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Last Updated on April 9, 2021

How to Persevere (and Get Ahead) When the Going Gets Tough

How to Persevere (and Get Ahead) When the Going Gets Tough

There are times in life when we feel discouraged or defeated, when life delivers blows that knock us to the ground. The feelings of hopelessness and despair may consume your life for many months as you wonder if you’ll ever get back to feeling happy and safe. This is when it’s important to learn how to persevere in life.

The good news is that, over time, life can get better, and you can get stronger when you persevere. You’ll likely look back at these “difficult life events” and realize they were the catalysts for you to change your life.

The only way for us to live our lives to the fullest is to learn how to have perseverance and deal with the challenges that life throws at us. Surviving these curveballs and pushing through adversity, pain, and feelings of hopelessness and despair are part of the journey for us to learn about who we are. There is no other way to learn how to be resilient, courageous, hopeful, and optimistic about life and our future.

Everyone feels discouraged and defeated at some point on his or her life journey. Some of us find ourselves at this place of despair, and we do not know what to do, so we stop growing and thriving in life. We end up living our lives through regret, fear, pain, disillusionment, and sadness. This is not how we are meant to live.

When you are feeling discouraged and life seems tough, don’t give up. Use these 7 strategies to help you grow your courage and learn how to persevere so that you can step up, face the curveballs, and embrace the joy of living a life you love.

1. Accept and Anticipate Change

In today’s world of constant change, it’s hard to manage the complexity and unpredictability of life. It’s even more difficult to find the motivation to persevere in the face of constant change. 

Instead of fighting the inevitability of change, learn to accept it. Embrace change and know that by doing this, your life can only get better. Resisting change will fuel the negative energy that keeps you feeling discouraged about life.

Learn how to be agile in your thinking and demonstrate perseverance, even when you’re feeling discouraged. Ask lots of questions and look for solutions. Don’t just focus on the problem that you are facing. It is a lot harder to solve a problem when you are immersed within the problem itself.

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Become a solution seeker because, as the Dalai Lama said:

“If a problem can be solved, it will be. If it cannot be solved, there is no use worrying about it.”

2. Use Your Power of Choice to Liberate You

One of the few things you have total control over is your power of choice. No one else can take that away from you, so use it when you want to learn how to persevere.

It is the choices that you make that determine how you react to the tough times you are facing. You can choose to do nothing and allow yourself to be distracted from the issue you need to face, or you can choose to take action and face your problem.

In my experience, the easiest option is to choose to do nothing, but it always comes back and bites you. In the words of psychologist Carl Jung, “What you resist will persist.”[1] Choose to make choices that will enable you to move forward, not backwards or around in circles.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. A person who chooses to be a solution seeker is a resilient person who is self-aware and will actively seek support, advice, and encouragement from others when times are tough[2].

Solution seekers value the input of others because they know others may have wisdom or positive energy to help them overcome adversity and learn how to persevere in the workplace and at home.

If you’re afraid to ask for help, you can learn how to begin with this article.

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4. Be Positive and Laugh When You Can

For me, this is my secret weapon that helps me to keep going when I’m not sure how to persevere. Having a positive attitude enables us to use our power of choice wisely.

A positive attitude opens up your mind to more possibilities, whereas a pessimistic attitude closes your mind down and encourages you to withdraw yourself from finding your way through the challenges you are facing. With a pessimistic attitude, there is no growth and no learning.

If you have a hard time cultivating a positive attitude, consider trying mindfulness meditation. This can help you create space in your mind to root our negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.

Laughter is life’s best way to thrive. To get through the tough times, surround yourself with people who make you laugh and like laughing with you. Laughter is contagious, and you will soon find that when you are laughing, you are feeling more alive and hopeful about your future.

You can learn more about creating a positive environment in this video:

5. Embrace the Unpredictability of Life

Life is a strange and amazing journey, with many painful experiences and lots of beauty and joy. Running away from the challenges life presents is not the answer. If you run away, the pain, discomfort, and challenges of life will follow you.

It’s okay to fall apart, make mistakes, fail, and be disappointed, but you can only stay in this place for a short time. If you have a goal in mind, keep working to achieve your goal and demonstrate perseverance, despite the failures.

Resilient people expect to fail and be disappointed. They know that to be strong, one has to overcome the adversity and challenges they face in life. Courageous people choose to “bounce forward” in life and to keep moving toward living a happy fulfilled life.

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Commit to becoming that courageous, resilient person you were born to be.

6. Focus on Things That Bring You Joy

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” -Joseph Campbell

When you are feeling frustrated and hopeless, it’s easy to forget the good things in your life. If you allow yourself to be consumed by negativity, you will start to believe that there is nothing good in your life. Before you know it, that will become your reality.

If you really want to learn how to persevere, stop immediately and write a list of all the good things that you have experienced, and all the things that have brought you joy. The more you focus on the good in your life, the more hopeful you will become.

Showing appreciation to others and expressing gratitude are two actions that will bring joy back into your life.

One study found that gratitude was “demonstrated to be associated with increase in happiness, life satisfaction and social desirability”[3]. These all contribute to more resilience.

A great way to practice gratitude is by starting a gratitude journal. You can begin by writing three things each day that you’re grateful for. You can learn other ways to practice gratitude with this article.

7. Don’t Let the Past Rule Your Present

Your past presents an opportunity to learn the lessons you need to deal with in your present life. However, if you don’t let go of your regrets in life and make peace with your past, it is very hard to move forward in your life.

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Look for opportunities for self-discovery, and learn how to trust and believe in yourself. When you are facing tough times in your life, ask yourself this question:

“What is the one thing I can do right now to take me one step closer to moving forward?”

All you have to remember is to take one step forward and keep repeating that one step. You will soon discover that you are closer to finding a solution and achieving your long-term goals. Remember, you’ve done difficult things before and have come out on the other side, so enjoy the process.

Don’t let all your past mistakes and fears cloud your judgement and diminish your courage. You are not defined by what happened in your past. You are who you choose to be now and in the future. Become the courageous, empowered, resilient person you were born to be.

Final Thoughts

It is understandable that when you are facing tough times in life, you can become overwhelmed and lost. It is very hard to be hopeful and optimistic about your future when you are consumed by pain and frustration.

When you want to learn how to persevere and overcome the bad days, use the 7 strategies above to help you keep moving forward to get to your finish line.

More on How to Persevere

Featured photo credit: Guilherme Stecanella via unsplash.com

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Published on May 12, 2021

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation: Is One Better Than The Other?

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation: Is One Better Than The Other?

Have you observed the behavior of children as they carry out daily tasks? They may naturally be inclined towards playing games with friends but would need a push to do their homework. Children may enjoy eating junk food by themselves but need adult monitoring while reluctantly having vegetables.

As these kids grow up, the behavior remains the same. There are many reasons we do certain things. Sometimes, we’re internally motivated to make something happen, and other times we’re driven externally. Such a dichotomy involves contrasting intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation:[1]

“When intrinsically motivated, people engage in an activity because they find it interesting and inherently satisfying. By contrast, when extrinsically motivated, people engage in an activity to obtain some instrumentally separable consequence, such as the attainment of a reward, the avoidance of punishment, or the achievement of some valued outcome.”

Read on to learn more about intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation and find out how reward-oriented behavior influences our productivity and how we can regulate it!

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What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

All the theories that describe what classifies as intrinsic motivation talk about a natural drive from within to pursue an activity because it gives us pleasure.

Some psychology researchers have associated intrinsic behavior with basic human needs, creativity, performance enhancement, and contentment.[2] When we carry out a task that fulfills our natural urges, such as hunger, thirst, and sleep, we are better equipped with the drive to complete a task. Other times, we might simply do something because it stimulates the aesthetic experience of being in that state of activity, such as hobbies.

Simply put, activities that bring us satisfaction and joy are powered by intrinsic motivation because an internal reward system fuels them.

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation

  • Studying because you enjoy the process of gaining knowledge and not simply because you want good grades
  • Helping out a friend/family member with something out of love without expecting anything in return from them
  • Standing in the kitchen for hours to prepare your favorite meal because the end product satiates your hunger and gives you joy
  • Pursuing a hobby, such as gardening, trekking, camping, and playing sports, among others, to experience an aesthetic pleasure
  • Running a marathon to feel physically rejuvenated instead of seeking the prize money
  • Taking up extra responsibility at work/school to improve your skills without the intention of gaining recognition or earning someone’s favor

What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

When we are not inherently motivated to perform a task because it does not bring about a sense of satisfaction, we are extrinsically motivated. Such motivation facilitates our desire to attain a reward or avoid punishment.

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Not all the work we do brings us joy, owing to its repetitive nature, urgency, necessity, frequency, duration, or monotony. Whether it is dragging ourselves to work/school every morning or working on weekends, we tend to undertake tasks that might not inherently please or satisfy us. Usually, an external force or ulterior motive drives us to complete such tasks. Rewards like money, praise, and fame drive our motivation extrinsically.

However, extrinsic motivation does not necessarily mean that we are unwilling to do something. We just seek an external reward from it. For example, a person might like writing but goes the extra mile to make money out of it.

Point to be noted: Offering external rewards for something that already rewards inherently can decrease motivation, known as the overjustification effect.[3]

Examples of Extrinsic Motivation

  • Working a part-time job to make extra money while still being a student
  • Participating in competitions to win prizes and earn fame
  • Attending classes regularly not because the lecture is exciting but to maintain the attendance record
  • Going to the office on lazy days to avoid pay-cut
  • Completing a task well before time to earn praise and recognition
  • Doing something you don’t like just to avoid public judgment
  • Doing chores to flatter parents before requesting something from them

The 3 Regulators of Productivity

As social beings, we interact with our surroundings to tend to our satisfaction and gain. Despite being interlinked with various social factors, we still act independently as individually identifiable beings with preferences and opinions.

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Daniel H. Pink, in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, talks about the evolving state of the digital economy and leaders can adopt more effective methods of motivation. He proposes three principles of increasing productivity: autonomy, mastery (alternatively, competence), and purpose. Detaching his propositions from the workplace context to universalize it, I shall discuss the impact of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation on these three principles.

  • Autonomy refers to the amount of creativity and control we hold over individual expression without any external influence. It determines our independence in making choices and deciding the course of future actions.
  • Mastery or competence is our capacity to execute a task to the best of our ability without any external help. Our competency level governs how well we can perform when tasked with something.
  • Purpose alludes to the yearning within individuals to contribute to humankind’s more meaningful existence beyond the self.

Productivity is a cumulative result of the above three that motivation regulates. In the following section, we shall explore the differing impacts of the two kinds of motivation on individual performance: intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation: Is There a Third Option?

In a psychological study, Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci found out that “conditions supportive of autonomy and competence reliably facilitated this vital expression of the human growth tendency, whereas conditions that controlled behavior and hindered perceived reflectance undermined its expression.”[4]

In other words, whether a task is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, it should not negatively impact our natural abilities.

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They also concluded that “Excessive control, nonoptimal challenges, and lack of connectedness…disrupt the inherent actualizing and organizational tendencies endowed by nature, and thus such factors result not only in the lack of initiative and responsibility but also in distress.” Simply put, unachievable challenges and emotional detachment can diminish individuals’ natural abilities and negatively impact performance.

Hence, it is safe to conclude that positive motivation is the key to performance enhancement without mentally, physically, or emotionally tiring out an individual. Whether it is at school, work, or social circles, superiors must ensure that an assigned task must be positively motivated in a way that warrants commitment, interest, and productivity. Hence, the type of motivation is not significant to performance as long as it does not hinder the three principles of productivity.

How Can You Positively Motivate Others?

Provide regular feedback: Individuals putting in efforts to make something happen, like hearing about their strengths and weaknesses. But before doing that, you must establish feedback-giving as a positive and encouraging process towards development within the social setup!

  • Set attainable goals: Asking too much from people negatively impacts performance as it does not respect their abilities. It can also be severely discouraging as it prevents individuals from giving their best, thinking that it is unattainable.
  • Challenge them by gradually increasing the level: Once you have gauged a person’s skill level, you can slowly give them more significant tasks to expand their abilities.
  • Inspire them: Setting an example is the best way to motivate others. You could perform your best to let people know what you expect from them.
  • Establish a trust relationship: Trust is the key to maintaining any human relationship, whether personal or professional. Ensuring the existence of this emotion comforts and inspires them to do better.
  • Maintain a healthy reward system: Humans cannot resist rewards, whether intrinsic or extrinsic. Maintaining a healthy reward system can propel others to work harder and productively.
  • Seek feedback from them: Finally, seeking feedback is just as important as giving it. Don’t forget to ask people’s opinions on the changes you can make to your approach!

Final Thoughts

Looking at your life with a bird’s eye view isn’t always easy. You sometimes need external motivators who see your potential and help you pave a path to success. But even when you have external motivators backing you up, paying close attention to your internal dialogue will help you cross the roadblocks.

And do not forget, motivation isn’t the goal in itself—it’s the pathway to a long journey where you achieve more milestones, and looking at the bird’s eye view of your life becomes easier. Have a happy journey!

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Featured photo credit: Stephen Leonardi via unsplash.com

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