start to change.
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.
3 Steps To Get From Stuck To Unstuck
1. Commit or Recommit to a Mindfulness Meditation 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. Could we say the ultimate purpose of life is to be present, relaxed and happy? Training your mind through meditation 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 and catapults us into fear.
These days, with so much information coming at us nonstop every day, it can be overwhelming to remember our intention. Take time every day--even 5 minutes-- to reconnect with the storehouse of wisdom accessible through silent meditation. The answer is inside of you--not out there in some imagined future. Re-establishing a strong daily practice--through perseverance-- reminds you of this.
Learn a simple meditation technique, then set a schedule you can maintain, and stick to it. Click here for tips on how to maintain a regular meditation practice.
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. For example, I ...
Persevering in practice helps you focus your energy to realize your goals once this secondary intention is identified. You start to see what (and who) is not supporting you, so you can let go of what is holding you back. Practice also has the benefit of refining your focus so you can stay on task as each step toward your goals is realized.
Set a new affirmation for yourself for one week, even a small one such as, "I'm content in this moment with whatever is going on" or an intention like, “I do not check email before breakfast.” When you wake up in the morning, first thing, call to mind your intention or affirmation. 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. Simple tool, powerful results.
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. But I persevered, stayed open to the process and was willing to try new things. Eventually I would 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. Through perseverance, one day, it happened, like the first day I was able to jump back (a challenging movement in the Ashtanga Yoga sequence.) Those weeks, months and sometimes years of prep time were necessary, even though they often felt frustratingly devoid of any signs of progress.
Commitment is key to perseverance.
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 or hyperactive mind to recognize as anything remotely satisfying.
Identify one concrete step forward to take you to the next stage of development, one step at a time towards your goal. Then, commit!
“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. You develop that strength by constantly pushing yourself up off the floor.
“The situations of fear that exist in our lives provide us with stepping stones to step over our fear. On the other side of cowardice is bravery. If we step over properly, we can cross the boundary from being cowardly to being brave.” ― Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior
When you confront fear head on through remaining present with it, you invite to shine through. Perseverance enables you to 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.