Positive Psychology & Scripture Part VIII – Persistence

Persistence [perseverance, industriousness]:

Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; “getting it out the door”; taking pleasure in completing tasks

SCRIPTURE

Luke 18:1 [ The Parable of the Persistent Widow ]
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

Romans 2:7 
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

James 1:4
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The New Testament is filled with examples and language of persistence and perseverance.  Scripture tells us to run the race and fight the good fight if we seek eternal life with Christ.

DEFINITION

The voluntary continuation of a goal-directed action in spite of obstacles, difficulties or discouragement. Just measuring how long one works at a task does not adequately capture the essence of perseverance because continuing to perform something that is fun or rewarding does not require one to endure and overcome setbacks.
CORRELATES AND CONSEQUENCES

  • Persistence increases one’s chances of attaining difficult goals
  • aronson and mills (1959) confirm that people do like things more if they have had to endure suffering or difficulties to reach them.
  • It may improve the person’s skills and resourcefulness. Because people who overcome obstacles to reach their goals must sometimes develop new ways to solve problems
  • It can enhance the person’s sense of self efficacy, provided that success is ultimately reached.
  • people will stay with a course of action because they have already invested some time, energy, money, or other resources in it (staw, 1976).
  • If people perceive that they are very close to attaining the goal for which why have been persisting, they are more resistant to quitting (J. Z. Rubin & Brockner, 1975).
  • They persist longer if they have made a public commitment, to the extent that they feel that they have made a public commitment to this course of action, and to the extent that they feel personally responsible for making the decision (staw, 1976).
  • They persist longer when they think other people will regard them unfavorably for quitting (Brockneer, Rubin & Lang, 1981)
  • the consequences of ill advised persistence is often more negative than the consequences of giving up too soon
  • When outcomes are uncontrollable or goals are impossible to reach, it is adaptive to give up (wortman & Brehm, 1975).
  • Thus the key to success is not persistence as such but he ability to know when to persist and when to quit (janoff-bulman & Brickman, 1982)

DEVELOPMENT

  • Masters and Santrock (1976). Found that children persisted longer on motor tasks when they labeled them as fun rather than as not fun, and as easy rather then difficult
  • Persistence was also facilitated by reminding oneself of unrelated pleasant event, which can be an important strategy for affect regulation and tolerating frustration.
  • Children better able to delay gratification at age 4 were later found to have better social skill, academic performance, and coping ability when retested more then a decade later, during late adolescence (mischel, shoda & Rodriguez).

ENABLING AND INHIBITING FACTORS

  • individuals with a history of reward for effortful behavior are more likely to exert greater effort in the future than are individuals with a history of reward for low effort behavior (Eisenberger, 1992).
  • Zaleski (1988) found that people who had close, supportive relationships were better able to persist and exert effort than those without such relationships.
  • positive feedback increases intrinsic motivation as well as a sense of competence and efficacy (Deci & Ryan 1992)
  • Some extrinsic rewards have been shown to reduce persistence, i.e. tasks for money. This over justification effect is most pronounced when rewards are anticipated in advance (lepper et al 1973)
  • Impaired persistence was found among children diagnosed with ADHD.
  • Depression has been linked to reduced persistence and impaired performance following failure on an unsolvable task(brightman 1990).
  • Consistent with this, people with self control deficits in other areas have been shown to be less persistent on tasks. i.e. smokers, drug users, alcoholics.

 

All of the information on each of these strengths come from Character Strengths and Virtues (Seligman & Peterson. 2004)

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