by Jeff Witman, CTRS, Collier Township Parks and Recreation
“Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance” Abagail Adams
The ups and downs of coping with unpredictable people and weather I encountered when helping with several camp programs this summer reminded me of two critical characteristics for success with program leadership. While there are many valuable traits- creativity, enthusiasm, passion and confidence for example- the two of particular value for facing challenges and achieving success are patience and perseverance.
The challenge of developing patience and perseverance is that you need patience and perseverance to develop patience and perseverance. It’s easy to find ideas on how to be more patient. It’s difficult though to break habits of impatience. We can “awfulize” most any situation into being the worst ever. For me, it calls for technical assistance from companies I do business with. Long waits, difficulty comprehending instructions (often magnified by my technological incompetence) and rudeness leave me a wreck- frustrated, angry and not in control. While not a cure-all some simple practices have allowed me to cope not mope with these situations. First I’ve learned to anticipate that these situations might be a problem, replace thinking these situations are intolerable with considering them an inconvenience and when the anxiety starts to rise breathing deep and telling myself this too shall pass. The key for me is to remember that the world is not going to treat me exactly like I want to be treated. Here’s a few specific ideas to practice patience. With each think of a situation where you would benefit from applying them.
• Pause/think before you speak (or hit the send button)
• Slow down (juggle fewer balls)
• Delay gratification (save some $’s, calories, guilt)
Psychologist Jane Bolton has shared the purpose of cultivating patience in yourself- “ In a word, happiness: better relationships, more success. Well worth the effort, I'd say. But effort, indeed, it takes.”
Effort also relates to persistence or perseverance. In competitive situations, we need the will to prepare to win not just the will to win. With repetition comes the strength to diminish resistance. This comes out for me with maintaining a nearly 3500 straight day habit of walking for at least 30 consecutive minutes. I’ve built up a depth of resolve that allows me to overcome challenges to my “streak.”
Angela Duckworth’s best-seller Grit details how coupled with passion, perseverance creates grit which results in sustained commitment and achievement. She suggests the following examples of perseverance. Consider how much they do or don’t sound like you:
• I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.
• I am diligent. I never give up.
• I finish whatever I begin.
• I am a hard worker.
• Setbacks don’t discourage me. I don’t give up easily.
Finally, think about a habit you would like to develop and be persistent within each domain (examples in parentheses)
Physical (daily stretching)
Social (weekly card game with friends)
Emotional (daily journaling)
Spiritual (daily prayer)
Cognitive (daily puzzle)
Patience and perseverance are different but complimentary. As naturalist Hal Borland framed it:
Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate perseverance.
May you show patience in your journey toward perseverance and perseverance in your pursuit of patience. After you have considered how best to move toward “consistent patience and perseverance” fill in the blanks with the statements below:
A habit I’m going to develop is ______________________________________________.
My plan for getting it started is to_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.
The benefits of this habit will be_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.
I am making at least a 100- day commitment to this effort
Here’s the full “Grit Scale” from Angela Duckworth: https://angeladuckworth.com/grit-scale/
This article is adapted from Signs of Habitual Thriving by Abagail Bernard and Jeff Witman (2022).