Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Power of Perseverance

What do you have on your horizon that keeps you going?

Why persevere when you can quit? Quitting takes a lot less effort, it’s not as time-consuming, and you don’t have to suffer disappointment of trying and not succeeding.

Now I’ll remove tongue firmly planted in cheek. Seriously, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. It appears the virtues of hard work, determination and initiative are in rapid decline in our society. It seems so much easier to give up, take the quick way out – or simply wait for someone else to do the labor and come to our aid. Where’s my bailout?

This week I cited the distinction between endurance (just hanging on in difficult times) and perseverance (doggedly pursuing a goal with utmost confidence you will achieve it). If we study the life stories of the world’s great achievers, we’ll find they had at least one trait in common: the commitment to persevere, no matter how overwhelming the odds seemed against them, resolved to reach where they set out to go.

One reason this has been on my mind is because of a book I’ve been editing for a friend, an inspiring account of someone that grew up in constant turmoil, survived a disadvantaged environment few of us can imagine, received a limited education, and yet set his sights on achieving a better life for himself and his family. And, despite many “wise” souls who declared he couldn’t do it, he succeeded – as an entrepreneur and business executive.

When the book is published I’ll tell you more about it, but the point is this: If you want a recipe for a life worth living, perseverance is an essential ingredient.

It seems this truth is recognized in many cultures. A Japanese proverb, for example, states, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” A Buddhist saying puts it this way: “If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.”

Poet Robert G. Ingersoll wrote, “The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” And Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, observed, “Don’t feel entitled to anything you didn’t sweat and struggle for.”

I like this perspective from American philosopher and poet George Santayana: “The Difficult is that which can be done immediately, the Impossible is that which takes a little longer.”

The greatest insights on perseverance I’ve ever read can be found in the Bible. One of my favorites is 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s what keeps me persevering!

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