Cambridge Dictionary has declared ‘perseverance’ the word of 2021, with editors saying Nasa’s mission to Mars lead to a rise in searches on its website. The word was looked up 243,000 times this year, with a major spike in searches following the final descent of the Perseverance Rover in February.

Perseverance Rover

Defined by Cambridge Dictionary as “continued effort to do or achieve something, even when this is difficult or takes a long time”, perseverance is a useful trait to have, but why are some people better than others at working doggedly towards their goals?


“There are a number of different factors which create a level of perseverance in people,” says psychologist Lee Chambers ( “They come from experience and the challenges [people have] already faced in life.”

How to improve your resilience and tenacity

But just because you’re not naturally blessed with an abundance of tenacity doesn’t mean you can’t learn ‘sticktoitiveness’, to use another popular term. Follow our experts’ advice to increase your grit and achieve your aims…

Set out your goals


Even the most epic journey starts with a single step, which is why it’s important to have an overarching goal that you break down into manageable chunks.

“If someone sets out an ambitious goal, say to get to a certain level within their career, that’s the ‘big vision’ goal,” says Chambers. Perseverant people “understand why they want it and start to think about how they can get there”.

Take responsibility for your own success

A ‘woe is me’ attitude doesn’t go hand in hand with perseverance, as explained by the ‘locus of control’ theory.

“People with an external locus of control will say, ‘Things always happen to me’, ‘Things always go wrong’, ‘Life is difficult’,” explains BACP accredited counsellor Louise Tyler ( “Whereas people with an internal locus of control will say, ‘Obviously I wasn’t the right person for the job’ or ‘The person that’s being very rude to me is having a bad day’.”

If you feel you’ve got “an ability to influence what happens in your life”, you’re more likely to take control and look for solutions when something does go wrong.

Be willing to make sacrifices

Resilience and tenacity

Hard work is, of course, one of the keys to success, which may mean sacrificing time, money – or both – to get where you want to be, particularly in the world of work.

Chambers says: “It might be you need to earn a professional qualification and that is going to financially hold you back from doing your kitchen, or you might have to swap the time doing that qualification for one of your hobbies.”

Learn from your setbacks


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“You have to accept there are going to be obstacles on that journey,” says Chambers, and how you handle those setbacks is crucial.

Instead of seeing hurdles as a reason to give up, he advises: “You almost need to reframe it from being a threat, to getting where you want to go – [turn it] into a challenge that can actually help you to see where you might need to improve.”

Like a Strictly dancer who finds themselves in the bottom two, try to determine what changes you need to make to improve your performance and get to the next level.

Don’t compare yourself to others

Cracks in the pavement

“People that have the ability to persevere, understand we all have different personal strengths, so they don’t compare themselves to other people,” Tyler says.

Determined people don’t get disheartened by other people’s success, they simply “focus on their road ahead [and have] confidence that, when faced with adversity, they will be able to rise above it.”

Ask for help

When faced with one challenge after another, you might be on the verge of giving up. That’s when it’s time to call for reinforcements.

“It sounds a bit counterintuitive, but you should never quit when you’re right in the depths of the trenches,” says Chambers. “You should be thinking, ‘Who can help me?’

“It’s about realising there will be a whole bastion of other people who will help you to get through the challenges, and not being scared to reach out. It seems like sometimes in society [asking for help is seen as a] weakness, but actually, it’s a massive booster of perseverance and grit.”

Best-sellingbooks on resilience

Need more inspiration? Check out our list of best-selling books on Amazon.

Bestseller No. 1
Resilience: A book to encourage resilience, persistence and to help children bounce back from...
  • Sanders, Jayneen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 42 Pages - 05/15/2017 (Publication Date) - Educate2Empower Publishing (Publisher)
SaleBestseller No. 2
The Little Book of Resilience: How to Bounce Back from Adversity and Lead a Fulfilling Life
  • Matthew Johnstone (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 112 Pages - 05/14/2015 (Publication Date) - Robinson (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 3
Resilience (HBR Emotional Intelligence Series)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Harvard Business Review (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
SaleBestseller No. 4
Resilience Pocket Book (Management Pocketbooks)
12 Reviews
Resilience Pocket Book (Management Pocketbooks)
  • Janine Waldman (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 112 Pages - 02/21/2017 (Publication Date) - Management Pocketbooks (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 5
My Little Book of Resilience: 365 Daily Inspirations
  • Provedel, Eva (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 394 Pages - 12/31/2020 (Publication Date) - Go Mind In Motion Limited (Publisher)

Last update on 2021-11-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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