Perseverance vs. Determination
Which one is right for your goals?
What's the difference? Obviously, consistent and temporary are complete opposite terms. But, what's the difference between perseverance and determination? In technical terms, perseverance is considered "steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success," and determination is considered "firm or fixed intention."
Now, these might not sound so different, however, they are worlds apart.
The difference is that determination tends to be temporary. You set your sights on a goal and go for it. However, when that determination runs out, you're done. It might come back, it might not. Perseverance is more consistent. When someone perseveres, it's because they see an end. A light at the end of the tunnel. And, no matter how hard things get, they keep on trucking away, finding what works and what doesn't, and dedicating countless hours of their time to ensuring that their perseverance isn't for naught.
Maybe it's just me, but I'd much rather persevere than be determined. And, here's why.
Determination is a great thing. It gets you motivated and provides you with a sense of purpose. It can also be extremely frustrating and cause you to feel excessively disappointed should things not work out in your provided timeframe.
When you set your sights on a short-term goal, you're most likely using determination to get there. Whether you're determined to save an extra $500 for a new couch, determined to write a new book in four months, or determined to make it to all your doctor's appointments on time this week. Determination, as a whole, is pretty short-lived.
But, what if you're determined to start your own business? Maybe a cake shop or a website that focuses on astronomical phenomenon. That determination will definitely kick you into starting it up. However, it may lead you to leave it all less than half finished.
Determination is a driving factor in which we assess what is most simply called "risk and reward." We weigh the risks of the action and the potential benefits that we may reap should it be achieved. Unfortunately, this is a very flawed position in thinking.
Why? Because when we assess risk and reward, we are amping ourselves up. Again, this may work for those of us who have short-term goals that are fairly easy to achieve. However, this type of thinking isn't suited for long-term goals. Determination will wear you down, and if those benefits take too long to reap, we may become discouraged and give up, leaving all the hard work we've done laying around like a broken puzzle.
After some much needed mental rest, we're stuck picking up where we left off, only twelve steps back. In other words, when you regain your determination, you are starting back at square one.
The Science of Determination and Perseverance
Determination and perseverance are thought to be related with the levels of dopamine released in the brain, particularly through the mesolimbic pathway that leads to various different places, but particularly the cerebral cortex.
When this dopamine is released and travels through the mesolimbic pathway, it makes a necessary stop to the nucleus accumbens, The nucleus accumbens is a primary site mediating reward behavior, and it is thought to be directly involved in reinforcing and addictive behaviors in response to drug use.
When the nucleus accumbens spike in dopamine levels, it leads to motivation. Why? Because the nucleus accumbens are essential to reward-prediction. In essence, the dopamine says, "Hey! Something important is about to happen." and the nucleus accumben says, "Okay, what can we gain from this?"
After that, it gets a little complicated, but I hope you get the gist.
The point is, determination and perseverance take almost the exact same path. However, perseverance seems to have an added benefit that determination does not; serotonin.
Studies show that serotonin not only allows for determination, but promotes active persistence, even without the certainty of reward. Serotonin allows us to be patient. Which is crucial to overcoming discouragement.
When our brain combines dopamine and serotonin, it allows us to be motivated, active, and patient.
Enough science... what about side effects?
Side effects? From determination and perseverance? Yes, and it'd serve us well remembering that every action we take comes along with side effects, consequences, and benefits.
Determination comes along with many side effects. In my personal experience and observation, I've noticed that frustration, discouragement, and temporalness are among the top few.
Perseverance, on the other hand, comes along with its own side effects. Some of them being tiredness/fatigue, uncertainty at times, and sometimes, obsession.
Too much of one thing is never a good thing, no matter what that thing happens to be. If you're focused too much on determination, it will run you down until you can no longer go on. If you focus too much on your perseverance, you may fall into obsession, causing you to focus too much of your time on one thing.
Balance is the key to life, in all aspects, and it's a necessary fundamental to success.
So, what's so bad about determination?
Nothing. Nothing at all. Determination can be a great factor to success, so long as your goals are closer to the short-term and it will take you a year or less to reach them. It can be a great driving factor for many things in your life. However, it's crucial to remember that, if you're aiming towards a long-term goal, determination may not be the right path for you.
How does one invoke perseverance or determination?
Now that you know the difference and have decided which one will benefit you most, you need to invoke the motivation to make it happen. You may be asking, "How can I force myself to become motivated?" Firstly, you have to stop thinking of it as forcing and start thinking of it as something you truly want to do (much like you want that thing and goal to become true). Next, you must follow this simple guide.
Know yourself: You have to know yourself—your strengths, your weaknesses, your interests, and yourself as a whole—to determine what you need to do to reach success in this goal. Are there weak-points to your personality that you will need to work on? Are there parts of your personality that are just who you are, that may possibly make this goal unreachable? What can you do to reform this goal to match your needs and strengths?
This, in specific, is crucial to life. Those who go through life happy are those who know themselves best.
Choose which type of motivation will work best for your goal. Is it a short-term goal that can be completed fairly quickly with a burst of, or minimal, effort? Do you need a five-year plan to make your goal a reality?
Knowing this will help you decide what type of motivational exercises you will need to perform, and what you need to work on.
Develop a plan: Get yourself excited about the project and the goals. Treat each individual task as an accomplishment rather than a chore. This will allow you to remain motivated instead of getting quickly burnt out.
Crucially think about each, individual task and action associated with the success of your goal. Write them down if need be. Find something about each task that gets you excited.
For example, starting my own business has been a real eye-opener as to what my exact strengths, weaknesses, interests, and personality are. I've found over the course of this past year that I absolutely love learning and motivating others. Learning this about myself has helped me develop my business, as well as the person that I am today.
In regards to this step, it helped me in a lot of ways. Understanding that I have a love for learning excited me and motivated me to get numerous certifications in my interest fields, as well as got me excited about my career goals in general.
For another example, non-career related, I wanted to save money so that I could take my kids to an amusement park. Now, budgeting is never exciting. So, do you know what got me excited? (Besides the vision of my children's ecstatic faces when we got there, of course.) Progress! Every tiny bit of progress that I made towards my goal got me excited. It made me feel accomplished (emotional reassurance) and made me feel that, no matter what, I could keep trying. And, if it didn't work this year, we could always do it next year. This is perseverance at it's finest. When short-term goals turn to long-term goals, one must learn to adapt accordingly. Which brings me to my next point.
Adapt: Be able, and willing, to adapt to changes in your plan. Understand from the get-go that this is not a one-time plan of action and you're done. You're going to have to make adjustments. That's life, and we mine as well get used to it (sorry, I'm a realist).
Kind of like "when life gives you lemons..." you have to be willing to accept that your plan is not going to go perfect and it may not turn out the exact way that you want. This allows for you to actually grow within your plan and your goals. Fueling your motivation in whichever form.
Succeed: If you follow the above guide, all that's left to do is succeed. Know yourself, choose the best type for you, develop a game plan, adapt as needed, succeed!
Exercises: Mental Exercises
I'm definitely no psychologist, but I do have a couple tips for those who need to gain the required motivation to turn their goals into reality.
- Try and try again. When one experiment doesn't work, jump onto another. Try to develop a few different choices that can create the same result so you can jump from them at a whim.
- Take a break. Determination gets taxing. Make sure you take mindfulness breaks somewhat frequently. For example, if your goal will take three months to reach, make sure to take at least one mindfulness break a week for optimal determination, motivation, and results.
- Focus on the action plan, then on the results. Take it one step at a time so as not to overdo yourself. Create a full action plan before ever completing an experiment. This will keep you focused without feeling overwhelmed.
- Encourage yourself. Sometimes, we're truly our biggest fans. And, that's perfectly okay! Tell yourself that you're doing good and celebrate each accomplishment, no matter how small, like it's a big deal. Because it is.
- It's okay to jump. Since perseverance is for longer-term goals, it's okay to jump around and then come back to it. If you're starting to find one task daunting, start on a separate part of your action plan and then come back to it refreshed.
- Stay focused on the long-term, not the short-term goals. This maintains a "bigger picture" mindset, rather than a short-term mindset. You'll get much more done much faster focusing on the long-term.
- Get excited about the tasks and the outcomes. Start working with tasks that get you truly excited. Don't publish a half-finished website, of course, but get excited about the process. Get excited about the creation and long-term benefits. And, have fun doing it.
- Work at a consistent pace. Keeping your pace consistent promotes optimal results. Try scheduling a time every day rather than working in short bursts or spontaneously. Long-term goals take longer to reach, which is why patience is such a crucial quality to have. Speaking of which...
Since patience is such a huge part of perseverance, here's a bonus list of some patience exercises to enhance your ability to work towards your long-term goals.
- Sit in a room by yourself. Have someone text you, or just wait for one to come in. Now, look at your phone, close your eyes, and wait. Try not to even worry about what the text says or who it's from. Simply sit there and think about other things. Wait as long as you can, and then read whatever it is that came through. Try and do it longer every time. I'd suggest starting with two minutes and working your way up to a half hour. While you're waiting, it's okay to write or read or do something else. Just don't pick up the phone!
- When you start feeling impatient, take a breather from your work. Try and sit and think about your long-term goals, and why this particular task or project is essential to itssuccess. If you can't think of any or are feeling too overwhelmed, find another task to work on that's exciting and come back to it.
- Silence is a virtue. Literally, verbally and mentally. Learn how to promote mental silence within yourself. Sit down in a quiet space. You can play music or have it be dead silent. Whichever works best for you. Try doing this once every other day, as keeping it consistent can promote habitual tendencies as well as develop patience much faster than only doing it when you feel impatient. Try to keep thoughts, any thoughts, out of mind for that time. When you start to hear yourself chanting, "OHM!" and rising off the floor, you're probably good.
So, there you have it. A complete guide to the difference between determination and perseverance. Now that you know, what will you accomplish?