How to Keep the Flame Burning

Creating Exhibitions @ Science Centre
Flames like this YOG one require lots of work to keep going (at Singapore Science Centre)

Perseverance and "stick-to-itiveness" are vital virtues in any personal, social or professional endeavour. Almost anybody who has accomplished anything substantial in any undertaking would share that age-old adage. Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" spelled that well with the "10,000" hour rule. You must have also heard of how Rome wasn't built in a day.

However, gritting your teeth and slaving to the grind isn't the easier thing in the world. There are multiple sources of distraction, both online and offline, that may conspire to rob you of your resilience. After all, we now have multiple MMORPGs, marvellous movies, mile-long malls, and of course lots of makan places to check out.

How can one stick to the long, convoluted and occasionally difficult course in any project, job, or hobby? Are there ways to build a "thicker skin" and to improve our adversity quotient?

Here are some practical tips that you may wish to consider:

1) Stick to a regular daily or weekly schedule. Human beings are creatures of habit, and we tend to return to activities that we are familiar or comfortable with over the long run. For me, I've always made it a point, no matter how busy I am, to put some time and energy aside to compose a post for my blogs (this, and another more light-hearted one here) and to do this when I'm most fresh in the morning (which can be as early as 5 am).

2) Do not be enslaved by your communication devices, but make them work for you. I find that "always on" communicating platforms like push-email and Instant Messaging is good to get a quick pow-wow every now and then. However, they can also trap you into a endless spiral of low productivity and ceaseless gossip if you don't control them. Learn when to log off so that you can focus on longer periods of concentrated work.

3) Take time to immerse yourself in knowledge acquiring activities for at least an hour or two each day. This can be as simple as reading a good non-fiction book (I'm almost finishing "Freakonomics" now), attending a lecture on an inspiring and interesting topic, or discussing an intellectually stimulating subject matter with experts. Remember to re-fuel your mental and emotional batteries with the right kind of stimulation.

4) Keep away all distracting thoughts/influences when focusing on the task at hand. Other than switching off or logging out from your multiple screens - both mobile and desktop - find a place where you can concentrate 100% on the key task with minimal external interruptions. Is there a room that you can use for such a purpose? If not, consider waking up an hour earlier (or sleeping an hour later) so that you have extra time to focus on that long-term pursuit.

5) Finally, and very importantly, remember to rest. The best way to maintain your mojo amidst the cares and turmoils of this world is to take a break now and then. Get away from the screen, take a long slow walk, or just lie on the bed....and... sleep! If at work, see if you can walk somewhere close to a garden or park for a bit of "me time" while emptying your mind for a while. Doing so would help you to recharge and keep those cylinders burning for the longer haul.

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