5 lessons to never-say-never perseverance

“I was chewing the handlebars!”

An expression often used by cyclists when they’re pushing those pedals as hard as they can to keep up with their bunch of cycle crazies. Legs screaming, lungs about to explode, inhaling as much oxygen as possible, and your head is down near your handlebars … looks like you’re chewing them.

On Tuesday mornings I ride with a group of men and women. It’s the same route each Tuesday. There are sections of the route where everyone puts in a big effort to go as hard as they can. I’m always “chewing the handlebars” on Tuesday mornings. There are some very strong cyclists in the group so keeping up with them will have to be a life-long pursuit. It’s the lure of my large soy latte at the end of the ride that gets me out of bed when the 6am alarm chimes. The coffee plus that voice in my head that after the ride will say “well done you – you deserve this”.

How do we persist? How do we persist at doing something that we know is hard and at times almost unbearable, yet we know we’ll be better off for doing it. Whether it’s yoga class, personal development, running, healthy eating, or running a business that we’re so passionate about. How do we keep chewing the handlebars knowing the discomfort will soon pass and the reward for persisting will be worth it?

Here are the five things that help me to keep going, when everything in me wants to quit. If you find yourself in a situation where you want to give up, these lessons can help you, too.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others.

On my Tuesday morning rides, there’s one climb that’s about 3.3kms long. Right from the beginning of the climb, I can see other riders ahead of me with the gap between me and them widening. But instead of comparing myself to them which only leads to me feeling bad about myself, I focus on what I’m doing. I focus on my legs, my stomach, my position on the bike, my cadence … I focus on my mission.

It’s easy to be distracted when you see others achieving their goals easier, quicker, or with more finesse than you. It can fuel feelings of inadequacy and comparison. Learn from others but focus on your mission and progress.

  1. Become your own cheerleader.

It’s good to hear others cheering my progress as I get stronger on the bike. It can be energising and motivating. You’ve no doubt felt the same when colleagues, friends or family congratulate you for accomplishing one of your goals. But this is icing on your cake. This is the French butter on your thick sourdough. Or the 1200 thread count on your king size sheets. This is a luxury, not a requirement.

The requirement is you. You need to feel proud of your effort and progress. If you’re not cheering yourself, the chances are you’re sabotaging yourself. The words of encouragement and strength and “well done” need to come from you. Hear their cheers and then listen deeply to yours.

  1. Focus on the next step.

I knew riding with the Tuesday morning group was going to be hard so rather than try to eat the whole elephant so to speak, I dissected it into manageable chunks. Just get to this intersection. Now you’ve got a downhill section to give your legs a rest. Now a small climb before another descent. A good effort for the biggest climb and then you can catch your breath again. And so on …

Whatever it is you want to persist at, break it down into smaller steps. Your annual business plan? Break it down into quarters, months, weeks, tomorrow. What are you doing tomorrow, to achieve this weeks plan?

  1. Feel okay with uncomfortable.

Whether it’s learning something new, starting something new, creating something new, or experiencing something new … new often comes with the tag “uncomfortable”. When you don’t know what’s on the other side but that’s where you’re heading, feeling uncomfortable is almost a given. If you find it so uncomfortable that anxiety sneaks up, you’ll need to find some perspective. Perspective plus some encouraging self-talk “I can tolerate this. I can cope. I know I’m capable of this with some effort”.

  1. Wobbles don’t spell disaster.

As I mentioned, my Tuesday riding group has some gun cyclists in it. At the moment, I still find myself towards the back of the group. One Tuesday last month, I wasn’t just towards the back, I was the back. Like anything, acknowledging that you’re having a wobble, or not managing your mindset as well that day as you could’ve, is okay. Don’t look for something to blame. Look for what you can do better next time, put it behind you, and keep on. Don’t dwell on the negatives.

As you work towards achieving your goals, there will be wobbles, bumps and scratches along the way. When the journey becomes more uncomfortable than what you are used to, it can be easy to throw in the towel and retreat.

But if you follow these lessons, you can find the strength to keep going. And when you do persist, you’ll discover the reward was worth the effort.