7 Ways to Persevere: Honouring Your Greatness By Getting Over the Finish Line

By Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified

Last week, I shared the wacky and wild ride of getting reignited to a passion long forgotten. The perseverance it took to do something for no good reason other than it was important to me was a brilliant lesson in the importance of persevering as a way to prove to ourselves that we are worth the effort.

How often do we give our all at work and for those we love? To be a grown-up with all the “grown-upy” things we need to do, but chalk up our “wants” as getting attention “when we have time”? Who ever has “extra” time?

In the face of it taking 20 months to accomplish a seemingly small, not vitally important, low-stakes thing – relearning the choreography to Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson – I learned a few lessons along the way. Want to know what they are? (I hope the answer is yes, as I’m about to share them with you anyway.)

1. Find a Joy Partner

Sarah McVanel and Nathalie Plamondon-Thomas practicing their Rhythm Nation DanceWhen we were relearning the Rhythm Nation routine, there was nobody I would’ve wanted to spend Saturday mornings with than my dear friend Nathalie. She’s amazing. You need to meet her at some point. We’ve already decided we’re going to start learning another routine because we don’t want to be without each other. We kept going because it was about the friendship and how much stronger it became through the shared pursuit of our goal. Do something with someone you like, and you will like that something more by default!

2. Honour Why You Started

When what you set out to do isn’t fun anymore, when it’s frustrating, and when it’s eating into other things that you would prefer to do more, one way to keep going is to remember why you started in the first place. Our reasons to keep doing can (and likely will) change over time. However, what was the “why” in the first place? There is something really special about why you chose to start. Don’t lose sight of that. Honour why you started, and don’t minimize that it was important enough to you at one point to get started.

3. Create a No Excuses Zone

Image of the steps on the ladder of accountability When you don’t have to do something, it’s super easy to make excuses for why you can stop. (Heck, we can make excuses even when there’s something big on the line!) Excuses are the toxic goo that squashes your greatness. Something doesn’t have to be important, high stakes, and externally imposed on you for it to be a no-excuses zone, and in fact, this is the perfect place to build your accountability muscles. (For a great resource on it, download our Accountability Ladder.)

4. Have an End Date

image of the Spark Women's Leadership Conference logoI called up the organizers of the incredible Spark Women’s Leadership Conference not long after I started learning the dance, and I said, “How cool would it be if I were to dance on stage to Rhythm Nation as part of a keynote?” Always up for a challenge and a desire to make their event super fun, they said sure! So now I had a reason to learn it and a date I had to learn it by! If I were going to be able to build it into a keynote, dance it well, and launch my new book ROCKSTAR for Women Leaders with it, I would have to make steady progress to deliver on time and well. When I felt the self-imposed pressure mount (“OMG, why did I suggest this?”), I pictured the kindest, friendliest, most receptive audience that I knew would love it (and appreciate the journey behind it), and I got my game face back on to make it happen! You may find you pick an arbitrary date, and that’s okay. Give yourself an endpoint and celebrate progress toward it.

5. Celebrate the Wins However Small

There would be some weeks where we would relearn and relearn and relearn the same eight counts because the steps were so intricate. It was in the most frustrating moments that we had to double down on celebration. Sometimes, it was Nathalie reminding me. Sometimes, we would remember together. We even tried to build it into the end and not quickly jump off our Zoom call. Always celebrate. No matter how frustrating things are, you can always celebrate the effort. (That’s a life hack if I ever heard one!)

6. Remember, Something Is Better Than Nothing

So it took 20 months. Would my life have been better had I sat on the couch for those Saturday mornings? Would it have been a better experience if it had only taken me an hour to pick the steps back up? Actually, it’s a bigger source of pride, with it taking longer. Not to mention the fact that I’ve built some serious grey matter in this noggin’ of mine trying to remember the moves and coordinate the physical manifestation of them. I am a little bit more fit. I had 20 months of celebration-endorsed endorphins running through my brain. Turns out, the 20 months was a gift. Faster isn’t always better, and longer is sometimes more rewarding.

7. Be a Role Model for Somebody

image of a woman talking to a group of coworkers being a role modelOne day, and it might not be today, I want my kids to see that even on days when I had a headache, and I was frustrated, and I didn’t feel like it, I put on my leggings and my running shoes and I turned on my webcam, and every Saturday morning I danced just for the sake of wanting to learn something. I want them to remember that they can persevere simply to make a dream happen that matters to them.

What do you want to bring back into your life that is super important to you? Maybe it is dance like me, or art, golf, crocheting, volunteering, coaching Little League baseball, skydiving, or shark wrestling (okay, I really shouldn’t suggest that one).

What do you want to do just because you want to do it? And what’s the first thing you can do to move closer to make it happen? Will you share it below?

If you want a few more ideas on how to refresh your stick-to-it attitude, check out these other blog posts:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

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Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

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