The Virtue of Perseverance2 min read

We are what we repeatedly do. 

Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.


Perseverance is the ability to continue on the journey regardless of the challenges and obstacles on the way. It is to rise up every time we fall, with renewed commitment and enthusiasm. It is to pursue our goals with self-discipline, over time, until they are fulfilled. 

Perseverance is an umbrella virtue that contains many other virtues—such as patience, determination, grit, willpower, diligence, and resilience. 

The opposite of perseverance is giving up, or giving in. It is when you break your commitment, abandon the project midway, and forget your aspiration. This decision is almost always preceded by an experience of emotional distress when facing an obstacle, or by boredom and apathy as your motivation wanes. In any case, there is an unpleasant emotional state that pushes us to make that decision.

The virtue of perseverance is part of the overcome step of the Higher Mind System. It is awareness that allows you to process those negative emotions that push you to give up or give in. It is awareness that allows you to accept failure without shaming yourself and without overreacting. Finally, it is awareness that helps you to let go of limiting beliefs that make it hard for you to continue on track.

If you can master your emotions, you can persevere at anything, for as long as you wish.

To deal with these negative emotional states, there is the forceful approach and the mindful approach. The forceful approach is to ignore pain—to power through by the force of your will. The mindful approach is to accept the pain and release all resistance. Both ways work, and they both build the emotional resilience you need to persevere in your path. 

In order to persevere, you sometimes need to close your eyes and just stubbornly charge forward. Just like concentration is blind to distractions, and faith is blind to doubt, perseverance is blind to adversity. You need to keep your eyes on your goal and your attention on your action steps, ignoring all the pain until the storms clear up. This is the forceful approach.

The mindful approach is to learn how to sit with the difficult emotions, the pain and the discomfort inside yourself. It is allowing those emotions to be there, but not making any decision based on them. See the page on the ROAR Method to learn more.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising up every time we fall.

—Oliver Goldsmith

Difficult goals take time. Self-transformation takes time. Your path will never be a straight line. Therefore, you need effort and dedication for a long time before you reap the end result—this is perseverance. Knowing how to resolve painful emotions is key to staying on track.

This article is a summary of key ideas taken from Chapter 6 of Mindful Self-Discipline. To dive deeper, get the book or audiobook.


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