By Michael Gunther

We’ve all heard the statement “persistence pays off.” Now, I think it can, but only if you’re willing to adjust your game along the way, and you possess the right mental attitude. Just working harder on something or being consistent towards reaching a goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve it.

What got me thinking about the concept of persistence is the training I’ve been doing for my half marathon. I’m halfway through it and I just completed a nine mile run—yes, a nine mile run, when just a few weeks ago I could barely finish two miles—and I’ve completed 24 miles total for the week!

When I started training, my initial goal was to just reach the finish line. I kept telling myself to maintain a steady pace and not worry about my speed or the other runners, not to worry about my time, skill or placement. This shifted at about week four or five of training. I remember completing a seven mile run and thinking that it was sort of easy and I wasn’t ready to collapse afterwards. Then, Tara, our coach from Pinnacle Training Systems, sent over a podcast of her sister who’s a psychologist and works with athletes and business teams on developing their mental skills to enhance their performance.

After listening to the podcast, I realized I was selling myself short. I should be working towards incremental gains each week and have a goal set for the time in which I want to complete the race. Tara’s sister said that top performers need to focus on achieving small gains towards a larger goal. In addition, she discussed the importance of not just being focused on what’s in front of you, but envisioning looking down at yourself while you’re running. How is your form? How is your speed? Where are you amongst the other runners?

These few tips have truly made a difference for me in my focus on achieving this half marathon. Each week I’m now setting time goals that I want to achieve with my daily runs. I also take a view from above and think about my technique, speed, and energy. These few things have made the runs more challenging, but also more enjoyable as I continue to get faster and more motivated.

Now, the mental game goes beyond the incremental goals and improving your skills. It also encompasses just getting motivated to run no matter what’s thrown at you. The other morning I was totally prepared to run the recommended three miles in accordance with our training schedule. I had calculated the time necessary to do the run, and planned my early morning accordingly. Just before I began, my partner Steve told me I’d read the wrong week on the schedule, and that it was actually five miles! Ugh—it was Monday morning, after the time change, I was not mentally ready to run five miles at 6:30am. I could handle three, but not five.

I contemplated running in between some meetings in the afternoon. Then, I thought maybe I’d run after work, but I realized that would throw off the rest of my running schedule for the week. So, I got focused, reluctantly put on my shoes, strapped my iPod to my arm, started my favorite playlist and began my run. Within the first three minutes I was glad I was running and that I hadn’t let the small set-back impact my goal of keeping to the training schedule. I also realized that I could have easily decided not to run or exercise at all.

As it turned out at the end of the run, I’d made really good time, and started my Monday—as well as my week—off to a great start!

Bottom Line

Business and personal goal achievement requires both persistence and a strong mental aptitude. Don’t let small setbacks knock you off track towards your goals. Remember that just working harder without working smarter will not get you to your destination—you need both mental fortitude and persistent action to bring it all together.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. To read the previous articles in this series, visit his blog at

Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. Learn more at

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