What is Perseverance?
My simple definition of perseverance is the ability to consistently overcome hardship and resistance.
It’s a person’s and/or a team’s willingness and ability to suffer and continue. It’s what happens when we reach the end of ourselves and keep pressing on. It’s how all difficult and seemingly impossible achievements are reached.
It’s more about how Team Avaya won the Adventure Racing World Championships, how Thomas Edison created the incandescent lightbulb, and how Nelson Mandela transformed a nation, etc.
It’s also how YOU get through graduate school, how you train for that 5k, and how you navigate a difficult season of life. It’s all perseverance. Perseverance is what the graduate student can have in common with a world champion adventure racer.
The most meaningful and fulfilling accomplishments come from persevering through hardships. However, what separates us, as individuals and teams, is not the difficulty of the hardship, but our willingness to endure through the hardship.
I’ve coached many athletes over the years and I’m always puzzled by why some athletes make it and others don’t when they start out at a similar level.
Dr. John Hellemans
Sports Physician, Author, Athlete and Coach
3 Elements of Perseverance
Whenever we face seasons of trial or attempt something new, perseverance is needed to sustain our efforts. It’s not a matter of if we will need perseverance, it’s just a matter of when and how often.
In our documentary, For The Team, we’ve identified 3 elements of perseverance that helped Team Avaya endure the 280 mile race. Perseverance requires a healthy mindset, community, and perspective.
Perseverance Requires A Healthy Mindset
What Team Avaya teaches us is that perseverance is produced through a healthy mindset.
Mentality is the key differentiator between those who choose to persevere and those who don’t.
These world class athletes have a mindset that allows them “the ability to overcome and face obstacles… the tougher it becomes the more determined they become” (Dr. Hellemans). They truly embrace the challenge head on.
The ability to cope with suffering or difficulty while continuing to press forward when it hurts, is a critical component of perseverance.
Growth requires perseverance. For athletes, muscles have to be stressed and stretched in order to grow.
Likewise, your mindset needs to be exercised in order to grow your capabilities and improve performance. As you embrace challenges, you will become more comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and that is when we know that perseverance is working.
Perseverance Requires Community
Another dynamic that aids perseverance is community (team).
A natural tendency for many when the going gets tough is to isolate. All of the forces that are against us love it when we isolate ourselves. When we suffer alone or suffer purely for self-gain, very few people endure.
However, as teams like Team Avaya demonstrate, when the team is the goal, we are motivated to bear more for the sake of the team than when we perform merely for ourselves.
The strong community that Team Avaya created is what compelled Adventure Racer, Fleur Pawsey, to think, “I just want to quit… but I can’t because these guys are relying on me.”
When every team member’s mentality is that I want to perform for you and the team, then “you can go a lot further than you think you can” (Stuart Lynch).
When we seek to serve versus standout, the team wins. This is why teams outperform individuals in most cases. It’s not merely because there are more hands to complete the task. It’s because there is a higher calling. It’s because we are in it for each other rather than just for ourselves.
As Team Avaya demonstrates, when you’re in it for the team, our individual and collective perseverance can, and in most cases will, outperform the competition.
Perseverance Requires Perspective
Finally, Team Avaya teaches us a valuable lesson in Perspective.
The reason I distinguish between perspective and mindset is because perspective focuses more on what is real and right, while mindset focuses more on the mental attitude. The beauty is that they can work intimately together to produce things like gratitude.
Regarding the pain and suffering that Team Avaya endures in races, Sophie stated “I’m just lucky to be there… I chose to be there.” She felt a great sense of gratitude that she even had the opportunity to be on and serve the team.
Perspective is an ability to see things the way they are, not just how they feel. To gain perspective is to gain a more helpful vantage point and a more complete understanding.
Perspective allows us to see things differently. It helps us on day three of the race to fight the demons that tell us, “This will never end.” We have to remind ourselves that what feels like no end in sight is rarely true. Our suffering will end.
There is a reward for those who persevere through suffering. There is a degree at the end of graduate school. You are rewarded for your effort. Sometimes that reward is a medal, other times the reward is rest, and most of the time the reward is growth.
Perspective allows us to try. It
Perspective also tells us that our perseverance matters and has value. The joy from having persevered becomes rocket fuel that propels us forward. It trains us to engage, endure resistance, and make it to the finish line.
For Team Avaya, perseverance propelled them to the Adventure Racing World Championships. For you and me, perseverance propels us through seasons of hardship and brings us to a meaningful place on the other side.