Are you motivated by self-discipline or toxic persistence?

Self-discipline is certainly a trait to be admired. It’s that inner strength that lets you control your feelings, capitalise fully on your strengths and follow through on achieving your goals, despite all those reasons to give up. It’s what keeps you going when you’d much rather be doing anything else. It’s critical to building career momentum and impact at work. But there’s a downside to taking self-discipline too far.

What is toxic persistence?

Have you ever found yourself pushing on with a job even when you’re mentally and physically drained? Or working when you’re fatigued, just to tick one more task off your list? This is the downside of being in flow: you get so engaged in your work that you lose track of time and space. Plus, you don’t consider whether all that effort is reaping results.  If this sounds familiar, you might be edging towards toxic persistence. Eeek.

Toxic persistence happens when determination morphs into an unhelpful obsession. It causes you to keep working on projects that aren’t reaping results, or to hold on to goals that no longer serve you.  It’s an extreme form of self-discipline that can lead to burnout, frustration and even failure. Plus, it’s one of the most common ways ambitious professionals sabotage their own success and career momentum.


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How to tell if your ‘stamina’ is toxic persistence

If you think you might be falling into the trap of toxic persistence, here are three questions to ask yourself.

  • Where am I focusing my time and attention?
  • Am I making progress towards my most important goal, or am I just spinning my wheels?
  • What is driving my determination – is it intrinsic motivation or external pressure?

By asking these questions, you will quickly work out whether your self-discipline is serving you well or if it’s becoming toxic. And if you decide that it’s becoming a problem, don’t worry. There are steps you can take to break the cycle of toxic persistence and work as a savvy professional instead of an overzealous workhorse.

This article was created by Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a leadership trainer and success coach. Her mission is inspiring talented people to become leaders who make a difference.  Since discovering her passion for training and development, Eleanor has trained more than 60,000 people. She delivers face-to-face workshops for corporates, online masterclasses for leaders and Positive Psychology retreats for trainers, HR practitioners and leaders.