What Is the Difference Between Perseverance and Stubbornness?

A while back, I was involved in a discussion where this topic came up: When it comes to reaching your vision, what is the difference between perseverance and stubbornness? How do we know whether we are persevering or simply being stubborn?

After thinking about it, here is my conclusion:

Perseverance is insisting on reaching your vision but staying flexible on how to get there. Stubbornness is insisting on a certain way to reach your vision.

The difference might seem subtle, but it’s a big difference. If you are persevering, you are determined to reach your vision, but you are open to change your mind on how to get there. You don’t get obsessed with a certain way or method. You don’t assume that your current idea is the best. You are willing to take a different route if necessary to reach your destination.

On the other hand, if you are being stubborn, you insist that your way is the best. You aren’t open to a different approach. Even if another approach comes up that’s more promising, you aren’t willing to change your mind.

Needless to say, what you need is perseverance, not stubbornness.

So how can we avoid the trap of stubbornness?

Well, I believe that a big cause of stubbornness is missing the big picture. As a result, you treat an intermediate goal as the end goal. You forget what the real destination is and pursue a proxy instead.

For that reason, clarity is essential for perseverance. You need to know what your real goal is. You need to know your final destination and never lose sight of it. This has two benefits:

  • It helps you avoid distractions along the way, and
  • It allows you to recognize a better approach when it shows up.

In addition to missing the big picture, another cause of stubbornness is overconfidence. Your method may have worked in the past and you assume that it will continue to work in the future. But of course, the world changes, and what worked in the past may soon become obsolete if you don’t change.

In conclusion, here is to have perseverance but not stubbornness:

Keep the final destination in mind, keep moving toward it, but be willing to take a new route if necessary.


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