Persistence: Purposeful Effort

Motivated to Change. Psychology Fanatic article header image

If we were to step back and objectively view humanity, we would discover complex structures of enjoyment and pain. We may see a small group who have mastered life and transcend the world of thorns, existing in a rare state of tranquility. On the other extreme, a larger band of people would be constantly struggling in chaos, drifting into deceptive crevices to escape the painful realities of existence. But somewhere between these extremes, the rest of us reside—not miserable enough to go mad but not tranquil enough to be satisfied. For those in the middle, most of us, change is possible with the addition of persistence, applying purposeful effort and skilled behaviors to improve our lives.

​We bounce between emotions of pleasure and sorrow; purpose and pointlessness, trying to land in a comfortable resting spot before the grave. Life for most challenges their resolve but offers enjoyments. Acceptance of life realities—the unwritten terms of life—enhance the experience of living.

Many people fail to appreciate this in between existence—neither paradise nor hell. They blindly scramble for escape, waiting on an unseen utopia to pull them free. Completely invested in the immediate benefits of pleasure, they ignore the more strenuous task of building character, developing ethics and morals that bring future stability and purposeful direction. Lives lived in the moment are motivated by selfish ends, ignoring principles of community and long-term fulfillment. We must persist in work that improves the nature of our existence.

“For me, personal development can be anything that helps you go after your best self.” 

~Kelly Clark | Gen Twenty

Flourishing lives don’t settle for the simple momentary amusements, or selfish strivings, but consider the improvement of their life as a whole, present and future. This requires stubborn persistence.

Persistence in the Right Efforts

We can’t just be stubborn. We must persist in the right behaviors. “Kaizen” is a Japanese word that translates in English as “continuous improvement.” Our purposeful efforts must be directed towards continuous improvement. Hester Lacey explained that Mega successful people achieve their status from a persistence in improvement. “It’s a persistent desire to do better,” Hester continues, “It’s the opposite of being complacent. But it’s a positive state of mind, not a negative one. It’s not looking backward with dissatisfaction. It’s looking forward and wanting to grow” (Duckworth, 2018, Kindle location 1,713).

From a wider perspective, looking at a whole life view, persistence is a verb to apply to the content of our lives and the work of self-improvement. We never stop. We don’t become complacent. Basically, we continue working towards becoming better.

The Misleading Marketing of Happiness

Peddlers sell happiness, at least promise too.  Companies titillate expectations of happiness by touting miraculous cures from the ordinariness of living. I’m extremely skeptical of miracle cures. Capitalism creates products for profit, ideological hogwash that appeals to emotional wants—not actual realities of realistic strivings (boring). We chase promises of great harvests that require little sewing. I’ve been there, chased dreams that required little and stood around and watched a patchy field of rewards wither and die.

However, those that promised great emotional returns profited from fools like myself and the millions of others that bought their goods, practiced their program, and was a sucker for action and money given in good faith. Rewards come from good old fashion persistence.

Repeated Actions Define Character

Our actions define our character.  When we nurture the seeds of healthy character, we progress towards a bountiful harvest. Repeatedly performing healthy behaviors develops a healthy coherent self. Initiating change to current states requires us to fumble through awkward new responses.

​Change requires attention, effort and will—extracting large amounts of energy. Growth forces us to act against natural impulses of ease; the habitual bowing to the laziness of mind, replacing the rewards of hard-earned gains with a barrage of justifications.

“When we nurture the seeds of healthy character, we progress towards a bountiful harvest.”

~T. Franklin Murphy

If we persevere—overtime—new behaviors become habit, relieving the cognitive load. New responses eventually seamlessly happen, as a new act of habit, without forced attention. Once a behavior becomes a habit, attention once required to direct new behaviors lessons, and we act automatically from character, freeing mental space to initiate more changes. This magnificent changes requires persistence in the new behavior. Basically, we form new habits through persistence.

​There is no magic pill or trick to achieve these life-changing benefits. Instead of chasing untested promises, dig down deep, persisting in behaviors that will change your life. With persistence, you begin the journey of purposeful change.

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Duckworth, Angela (2018). Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. ‎Scribner; Reprint edition.

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