Best Practice

Teaching perseverance

After tackling wisdom and optimism, Dr Stephanie Thornton now considers how we might ‘teach’ and encourage our students to develop skills of perseverance

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”

Perseverance is an ancient virtue that has recently received a lot of attention. It’s easy to understand why we value perseverance: the obvious truth is that giving up when the going is tough is a sure-fire recipe for failure, whereas going on trying might just lead to success.

Indeed, there is research that suggests that the tendency to persevere is more predictive of eventual success even than IQ (Duckworth & Seligman 2005).
And a tendency to give up too soon is associated with a downward spiral: you give up and thus fail, and your view of yourself as lacking in ability is reinforced – a view that feeds forward, undermining future efforts in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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