The Unbeatable Combination of Perseverance and Resilience

Written by on April 8, 2014 in Confidence with 6 Comments

PerserverancePerseverance is a constant theme among those who have overcome great odds to achieve their dreams and goals … it’s that stick-to-itiveness; not quitting when the road got tough – that spurred them to keep moving forward regardless of the enormity of the challenges along the way.

Recently I shared the inspiring story of Mrs. Cha who dreamed of being able to take her grandchildren to the zoo, but she had no car, and more importantly, no driver’s license. She refused to be discouraged and after a stunning 959 failed attempts finally passed her driver’s test and went on to achieve her dream. There were several excellent questions about whether her behavior should be attributed more to perseverance than resilience, so I thought it might be good to spend a little time exploring the nature of perseverance and its relationship to resilience.

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. ~Newt Gingrich

Perseverance = Stubbornness With a Purpose

Many view perseverance as a personality trait, and while I think it’s safe to assume we all harbor at least some of this characteristic, it does take some work and discipline to develop it to its full potential. Fortunately, even though the study of behavior is still in its relative infancy, research indicates that it is well within your ability to cultivate perseverance the way you would any habit.

And there’s no question it’s well worth the effort because the reality is that pretty much everything is a little harder and takes a little longer than we think or hope it will, and that holds true whether you’re reaching for big goals and dreams or negotiating your way through adversity and life changes of all shapes and sizes.

In theory perseverance is surprisingly straightforward.

  1. Determine the next step.
  2. Identify what (if anything) may prevent you from taking that next step.
  3. Remove said obstacle(s).
  4. Take the step.
  5. Repeat from step 1 as many times as necessary.

Can you see the underlying assumption in this process? You have all the control.

Perseverance alone works as long as you have control over whatever obstacles you may encounter and the ability to manage or rid yourself of whatever they may be so that you can continue on your way to the next step.

Honest, I’m not really a control freak, but will you just let me show you the right way to do that? ~Author Unknown

I’m pretty confident that I speak for every obsessive controller in the world when I say this level of power would be like a dream come true! The problem is life simply doesn’t work that way. There will inevitably be surprises and unexpected detours, and there may even be times when – regardless of the strength of your determination – you have no choice but to go back to the beginning and start over. But while you may not always have power over the circumstances, you do have control over how you choose to respond.

And this is where resilience comes into play by enabling you to shorten recovery time from adverse situations. The more resilient you are the quicker you’re able to effectively manage unexpected change, push through obstacles and find opportunities for growth as a result of your experience.

Let’s take a look at a few of the ways perseverance and the capacity for resilience work together.

Perseverance and the Resilience Factor

Purpose Provides the Fuel to Persevere

Whether you are tackling a major stretch-goal or facing a potentially life-changing situation, being grounded in a meaningful purpose for achieving your desired outcome will fuel your desire to carry on regardless of the obstacles you may encounter. For example, if you’re on a mission to lose weight the obvious reason may be ego based – you want to look better in your clothes. But is that the only reason? Possibly you want to have more energy to be able to keep up with your children, or your health is at risk or it could be that you’re just really sick of feeling embarrassed about the way you look.

Whatever the outcome you aspire to achieve, keep asking yourself ‘why’ until you’re able to identify the core desire associated with it and then use that as an anchor to keep you focused, moving forward and motivated to quickly recover from whatever unexpected setbacks you may encounter along the way.

Be Realistically Optimistic With Your Expectations

Being realistically optimistic is a key characteristic of resilience and it certainly applies when it comes to perseverance. Our tendency to take on more than we can reasonably accomplish at any one time is human nature. Call it optimism, hope, or just wishful thinking, we often fail to realize that it is far easier to think about doing something than it is to actually DO it – especially if we’re trying to achieve something radically different than what we’re currently used to. Having realistic expectations isn’t about dreaming smaller it’s about planning better.

Accept That You Can’t Control Everything

On some level, we each understand the limits of what we can and cannot control in life, but at times, we try very hard to overcome this basic truth. You can influence actions and even certain outcomes, but for each of us there will always be some things (and people) we have no control over and we must accept and work with that truth, or we will waste valuable time and energy being constantly frustrated.

Plan for Success

Persevering does not mean doing the same thing over and over if it’s not getting you any closer to your desired outcome. Another core trait of resilience is adaptability which is about learning to work with the resources and circumstances at hand. So planning for success simply means learning what does and doesn’t work and adjusting your actions and strategy as necessary so that you can keep moving forward.

Whether you’re striving to achieve a big goal, manage a major life change, or simply looking for a way to reduce everyday stressors, the unbeatable combination of perseverance and resilience will help you to achieve your desired outcome and in the process enjoy more happiness and fulfillment in your life.

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.


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  1. Very interesting article, Marty.

    While perseverance is necessary for success, we do have to be sure that we are on the right track. We will often only learn that from applying a diligent effort over a sustained period of time. But if, after a period of time, we assess our actions and determine the are not yielding the anticipated results, we need to have the resilience to change gears, maybe even alter our direction altogether.
    David Merrill 101 recently posted…Email Marketing Strategies for BloggersMy Profile

  2. Alan Jenkin

    One of the more difficult judgments to make is when to keep persevering on a course that is not yielding results and when to change it. You make this very clear in this post, Marquita. It’s the first time I have seen such a clear exposition of this challenge and how to resolve it.


    Alan Jenkin recently posted…Are You Ready for Retirement?My Profile

  3. nick catricala

    thanks as always for writing such great article that moves from within.

    When I read perseverance believe or not, it does not mean much.. mostly because in some ways I have that ingrained in me since when I was a small boy.. you mention that may be stubbornness and probably is but as time went in in my life I noticed that called what we want.. it helped me a lot to overcome many challenges that if I did not have what ever we call perseverance, I would not have overcome much and probably I was not even here to write these comment.

    Ho yes, perseverance and resilience go hand in hand.. I had to look up what resilience truly mean and now that I read it I agree.. it go hand in hand if we like it or not.

    Thanks for sharing.
    nick catricala recently posted…World Health Day Celebration…My Profile

  4. Yes, we never can control anyone, except our self. Yet, our choice is what we control and never believe that you have to wait on anyone, to make a choice. You must always complete your due diligence and then make your choice. Once done, you must understand and accept being accountable. Hey, if it doesn’t work the first time. Just change your perspective and continue until it does. Never give up, you will never fail.

    I believe in having unlimited abilities, to visualize all things I desire. Once that is accomplished, I found nothing except me ascending, will stop me from accomplishing anything.
    William Amis recently posted…Transparency Today!My Profile

  5. Rachel Lavern

    Hi Marty,

    I enjoyed this post and agree that perseverance and resilience are unbeatable combination. I made my own conclusions from coaching a lot of people who have applied a lot of perseverance, energy, self-discipline and motivation to the wrong thing and they were less fulfilled than a very lazy person who was devoted to doing things they love. Although those traits are nice, the important question seems to be what are you doing with them? Are they going toward something that is bringing you fulfillment?

    Oftentimes, when you lock into your dream–your true passion–the thing that is fulfilling, meaningful, useful, and valuable to you and has the potential to make you money, then you are going to  awaken your motivation, confidence and true perseverance. This is when your energy rises and your motivation is restored. Most other things fall into place if you just start doing.
    Rachel Lavern recently posted…How to Uncover Your Core ValuesMy Profile

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