Hey everyone today is Monday March 1st, 2021 and it is now time for some Social Emotional Learning. This month we will be focusing on two big words, perseverance, and resilience. Perseverance and resilience describe a whole slew of skills. You will want to have and understanding of the skills these words describe and how they are helpful and how they are similar and how they are different. And it is no coincidence that we would be doing this work in March because in March we recognize Women’s History Month.
Women’s history month is a time for commemorating and encouraging the study, observance, and celebration of the vital role of women in American history and in our current social landscape. And if you would consider, if you are hearing this or reading this, or alive, it is because of women. Yes, men too, but we have not struggled to recognize the work of men. Well, we have not struggled to recognize the work of some men.
Both Perseverance and Resilience can be found in the stories of Women in our society and throughout our history. And from these stories we can learn these skills because both perseverance and resilience are teachable and learnable. And when connected to actual things in life, they are more easily usable.
The words Perseverance and Resilience represent closely related skills. They are not the same skills, but they are similar. And there are a lot of skills underneath these words. I know we already said that, but it is important to understand. The reason it is important to understand this is that too often people say things like, “Use perseverance” or “Be resilient.” But if you do not understand all the things that go into those things, it would be like telling someone to fly a plane, without either training or having a plane.
So that is what we will be doing this month. Focusing on learning about perseverance and resilience. So, in no order let us start today with perseverance which is sometimes also referred to as persistence. For our purposes we will use both of those words to present the same idea. Perseverance means the voluntary continuation of a goal-directed action despite obstacles, difficulties, or discouragement. Or, it means to keep working toward your goal, even when it is difficult.
A lot of things people do require them to persist, or keep working toward something, even when facing challenges. Like learning to play an instrument, learning to read, becoming a writer, a dancer, a nurse. Learning in a second or third language, learning with neuro-diversity, learning in an unfamiliar culture. In fact, even right now, many people are needing to use perseverance to continue to keep social distancing, even with all the difficulties it presents. And when it is over, we are all going to need to persevere through the aftermath as we rebuild parts of our society.
So, perseverance is a great skill. But it is not a skill. It is the combination of several skills. You can think of perseverance like a chocolate chip cookie. The cookie is great! But the cookie is not a cookie until you take the flour, the sugar, the chocolate chips, and everything else, and then combine them and then bake them. Sometimes people just say, use perseverance. But that would be like just telling someone to give you a cookie. Sure, if there is a cookie just sitting on the counter, then give it! But if there is not a cookie made, you must make one. Which means you must first have the ingredients and second, know what to do with them.
Most adults understand and use perseverance all the time. But they can sometimes forget that it can take a lot of years to learn the individual skills (think ingredients) and know how to use them. And this can be particularly true if the adults used the old “trial and error” method of social emotional skill development. Trial and error can work for sure. But if you set out to make cookies using trial and error, there is a high likeliness that your cookies will suck. And how many materials would go to waste while you were trying to figure it out?
Of course, you can still use trial and error to build perseverance, but we suggest you use this recipe. In fact, there are tons of recipes no matter what kind of cookie you want to bake and that is true for SEL (Social Emotional Learning) skills as well. There is lots of ways to get there, this is just one of them, this is one recipe for baking a super tasty, perseverance cookie!
For this amazing cookie you will need:
One-part motivation, one-part strong self-esteem one part time for reflection and curiosity, and one-part creative re-approach to the task incorporating new learning from reflection and curiosity, better termed, adaptation.
How much of each ingredient and in what order? Great question. Let us start with the just the first ingredient of perseverance, which is motivation. Motivation is a condition inside us that desires a change. When you experience motivation, you can be moved to act. Motivation is like the energy you can use to achieve a goal, either because you want that goal or need that goal. For example, if I wanted to be a great climber, I could use the energy that comes from my motivation to be great climber to practice climbing.
Motivation can also give you the energy to do something because of a want or need to avoid the consequence of not doing it. For example, I am motivated to not get a bad grade in some of my classes, so I do my homework. The language you hear in schools about motivation is borrowed from a variety of different fields of study including educational psychology, social psychology, organizational psychology, positive psychology, cognitive science, even neuroscience.
For us school folks, motivation is the foundation of perseverance because without motivation to do something, there is nothing to persist at doing. However, you cannot rely only on motivation because, as you will see, sometimes perseverance is the thing that carries you when you feel as though you are “lacking” the energy of hot burning motivation. Wow. This is like the chicken and the egg, or it is more like the egg, then the chicken, then the chicken sits on the egg, then the egg hatches and becomes another chicken that sits on another egg. They go together. And eventually, they wind up being part of the ingredients for cookies? Oh man, that got dark.
Motivation often comes from biological drives. Think about the need to survive. You can find motivation in all types of survival. Think about eating, having water to drink, air to breath, having shelter, even building, and maintaining strong and healthy relationships with others. We know humans need these things for survival of ourselves and our species. But beyond simply surviving, there is a quality to life. Motivation can come from the essential needs of wellbeing. This would be like doing things that give you joy. Playing with friends. Doing fun things. Did you know, even getting a job that provides income at the level you desire so you can live the life you want. That is what Mr. Manzo saying, and he is rich! Not really, he is a school counselor, but anyway, motivation can be the energy necessary to make those things happen.
Motivation in this way can be seen not just as necessary to survive, it becomes necessary to thrive. The SEL domain of social engagement is all about perseverance and motivation. The motivation to make things better for communities. Many motivated individuals and groups have worked, and in many cases, given their lives, to achieve a change that has bettered our nation. Thinking of American history, the early colonies were motivated, for a variety of reasons, to be independent of England. Waves and waves of people have been motivated to migrate to the united states. Things like the development of industry and the labor movement, civil rights movement, the United Farm Workers Movement, the American Indian Movement, the marriage equality movement, the Me-Too movement, and Black Lives Matter movement. If you notice the word “movement” is used to describe these forms of social engagement because it best describes the action and application of the energy from motivation. All the social improvements that have come from these movements stem from the personal motivation of the people involved. Also, none of these things would have brought any change if the people did not have the perseverance necessary to stay in the struggle.
In schools we often discuss motivation as related to goals and achievement. That is, students are often asked to identify something they would like to achieve. Once identified the goal can be motivating. Teachers hold these goals for students all the time, even when the students themselves may not hold those goals. We also can experience motivation in relation to others as in motivation comes in relation to the comparison of a past personal performance or as comparison to others performance. Performance goals happen all the time in school and in our society. Anything that is normative is like this. And think back to social comparison. That is all-performance goal stuff.
Oh, and do not forget a big one in school which is also the “get off my back” motivation. That is where you do something with as little effort as possible, but good enough so that everyone will “get off your back!” An immensely powerful form of motivation, so you can see, motivation can be the initial energy you use to move toward some type of change. But it is important to know that it is natural for motivation to vary over time.
Motivation for some desired change can be long term and short term. So, when you set a long-term goal, just know that there may be times, even days or weeks, where the motivation for completing that goal may be challenging to find. That can be where perseverance comes back in to play, as you work toward something, even when it is challenging.
Here is a fun activity you can try at home, to help you discover some of your motivations. You may have heard of it as a “Vision Board.” It is a collage of things that you find exciting or that bring you joy. If you have access to magazines that you can cut up, you will find images of things you love, or things that you would like to do and cut them out. If you can, glue them into a collage, on a larger piece of paper or a piece of cardboard. If you do not have magazines, but you have access to a computer or phone, you could find some images online. In fact, that is what the App Pinterest is. It is a Vision Board. Looking at collages of things you love can help you discover things that might present motivation for you. Once you start to understand what motivates you, you are on your way to discovering how deep your perseverance can go.
Okay, so that is a lot of information about the first thing in developing perseverance which is to start recognizing and understanding motivation. The more you start to explore what motivates you the more you will start to understand yourself. And the more you understand yourself the more you will be able to support your own understanding of motivation and how to begin to increase your experience with it.
Next week we will start to unpack the second couple ingredients of perseverance which is strong self-esteem. Once we get an understanding of perseverance, we will start to work on resilience. And by the end of this month, you are going to be an SEL genius!
Actually, let us say you will be a feelings genius. You’ll even be able to do little cheers for yourself like, “Try, try, try, and never give up. Woo!” Also, if you want to learn a lot about motivation we would recommend visiting, www.positivepsychology.com/what-is-motivation. Until next week, may your thoughts and feelings be with you. And try, never give up, woo!