Perseverance is the ability to stick to a task, a job, a goal, or even a dream without giving up to despair. Now, it is entirely feasible that you may fail even when you give it your all and be forced to take no for an answer, but someone who perseveres never gives up before she's started, never quits because it's challenging, and doesn't quit until there is no longer a chance for success or it's no longer financially feasible. If you noticed, I inserted some wisdom into the definition where it wasn't necessarily needed by the definition of perseverance alone, as some people will "persevere" long after the possibility of any success has ended. I include wisdom, however, as I certainly wouldn't want to encourage you to take this virtue to such a level that it interferes with your application of another one: intelligence.

How does one build perseverance? Even if you are the type of fellow that constantly starts projects and leaves them half-finished, there is still hope that you can transform yourself into someone who follows-through. It's going to take a lot of hard work, and your first tests of perseverance will involve following through with your activities and goals until they are completed; be determined to improve yourself.

Building perseverance can involve several steps, some which may be more applicable to you than others. If you start a lot of half-finished projects you can really improve this virtue by taking some steps before you begin working on something new. Before you commit yourself to any new project or goal, make sure you stop and take time to do the research about your new undertaking. Ask yourself:

  • How long will it take?
  • What steps are needed in order to succeed?
  • If this is something you've never done before, then, how do people usually learn the skills needed and how long do the usually take to acquire them?
  • Will I still want to work on this tomorrow? Next week? Next month?

Once you've done this, you can can then begin planning how you will accomplish your new project. Make sub-goals and steps for each goal for aim to reach, and schedule these mini-steps in a realistic calendar. Keeping on track with this will help you follow through instead of quitting over confusion or discouragement. I include more detail on this below in the "activities" section

If you tend to get bored on projects, you can take steps to help ensure this doesn't happen, or at least help it from getting quite as bad. Keeping your new project and goal in mind is one great way to make sure you keep in the zone and avoid that mental block that can keep you from getting"back in the mood" to finish work. You can also plan ahead to avoid this, like mentioned up above. Researching the subject may get you more excited about it, and continued learning can keep that excitement up; if you realize the initial project you envisioned was too ambitious after you look into it, you can then design one that will be less time-consuming as well—especially if you are learning something new. If you are confused from the start and seemingly making little progress, you're certainly are going to be bored and overwhelmed.

Now, when we are given a project by an employer we usually have a deadline and our job to motivate us to finish it. If you don't have this (ahem) benefit, then you might have to find other means to motivate yourself—or perhaps you may need help even if your job is on the line. There are several techniques that you can use to try and motivate yourself. Planning ahead can help, so you can give yourself a slew of mini-deadlines which you can use to help avoid procrastination (project managers will often make complicated schedules for large undertakings). There are several other ideas that can help that are described below.

Remember that perseverance is part habit and part attitude, and it is easier to change your habits than to change your attitude overnight. If you can develop good habits and work at it, your attitude will be altered over time.


  • Do Your Homework: Like mentioned above, you should understand the project you're undertaking and what will be required to achieve success. This will help keep you from being discouraged by confusion and unrealistic expectations. Once you know what's going on, make a qualified decision based on what you can actually accomplish and a realistic time-line. If some outside is placing an unrealistic project deadline on you, you will be much better off arguing about it after you have done your homework.
  • Always Know What You're Doing: If you have a project you plan to finish, make sure you understand how to do every task that will take you to completion, or at least know how you will pick up any new knowledge when the time comes. This is especially helpful if your goal isn't necessarily very fun, or isn't an area you can idly experiment with until you get it right.
  • Follow a Plan of Attack and Make Yourself Accountable: As mentioned above, you should plan out how you will accomplish each of the required steps. You will probably want to set aside time on a calendar and get all your plans down in writing. Next, follow up on each task as your self-imposed deadlines come up and keep track of how well you are on schedule. Your less likely to get discouraged if have miniature goals to reach instead of one distant finish line, and you will be less inclined to procrastinate.
  • Keep Large, Ongoing Projects and Hobbies on Your Interest: Keep on learning more and developing new skills in relation to your project. If you were running a small business, for instance, you could subscribe to several related magazines and newsletters, read books on applicable subjects, and enjoy some inspirational stories about other owners. If you keep your project in mind it is less likely to become a subject of boredom or another subject you eventually forget about or lose interest in. This is especially helpful when your new project is sometimes very difficult or frustrating, since these activities can become an enjoyable part of the experience. This also works for hobbies and goals, including weight loss.
  • Practice Your Skills First: If failure in your project might be costly or otherwise have larger consequences, then try all the individual skills out before you invest effort into a project. It might take more time this way, but doing this will usually be more enjoyable that floundering for the first time every step of the way.
  • Be Your Own Bossy Boss or Recruit Those Around You: This is an extension of making yourself accountable for those that don't really have a boss that hangs over you. Sometimes keeping track of your progress won't be good enough to keep you motivate, and you will need to reward and punish yourself when you fail to make deadlines. This could be waiting to go boating until you finish a certain milestone as a reward, or refusing invitations for nights out with friends until you catch up, just to give some examples. Including those around you might also help you be motivate you, as your successes and failures will no longer remain unseen.
  • Force Yourself Through a Project: If you are really having a hard time, all the motivational work and planning you can muster might not be quite enough; some people really have a hard time with extended projects. If you are still having trouble, or are foreseeing that you will probably have some, you might just have to be determined to finish your projects as one of your initial goals—no matter what. The idea is to help you feel the satisfaction of completion and motivate you to keep on persevering in the future. You might have to do this for a long while you struggle to make this a habit. Just make sure that you choose realistic projects and schedule for these projects, and make sure you do what you can to make the finish line as attainable as possible ahead of time.
  • Make a Schedule: If your daily routine is becoming a chore or drudgery, or your work activities change from day to day depending on the circumstances, making a hourly schedule and keeping at it might help you keep on task and avoid procrastination.
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Your Record

If you have left a project behind out of boredom, or "didn't feel like getting around to" a project for more than a week, then mark yourself at "fault". If you ever fail to complete a goal or task because lack of planning left you feeling overwhelmed (or you took more than you can chew), then mark yourself at fault. If you give up because a task is frustrating or because a more forceful or charismatic person is intimidating you, then mark yourself at fault. Make some goals based on the activities above or from your own experience. Make clear plans to meet those goals and treat those sub-goals and time-lines as individual goals. If you fail to meet your goals or schedule, then mark yourself at fault.


Energy and persistence conquer all things.

Benjamin Franklin, Renown American Founding Father, Inventor, Writer, and Philosopher

Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.

Douglas MacArhtur, American General of World War II

Edison failed 10, 000 times before he made the electric light. Do not be discouraged if you fail a few times.

Napoleon Hill, American Author

Golden Mean

Apathy, Laziness, Indolence
Stubbornness, Inflexibility

Recommended Reading

Get in the Game: 8 Elements of Perseverance That Make the Difference — by Cal Ripken, Donald T. Phillips

This is a business and personal management book written by baseball legend Cal Ripkin Jr.--the guy who bead Lou Gehrig's record for most consecutive games played. He focuses on work ethic and learning to "enjoy the journey".

Keep Going: The Art of Perseverance — by Joseph M. Marshall III

This book is written by a historian and motivational speaker, who based much of the book on Lakota Indian spirituality and the wisdom of his grandfather from that tribe. He aims to help people through the perseverance required in life, and to enjoy the pleasure of living and survive the pain.

Unstoppable: 45 Powerful Stories of Perseverance and Triumph from People Just Like You — by Cynthia Kersey

While the title might be a little presumptuous, this book contains a seven-step plan that is aimed to help you achieve an "unstoppable spirit" and great self-confidence, along with stories aimed to inspire you along that path.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. Newt Gingrich