Persistence is a trait that many people strive to hold onto but find themselves unable to keep it for a long time or limit the areas they seem to have it.  I believe persistence is a trait like no other, as it drives itself when you learn to be persistent in your actions and you can use persistence itself to motivate your actions.

So what is persistence?

Persistence goes a lot deeper than most know.  I feel that persistence cannot be demonstrated in a set of actions in one topic, but have to be applicable in a variety of topics over time.  Persistence is something that will always be tested and if a person is able to stay on task, despite changing circumstances, then that starts to show persistence.  However, all too often a person starts on a path and when circumstances change or the odds go against them, they use that as an excuse to stop or change without have persistence to keep driving towards their goal.  To really show and develop persistence, it must exist without oneself not for the task or goal itself, but for the actual drive and motivation required to get there.  Persistence at its deepest level will drive a person to seek motivators and reasons to keep going, even when circumstances change!

Adaptability vs. Persistence

So once persistence takes hold in a person to drive them to stay motivated, there may be times where being persistent towards an old goal is no longer relevant.  In this situation, some adaptability of that persistence is crucial to avoid letting your persistence kill what is important (since that will obviously change over time).  Adapting the motivations and behaviors towards a shifted goal or new set of actions can keep that persistence behavior happening, which you want, yet direct it now towards a more important or different goal, leaving the old one behind.  Knowing that you are adapting your direction and shifting your actions is far more valuable than loosing motivation towards an old goal and failing at it, only to feel burdened when starting again on something new.  Know and recognize your progress you had made and recognize your behaviors toward each of those achievements, as you can now apply that towards your new adapted goals and direction.

Of course adaptability used to often will kill persistence as you won’t be able to recognize progress if your direction changes too often.  I can’t tell you how often this is, but I am certain that persistence should feel more dominant than adaptability when it comes to balancing them and locking in the trait of persistence into your character.  I’ve also learned over years of personal development that many of the same needs arise over and over.  You can be persistent in working on mastering them or you can jump around and adapt to quickly leaving yourself only to revisit again later without having mastered it when it shows back up as a need in your life.  This happens in work as well and I’ve experienced the same thing, pushing a skill further than most would to learn it, teach it to others and master it so you can rely on it again in the future will leave you with easier future success when you need to rely on that skill again in a later circumstance.  All the skills I’ve dropped to adapt to something new, have come back some time later and I’ve had to revisit them.  Balancing the persistence to master them versus adapt to new needs is tricky.

In my experience, people are typically working on improving their skills, their jobs or relationships in multiple areas at once.  Usually, you can adapt in one area that really needs it and stay persistent in the others to you are not always dropping skills before mastery.

Persistence to Mastery

Mastery is when a skills or set of behaviors becomes so automatic and natural you can do it well without thinking about it.  This is what persistence leads to with enough practice.  I love the process and results of mastery in skills and in my experience it is also persistence that gets me there.  There are several models or stages of learning that relate to mastery:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence – not aware of what you do not know or need to learn
  2. Conscious Incompetence – You learn or become aware of what you do not know
  3. Conscious Competence – You’ve learned to do something when thinking about it
  4. Unconscious Competence – You’ve learned to do something so well you no longer even think about it

There is another stage of this learning process and can take you all the way to mastery.  These 4 stages will get you to an expert level and is where most people stop, when they become experts in something.  You know it, can do it, can even tell others how to learn or do it themselves.  However, persistence can drive you even further.


Learning Stages

(Courtesy of Will Taylor, Chair, Department of Homeopathic Medicine, National College of Natural Medicine, Portland, Oregon, USA, March 2007. Please reference the diagram accordingly if you use it.)

This fifth stage some refer as the reflective competence. This is the point where you have become autonomous in this skill to do it unconsciously, but choose to reflect on that, optimize and take it even further.  This is what mastery is; when you decide that the unconscious level can be taken beyond.  Persistence in your thinking, your intentions in how you learn and in reflecting on your learning models no matter what your goals and progress towards those are will bring mastery.  I feel that personal development sends each person on a path towards mastery depending on their interests and I hope for you, that you find the persistence to drive it to the deepest levels, to lock it in with your own motivation factors and find a way to continually reflect, even on your unconscious competence areas.

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