The Discipline of Persistence

One of the most important things we can teach children is that effective people persist. They don’t give up easily. In fact, a major quality that classifies people as gifted is that they stick to a task.

What is it that allows a person to persevere? According to Art Costa (, they have a repertoire. These people have many different ways to solve a problem.

Why is this important? Because if you have only one way to solve a problem, and if you try it and it doesn’t work, you will have a tendency to give up.

But people who persist will try one plan, and if that approach doesn’t work, they go to another plan. If that one doesn’t work, they create another … and then another … and they continue to search until they are satisfied.

Having a repertoire of problem-solving processes is what allows and encourages persistence. The concept of persisting or persevering has to do with knowing how to behave when you DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER.

In school, we are accustomed to receiving tests back with a score assigned. The score represents the number of answers we know. However, the critical point in life is not the number of correct answers we know but rather how we behave when we don’t know.

Most of the problems we face in life have no easy answers. When confronted with a dilemma, an enigma, or a problem that is ambiguous, do you think of alternatives to meet the challenge or do you say to yourself, “I can’t do this,” and then give up?

It’s more beneficial to learn and teach three ways to solve one problem than it is to teach one way to solve three problems.