When it comes to perseverance, my mindset is usually centered on how I can outrun the struggle. I think this is true of almost everyone. The fundamental question we are asking ourselves is, “how long do I have to endure before this is over?”
We view perseverance as a temporary obstacle. The longer it lingers, the more surprised and frustrated we become. We’ll often give up – it is no longer perseverance if we abandon ship. There are so few lessons we learn from perseverance, which means there is so much value that is left undiscovered.
There is one simple problem about my strategy of outrunning perseverance. It doesn’t work. As soon as I think it is over, it pops back up. As soon as I think I’ve reached the finish line, there are more surprises in store.
The Carousel of Circumstance
I can never outrun perseverance because perseverance is not circumstantial. I always think it is. I always think it is about enduring this situation, waiting through this particular season.
My circumstance changes and I think I am in the clear. But perseverance changes right with it. I had to persevere through the challenges of being single. And then through the challenges of being married. My wife and I are persevering through infertility but will eventually be persevering through parenthood! My successes are not an end to perseverance but a change in the way perseverance manifests itself.
Every circumstance is an opportunity. As such, every circumstance requires perseverance. Rich people have to persevere through the trial of wealth. I know it sounds like one you would gladly take on, but the reason we think it is such a perseverance-ender is only because of what we lack. Some of the wealthiest people in the world are also some of the saddest. The rich and famous and good-looking are not saved from the need to persevere. The royals long for a “normal” life. There are celebrities in rehab facilities because they can’t cope with their own success.
Perseverance is not just about getting through the “bad” circumstances until the good ones kick in. Every circumstance has its own challenges and its own opportunities. And, inevitably, its own version of perseverance.
So, then, life is not about waiting for one thing or another. Life is about how you wait. It is not about begrudgingly persevering until the circumstance you long for arrives. It is about the challenge of stewarding your character in want and in plenty, in temptation and in trial, in failure and in success.
Life is about how we persevere not what we are persevering for. The latter is a setting, the background. The choices we make reveal our character, they are markers of identity – who we are. No matter what shape perseverance takes, it is the way in which we make our decisions, the attitudes and behaviors we choose, that truly matter.