Writing a chapter on persistence requires persistence on our part. After all, what is there to say apart from if you want to bring about change in your life or achieve a goal, then persist until the change occurs or the goal is achieved? End of story. However, in considering the nature of persistence, there are more factors involved than simply urging yourself to ‘Keep at it’ and ‘Don’t give up’ or being reassured by others that ‘Persistence pays off (e.g. what prevents you from being persistent?). Persistence requires the development of a philosophy of endurance not just for today or next week, but for the long term. Some dictionary definitions of persistence include ‘continuing obstinately’ which implies behavioural inflexibility or unthinkingly pushing forward. We leave obstinacy out of our discussion of persistence because we want you to think and act flexibly in the face of changing circumstances as you strive to reach your goals.
One of the essential qualities for success and achievement in life is persistence. Yet we often want change without working at it—we like the idea of change rather than the actuality of struggling towards it. Why does a New Year’s Eve resolution become New Year’s Day irresolution? How many times have you wanted to stop smoking, lose weight, get fitter, make a career change, leave a dull relationship, or even take a trip up the Amazon? What stopped you from doing it? We would suggest it was partly the effort and upheaval in your life that this might involve. Even if you say you are motivated to change, this does not mean that change will inevitably occur. Motivation consists of three components (Arnold et al., 1995):