Perseverance is defined as a steady tenacity in purpose or a course of action – especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. It requires determination to actively seek, and hold on to, what is good. Perseverance is, in spite of slipping and falling or getting knocked down, having the internal fortitude to get back up, again, again, and again.
Perseverance is a virtue that can be developed. If you are faint of heart, be encouraged, you can grow in your perseverance – but, understand this, it will not be easy. For there is only one way to develop perseverance – and that is by enduring hardship.
Irving Stone has spent a lifetime studying greatness, writing biographies of such men as Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin. Stone was once asked if he had found a thread that runs through the lives of all these exceptional people. He said, “I write about people who sometime in their life…have a vision or dream of something that should be accomplished…and they go to work. They are beaten over the head, knocked down, vilified and for years they get nowhere. But every time they’re knocked down they stand up. You cannot destroy these people. And at the end of their lives they’ve accomplished some modest part of what they set out to do.” (Crossroads, Issue No. 7, p. 18.) These people are some of the many great examples of perseverance we can use to encourage our spirits.
President Calvin Coolidge had an interesting quote about perseverance in Bits and Pieces saying, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
According to Coolidge, the virtue of perseverance can solve the world’s problems. Perhaps he’s right, but I can’t solve the problems of the human race. All I can try to do is encourage people to persevere. And if I’m determined, maybe I can have some positive influence in my part of the world. To do so, however, I would need to have a strategy to help me persevere.
When adversity from Parkinson’s gets me down, sometimes I feel like giving up – one time I even wanted to hurt myself. On this occasion, my medication was not working, and I was rigid and unable to move – almost paralyzed. My muscles were tense causing severe discomfort. I was in pain and I wanted it to stop. I felt like there was no way I could live with this constant ache and stiffness. I was telling myself the battle was too hard and it was too difficult to endure the pain. I wanted to die.
But, I recalled a decision I had made earlier. I was not going to make an emotional decision when I was physically not feeling well. I told myself that, when I didn’t feel good, I would remember how well I felt when my medicine was working and how much I desired to live. I needed to remind myself that life was worth living and that I had a lot to look forward to. I know that these moments of suffering are temporary and will pass. I must hold on to what is good.
So, this was my strategy, to not make any big decisions when I’m racked with pain. I decided to make decisions only when I’m in the right frame of mind. When I feel like I want to quit, to remind myself, I’ve already made the decision that I’m going to resist my negative thoughts and that I really want to live. I decided to recall how much better I feel when my medication is working and that the pain is only temporary. I need to go by what I know to be right, not by my emotions. I won’t allow the physical pain of my disease or adversity to overwhelm me.