Leaders are typically known as people of action. Right now we are living in a time where things are not happening as quick and fast as most of us would like. In one way or another, we have all had to adjust our expectations. That doesn’t mean there are not breakthroughs or great gains—it just means that you might need to be patient and persevere more than normal.
Knowing when to quit is one thing; knowing when to persevere is another. Simply quitting should be a very rare decision. Both are major. The weight of obstacles you face, the setbacks and disappointments, the successes others seem to achieve more speedily, the critical feedback from others looking for evidence that you’ll make it may make you give up when you need to persevere.
What’s the difference between patience and perseverance? Patience is “the ability to endure difficult situations without being annoyed or anxious, but perseverance is the quality of continuing with something even though it is difficult.” Both are qualities and virtues we should cultivate in life.
Let’s think first about patience. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, patience is the ability to accept delay or trouble calmly. Being patient is when an individual is tolerant and endures pain, suffering, misfortune, and other difficulties.
Now let’s think about perseverance. Perseverance is continuing in spite of difficulty and lack of success. Even in the face of repeated failure the individual still continues. A persevering individual is determined in spite of all the difficulties he encounters. Within the journey, there will be instances where patience is required. But patience does not mean the individual strays from his goals. It is only a temporary state where the individual endures the difficult situation. A persevering person is difficult to discourage. He or she never gives up the goals and continues to achieve them.
Patience, persistence, and perseverance are essential for achieving any goal, personal or professional. Success is the result of working the process that is necessary.
Patience is not passive, it is proactive. It is essential because there will be problems. People will irritate you and situations will frustrate you. But you must stay patient, focused on doing the work. Seeds don’t turn into plants overnight. No matter how you try to force it, you can’t make it grow sooner. Patience is required for the process.
Persistence is remaining steadfast and firmly on course despite opposition and struggles.
Perseverance is staying motivated until the job is done. Successful people rise again when they fall, and keep working at it until they reach the goal.
Patience, persistence, and perseverance are necessary in doing anything that is worthwhile in life:
Building a marriage
Leading a business
Managing a project
Getting in shape
Mastering a skill
All three things must be connected in order to succeed. And they all require focused attention.
When you lose focus, you lose patience. That diminishes your perseverance. It happens when you complain about working the process, get irritated about the time investment, or get annoyed at the obstacles. Lost patience and frustration indicate that negative things have hijacked your attention, and you are no longer focused on the goal.
Impatient people lose focus on what really matters. The goal goes away, and they blame, complain, and get defensive. This behavior is counter-productive and makes the situation worse. Impatience increases their stress quickly and dramatically. This makes the situation harder for them and everyone around them. The situation gets worse, not better.
Significantly, very few of the situations impatient people complain about are unexpected. The work we have to do, and the problems we are likely to face are not a secret. What derails us is our mindset. We aren’t mentally prepared. The problems aren’t the problem; our impatience is the problem.
Next, patience empowers perseverance. Patient people don’t get distracted and discouraged. They maintain their focus on doing the work to achieve their goals, and are not discouraged by the obstacles and challenges they encounter. Patient people accept problem-solving as part of the process. They aren’t surprised by obstacles; they are prepared. They are a source of encouragement and positive energy. They have a calming effect on the people around them. They influence others to complain less and solve more.
Patience, persistence, perseverance—and the focus that comes with these character choices—are essential disciplines of leadership. They have an enormous competitive advantage over impatient people. Patient people solve problems faster, get better results, all while experiencing significantly less stress.
Is there some area of your life where you are impatient? Ready to give up? Maybe toward a person you work with or live with. It could be toward a plan or a project on which you are working. It could be toward a process you are trying to implement or change. Whatever it might be, is there some area in your life right now where your impatience is causing your focus to drift, your motivation to diminish, and your energy to decline?
If that describes you, it is time for a reset. It is time to refocus your mind and restart your motivation. You can choose patience, persistence, and perseverance. You can work the process, conquer the obstacles, and succeed. This is the way.