Many people have championed perseverance. There have been books written, speeches given, songs sung. Perseverance is not a new or novel idea. The concept has been around since time immemorial. But what comes to mind when you hear the word? What picture do you paint in your head?
As with definitions of most intangibles, the idea is different for each person, but somewhere in that list of descriptive adjectives I bet there are word like, “heroic effort,” “valiant try,” “superhuman,” “prodigious out-put.” And I would say to you that perseverance is really none of those things!
I maintain that the best descriptive synonym for perseverance would be “doggedness.”
Now perseverance may result in those descriptive adjectives I listed above. And enough perseverance will, of certainty, result in some of those descriptions, but the place where the effort meets the will is the sheer doggedness of refusing to give up. Refusing to give in to the passage of time and/or distance.
There are several things that perseverance is not. For one, it is not glamorous. There is nothing glamorous about sweat dripping in your eyes, or heeding the 5:30 a.m. alarm day in and day out, about grit getting in your teeth, about returning to the battle day after day or mile after mile. There is no glamour in committing to the journey whether anyone is there to cheer you or give you a pat on the back or even to recognize that effort is being expended.
Perseverance is commitment, first of all to yourself, despite circumstances; despite obstacles; despite naysayers;despite our own frailties, either mental of physical. It’s putting one foot in front of the other, whether the effort results in inches gained or miles covered.
Give me one person whose modus operandi is pure doggedness over 10 sprinters every time. A sprinter will run out of gas and sit down; the person with doggedness doesn’t care if they have run out of gas. They move one micrometer closer to the goal whether they can see it or not.
Sprinters run on inspiration. Those with doggedness run on perspiration.
When the inspirational vision dims, and they can no longer see the goal, a sprinter will frequently give up. That person running on perspiration never gives up because, heaven knows, there’s always plenty of perspiration and more where that came from.
I know that most of us fall somewhere in between sprinters and plodders. In fact, most of us probably vacillate between those two descriptions from day to day or even from hour to hour. I know that that shot of finishing line adrenaline can be the push that inspires us and those around us, over the finish line, but I’ll bet you that it was the day-to-day plodding that got us to the finish line at all.
Sprinters need, or at least want the applause at the end of the race. Plodders have learned that the attention span of the public is that of a gnat, so looking for the applause is pointless. Sprinters will wail, “But no one noticed!” But plodders will mutter the same thing under their breath. And take another step.
I’m sure that each of you has experienced exactly these circumstances and emotions in varying degrees throughout your lives. And I would also bet that if you look back and analyze a bit you’ll see that those times you reached a particular goal, you spent way more time plodding than sprinting.
How about you? What goals have you achieved? Did you reach them by sprinting or through the sheer will of doggedness?