Persistence: A matter of confidence?

Is it confidence that enables some people to persist while others quit?

We’ve all known people who won’t be denied and others who quit almost as quickly as they start. Is it a confidence issue or are there other explanations?

If you read last week’s blog, you know that I’m weaning myself off the cause/effect thinking. Instead I’m looking for ways to move forward without the benefit of understanding why things are as they are.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at plausible explanations for persistence or the lack thereof.


It is possible that confidence plays a role in explaining why some persist and others give up quickly. The less confident we are the less likely we are to believe that we can achieve what we want. Our doubts are reinforced by the inevitable challenges that arise in pursuing any goal.

The converse is true as well. The more confident we are in our abilities the more likely we are to embrace the challenges we face as essential elements of the learning curve we must navigate to achieve our goal.


An equally plausible explanation for persistence is desire. It can reasonably be surmised that those who persist simply want the result more than those who don’t.

I can attest to that from personal experience. I’ve overcome some of my fears simply because I wanted to do something that required it. I’ve left other fears intact because they don’t prevent me from achieving what I desire.

Fear of failure

Still others persist because they don’t want to be viewed as a failure. They fear not only the loss of their self-esteem, but the admiration of others. They fear that a loss of credibility will limit their opportunities in the future. Consequently, they persist when the smart move is to move on. More often than not, people observing their behavior are wondering what drives their ill-fated behavior.

Conquering hero

Others persist because they want to challenge the limits of their own potential. Whenever they achieve a new personal best at whatever interests them, they feel like the conquering hero. Rightfully so. They have conquered previous limitations.

For you

You may be wondering what the purpose of this exercise has been. It’s to get you to stop thinking about which of these explains your current behavior and get you to start thinking about what will drive future behavior.

It doesn’t matter why you currently are or are not persisting in the pursuit of your goal. The key is to determine what will enable you to persist going forward.

Identify the things that enabled you to achieve earlier goals…goals that required you to persist for long periods of time. Ask yourself, do these elements exist for my current goal? If not, find a goal that does possess these elements.

If they do exist, use the knowledge that you possess everything you need to be successful and you’ll find it easy to move forward despite the inevitable challenges you’ll face.

That’s how you persist…without wasting time trying to figure out why.

For our kids

As you see your kids giving up in the early stages of their pursuit of their goals, don’t ask “Why?” Instead, ask them to recall a time when they weathered challenges and were successful in achieving what they wanted. Then ask them if these elements exist for them in their current goal.

You’ll help them make more informed, confidence-building decisions about whether to pursue or abandon a goal they’ve set for themselves. Persistence only makes sense when the goal is important to us.

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