8 February 2011 - Realise2 Strengths Dynamics #3
Many of us would have been brought up to believe that Persistence is good, that we need to stick with things if we are to have any chance of succeeding in life. This is the moral of numerous fables, including the race between the hare and the tortoise (which of course the tortoise won, through just plodding away). Another is the story of the mouse who fell into a bucket of milk, but paddled so hard that he turned the milk into cheese and was able to climb out. With these as typical tales of infant life, one can see how Persistence can become embedded within us almost as a moral virtue.
This, I suspect, is part of the reason for some people's reactions when they see Persistence labelled as a Weakness in their Realise2 report. When this happens, the first thing I do is ask if it matters to them. Or if, in contrast, they actually need to be far more adaptive and malleable to change than being continually persistent would suggest. Change and the pace of change is redefining our world. Based on this, I have a hypothesis that Persistence might be one of the things we might sometimes need to lose - or at least dial back - if we are to succeed. This is counterintuitive, because it is almost diametrically opposed to the advice on which some of us would have been brought up. But consider these examples that illustrate the point - Persistence may not always be the path to success.
Persistence and Change Agent: When Persistence and Change Agent are paired, there is a dynamic tension in the individual which can manifest in several different ways. They may continue with making change long after that change has been overdone. Or they might continue to push when actually what is needed is a time of settling down and integration. Or they might feel torn within themselves, vacillating between their thrust to change and their constraints of just sticking with the way things are. This is an intriguing dynamic, for all of these reasons, and how it ultimately plays out will depend on a multitude of factors - including the possibility that it may play out differently at different times.
Persistence and Competitive: The person with Persistence and Competitive will always be striving to win, to outdo their competition, to be the best. Their difficulty is that they may not know when to stop, taking that competitive spirit over and above the areas where it is appropriate or helpful. When this happens, one's personal well-being and relationships can suffer, so watch out. With Persistence overplayed and combined with Competitive, the competition never stops, and ultimately the person themselves will suffer.
Persistence and Counterpoint: The person with these strengths paired loves an argument - but the challenge is they don't know when to concede or even just allow other people their perspective! Their colleagues might see them as argumentative or even pure troublemakers, whereas for the person themselves it's just the way they are. Recognising this dynamic, both sides can better understand the forces at play, and marshal them more effectively to get to the result they both want.
In contrast to these examples of Persistence overplayed, especially in dynamic combination, it's also easy to identify strengths dynamics where the combination of Persistence with another strength can be a powerfully constructive pairing. For example, Persistence and Legacy creates a person who is committed to building the things that will outlast them, and will stick with doing so, always being guided by the benefit they will ultimately leave behind. The same dynamic is at play with Persistence and Mission, since a person with these two strengths will stick with the goal they have set and continue working to achieve it, overcoming whatever obstacles may be placed in their way. Or consider Persistence and Pride, which define the person who will push through the tiredness, the boredom and the resistance to ensure they deliver consistently the best quality work they possibly can.
Overall, what this tells us is that sometimes we need to stick, and sometimes it's okay to quit. The wisdom lies in knowing the difference between the two. This is where adding a strength in Judgement to the dynamics mix can come into its own. People strong in Judgement will be better equipped to weigh up the varying options and the competing pressures, telling between them the best course of action to move forward. In the absence of Judgement, we can spend too long on a road that has already become a dead end, or we can give up in the moments just before we are about to achieve the breakthrough for which we have strived so long.
In our ever changing world, Persistence may sometimes be a virtue, but knowing when to exercise it, and when not, is probably the greatest virtue of all.
With best wishes,
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