Why Perseverance is Key for Professional Growth

If 2020 taught all of us anything, it is that both our personal and professional survival requires a mix of perseverance and resilience.

The truth is that perseverance is a crucial trait for professionals in any field, at any time, as it is the ability to persist in pursuing goals despite setbacks and obstacles – which will always be present in some form or other! The importance of perseverance cannot be overstated: it is what allows us to achieve success and overcome challenges. It is especially important in today’s fast-paced and competitive work environment, where professionals are faced with numerous challenges and uncertainties.

As a trauma survivor, I have learned first-hand that learning to overcome and persevere through challenging experiences can be a lifelong process. Confronting my traumatic experiences and making sense of them in my mind have become to represent my capacity for both reflection and growth.

Even if developing a perseverance muscle doesn’t take a lifetime, it is always an ongoing process. When we are able to recognize our own ability to adapt, understand our individual strengths, and visualize different outcomes, we become better able to accept setbacks, challenges, and change – all while genuinely appreciating them as the opportunities they truly are.

Our ability to be successful in our personal and professional relationships is defined by our ability to recognize our stories, biases & distortions, and redefine them.

It all sounds sooooo simple, right? I think we all know we can safely file this under Easier-Said-Than-Done.

I was brought up to believe if I experienced a setback, I was a failure. Not just that I had experienced some form of failure, but that I was defined by it.

The definition of failure according to Merriam-Webster is “the inability to perform; an abrupt cessation of normal functioning; lack of success; falling short; one that has failed; deficiency.” The synonyms are even worse: “disappointment, bankrupt, bum, castaway, incompetent, underachiever, etc…”

This experience of failure – of equating an occurrence of failure with an identity of failure – is the reason why so many of us, along with the teams and organizations we create and comprise, feel defeated when we don’t hit our originally stated goals in their optimum timeframes, budgets, scope, deliverables, etc, etc.

In my opinion, the word failure should only be used in reference to equipment failure. Did the job fail because the machine broke midway through the run? Yes! Did the engine fail when it stalled and started pouring smoke while I was driving down the interstate? Yes! Am I a failure because I didn’t get the promotion I wanted? No! Am I a failure because my marriage did not work? No! (Though it did take years of therapy to be able to say that with confidence.) Am I a failure because it took me 4 years to finish my master’s degree, instead of 2? No, but I sure felt like one during years 3 and 4.

The failure experience does not create a failure identity. And the opportunities we have to truly grow from each and every failure experience depend on an ever-evolving cycle of disappointment/failed expectations → perseverance → adjustment → realignment → resilience.

One of the main reasons why perseverance is so important for professionals is that it helps to build resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and difficult situations, and it is an essential quality for individuals who want to succeed in their careers. It’s a lot like muscle training: encounter resistance, persevere, build resilience, rinse-and-repeat. The more resilience we develop, the easier it becomes to persevere.

Another reason why being able to persevere is important for professionals is that it is a natural antidote to myopia. In today’s world, it can be easy to become distracted by short-term gains or instant gratification. However, professionals who are able to persevere through challenges and setbacks are more likely to stay focused on their long-term goals, and are more likely to achieve those goals in the end.

Perseverance is important for professionals because it helps to maintain mental health. When individuals are faced with challenges and setbacks, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and stressed. However, professionals who are able to persevere through difficult times are better able to maintain their mental health and avoid burnout.

Here are three practical tips for building a better perseverance skill set that professionals can use in daily life:

  1. Set realistic goals: Setting realistic goals is important because it helps professionals to avoid becoming overwhelmed or discouraged. When individuals set goals that are too lofty or unrealistic, they are more likely to give up when faced with challenges or setbacks. However, when individuals set realistic goals, they are more likely to persevere through difficult times and ultimately achieve success. (And by “realistic” I mean SMART goals, not necessarily ones that are so simple you just put them on your to-do list so you can have the thrill of crossing them off! “Drink coffee” may be a realistic event you will achieve with ease every morning, but it hardly qualifies as a goal 🙂)
  2. Nurture a growth mindset: Having a growth mindset is essential for building perseverance. A growth mindset is the belief that individuals can improve their abilities through hard work and dedication. This creates an ability to see challenges and setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than as obstacles to overcome. We all have days that just don’t go our way – so, when they happen, the key is to start the next day with a true clean-slate approach. “Okay, that happened yesterday; it wasn’t as productive, effective, profitable, ____________ (fill-in-the-blank) as I wanted it to be, but today is a new day and I’m going to take the lessons of yesterday and apply them tomoorow.”
  3. Take breaks and practice self-care: Finally, taking breaks and practicing self-care is essential for maintaining perseverance and avoiding burnout. When professionals are able to take breaks and engage in activities that they enjoy, they are better able to maintain their mental health and avoid becoming overwhelmed by the demands of their work. I addressed this a little bit in my article about brain fog and the simple truth is that caring for ourselves is neither selfish nor completely disconnected from our professional performance. It’s a dangerous disconnect to view self-care like it’s something that “happens” when we’re on our “own time” and something that doesn’t need to be addressed in our work arenas. Our ability to persevere through the challenging times at both work and home depends on how well we are taking care of ourselves.

In recent years, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of mental health in the workplace. Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to persevere through challenges and setbacks. In fact, a study by the American Psychological Association found that employees who experience high levels of stress are more likely to report lower levels of job satisfaction, lower motivation, and poorer mental health.

Furthermore, research has shown that maintaining a focus on mental health and perseverance can lead to better career outcomes. For example, a study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior found that individuals who had higher levels of perseverance were more likely to achieve their career goals and experience greater job satisfaction. Additionally, individuals who are able to maintain their mental health and persevere through difficult times are more likely to develop strong coping skills and build resilience, which can help them to overcome future challenges.

Organizations are also recognizing the importance of supporting their employees’ mental health and ability to build resilience. According to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety alone cost the global economy over $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. Therefore, investing in mental health support for employees can actually be a cost-saving measure for organizations. In fact, a study by the Harvard Business Review found that companies that invested in mental health support for their employees saw a return on investment of $4 for every dollar spent.

These findings highlight the importance of cultivating the trait of perseverance in the corporate world. Professionals who are able to persevere through challenges and setbacks are more likely to achieve their career goals, experience greater job satisfaction, and build resilience. Additionally, organizations that invest in mental health support for their employees can see a return on investment in terms of improved productivity and reduced costs related to mental health issues.

Perseverance is a crucial character trait for success in the corporate world. By developing a growth mindset, setting realistic goals, and practicing self-care, professionals can build a better perseverance skill set and achieve greater success in their careers. The data and statistics support the importance of cultivating perseverance in the corporate world, and organizations should invest in mental health support for their employees to help build resilience and perseverance.

Beyond all of that? It just feels better to be able to just.keep.going.

If this is resonating with you, but you just don’t know where to start to overcome a feeling of being a failure or how to truly develop a strong perseverance muscle, get in touch! Schedule a call with me to see if I might be a good fit for you as a coach or a mentor.

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