Someone has said that courage is the desire to begin something, but perseverance is the desire to continue. Perseverance is the determination to continue pursuing your dream in spite of unexpected setbacks, underserved criticism, and unrelenting hard work.
No matter what goals you have established for each area of life, sooner or later (probably sooner) you are going to be bombarded by obstacles. The measure of your success in achieving your goals will be your response to those obstacles. For the most part, you will not be able to control the obstacles, but you can control your response to those obstacles.
I believe there are four ways to develop the attitude of perseverance.
1. Understand the value of persistence.
Many people are content with failure because deep down in their innermost selves they do not feel they were ever destined for success. They feel that they do not possess the gifts necessary to achieve their wildest dreams.
What, then, is the extra edge in life that separates the successful from the unsuccessful? It is the attitude of persistence. Some of my favorite words about the value of persistence came from President Calvin Coolidge:
“Press on: Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are overwhelmingly powerful.”
2. Anticipate obstacles in achieving your goals.
Think about your goals in life. What roadblocks would keep you from achieving those goals? Some of us have social, educational, economic, or physical handicaps that are not easily removed. In those cases, perseverance does not mean removing the obstacle; it means continuing in spite of the obstacle.
All of us will face some unchangeable life circumstances that will appear to hinder achieving our goals. We have two choices in how to respond to such obstacles: We can give up, or we can choose to view those problems as brilliantly disguised opportunities to trust God.
3. Realize that failure is not final.
We live in a culture that teaches, “If at first you don’t succeed, give up.” And yet, those who ultimately succeed in achieving their life purpose are those who refuse to be paralyzed by failure. In fact, failure is a prerequisite for success.
Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, said, “The way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” In other words, the more times you try, the more times you will succeed. Thomas Edison, one of our nation’s greatest inventors, discovered at least 1,800 ways not to build a light bulb. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, yet he was considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. George Bernard Shaw had his first five novels rejected. Columbus thought he was finding a shortcut to India when he discovered America.
No one ever stubbed his toe standing still! The fact is that we do not always know which of our efforts will ultimately bring success.
4. Expect to work hard.
Inherent in the exercise of perseverance is what Tim Hansel calls “holy sweat” in his book by the same name. Work without fatigue equals mediocrity. Hard work is a prerequisite for success in every area of life, including our spiritual lives.
In 1 Corinthians 9:26-27, Paul writes about the great energy that he exerted in order to be successful in his Christian life: “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
We do not want to hear about the necessity for hard work, especially in the Christian life. So, we develop a theology (totally apart from Scripture) that says no effort is required to live the Christian life. The truth is, hard work is a non-negotiable and essential for success in every area of life.
Do you desire to achieve the purpose and goals God has led you to establish for your life? If so, don’t look for immediate fulfillment of those dreams. And don’t become discouraged when others seem to be making progress and you seem to be standing still.
Perseverance—refusing to give up despite the inevitable roadblocks that life erects—is an attitude that will ensure the realization of your God-given dreams.