Perseverance Looks Like This
I love watching the Olympics and learning the back stories of the athletes, how they got into the games,the sacrifices they made, the work, the perseverance. It makes the heart swell to see not just the medal presented to a proud athlete standing on the podium, their national anthem sounding in the background, but to hear how they rose early, worked late, spent their last dollars, traveled extra miles, and fought through injuries, pain, ridicule, self-doubt, and other overwhelming challenges, to achieve their dream. They give the idea of perseverance a face, many faces. To see tears in their eyes, and then that tenacious twinkle, gets me every time.
Your child may never stand in an Olympic arena. They may not show blood, sweat, and tears in the same way as an Olympian. But as you cheer them on to their pursuits every day, you get the chance to see that same kind of twinkle of tenacity and persistence in their eyes.
An abstract an idea as persistence may be, it really does show up tangibly in your kids says Paul Tough, the best selling author of How Children Succeed. One day you see them fight through exhaustion to cross the finish line in a track meet. Another day you hear them say, “I’m going to figure this out.” Yet another day you see them deep in thought working on a mathematics problem. After doing poorly on a test you watch them dive deeply into homework with out being encouraged.
What just happened ? you might wonder. Can it happen again? What do you look for, and continue to encourage?
The Three Keys to the Fuel of Perseverance
Autonomy for Will Power
It is the matter of choice and act of determination that creates the power to persist – will power. Choosing what interests you leads to motivation and engagement that develops into endurance and perseverance.
When I first met Mickey, a third grader, his reading scores where significantly below grade level with learning challenges in both language and memory affecting progress in all areas. He wanted to read but was getting further behind despite receiving special education services. He felt terrible and was getting sick frequently.
Then in the second semester, everything changed. Mickey’s reading scores surged from the lowest level of second grade to fourth grade level. I called Michael Sr. to report the good news and inquire about reasons behind the surge.
“Well, we read together a lot, Michael Sr said. One day Mickey brought home a reading assignment that tweaked his interest only it was for a group of more capable readers. He handed the book to his father saying, “Dad could you help me read this? Michael Sr’s heart welled as he too struggled to read in elementary school. Looking at the assignment he knew this would be a challenging task for Mickey so he said “How about we partner read it together?.” Mickey nodded and that evening they began reading one section after another, night after night, week after week. “It wasn’t easy,” Michael Sr reported, at times Mickey wanted to give up. Initially Michael Sr. read most of the material but over time Mickey read more and more of the text. Something about his father’s encouragement and help plus his own interest in the subject spurred him onward.