Perseverance in Psychology: 4 Activities to Improve Perseverance



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Ways to ImprovE Perseverance

Angela Duckworth argues that growing grit from the inside requires four essential ingredients:

  • Interest
  • Practice
  • Purpose
  • Hope

We must, first of all, follow our passion. That entails discovering what our core passions are. This process involves curiosity, trying new things, experimenting, and actively seeking to develop and stay with our interests.

Then, we have to practice. But we must practice deliberately, by honing in on our weaknesses and Achilles heels, setting challenging stretch goals, and incorporating feedback.

Purpose refers to our desire to contribute to making the world a better place and to helping others. It can be a core driving force for passion.

Hope, the fourth and final ingredient, is related to the belief that our efforts matter and that they can improve our future (Duckworth, 2016).

We can also try to foster perseverance from the outside. As parents, for example, we may wish to signal that we have high expectations and give all the support we can so that our children can reach them. This includes instilling in them a fundamental belief that they can live up to our expectations.

We should also encourage our children to do difficult things that interest them and stay (at least for a while) with the extracurricular activities they have chosen. In organizations, we can try to establish a gritty work culture that is based on similar principles: high expectations, coupled with increased support (Duckworth, 2016).


4 Helpful Activities

Resilience, perseverance and passionResilience

The Best Possible Resilient Self is an intervention that invites us to reflect on our best possible future selves.

In as much and as vivid detail as possible, we are asked to imagine that we have achieved everything we wanted after having worked hard for it.

Crucially, this strength-based intervention entails imagining that we have successfully overcome obstacles and bounced back from adversity. It instills a sense of optimism and competency, which helps us push through specific challenges.


Intrinsic values

We know that the pursuit of internally rewarding goals results in increased performance and persistence over time (Vansteenkiste, Simons, Lens, Sheldon, & Deci, 2004),

If we wish to pursue big, significant life goals, it is therefore highly beneficial to connect with our values and, in particular, our intrinsic values. If we are in touch with our values, they can be highly motivating forces and help us to persist with a challenging life goal.

The Using Intrinsic Values to Promote Goal Commitment exercise invites us to create a values vision board for a life goal that we are currently hoping to achieve.

This goal can be learning a language, gaining a degree, exercising regularly, buying a house, gaining a promotion, or quitting smoking. The exercise asks us to explore potential obstacles, list good reasons for wishing to pursue our aims, and then extract our values from these reasons.


Values and resilience combined

Using Values to Build Resilience is based on a similar premise. The exercise seeks to encourage us to manage a challenging life event by connecting with what is most important to us – that is, by connecting with our core values.

Here, too, we are asked to develop specific value-based reasons why we may wish to get through a particular challenge and remind ourselves of what matters most to us.


Valued living

Valued Living During Challenging Times, finally, asks us to investigate whether we may have lost touch with personal values in the context of current challenging life events. It encourages us to realign ourselves with these values by taking valued action.

Living in tune with our values – specifically during times of personal stress – is a way of cultivating resilience that makes us better able to cope with stress.


Article from Anna Katharina Schaffner, Ph.D.