The Persistence (Stick-to-itiveness) Habit

Persistent leaf

“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.” ~Thomas Foxwell Buxton

One of the hardest things to do is to keep going when faced with resistance, doubt, criticism, or any other discouraging feedback.

Persistence stands in the face of deeply rooted beliefs and social convention. It’s much easier to stop.

Resistance, doubt, and all other hurdles that strain our drive and weaken our resolve can be traced back to fearful thoughts and limiting beliefs.

It’s usually one of the many fears and insecurities that keep pestering us that resurface at the first glimpse of hesitation.

A few of the most common fears that we might face at one time or another are:

  • Fear of failure: we fear that we won’t get something done correctly. We will make mistakes. Rejection can be viewed as a form of failure.
  • Fear of missing out: we worry that we will not get a chance to do other things that other people are doing.
  • Fear of making the wrong decision: we fear that the action we’re taking is not the right one.
  • Fear of not doing something the right way: when we’re not getting the results we hoped for, we start to worry that we’re not doing something right.
  • Fear that we don’t have what it takes: we doubt our own abilities to do something well.
  • Fear of vulnerability and exposure: when we’re doing something and the feedback (inner or outer) is not encouraging, the ego fears being humiliated or looking silly or stupid.
  • Fear of success: we fear that we won’t be able to handle success.

And as you probably know, fears are just the emotional manifestations of deep self-limiting beliefs.

Beliefs and the quitting habit

If we look behind fear, we can tell that most of it comes from deeply rooted beliefs about our abilities, what it means to succeed or fail, and the most pervasive one—unworthiness.

The cycle of limiting beliefs and fearful emotions is a vicious one that keeps growing with every experience we deem as a failure or mistake.

So every time we quit, we reinforce the same limitations and prove to ourselves that we can’t do it, for whatever reason.

Repeat this a few more times and we develop the quitting habit.

I’m not going to suggest that you dig deep and uproot those beliefs or conquer your fears. Today I propose a different approach.

The persistence habit: How to not quit in spite of fears and negative beliefs

Most advice out there tells you to question your beliefs and dig deep to get rid of the cause behind the belief. This is a good approach if you have time for reflection and analysis.

But, if you don’t have the time, or the desire to dig into your beliefs, here is what can work in becoming more persistent.

And I’m going to split this into three interconnected areas that will help in the persistence habit.

I. Mindset

The mind is the most powerful tool we have that can shape our thoughts and behavior. We don’t necessarily need to change our thoughts in the beginning. But instead we can do the following:

Let the fears and beliefs be

Let the fearful thoughts and beliefs run in the background. Let them be.

Instead of fighting the fears and beliefs, let’s just admit that they’re there.

When we accept our state of mind and heart, we own up to our reality—without denial and with less resistance. We can then move forward.

Doing more and thinking less

The decision to let action lead thought is something we can do. We decided at one point to believe something and then let it dictate how we act.

We can choose to do something, and think about it later. There is nothing wrong with that.

The more we focus on the action, the less we focus on the fears.

Over time the limiting beliefs start to lose their grip on our thought process and we start flowing more with the action.


In most situations, what we want to achieve cannot be noticeable in the short-term. In daily living the change is often quite subtle. But give something enough time and you will see results.

Patience allows us to improve our relationship with time. Instead of racing and establishing rigid deadlines, we can continue to do something regardless of how long it will take.

“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.” ~Earl Nightingale

II. Daily action

Taking action is the only thing that will get you results. Thinking, strategizing, analyzing, planning, and dealing with doubt will not get you any closer to your results, if they’re not followed by action.

If you read the previous article I hope you picked 5 things (or less) you want to focus on, and two small action steps per item.

For each action step, sandwich (squeeze) the activity between two familiar activities and just do it. And keep the rules of action simple.

The three most important reminders about action

  • Do it daily, or almost daily.
  • Give it your best effort with calm ease.
  • Do it—no matter what—for 3 months or 90 days.

III. Let go

To develop a mindset of acting in spite of beliefs and fears, means we let go of the need to eliminate the negativity and just roll with the action.

A few other things that we need to let go of that will help immensely in sticking to something for an extended period of time are:


Often we quit because we fail to see the results of the action.

Sometimes the results exceed our expectations and other times they’re not what we anticipated. Keeping an open mind about expectations can be helpful in sustaining our effort.

When we don’t hold on tight to specific outcomes, we can change our mind about what success means or what we want out of an experience.


We’re all human and we make mistakes. We will screw up and do things that we regret or do things the wrong way. That’s life. The sooner we get over this, the faster we will pick up and keep going.

Judging ourselves harshly doesn’t serve any purpose other than feeding the same negativity and limitations.

If you make a mistake, stop, think about it and apologize to others, if need be. Decide if you need to change course then go for it.

Most mistakes won’t be remembered in the long-term, so we don’t need to give them power to linger and stick.


A sure way to feel bad about what we’re doing is to find someone who’s doing a better job and compare our progress to theirs.

We can look to others for inspiration and motivation—not as a way to judge ourselves and question our abilities and deservedness. Nothing good ever comes out of that.

Habits are powerful automations that take over quicker than the speed (and loudness) of thoughts. Persistence is a super powerful habit because you will feel its effect in any and every area of your life.

If we learn to do one thing, and keep doing it, no matter what, we will master anything.

Persistence can be summed up in one statement:

If you want to become unstoppable, don’t stop.

“The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground.” ~Unknown

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