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What are the keys to success in life? Is it possible to become successful overnight?
To thrive in any aspect of your life, you must develop two virtues: patience and perseverance. Without these qualities, you’ll never achieve ambitious goals or reach your full potential. However, modern society is so enamored with fast results that people buy into the idea of overnight success, which is nothing but an illusion.
Here’s why patience and perseverance are the keys to success.
There’s No Shortcut to Success
Our culture is so enamored with rags-to-riches stories that we too often buy into the illusion of instant success and fail to develop the discipline of applying real work to our goals. If you’re looking for the instant gratification of a “magic bullet” instead of looking to make steady progress, you’ll remain stuck in inaction, desperately hoping for your big break.
|The Neurological Consequences of Focusing on Instant Gratification|
Expecting the instant gratification of a magic bullet does more than just prevent you from doing the hard work necessary for achieving your goals. It also has a long-term negative effect on the way your brain works.
The brain is already set up to favor instant gratification over delayed gratification, releasing dopamine in a jolt of pleasure whenever we do something that instantly meets our needs. The more dopamine we get, the more we want it, and the more we seek out experiences that will give us that instant hit. This creates addictive, pleasure-seeking habits and makes it harder for you to control your impulses, leading you to seek even more instant gratification. This vicious cycle leads to chronic difficulties delaying gratification, making it harder and harder for you to develop the discipline to work towards your greatest potential for success.
For example, consider the musician who seems to skyrocket to fame overnight. In reality, they practiced every day for most of their lives, performed in bars and nightclubs for years with no recognition, and had several failed albums before “hitting the big time.” The media doesn’t share every part of their story, and as a result, young musicians don’t understand the work that is necessary to achieve the success they want. Without being aware of the work necessary, aspiring “stars” don’t have the patience and perseverance to keep putting in the work, so they give up too soon.
If you want to avoid this fate, you need to learn how to practice delayed gratification by choosing long-term rewards over short-term ones. Most people prefer the short-term rewards of indulgence because they’re easier to obtain and they provide instant gratification, which pushes you further and further away from their goals.
TITLE: The Slight Edge
AUTHOR: Jeff Olson
The Psychology of Success
According to American psychiatrist Anna Lembke (Dopamine Nation), humans are primed to ignore positive long-term effects for short-term gains. She explains that the pursuit of long-term and short-term rewards is handled by separate parts of the brain. Pursuing short-term rewards relies on emotional parts of the brain such as the amygdala. Pursuing long-term rewards requires effort by the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in logic, conceptual thinking, and long-term planning. In other words, you can chase what is in front of you by acting on emotional impulse, but practicing delayed gratification requires thinking logically about your goals.
While practicing delayed gratification may be hard for most people, those who compulsively overindulge are placed at a particular disadvantage because overindulging rewires their brains over time. Researchers have found that people who compulsively overindulge have lower-than-average connectivity between the reward pathways and the prefrontal cortex.
The Challenge of Getting Started
While some people lack the patience and perseverance to resist instant gratification and keep showing up for their goals, others delay getting started (or choose not to start it altogether). A large part of resistance to getting started is a fear that if they try, they will fail.
When we experience failure, we also experience shame, which is painful. As a result, we often choose not to put ourselves in the position to fail in the first place. However, while choosing not to try might protect us from failure, it also prevents us from experiencing the joy of success.
Keep these strategies in mind next time you want to overcome fear-based resistance to getting started on something:
Remind yourself that people are more worried about their own failures than they are about yours. People are usually thinking about themselves, not about you. Remembering this allows you to release the fear of judgment that keeps you from taking action towards success.
Don’t overthink. The more you overthink preparing to start your goal, the more overwhelmed you will feel, and the less likely you are to take action. Keeping your thoughts about your plans simple helps you to get out of your head and into action more quickly.
Reframe your anxiety. Think of it as a muscle you’re training yourself to work through and work with, rather than a hindrance. This helps you to develop the confidence to pursue your goals even when you’re afraid.
Finally, you must commit to showing up for your goals on a consistent basis—taking the first step on its own isn’t enough. If you’re inconsistent, you lose not only a single action and its small benefits; the loss of momentum will damage your overall progress.
In his book The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy likens it to a hand-pumped well. Bringing the water up to the surface requires pumping the lever, which causes a suction effect to bring the water up through the spout. When we start a new program, it’s tempting to grab the “lever” and pump hard. But when no water (progress) immediately appears, we often give up. If we keep going, when a little water appears (small, visible changes), we might think, “Is that all there is?” If we are able to persist through this, soon a steady stream of water appears (tangible results); we no longer have to pump (maintain our habits, routines and rhythms) with so much effort, just with consistency.
But slacking off kills momentum. If we stop pumping the water lever, we’re back to square one and have to start the arduous process all over again. Slacking off in our habits and routines ruins our progress. When you miss a few weeks at the gym, or stop sticking to your date-night routine with your spouse, you end up right where you started, with no momentum.
TITLE: The Compound Effect
AUTHOR: Darren Hardy
Patience and perseverance are the keys to achieving your goals and becoming the person you want to be. This is because success doesn’t happen overnight—it happens incrementally. Only when you have the patience and perseverance to show up for your goals day in and day out can you achieve meaningful progress.
If you enjoyed our article about patience and perseverance, check out the following suggestions for further reading:
Many successful leaders and businesspeople are lauded as “great geniuses,” but psychologist Angela Duckworth argues that talent and intelligence matter less to success than grit: the personality trait behind patience and perseverance, hard work, and goal-setting. In Grit, she explores what grit is, where it comes from, how it drives success, and how you can develop it.
Duckworth is primarily interested in how to raise gritty kids, and her insights have inspired parents and educators around the globe since the book’s publication in 2016. However, she believes that adults, too, can develop grit, and she lays out specific, measurable ways to do so.
Her work has fueled debates about which matters more—talent or effort. In this guide, we examine these controversies and consider insights from other psychologists who either support Duckworth’s ideas or reveal nuances of them.
Do you struggle with bad habits? Do you try to create good habits that will bring positive changes to your life, but have trouble making them stick? In Atomic Habits, James Clear argues that adopting the right habits will drastically improve your life—but to do so, you must understand how habits work and how you can change yours.
Clear explains that implementing “atomic habits,” or small improvements in behavior, changes your life because behaviors compound—that is, they build on each other to create more and more changes. Performing one good behavior leads to another, then another—and soon, you’ve transformed your life.
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