In 1905, a patent clerk named Albert Einstein published five scientific papers in Annalen der Physik— the most esteemed scientific journal of the era. He was a physics graduate, and after publishing his ground-breaking papers, he expected an instant upheaval in the scientific community. Nonetheless, what followed was an icy silence. Despite several efforts, he was unable to get even a modest employment opportunity as a science teacher. He was still a patent office clerk in the Swiss city of Bern. It was heart-breaking.
Though utterly dismayed, Einstein was relentless in his love for science. For the next few years, he continued publishing more scientific papers, before being finally accepted as an associate professor of theoretical physics at the university of Zurich. From there onwards, he never looked back and kept receiving employment offers from various prestigious universities. The patent office clerk became a renowned professor and a celebrity scientist.
Einstein would later tell the secret of his success in the following words:
“It is not that I’m smart. But I stay with the problems much longer.”
Let’s talk about another scientist.
Maria Salomea Sklodowska, who later became Marie Curie, was a Polish girl who was passionate about learning science. But as she passed high school with a gold medal, two obstacles stood in her way: first, university education for women was forbidden in Russian Occupied Poland; secondly, her father—a teacher himself—though encouraged her academic interests, did not have enough money to support her education overseas.
Marie’s sister Bronya faced similar circumstances. Though Polish women were not permitted to join universities under the Tsar rulers, the Sklodowska sisters would never let go of their insistence that they deserved the same rights on education as their male counterparts. However, there was no easy way to achieve their goals.
In order to realise their dreams, the Sklodowska sisters hatched an audacious plan. Marie’s savings from her tutoring job would allow Bronya to go to France and study medicine; after her graduation and employment, Bronya was supposed to support Marie’s university studies in Paris. This arrangement continued for nearly five years during which Marie kept earning and saving money for herself and Bronya.
Eventually, in November 1891, Marie herself landed in Paris to study science at the Sorbonne — the most prestigious university of Paris. After several years of persistent struggle, her dream for higher education had finally come true. Later in her life, Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first female professor at the university of Paris, and the first laureate to win two Nobel prizes in two different sciences.
On one occasion, Marie described her struggle in the following words:
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing must be attained.”
Be it Einstein or Curie, the keyword is perseverance. Perseverance is an underrated attribute, yet it is the most essential ingredient for success. The following seven lessons will teach you how to remain perseverant with your goals.
Lesson One: Define a Meaningful Something for Yourself
What is that you want to achieve in life? The answer to this question is what gives meaning to your life. All of us are living our lives, and all of us will die one day. This is kind of obvious, but we need to keep reminding ourselves of our mortality. Another thing that we should keep reminding ourselves is our goal, our meaningful something—something that we want to achieve before we die. That meaningful something will hold us from quitting. Find that meaningful something.
Lesson Two: Keep Your Goals SMART
Most of us have some goals. It is easy to set goals. But many a times, our goals are unclear and unrealistic. Uncertainty is the enemy of perseverance. It is imperative to set your goals as clearly as possible. Instead of vague ideas, keep your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
Take an example: you want to write a book. Let us define a few parameters for you: what categories and topics (specific); how many words are you aiming for and what is your writing speed (measurable); how much can you write while maintaining quality (attainable); would anyone read this topic(realistic); and what time of the year would be most relevant for its publication(timely).
Lesson Three: Take Tiny Steps Everyday
We humans have a tendency: we underestimate our goals and overestimate our abilities. Consequently, we set big goals for ourselves while allotting little time and energy to them. We neglect the principle that a bigger goal would consume more time and energy. If you want to remain persistent with your goals, break them into little tasks, as tiny as achievable within a day.
Imagine you want to write a book with 40,000 wordcount. Instead of aiming— and most likely failing— for 4,000 words over a weekend, write 500 words every day. Most days, your motivation will take you much further than 500 words.
Lesson Four: Involve Others in Your Commitments
Suppose you want to lose weight, say 20 pounds in three months. You have a diet and exercise plan. But it is easy to make a plan and hard to execute. An effective way to ensure persistent execution is to involve someone in the challenge. You can invite your friend to compete with you. In this way, your friend will become your motivation. You would like to lose some weight, but you won’t like to lose the bet to your friend, right?
Lesson Five: Change Your Perspective on Failures
All of us lament failures. In physical terms, failures represent wastage of time and energy. On an emotional level, they bruise our ego. But they do some good things as well: they take us closer to success. No matter what those fake success stories depict, success is essentially composed of tiny failures. With each failed attempt, we draw closer to success. To remain perseverant with your goals, change your view of failures; accept them as learnings—diversions to the right path.
Lesson Six: Don’t Lose Sight of Your Goal
Just like reminding yourself about your meaningful something, make sure you don’t lose sight of your goals. Whatever you do, wherever you go, keep your goals front and center. One way of doing this is to make your goals a visual part of your routine. For instance, if you want to improve your relationship with your mom, you may put a coffee mug on your desk with an inscription “I Love My Mom.”
Lesson Seven: Read Some Real Success Stories
Most of the successful men and women in history were not just exceptional in their talents, they were persistent with their efforts. Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Wright Brothers, Henry Ford, you name them, almost all success stories have a common ingredient: perseverance. Read these real success stories if you don’t believe me.