“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In Latin, the word “perseverance” means “one who sees through to the end… one who does not yield.” In English, it describes how we maintain our activity in spite of difficulties. Tenacity, steadfastness, persistence, doggedness: these are all common synonyms. Human existence is the story of perseverance, with each generation striving for and evolving with the experience that shapes our world.
In service leadership, in personal leadership, in life… our inner compass is our most important tool. Think of it this way: Maps may lead us astray or we may find they are outdated once we’ve already started following them, but a compass will always guide our direction—our journey—no matter how many right or wrong turns we take. Staying true to our inner compass and those who follow in our steps requires a healthy dose of persistence and perseverance for the moments when we might feel a little lost or uncertain. Anything we pursue that is worthwhile is going to challenge us, at some point, to our deepest core. Especially when things don’t go as planned—or don’t go as planned over and over—, we may be tempted to give up.
However, we must not… quit. We may need to alter our course, adjust our approach, introduce or eliminate a particular element, but perseverance is the source where we can draw power and courage to continue following our inner compass. It’s one of the most dependable tools we have. Our minds give up long before our bodies do, so in the moments when we feel tempted to stop, these are actually the moments to trust our journey and continue placing one foot in front of the other. This choice is ours each and every time, be it climbing a mountain, running a race, having an important conversation in a beautiful relationship, or pursuing a project with great promise.
When we reflect on our Clarity of Purpose, we connect with our inner compass. When we know what we are striving for and are committed to the journey, in all its twists and turns, we find our path. If we do this, if we persevere, eventually we find ourselves on a mountain top, with powerful feelings of grace, humility and accomplishment.
I recently received a beautiful gift: a book from a dear friend and colleague, David Firth. (Thank you, David.) In the book, “Perseverance”, author Margaret J. Wheatley does a masterful job of asking questions she has lived with and lived by for years, and then introduces dozens of great poets, writers, thinkers and leaders to help answer those questions. Just an awesome book for a variety of reasons: As it applies to my work of service leadership, it is such a great reminder that in order to impact, influence and inspire over and over and over again, I must persevere with my inner compass in tact.
Since perseverance is one of the most inspiring of human traits, please take a minute to enjoy these powerful quotes on the subject, and then share your own thoughts of perseverance with me and how you have applied this beautiful word and action in your life.