If you’re like most people, you use persistence and perseverance interchangeably.
While persistence and perseverance are very similar in a lot of ways, there are a few subtle differences that have cosmic effects on the outcome of your situation.
You want to become an entreprenuer. Maybe you always have, or maybe this is a new discovery for you. Either way, you find yourself in a bad position to do anything entrepreneurial.
You’re saddled with debt. You live out in the middle of nowhere. You don’t know anything about entrepreneurship. You have 12 kids and twins on the way. And you’ve also recently been in an accident that resulted in a form of brain damage that removed your ability to speak.
Talk about hardship. That sounds like a tough situation. However, if you really want it you’ll get it. You’ll find a way or you’ll make a way. You’ll continue on despite any obstacle or discouragement until you make it to your goal.
Now consider this alternative scenario.
You’re at a job that you hate. Or maybe it’s a relationship that hasn’t been working out. You put your head down and continue to hold yourself accountable and remain loyal to that job/partner regardless of how tortured it makes you feel. You’re committed and you’ll give nothing less than 100% every single time. The payout will come eventually. Won’t it?
You go through this for years expecting some return on your investment of time and energy but, alas, nothing comes but pain, frustration, and resentment. You carry on in spite of these oppositions because you can’t possibly stop now. You can’t quit after putting in all this effort. That would be tragic…wouldn’t it?
So you persist and persist; ignoring that little voice in the back of your head telling you to get out while you still have time to actually live.
Persistence vs. Perseverance
Persistence can be your undoing if you’re not careful.
The illusion that the ability to persist is always a virtue has caused people to stay in relationships with people they don’t respect, put up with jobs they hate, and generally just continue to perform the same painful action over and over again, in hopes that it will be better someday.
Not surprisingly, it almost never gets better. That’s when people turn hopeless and bitter. If you don’t have the courage to admit defeat and retreat to a better situation, then real life, for you, is over.
So what’s the difference between persistence and perseverance and how do you know which one you’re living by?
How do you know if you’re pursuing a lost cause, or if you’re actually carrying on through a tough time?
The definition of ‘persist’ (on the right) gives you a clue as to how to tell if you’re in a no win situation or if you just need to tough it out to get to your goal.
Think about persistence as mindlessly pursuing a cause for the sake of pursuit and for no other end goal. Think telemarketer, debt collector, and reporters.
Also, if you’re doing something with the expectation that ‘this next time’ will finally be the time you get what you want, that’s probably persistence.
Here are a few more examples to help clarify things for you:
- Children are very persistent. They’ll ask you for something over and over again regardless of how many times you say no. Sometimes they win, but most of the time they just waste a lot of time whining.
- Have you ever had someone romantically interested in you but you didn’t have the same feelings? And no matter how many times you tell this person, no matter how clear you try to make it, they continue to pursue you. That’s persistence.
- Can you think of a relationship you’ve been in (or are in) that hasn’t gotten better over time. You continue to have the same arguments and disagreements. When things seem like they’re getting better, something happens that reverses all your progress. That’s you being illogically persistent; keeping the relationship alive past its expiry time.
- If you’ve ever been in any situation where you are looking for a specific outcome and you continue to do the same things over and over again expecting for that outcome to tire of your persistence and finally reveal itself, then that’s you being persistent to the point of insanity.
Do a quick life scan and see if any circumstances in our life are ruled by your persistence.
When you find them, make sure you’re not persisting a lost cause; a cause you’ve been after for so long you can’t even remember why you were doing it in the first place; a cause that has been such a constant theme in your life that you were blinded to the futile nature of your quest.
Perseverance, on the other hand, is almost never a bad thing.
The challenges when you persevere aren’t usually constant or repetitive. There’s always a different obstacle or problem that you need to overcome to get to your final destination.
When you persevere, you’re not stubborn or illogically resolute; you’re calm, steady, and strong.
You look opposition in the face and smile with grim determination as you plow right through it.
Use Your Internal Compass
This isn’t to say that persistence is always harmful. While it can often have a negative connotation, it can also benefit you if you use it consciously.
I can give you a guide but, in the end, you’re going to have to decide what’s best for you in your current situation.
Maybe you’re trying to convince an investor to support your startup so you pursue him regardless of how many times he’s said no. You know he’ll benefit from your idea and you know he’ll see that if he just gives you 15 minutes.
Just keep in mind that persistence always has a time limit where going on just doesn’t make sense. How many times are you going to contact the investor before you give up (assuming he hasn’t given you a restraining order already). 10 times? 20 times? 50 times? 10 years?
Perseverance in the name of a clear goal never has a time limit. People have dedicated their entire life to a cause they believe in even when it seems hopeless; even when they’re hit with obstacle after obstacle.
So once again I ask you to take a few minutes today to enter a higher state of awareness about your actions and your life.
Just breathe. Think slow. Don’t hesitate to act. And, most of all, set the terms on which you want to live your life with full consciousness, not obstinance.