What Do You Do When the Going Gets Tough?

At IWE, we teach the many secrets to making positive, lasting change.

One of the most surprising discoveries people make is that change is only possible if you don’t depend on willpower, muscling through, or trying to keep that original boost of energy going.

Face it: All that initial “rah, rah, rah” that gets people going fades away far short of the finish line.

That is not to say however, that you don’t need some degree of motivation to keep going.

The question is, “How do you keep it going?” How do you keep fueling the fire in the belly to navigate around or over the bumps in the road, fatigue, or something new and novel that takes your attention away?

What Keeps the Marines Going When the Going Gets Tough?

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Researchers on personal and organizational performance echo what Marines know about grit and determination. When the going gets tough, the tough ask themselves, “Why are we doing this?”

It may seem simple, but it’s incredibly effective.

It’s easy to begin a new routine or start a healthy habit. It’s a lot more difficult to keep it going.

How does the simple question “Why?” make people persevere, gut it out, stick to it when the going gets tough?

It’s because asking why helps you link your action to your values and goals. It connects the hard stuff you’re doing with what you dream for your future. It makes what you do count in the big scheme of things.

Consider the following:

Many smokers quit smoking not when they consider the health risks, but when they think about the extra years they want to have to enjoy their grandchildren.

Students volunteer for community projects not because pounding nails or collecting debris after a storm is so much fun, but because they know that kids just like them will have a safer place to live in the future.

Ask any parent why they work so hard and sacrifice for their children….because they want their children to have success and live happy lives.

Think about a goal you want to accomplish that requires you to stick to it or do something challenging. Would you like to improve a relationship? Organize a task list? Eat healthier? By focusing on the meaning of reaching your goal, you are much more likely to be able to sustain the motivation you need to keep plugging away.


Use Two Simple Strategies to Enhance Your Success

  1. Ask the Right Questions:

To help define the “Why” for your goal, ask yourself:

  • “What matters most to me? What’s the self-image I want to have? How do I want to be seen by others?
  • How will accomplishing my goal relate to this?”
  • “How will my life be different when I accomplish this goal?”
  • “How will accomplishing my goal affect my home/work/outside environment?”
  • “Who will be affected positively when I accomplish this goal?”
  1. Create a Personal Motivating Statement.

Before taking on your next project or setting your next goal, ask yourself what succeeding will mean to you. Get specific! Make a personal motivating statement such as, “Losing that extra 15 pounds means that I will be able to accompany my daughter and her girl scout troop this coming June when they go on their hiking trip to Italy and Switzerland to see the Alps from two sides.”

Make your statement as specific as possible. Make it come alive for you…and let it work its magic to help YOU keep going when the going gets tough


Photo Credits:

Above: US, ROK Marines ruck over mountains, by Sgt Tyler Giguere

Middle: Electronics Technician 2nd Class Ron Wilhelms greets his daughter after returning from deployment aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) after completing an eight-month deployment to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility in support of theater security cooperation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Lolita Lewis/Released)