“Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.” ― Robert Strauss
1. persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success
mid-14c., from Old French perseverer “continue, persevere, endure” and directly from Latin perseverare “continue steadfastly, persist,” from persevereus “very strict, earnest,” from per- “very” (see per) + severus “strict” (see severity). Related: Persevered; persevering.
When I have looked at the word perseverance what came up is a judgment towards myself where I would look back at my past and see the moments in my life where I did not persevere but where I gave up easily, sometimes even before I had started something new. I defined myself according to my relationship to perseverance – or the lack their of, in the past.
So within opening this word up for myself I noticed something fascinating; how we tend to define ourselves according to ‘who’ we were the past and so limit ourselves to perpetually exist in the past, within saying that: “that’s how it’s always been so that’s how it is going to continue to be.” We don’t realize how much we are shaping the future to the very bounds and measurements we have created for ourselves, where we step into a self-fulfilling prophecy without knowing that we are the ones creating it; it doesn’t exist “because that’s how it has always been” but because we say it is so.
I also realized that I was cementing this limitation within myself in relation to the word and expression of perseverance by ‘proving’ my lack of perseverance to myself through counting all the times I didn’t persevere, and so I concluded that the likelihood that I won’t persevere in the future is that much greater because of what I’ve done in the past.
But – I didn’t for a moment stop and look at my relationship to the word perseverance, I didn’t look at redefining the word for myself, making it my own, taking responsibility for it and explore the practical ways I can – and maybe already have, lived this word without being aware of it.
When I’ve looked within myself at what perseverance is, I’ve seen an image of someone pushing up against a snowstorm in thick snow with a determined look on his or her face. They cannot see anything in front of them or around them, all they see is snow. And so they keep their eyes on their feet, placing one foot in front of the other, taking one arduous step after another. They will surely die if they stop, if they look up and start trying to orientate themselves, they will surely lose their balance. They might not know where they are or how far they have to walk to get to their destination; so in that moment they apply perseverance. When they feel a sting of fear towards going in the wrong direction, they keep their focus on their fear, when they feel tired and exhausted and start wondering how much further they have to go, they stop the thought, they silence it – and keep walking. That is perseverance to me.
So when I look at this image I’ve had of what perseverance is I see that I’ve seen it as this honorable and noble virtue, something that I would want to strive to achieve and that I don’t already live. I realize that the ‘issue’ that I’ve had with perseverance is that I’ve separated myself from the word and the expression of the word, and placed it on a pedestal in my mind. I realize that I have already lived perseverance and that perseverance isn’t always about surviving these arduous trials and tribulations, but can also be applied in the mundane day-to-day situations that one face in one’s life. An example is that when I ride my bike on a stormy day with rain pounding on my face and I feel how the wind is pushing up against me, I stand up on my bike and I push back and I push until I am through and I again can ride without risking being knocked off my feet.
The basic definition of the word perseverance is “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success” and that is definitely something I see that I have done throughout my life. Looking at the root of the word and the origin of the prefix ‘per’ and the suffix’ ‘severe’, what steps forth is an even more basic definition of perseverance that can be interpreted as ‘very strict’ or ‘through holding’, So what I see is interesting in this context is how perseverance is an expression of self that steps forth when one is faced with a difficult situation and yet decide to stick to and walk through it. It is that ‘strictness’ with self that is needed in that moment of facing adversity, like in my example with the snowstorm above where the being would strictly focus on walking through the snow, one step after another and would not allow themselves to get distracted by neither external or internal influences.
So when looking at all of this, what I see is that I’ve taken the perseverance that I’ve already lived for granted, meaning: I didn’t realize that I was living and applying perseverance. I’ve then created this definition of perseverance in my mind as something noble and grand, and separate from me and have instead held onto a definition of myself as someone that easily gives up, perpetuating this definition into reality by making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are definitely areas in my life where I have not lived perseverance and therefore I cannot say that perseverance is yet an absolute expression of myself. I see that to live perseverance – or any word – as a living expression of myself, I first have to stop separating myself from the word and its expression and place it on a pedestal within my mind as something I’ve yet to attain to and secondly to stop holding onto a definition of myself as someone who does not or cannot live perseverance. I know now that I can – and that I have lived perseverance, but that I had defined the word as something more and bigger than me in my mind while holding onto a inferiorized definition of myself. I realize that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to be influenced by how I’ve seen perseverance being portrayed in books and movies as something outstanding and noble that only a few people can muster up the courage and strength to live. I realize now that millions of people live perseverance every single day from they wake up until they fall asleep without seeing it as something special or grandiose, but something they do, because what else is there? Lie down and die? Give up on life? Of course not. So perseverance is not magic, it is not rocket science – it is simply that push we give ourselves to keep going when the road gets tough where we put our strength and focus into walking through something that may be difficult or where there is no immediate end in sight. We keep going, we keep walking – until it is done.
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