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How to Develop Persistence?

Developing persistence is absolutely essential to achieve your life goals. You need to put lots of effort and cross quite a number of obstacles before materializing your dreams. The big question here is: how do YOU develop the persistence of that level?

In this article, we’ll find out how the world's greatest people developed that strong perseverance. Then you'll see how you can adopt similar personal traits for yourself.

Athlete starting a deadlift in a crossfit gym in which he lifts a heavy barbell weight from the crouch position to his waist level with straight arms

Athlete starting a deadlift in a Crossfit gym in which he lifts a heavy barbell weight from the crouch position to his waist level with straight arms

But first of all, what does it mean to be persistent?

It means that there is something that pushes you forward. It doesn’t allow you to settle. It makes you willing to face the various hurdles of life. That something makes you keep going even when there is no need for it too.


Motivation Plays the Lead Role

Of course, the most important thing that you need to have is a really strong motivation to put the effort, and overcome obstacles.

This true motivation does not come from outside; it comes from within. That is why the different tips and tricks about developing persistence do not really work most of the time.


Do Tips & Tricks Work?

You might have seen many people using such tips. They are based on common sense, for instance:

  • Rewarding yourself for achieving intermediate goals.
  • Hold yourself accountable for other people while you are moving towards your goals.
  • Write motivational reminders on different objects or visible places in your room.

These are some of the little tricks that people use. Even though such tricks are useful, they might not provide any powerful or everlasting effect in real life.

These different little tricks that are meant to develop persistence can only give you around 20% of the ultimate level of perseverance that you wish to achieve. The major part of it – the 80% of your perseverance comes from your inner motivation.

Why would you keep going forward, in spite of all the opposing circumstances that lie ahead? Do you know the answer to this question?

young rider athlete on bicycle jump over obstacles


What Can Motivate You?

When it comes to motivation, potentially, there can be only two types – either a negative one or a positive one.

Although I cannot confirm this with statistics, but I rely on my obsession of studying about very successful people; reading their biographies ever since I was a teenager. Since then I might have probably studied hundreds of people, and I've noticed that most of them have had negative motivation.

They might have had a certain problem, a certain pain that didn’t allow them to settle. This problem had prompted them to go forward, to prove themselves to others.

The good thing is, if you have the problem or the pain, you can actually use it as the fuel to drive you ahead.

If you don't have any kind of psychological prowess that would motivate you negatively, it is also good. It means that you are a happy person. In that case, you need to come up with the positive motivation.


How to Use Positive Motivation?

Positive motivation is a dream, a goal that inspires you. Here, let me provide a few sayings of Elon Musk:

(Click to Enlarge)

You might notice from the quotes of Elon Musk that he is not just talking about earning money or being successful in business. He is talking about more deep, personal things.

What Elon Musk says is not just about making a job done, but he sees his purpose of life in those activities that he pursues. It is a common theme for all the great people.



What Motivates the World’s Greatest People?

There was a famous psychologist, Abraham Maslow, who discovered the hierarchy of the needs of human beings. He analyzed the motivating needs of people, including the needs of a number of highly successful individuals.

Other than the basic needs, the highest priority, according to Maslow, is self-fulfillment.

The self-actualization needs actually mean the realization of your personal potential, self-fulfillment, and personal growth.

Transcendence needs go beyond the personal self. These needs can belong to the discipline of science, religious faith, innovation in product technology, making a better world etc.

Once you cherish that kind of a dream or goal, it will connect you with your life purpose. It will become your unshakable inner motivation that pushes you forward no matter what! This is called persistence.

Thus, self-fulfillment needs help you develop the highest level of persistence without any additional effort. You need to create a certain big dream, big goal in life, something that really inspires you.


Once Your Goal is Set, Every Step Counts!

So, the first big step is to determine your Goal.

Then you start realizing that you are either moving toward your dream or away from it, every single moment of your life.

It’s just like eating food: healthy food makes you healthier, while junk food makes you unhealthy.

You can either take action to move closer to your goal or chill out, moving further from your goal. The choice is yours!

Arnold Schwarzenegger explained it very well:

Once, you have fixed your life goal, it gives you a sense of responsibility for your life. Now you understand that you are shaping your destiny with every action taken, and every decision made by you.

It is just a matter of time. You can be a better version of yourself or a worsen version of yourself. The decision is yours!


Use a ‘plus table’ to stay on track.

There is a very good way of tracking your progress; to inspire, and discipline yourself. It’s what I call a ‘plus table’. Whenever you need to take some actions to achieve your goal, you can create this kind of table, as based on the image below.

Plus Table - Key to Victory

On the left side of the table, you write down the tasks that you're going to accomplish. These could also be the habits that you wish to develop or any kind of recurring actions that you should take.

On its right side, keep track of the number of times you accomplished those tasks. Every time when you accomplish a task, you will write a plus in the corresponding cell.

This kind of a ‘plus table’ seems to be very trivial, yet it is awesome and inspiring. If you give it a try, you'll see why.

First of all, every time you accomplish a certain task, you'll write down the plus in the corresponding cell. You feel a lot of satisfaction from the fact that you are disciplined and strong enough to take the required action.

Over time, the number of pulses will accumulate. Every time you look at the table, you will feel proud of yourself.

On the other hand, whenever you miss the execution of the task, there will be an empty cell in the table. You are also going to notice this blank space very much. Thus, this table will hold you accountable for doing everything that you should do.

Of course, you can create this kind of ‘plus table’ with some app on your mobile phone. Somehow, I prefer doing it in the old style with just a piece of paper and a pen. There is some magic, some great feeling when you take the pen in your hand and write down all those hard-earned pluses in the table.

This ‘plus table’ should always be with you. You can fix it either on the wall or can keep it in your pocket, but make sure that you can always see it.



  1. Persistence mostly depends on your state of mind. Various tips and tricks do not provide an everlasting effect.
  2. Have a big WHY – your purpose, your dream.
  3. Every decision, every action you take either brings you one step closer or one step further from your dream.
  4. Use a ‘plus table’ to track your progress.


P.S. How would you evaluate your level of persistence on 1-10 scale?

Igor Smirnov

Igor Smirnov

Psychologist, blogger, chess Grandmaster, Internet entrepreneur. Follow Igor on Facebook

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