Does Persistence Pay Off?
Persistence is often glorified as the key to success; you try, you fail, you try, you fail, you try again. But persistence can be extremely demoralising, and it's hard to know if it would be better to spend your energy elsewhere. So how do we know when persistence pays off, and what about when it doesn't?
Perhaps the positive bias we have toward persistence exists because most great stories in popular culture focus on the idea that letting go is 'bad'. The hundreds and thousands of businesses that fail every year are never turned into films, whilst the handful that do succeed - and not just succeed but make it big - are what is made visible to us. Rather than seeing persistence and letting go as a binary approach to life, it is more prudent to add nuance to every decision we make about our future; there will always be situations where we should absolutely persist, and others where there's no shame in moving on.
When Persistence is Good
1. Fear of Failure
We all have the capacity to be our own worst enemy. If the only thing holding you back is the fear of a bad outcome, then it's time to start working on some positive self-talk. Whatever the consequences, seeing the journey as a learning curve rather than just a means to an end is a good way to begin changing your perspective - taking the focus away from one thing, and casting the light over the entire process instead.
2. Healthy Habits
Giving up fruit and vegetables, meditation, regular exercise, or falling back into bad habits is another example of when gritting your teeth and sticking to a routine pays off. This doesn't mean that you can't have a day off (or three), but it also means that you can take a break with the full intention of getting back on the wagon as soon as you feel up to it.
3. Exercise (but only if it's good for you)
Exercise is a great thing, but finding the right kind is what's most important. Forcing yourself to do a workout you hate every single week is never going to make you happy, but this doesn't mean that exercising should be written off altogether. Find a way to get physical in a way that suits you - whether it's gentle, vigorous, fast, or slow, and keeping it up will become a breeze.
4. Hard Work
Never give up on working to the best of your ability. There will be days where we feel pants and want to watch 12 hours of Netflix, and that's completely fine, but deciding to becoming lazy full-time is a whole other story. Making sure you challenge yourself throughout your life is good for your mind as well as your soul, keeping your mind engaged and your self-worth topped up.
When Persistence is Bad
1. Poor Health
Whether it's physical or mental, feeling under the weather more often than you feel strong or happy is a sign that whatever is causing you to slow down might be doing more harm than good. Toxic persistence can descend into self-defeat, and putting your physical and mental wellbeing first should always be the priority.
2. External Approval
If you find yourself working on something just to get approval from others, it's worth taking a step back to understand why you're not doing it for yourself. Our actions should drive not just the satisfaction of others, but fulfil something personal within ourselves too, so make sure to persist in things that make you happy.
3. Losing Time
If it feels as if your pursuit is a never-ending road, robbing you of time with your loved ones or time for yourself, it could be time to press pause. Finding yourself estranged from the things that really matter - relationships, health, wellbeing - can have a domino effect on self-esteem and happiness.
Persistence shouldn't be measured by the end goal, and even less so in terms of winning or losing. Persistence is important for the lessons we absorb from trial and error, as well as learning when it's important to let go and move on. At the end of the day, what is good for you is worth pursing, and understanding what's toxic will only help you grow.