Perseverance:  Character Trait or Byproduct?

When we say someone perseveres or is resilient, are we describing their character?  The language we use indicates that these are character traits, but is that true?

Better question

Let’s look at this question in a different light.  Take a moment.  Think about a time when you persevered, overcame every obstacle that stood in your way and achieved your goal.

Now, think back to a time when you felt that pursuing a goal wasn’t worth the effort.

“What was different in these two situations?”  I’ll give you a hint.  The answer lies in the last half of the sentence in the paragraph above.

The answer

Desire is what made the difference.  In the first situation you persevered because your desire was so great that you weren’t going to be denied.  In the second situation, the language “wasn’t worth the effort” indicated how low your level of desire was and why you decided to forgo your goal.  These feelings are encapsulated in the following mantra.

Perseverance with desire is unstoppable;

Perseverance without desire is intolerable.

You know that from personal experience.  If something is really important to you, you will not be denied.  If it isn’t that important, then you’re not going to subject yourself to the pain dogged-pursuit engenders.  It’s not the way we human beings are wired.

Conclusion?  Perseverance is the byproduct of desire.


Why is this important to know?  When we view perseverance as a character trait, and we fail to persevere, we diminish our view of ourselves.  This can lead not only to disappointment, but to diminished confidence. 

Fail to persevere often enough and we begin to question our worth to ourselves and others.  As our self-worth diminishes so does our hope for the future; without hope life becomes intolerable.

All because we failed to recognize that a goal simply wasn’t important enough to pursue.

Lesson for us

When deciding whether or not to pursue a goal, identify the next 3 to 5 steps you need to take.  Then ask yourself “Do I want this badly enough to do what’s necessary to achieve that goal?”  If not, recognize your feelings for what they are…a lack of desire, not a limitation on your ability or a character flaw.  This simple approach will help you sustain your confidence while making more conscious and, consequently, better decisions about which goals to pursue and which to forgo.

For our kids

As you see your kids becoming lethargic or despondent or they say “That’ll never happen,” ask them:

  • Is it that you don’t feel that you have the ability or that it isn’t important enough to pursue?
  • What steps do you have to take to achieve your goal?
  • Are there any steps you’re unwilling to take?  If so, why?
  • If it really isn’t that important to you, does it make sense to pursue this goal?
  • If it’s as important as you say, then why are you so willing to give up on this goal?

Then highlight the fact that it isn’t a matter of ability, but of making a conscious choice about what is and is not important to them.  That’s how you help them develop the habit of making conscious decisions about what they desire…and, in essence, helping them evaluate their desire before embarking on the pursuit of a new goal.

Reframe perseverance as a function of desire instead of a character trait and both you and your children will retain your confidence and enjoy life to its fullest.

Don’t forget to check out this week’s tip and exercise at

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