In 2020, a global pandemic hogged the spotlight, and cast in shadow were many other trials facing individuals and societies around the world. It was a year of chaos, turmoil, and uncertainty.
We enter a new year, many bruised and bloodied from the last, in varied states of nerve: some of us stronger than ever, others barely hanging on, most somewhere in between. Can we humans control our responses to these grand external threats? The long-revered trait of perseverance suggests so.
Perseverance is described by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.” Comparable alternatives steadfastness and grit may also serve depending on context. Perseverance is a positive outcome of endurance, a word which took on broader meaning in ancient times, and is summarized well by brain researcher Dr. Samuele Marcora as “The struggle to continue against a mounting desire to stop.”
As pointed out by Tatiana Denning in The Epoch Times, perseverance is a universally exalted attribute, receiving praise in powerful works like The Bible, from great US presidents, from multiple peer-reviewed studies which draw powerful conclusions. Plus, we can observe the pattern of admiring perseverance in our daily lives. But why is it such a great thing to possess?
Perseverance “cultivates a sense of purposefulness that can create resilience” against several mental illnesses, Nur Hani Zainal, lead author of a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, told Science Daily. As you can see, there is a continued momentum from enduring to persevering to achieving resilience, the latter of which is an ability to recover from to adjust to misfortune and change. That’s incredibly useful armor for the mind and soul.
Fall down seven times, stand up an eight.Japanese Proverb
The essence of perseverance is simple at heart and has been distilled for ages: “Seven falls, eight rises” is a four-word Japanese proverb which perfectly captures one portrait of perseverance. In other words—if you fail, try again until you succeed.
Another key aspect of perseverance is captured by Confucius, who said,
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” The Chinese philosopher’s musing suggests that although a task may feel daunting, action is a required step to progress (or persevere), and a powerful outcome can be the result of effort. Without a labor to endure, there is no capacity to persevere, and resilience will not build.
HOW TO PRACTICE PERSEVERANCE
According to Denning, D.O., perseverance is not just an attribute, but a skill. As a skill, we can practice it and adopt it as a personal attribute. Here’s what she suggests for developing perseverance.
- Know what matters to you. “By having a strong moral compass, composed of honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior, we will be filled with the conviction needed to help persevere in the face of hardship,” she writes.
- Take action, however small. She suggests using “small victories”—which we at VICTORIOUS ACADEMY have long advocated—to gain a sense of control, which strengthens resolve over time.
- Assume responsibility. You must accept responsibility for your actions. If you are “detached rather than truly invested,” perseverance is “impossible,” according to Denning.
- Don’t overthink it. It can be easy to defeat oneself if one does not remain composed and stoic. “If our thoughts aren’t aligning with who we want to be, we should work to eliminate and replace them,” writes Denning.
- Draw inspiration. Other people, and stories, can inspire a spark within. A strong role model, good book, or provoking film can achieve an increased desire to beat the odds for yourself, too.
- Establish consistency. Develop self-control and an ability to resist temptation. Performing actions according to steady discipline, rather than the whim of motivation, increases the control we have over our minds and lives.
- Push past fear. For many, fear can be an overwhelming and crippling emotion. When it triggers our “flight” instinct, we lose—unless we learn to use our “fight” reaction instead. Fear will either hold you back or thrust you forward, depending on your actions.
- Reflect on self. Learn from negative experiences and avoid the trap of discouragement. “Manage frustrations and worries, and control thoughts and actions.”