The definition of perseverance, from a dictionary: “Persisting in or remaining constant to a purpose, idea or task in spite of obstacles.” Given that definition, you can see that perseverance can clearly be both a good thing and a bad thing. Sometimes, when you find yourself wanting to quit something, that might be the wisest choice.
A New Definition: Wise Perseverance
“Persisting in or remaining constant to a purpose, idea, or task in spite of obstacles, when such persistence is congruent with higher values.” In other words, if in your hierarchy of values, happiness ranks higher than money, don’t persist in making money in ways that cause you to be unhappy. If making money is ranked higher than a particular business, you might need to quit the business when you see a better way. Persist in the pursuit of your values, but not necessarily in the means to achieve them.
The problem with the idea that you should quit when something isn’t worth the effort, is that it’s often used as a rationalization. The idea of quitting comes to mind when the effort is difficult but really does serve your purposes. This is confusing at times, so how do you wisely persevere? Here are three ways.
1. Watch yourself objectively: Note when you look for excuses, rather than the truth. Ask questions. Is it possible you’re letting fear or laziness cause you to quit or to procrastinate? Is there a pattern in your life that is repeating here?
Honestly and objectively watching ourselves is difficult. You can probably think of a time when you saw that a friend was lying to himself about something. Your perspective was more objective than his. Why not use this objectivity of an “outsider” to catch your own little lies? Before quitting anything, explain your reasoning to a friend, and ask him to honestly tell you what he thinks. He’s more likely than you to recognize your rationalizations.
2. Look at costs and benefits: To wisely persevere, you need to see the costs and benefits of what you are doing. If moving to Hollywood to become a star is going to cost you your business or family life, you have to see that clearly before you decide. An honest and good decision requires honest and good information, and when you are more certain about your decision, you are more likely to find the strength to persevere.
3. Learn to motivate yourself: When you’ve made a decision, and you’re sure you made it for the right reasons, you have to motivate yourself. In fact, perseverance requires that you regularly re-motivate yourself. Write goals down, do daily affirmations, and whatever else works for you.
Start watching yourself, and make self-awareness a habit. Get used to analyzing costs and benefits objectively. Find ways to motivate yourself. Do these three things and you will wisely persist. That’s a more useful definition of perseverance.