There are many models that people can follow to reach their goals. One approach is for them to have the right strengths and pursue the right strategy. They can then perform superb work and demonstrate the staying power required to achieve success.
This article looks at the staying power aspect of this approach. There are many names for this quality. People may also call it resilience, grit or stickability.
Peak performers in sport, for example, show the ability to stay the course. They keep going and outperform other people towards the end of a match or season. Some people make a habit of tailing off, however, as the competition reaches its climax.
People who stay the course have several characteristics in common and we will explore these later in the article. Before then, however, it may be useful to look back at your own experience of demonstrating this quality.
Looking back, can you think of a specific situation when you showed staying power? You may have done this when passing an exam, running a long workshop, leading a project, performing a piece of music or doing another activity.
What did you do to stay the course? How did you manage your energy? How did you show stamina? What skills did you use to deliver success? What did you learn from the experience?
If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme? This invites you to do the following things.
Describe a specific situation in the past when you showed staying power.
Describe the specific things you did then to show staying power.
Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.
Imagine that a person or a group of people are working towards achieving their goals. They have the right strengths. They are doing work where they consistently deliver As rather than Bs or Cs.
Pursuing the right strategy, they perform superb work. They need to stay the course, however, to reach the goal. People often demonstrate the following qualities to achieve their aim.
Great workers have the right physical stamina. They start by making sure they get enough sleep. They also create times for rest and recovery when doing their work.
They pace themselves properly. Sports people do this, for example, when competing in events. Sometimes they will need to go fast, whilst other times they can take a breather. They manage their energy so they can be at their best when it matters.
Creative workers often structure their day around their prime times – the times of the day when they have most energy. They aim to protect and make good use of these times.
Rollo May, the author and psychologist, believed it was important to catch these waves, because otherwise they were gone forever. Writing in the first edition of The Ageless Spirit, he explained his approach in the following way.
I stay in my studio each day for four hours, but the last hour and a half isn’t worth very much.
It was hard for me to accept, but what can I do? All I can do is make the most of the creative time I’ve got.
So for two and a half hours I’m moving marvellously; the rest of the time I’m simply fiddling around.
But I find joy in fiddling too. I have to accept the fact that I’m not a God. I have to accept my destiny.
I have to accept the fact that I can only do creative work for a few hours a day, but that does not diminish one iota the joy I get from those two hours.
Great workers often organise their time in blocks. They absorb themselves in the activity, keep working and gain a sense of achievement. If possible, they aim to avoid interruptions, because these can break their flow.
Such people build in time to rest and revitalise themselves. When appropriate, they look ahead and rehearse the next thing they will do. They then refocus before embarking on the piece of work.
Going into their version of the arena, they click into action. They are fully engaged and use their antennae to be aware of what is happening. They then do their best to achieve the desired results.
Great workers have psychological stamina. They aim to channel their mental and emotional energy towards achieving a specific goal. They often go through the following process.
They clarify the real results they want to achieve and translate these into a clear picture of success.
They clarify the pluses and minuses that will be involved – the ups and downs – and then commit themselves to achieving the goal.
They clarify the key strategies they can follow to achieve the goal.
They clarify the potential challenges they may face and how they can tackle these successfully.
They follow the key strategies, encourage themselves on the journey and do what is required to achieve the picture of success.
One key point is worth underlining. Great workers may show psychological strength in one area of their life – such as the activity in which they excel – but there may be other areas in which they are more fragile.
This takes us to the next quality demonstrated by people who have staying power.
Looking at the area in which they excel, great workers demonstrate many of the skills described by Al Siebert in his books on resilience. He spent much of his life studying life’s survivors, people who grew when overcoming tough challenges.
Scoping out the areas of study, Al chose to focus on people that met four criteria:
They had survived a major crisis.
They had surmounted the crisis through personal effort.
They had emerged from the experience with previously unknown strengths and abilities.
They had, in retrospect, found value in the experience.
Al shared his knowledge by running workshops, giving keynote speeches and writing articles. He then came to international prominence with his books The Survivor Personality and The Resiliency Advantage.
Building on his research, he outlined some of the strategies survivors adopt to overcome crises successfully. These include the following.
They quickly read the new reality
They read situations quickly and start considering the consequences. Other people ignore what is happening or bury their heads in the sand. Survivors click into awareness mode and take snapshots of what is actually happening.
They stay calm
Al gives examples of hijack survivors who stay calm. They gather information about how the hijackers behave, look for patterns and explore potential exits – not only for themselves, but also for other people.
They maintain a
sense of perspective
People who are diagnosed with a serious illness, for example, may reframe the difficulty as a project. Looking at it from this perspective, they are able to see the big picture and plan the path ahead.
They develop personal radar
Al found a link between survivors and peak performers. They have personal radar in the area where they perform brilliantly. They seem to know what will happen before it happens.
Reflecting on his time studying paratroopers who survived battles, Al talks about them quickly scanning situations. Looking for patterns, they asked some of the following questions.
What is happening? What isn’t happening? Are events following their normal course or is something else happening?
What are the patterns I can observe? What will happen if these patterns continue? What will be the consequences? How can I build on the successful patterns? How can I deal with the unsuccessful patterns?
What action do I need to take? Bearing in mind the patterns that are occurring – and the potential consequences – how can I do my best to achieve success?
They develop a wide repertoire of
tools for dealing with challenges
Al found that such individuals learned from their experiences. They kept asking: “What did I do well? What can I do better next time?” They then translated this knowledge into practical tools they could use to deal with challenges in the future. They kept adding to this repertoire of tools as they grew older.
They take responsibility and
totally commit to doing their best
Survivors make their decision and throw themselves into pursuing their chosen strategy. They then do everything possible to reach the goal. Al wrote:
The survivor way of orientating to a crisis is to feel fully and totally responsible for making things work out well.
Great workers make a decision. They decide whether they want to have staying power in the situation. Sometimes they may actually choose to leave something unfinished and go on to the next activity.
On other occasions, however, they commit to doing their best to achieve the desired goal. They may then go through some of the following steps.
They commit to
showing staying power
Great workers buy time to make a decision. They stay calm, consider what is happening in the situation and clarify their picture of success. They clarify their options for going forwards, together with the consequences of each option.
They then decide if they want to commit fully. If so, they make a clear contract with themselves that they will do their best. As the saying goes: They commit to the commitment.
They clarify the key strategies they can follow to give themselves the greatest chance of success. They sometimes translate these into action by taking the following steps.
They continue to follow their successful
patterns and perform superb work
Great workers build on their successful patterns. Everybody has a positive history. At some point in their lives everybody has performed well or overcome difficult challenges.
A person can apply what they learned from such experiences. Looking at the situation they face, they can ask themselves the following questions.
When have I tackled a similar situation successfully?
What did I do right then to tackle the situation successfully?
How can I follow these principles – plus maybe add other skills – to tackle the present situation successfully?
Great workers aim to channel their Inner Champ rather than their Inner Chimp. They focus on performing brilliantly rather than badly.
Steve Peters described how a person can allow their Chimp – such as self-doubt or negative thoughts – to take over and ruin their performance. You can discover more about his approach via the following link.
Imagine you are helping a soccer team to perform better. They have a pattern, however, of failing to capitalise on winning positions.
When leading 1-0 with 10 minutes to go, for example, they become paralysed, back off and concede late goals. The Chimp takes over and the players keep thinking:
“We always concede late goals.”
One approach is to channel their Inner Champ. You can invite the team to recall a time when they were leading by the odd goal and went on to win.
What did they do right then? How can they follow these principles in the future? How can they translate these into specific actions during the games?
Great workers follow their successful patterns and perform superb work. This takes us to the next step.
They continue to perform at their best
and work to achieve the picture of success
Imagine you are entering the final stretch. You can stay calm and choose your way of getting beyond the finishing line. There are many strategies to choose from.
You can keep doing the basics and then add the brilliance.
You can keep giving everything and, as they say in sport, have no regrets because you leave everything on the field.
You can keep following the key strategies and then, if appropriate, do something special to achieve the picture of success.
Sometimes finishing calls for doing things that seem counter intuitive. Such as relaxing and lowering your intensity.
Gregg Steinberg has written about how this applies to golf. Below are extracts from a piece he wrote for the PGA Tour website. You can discover more via the following link.
The Mental Game – Try Easy
In an interesting experiment with Olympic runners, they were asked to run the first race at 100 percent intensity level (or in other words, they were asked to try as hard as they can).
In the second race, the runners were asked to give 90 percent (or in other words, they were asked to try easier).
Amazingly, they ran faster at the 90 percent intensity level.
Great workers look ahead and see the finishing line. They may then choose to flow, focus and finish. Sometimes they do something special – such as adding that touch of class – to achieve the picture of success.
Looking ahead, can you think of specific situation when you want to show staying power? You may want to write a book, renovate a house, complete a research project, run a marathon, build and sell a business or whatever.
What can you do to stay the course? How can you manage your energy? How can you encourage yourself on the journey? How can you use your skills to achieve success?
If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme? This invites you to do the following things.
Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to show staying power.
Describe the specific things you can do then to show staying power.
Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.