Why do some persist in the face of obstacles, while others retreat? I recently watched an interesting piece on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After a successful ride as quarterback of his high school football team, Rodgers aspired to play at the college level. His dreams were shattered, however, when he was rejected by the Division 1 college teams. Rather than give up, he played football for one year at a community college before eventually transferring to UC Berkeley. Despite the many hurdles he faced, including his controversial replacement of legendary Brett Favre in 2008, Rodgers won the 2010 Super Bowl and earned the distinction of MVP.
Aaron Rodgers could have walked away from football, but he followed his passion and made his dream a reality. Rather than succumb to defeat, he turned his challenges into opportunities and found another path to success. What separates him and countless others from those that would simply give up?
Some people view challenges as dead ends. Rather than look for an alternate route, they walk away entirely. Sadly, we will never know what could have happened had they stuck with it. As Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life's failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Others see challenges as opportunities. A roadblock inspires them to work even harder. According to Aaron Rodgers’s parents, he saved his rejection letters as motivation. While many would have stopped there, these failures only boosted his momentum.
We all know that life throws us curveballs, but when they hit, we are generally caught off guard. It’s important to remind ourselves in advance that obstacles will surface, as it can be difficult to think rationally in the moment. As you embark on a new goal, create a plan for confronting these obstacles so that they don’t derail you.
First, recall a time in your past when you overcame a hurdle. Think specifically about how you approached the challenge. What strategies did you employ? Sometimes just having the confidence that you can weather a storm can help.
Next, be very clear about your goal. Why are you pursuing it? How will your life be better if you achieve it? What will you lose if your goal isn’t realized? The more clear you are about the goal itself and your commitment to achieving it, the easier it is to stay focused when challenges inevitably surface. Write down your responses to these questions and keep them available so that you can refer to them during a difficult time.
Last, identify your support resources in advance. Who, specifically, will you reach out to if you encounter bumps in the road? Knowing that you have a network of support will keep you from feeling alone and overwhelmed.
Often what separates those who persist from those who give up is strength – strength of self, strength of the goal, and strength of the available support. As with any goal, challenges will surface. Having a plan will improve your ability to tackle these challenges and help you achieve success.