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Finding Your Own Path to Career Success

Call it what you want, perseverance pays off.

Have you noticed that everyone is talking about grit these days, as if it has just been discovered? Business leaders, pundits, scientists, and even celebrities are extolling the importance of grit as a key ingredient in success.

Although the scientists are still hashing out whether there is a proven correlation between grit and success, it is something that entrepreneurs and business leaders have known for a long time.

So what is grit, exactly?

Grit is defined as the ability to rebound from challenges, self-reflect, and work even harder next time. You may know it as persistence, endurance, perseverance, or plain old stick-to-itiveness.

Think of a time when you were met with a tough problem, regrouped, and pushed on to a successful conclusion. (As the CEO of a rapidly growing software business, this can be an everyday occurrence for me.) If you gave up whenever faced with a hard problem, you would be falling behind. Staying strong and bouncing back is a sign of grit.

If you are a driven individual pushing for success, the question is not "Do I have grit?" Instead, you likely are more interested in what you can do to strengthen and sustain your already persistent nature. The good news is that grit is something you can work to improve.

With the right tactics, I believe you can foster sustainable grit -- which means that you can maintain interest and effort in long-term goals. Doing so, you can grow stronger tomorrow than you are today, get tougher, and ultimately become more successful.

Here is are six tactics for building grit to sustain effort in long-term goals:

Contextualize your goals

If you can align your goals with a vision and purpose that is greater than yourself it can be easier to keep going when you are not doing as well as you hoped. If you find a disconnect between your goals and your accomplishments, reevaluate what you are striving for and why. Life is short and without purpose-driven goals, it will be difficult to summon strength when challenges arise.

Assemble a support team

Find a mentor or peer group who understand your goals and who can offer honest feedback and encouragement when times get tough. Do not be afraid to ask a leader you admire to grab a cup of coffee -- you will be surprised at how many people will want to share their knowledge to help you achieve your goals. Seek out peer groups on LinkedIn, through alumni organizations, or networking groups that relate to your field.

Visualize your success

When faced with a roadblock, take a moment to envision the end result you desire. When you visualize success, you are actually training your brain for that outcome. Athletes have used this technique for years, but you can apply it to your own goals. Practice mental imagery daily. To reinforce the positive message write down in detail how your success will play out.

Make backslides impossible

Beware the tendency to slow down once you have made some initial strides. It is all too common for people to see some progress and lose momentum. Commit to progress checkpoints. Schedule conversations with your support team. Write a letter to yourself about why you want to achieve this goal to be read in the event you lose steam. Do whatever you can to make backslides impossible.

Establish good work habits

There is no getting around it -- you have to put in the hours if you want to see a payoff. Eliminate procrastination, time-wasters, and disorganization. Prioritize your most important tasks and set aside time to tackle less pressing matters. Use your goals as your north star. Quickly analyze requests and do not be afraid to say no to something that does not add value.

Do not wait until scientists prove that grit is a necessary ingredient in the formula for success. You already know the truth -- the key is to invest in making that persistence sustainable. Create an environment of accountability. Use your support team to keep you honest. Make hard work a habit and banish the thought of backsliding into complacency.

Success doesn't happen over night. But building upon your own gritty nature can only mean more passion for your work. More contagious energy. More confidence -- and more success.

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