The First Pillar: Focus, helps us define a reason to move forward. The Second Pillar: Discipline, is the tool we use to maintain integrity in the moment. But to create or sustain forward momentum, it takes more than just focus and discipline. It takes the ability to focus and the application of discipline over many days, weeks, months, or even years. It takes consistent action. It takes persistence.
And persistence creates habits.
Recent findings in neuroscience further explain how new habits are developed using not just the power of the brain, but the power of how the brain works. While I don’t pretend to be a neuroscientist, I do understand the basics of these findings. In fact, it is the basis for my workplace and private coaching as a trained Results Certified Coach.
When you focus on (pay attention to) what you want, you help build new wiring in the brain. The same holds true for what you don’t want. If you focus on your problems, you actually make them stronger!
When I try to explain how the brain develops connections or wiring, I use the analogy of a garden; wherever a gardener focuses and pays attention, good things grow. Whatever a gardener neglects, over time, shrivels to dust or becomes a patch of weeds.
When you experience anything, the brain creates connections to embed the experience. The more you experience something (driving a car, for example), the more wiring is created. Pay enough attention to something and soon the connections become hardwired. We don’t have to "think" about the thing. We just do it. It becomes habitual.
Unfortunately, we can’t erase our existing connections. But we CAN easily create new ones. Stop paying attention to something and, over time, the connections will become weaker and weaker of their own accord.
How are neural paths created?
What is persistence?
The continuous application of discipline. String together enough acts of discipline and you ARE persistent.
How do you create persistence?
Find an accountability partner with whom you can share your goals/commitments (a coach makes a great accountability partner). They’ll help you stay consistent.
What does persistence have to do with loss?
For starters, it is present on “both sides” of loss. On one side, the pain of loss can be quite persistent. For some, it can last weeks, months, or even years. It took me nearly 10 years to get over the sudden death of my friend Dana during our sophomore year at college. On the other side, we demonstrate persistence when we survive each day in the midst of loss. We often display persistence despite ourselves. It’s as if our bodies (and minds) go into auto-pilot to keep us functioning. We don’t always want to. We struggle to find a “reason” to move forward.
How do you create persistence in the midst of loss?
- Allow yourself time – and permission – to mourn (it’s necessary)
- Focus on "right now" (deal with tomorrow tomorrow)
- Reward yourself for small victories (ANY victory)
- Seek professional support (a coach, therapist/counselor, or spiritual mentor)
- Take an inventory of what/who you still have (you’ll be surprised)
- Reconnect with motivating, joyful, desirable activities, passions, hobbies from your past (it’s okay to look backward to move forward)
- Set small goals ("Go to a book reading", "Call one friend")
- Enlist the help of supportive (hopefully objective) friends
- Talk about your goals (plant seeds)
- Find excuses to get out of your house/apartment each week (it gets easier)
We all experience loss. It is a part of what it means to be alive. While we can’t eliminate loss, we can become stronger at moving through it. And that requires persistence.
Not everyone does it. But anyone can.