Psychology Behind Perseverance

Psychology Behind Perseverance


“There’s always gonna be another mountain, I’m always gonna wanna make it move. There’s always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I’m gonna have to lose”. These famous lyrics from the popular Miley Cyrus song “The Climb” discuss how there will be obstacles, there is no denying that, but we must keep moving forward. How do we overcome hurdles and challenges? How do some people never give up even when they go through so much? What does it take for a person to constantly fall down and yet stand tall? 

During the tough times of the COVID pandemic in 2021, the word ‘perseverance’ was chosen to be the “Word of The Year” by the Cambridge dictionary to showcase our strength and will to not give up across the world. The English definition of perseverance means to continue in one’s effort no matter the challenges or obstacles in the way. But how does psychology see it? This article will aim to understand perseverance’s place in psychology, moments when it’s needed, how people persevere and popular media representations of it. 

Perseverance and its place in Psychology 

Perseverance has very dedicatedly found its way into the newer field of psychology, Positive Psychology. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology has often elaborated on the concept of one’s persistence. He talked about certain human signature strengths which included humanity, temperance and persistence. Persistence in this context may be interchangeably used with perseverance. Other places where perseverance takes centre stage are:

  • APA Definition: According to the American Psychological Association, the perseverance effect refers to the phenomena wherein an individual continues to work towards a particular goal despite overwhelming evidence against its possibility.
  • Evolutionary Perspective: An article authored by B. Baccetti, published in 1987 in the Bollettino di Zoologia, elaborated the concept of perseverance as a fundamental principle in evolutionary biology. As a collective trait in a species, it contributes to its continuation and power of adaptability to changing circumstances.
  • Perseverance Through Mental Disorders: Research published in an APA journal has proved that perseverance can contribute to resilience which can empower people against major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders and various panic disorders. 
  • Perseverance in Positive Psychology: Perseverance is viewed as one of the core strengths humans have. It is seen as an essential quality to success and speaks to a person’s inherent aptitude. It is also seen as a very accurate predictor of achievement. People who can persevere through tough situations daily tend to achieve more. 

Perseverance, especially as of late, has had various studies centred around it. It has taken the stage of the central human strengths that positive psychology has focused on. We will now see how it contributes to daily successes. 

How Perseverance Contributes To Success 

Perseverance essentially talks about unwavering commitment and continued effort in the achievement of one’s goals. Obstacles may come, but survivors come on top when they do not let hurdles faze them away from their goal. Many studies have highlighted perseverance as one of the key factors that contribute to achievement and success.

  • Resilience: Resilience refers to staying strong and bouncing back from adversity and any other threatening situation. It is inherently an evolutionary characteristic as it promotes adaptability. Resilience and perseverance have been found to have pretty direct links with each other. Their adaptive nature helps the individual achieve success by adapting to changes quickly. 
  • Passion and Perseverance: If an individual is passionate towards their goal, as most usually are, then perseverance comes easy to them. While passion provides intrinsic motivation and long-term vision, perseverance ensures consistent effort and resilience in the face of challenges. When brought together, they work very well in contributing to achieving significant and sustained accomplishments. 
  • Research Finding: Study conducted in 2020 has indicated the importance of perseverance in achieving academic success within school students. It was seen that students who were not discouraged by bad remarks in an assessment tended to achieve better than those who would feel disheartened and dejected. 
  • Growing Market: The corporate sector, in this day and age, is constantly evolving and rapidly growing. Studies have shown that perseverance as a characteristic can help people adapt to new and improving career patterns in such a way that it aids their career trajectory. 

There has been much evidence to support that perseverance has a key role in ensuring success. It is undeniable that perseverance as a feature may be cultivated in an individual if they wish to succeed in life. 

The Need For Perseverance 

As stated above, perseverance aids heavily in career and academic success. However, its usefulness does not just stop there. Perseverance has many benefits in day-to-day life as well. It involves maintaining continued effort and resilience over time, allowing individuals to overcome obstacles and achieve their long-term goals. Whether in academics, career, or personal endeavours, perseverance is a key predictor of success. 

  • Achieving Long-term Goals. Perseverance marks quality is that it stands for continued effort, this can help in achieving long-term goals (for example, getting a PhD).
  • Personal Development and Well-being. Perseverance also contributes to the development of a stronger personality and equips an individual with the necessary strengths to thrive in life. 
  • Building Resilience. It also contributes to building resilience, the ability to bounce back from setbacks and maintain a positive outlook. This resilience is vital for mental health and overall life satisfaction. 
  • Intrinsic Motivation. Perseverance depends on intrinsic motivation. The higher the intrinsic motivation, higher the ability of an individual to persevere through difficult circumstances.
  • Achieving Personal Goals. Whether it’s relating to personal fitness, academic goals or interpersonal relationships, achieving long-term personal goals requires sustained effort.
  • Overcoming Obstacles. Hurdles always come in the way. This is precisely what sets apart perseverance. It is this essential quality that empowers individuals to work Through the toughest of times. 

The above-mentioned pointers are various different ways in which perseverance is essential. It is truly a quality that one can and should cultivate within oneself. 

How To Cultivate Perseverance 

Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of perseverance is that it can be attained rather than simply being innate in certain individuals. Challenges are inherent to any path that may lead to success. Thus, one must have the ability to conquer these challenges and come out on top. If you feel you lack this ability, then we have got your back! Listed below are certain ways in which you may cultivate perseverance within yourself. 

  • Prioritize. Sometimes we find it difficult to complete a task simply because we have others fighting their way to the top of our list. One of the biggest things one must do is prioritize one’s goals and aspirations so that the highest ranked one can get all of one’s efforts and hard work. 
  • Set Clear Goals. The clarification of one’s goals and aspirations makes the path to achieve them clearer. 
  • Develop a Positive Mindset. To achieve anything, you must believe that you are capable of achieving anything. Embrace challenges as opportunities to grow. Believe in your ability to improve with effort. 
  • Use of Positive Affirmations. Positive talk to oneself has great abilities to motivate oneself. Positive self-talk is a great way of encouraging oneself to overcome challenges and sustain effort. 
  • Build Self-Discipline. A daily routine can help one make strides. Especially since a well-built routine ensures that there is no wastage of time and also ensures well-devoted effort. 
  • Learn from Failure. If one does not learn from failure, then they are bound to make the same mistakes over and over again. Failure is never a setback unless you make it out to be. 
  • Reward and Inspiration. You must constantly go back to your source of inspiration and motivation. Moreover, a reward system should be put in place to motivate oneself to reap results. 
  • Do Not Get Fixated On Instant Results. Instant results must not appear at the end of every tunnel. Thus, one must not get stuck on the hopes of an immediate result, rather they should continue with their effort, depend on their motivation and have a long-term vision. 
  • Seek Support. Find mentors, that is people who can guide you on your journey. Build or join a community of like-minded individuals who share your goals. This can provide encouragement and accountability. 
  • Maintain Physical and Mental Health. One must rest, exercise and practice mindfulness. This would ensure that the effort one puts in is accompanied by proper mental and physical support as well. 

One must constantly reflect upon oneself, search for what is missing, remedy it and move forward from there. We cannot get stuck in any minute thing that might not have major implications over our long-standing goals. 

Perseverance and Motivation 

Perseverance surfaces whenever there are bounds of motivation. It should be noted that there are different forms of motivation. Primarily there are two types of motivation, both of which yield a different level of perseverance among individuals. Cultivating perseverance is a multifaceted process that intertwines closely with motivation. 

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that an individual draws upon from within oneself. It is part of the self-determination theory which holds that individuals are most motivated when they feel that they are autonomous, competent, and connected to others. This is certainly the form of motivation that drives perseverance more as research has proven. Those who draw upon intrinsic motivation tend to have more to lose since their self-esteem and ego will get in the way of admitting defeat.

Extrinsic Motivation

This is the motivation that exists in the external world such as material desires, money, power and so on. All of these sustain the rewards system that exists in our society and ties an individual’s worth to their productivity. The promise of a reward builds individuals to face any circumstance and thus contributes to perseverance. Extrinsic motivation has also been known to yield high results of perseverance just lesser compared to intrinsic motivation. In the face of low intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation is all the more capable of taking over the steering wheel. Thus one must establish specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals with associated external rewards. This clarity can help maintain focus and drive. 

Cinematic Representations of Perseverance 

Media representations have also been a great tool to understand any psychological phenomena. Perseverance is such an intrinsic and essential human quality that it can be seen in various movies. Listed below are certain such examples: 

  • 12th Fail (2023). Starting strong with the recent Hindi movie on the real life of IPS officer Manoj Kumar. Coming from an underprivileged and unconnected background, the movie traces his life journey as goes through the trials and tribulations of sustaining himself in a new city as well as studying to clear the UPSC examination without any form of cheating. It is an incredible movie that highlights Manoj’s perseverance through the worst times as he keeps his eyes set on his goal. 
  • Moana (2016). Moana, the titular character, confronts obstacles related to her identity and the quest to save her island, demonstrating perseverance through many challenges all simply with the hope that she will succeed which she ultimately does.
  • Frozen (2013). Anna and Elsa navigate challenges related to family relationships and supernatural powers, ultimately triumphing through their sisterly bond and determination. This also shows how familial support can aid in strengthening one’s perseverance. 
  • October (2018). The film centres around Dan’s journey as he grapples with grief and despair after his friend and colleague, Shiuli, falls into a coma following a tragic accident. Despite the emotional turmoil and uncertainty surrounding Shiuli’s condition, Dan demonstrates resilience by remaining by her side and providing support to her family. 
  • Shaitaan (2024). This very recent movie revolves around an evil rooted in black magic. However, what is to be noticed is that Kabir does not give up hope and stays strong throughout the movie in an attempt to save his daughter. He perseveres through every obstacle and every challenge that the antagonist throws at him. 

The above listed movies all provide a new perspective on the element of perseverance which can enlighten us as well as perhaps act as a guide on our route to cultivating perseverance. 


Perseverance is an essential trait for achieving long-term goals and realizing aspirations while overcoming life’s inevitable challenges. It involves sustained and continued effort as well as resilience, driven by both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations (whichever comes easily to the individual). Developing perseverance requires setting clear, manageable goals, cultivating a positive mindset, and maintaining self-discipline

Techniques such as breaking tasks into smaller steps, celebrating incremental successes, and seeking support from mentors and peers can significantly bolster one’s ability to persevere. Additionally, fostering a growth mindset—where failure is not seen as a setback but a ladder to learning—can transform setbacks into stepping stones towards success. While

intrinsic motivation—driven by personal satisfaction and interest—is ideal for long-term engagement, extrinsic motivators such as rewards and recognition can provide immediate incentives to persist through difficult times, thus it is essential to highlight the importance of both. Balancing these motivations and internalizing the value of one’s efforts can sustain perseverance as well as contribute to self-actualisation. Ultimately, perseverance is not just about enduring hardship but about striving continuously toward meaningful goals, adapting to obstacles, and growing from experiences. By integrating these strategies into daily practice, individuals can enhance their perseverance, driving them towards achieving their aspirations and building a resilient, motivated, and successful life. 

References +
  • Pursuit of Happiness. (2024, March 13). Martin Seligman & Positive Psychology: Theory and Practice.
  • Schaffner, A. K., PhD. (2024, April 25). Perseverance in Psychology: Meaning, Importance & books. 
  • APA Dictionary of Psychology. (n.d.).
  • Perseverance toward life goals can fend off depression, anxiety, panic disorders. (2019, May 2).
  • Hernández, E. H., Moreno-Murcia, J. A., Cid, L., Monteiro, D., & Rodrigues, F. (2020). Passion or perseverance? The effect of perceived autonomy support and grit on academic performance in college students. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health/International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(6), 2143. 
  • Lark Editorial Team. (2023, December 17). Grit: understanding and cultivating perseverance. 
  • Barr, E. (2022, July 15). Extrinsic & Intrinsic motivation examples – What’s the difference? SpriggHR. the-difference/ 
  • Blašková, M., Majchrzak-Lepczyk, J., Hriníková, D., & Blaško, R. (2019). Sustainable academic motivation. Sustainability, 11(21), 5934.
  • Datu, J. a. D. (2021). Beyond Passion and Perseverance: Review and future research initiatives on the science of grit. Frontiers in Psychology, 11
  • Giavazzi, F., Petkov, I., & Schiantarelli, F. (2019). Culture: persistence and evolution. Journal of Economic Growth, 24(2), 117–154. 
  • Blašková, M., Majchrzak-Lepczyk, J., Hriníková, D., & Blaško, R. (2019b). Sustainable academic motivation. Sustainability, 11(21), 5934.

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