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Strength of the Week – Perseverance

We can all think of people, both close to us, and known to us, who have persevered through great life challenges, from friends and family members to celebrities. As we are currently enjoying a fantastic Women’s World Cup, we can be inspired by the fortitude of the players and their perseverance in aspiring to excel. If we think of First Nations Australians, for example (this week we remember National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day), we can see incredible examples of perseverance of a people and culture in the face of enormous challenge over enduring periods of time, to continue to hope and prevail. When we reflect on this fortitude, we can’t help but be inspired, and interestingly it seems that perseverance is in fact, contagious, as Caroline Adams Miller reports in Getting Grit (2017).

At St Michael’s College, we work towards a better future in the development of the learners and leaders of the world we nurture, and we see evidence of this in many areas. Over the last two weeks we have seen the fruits of perseverance and love of learning in both of our Academic Assemblies, where many students were acknowledged in their achievements and hard work. In addressing the students, Mr Daley encouraged them to develop grit – a passion and perseverance towards their goals, and to continue to work towards being the best they can be, empowered, rather than deterred by, obstacles and failures.

Common sense (and science) tells us that failure, though none of us particularly enjoys it, can be a great teacher. Though we often want to protect our children from disappointment, development of perseverance can be inspired by allowing them to see us experience disappointment at times and then observing our responses as we pick ourselves back up and ‘reset our sails’. It’s also important to let our children experience disappointment themselves – in a safe, supportive context.

When we overcome a setback, and perhaps think about earlier decisions that didn’t quite play out the way we had planned, and we try again, we develop what is known as “grit”. Angela Duckworth, an expert in this field, discusses grit as an essential quality for success in life in Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (2016). She maintains that though natural talent matters, perseverance is much more critical than ability as a predictor of achievement.

Carol Dweck has long been considered to be an expert on “growth mindset” — the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems. She speaks about the power of YET- a little word that loads our thoughts with hope and potential. I don’t get it YET!

In her book Mindset: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfill Your Potential (2017), Dweck explains the fundamental difference between growth and fixed mindsets. The impact of shifting our mindset can make all the difference to how we feel and the way in which we approach challenge.  There are also many TED Talks on the subject, which can be easily located at the click of a button or two.

It makes sense that perseverance is closely aligned to goal setting. It’s important as people that we set ourselves goals that can be achieved and also that we think about the steps in the process that will help us get there. It’s also helpful to tell those closest to us, our ‘cheer squad’, about our goals, so that we have their support and encouragement.

While perseverance is a strength that can encourage us to keep going when the going gets tough, it’s not accidental that our faith can help bolster it. In times of trouble and in times of joy, saying a prayer (or two) can support us along our journey. Faith can empower us to persevere. In addition to prayer, our attention to our many blessings- gratitude– can help us keep our balance and stay on course, despite challenges that life sends our way.  Together with hope we can find the silver lining at the edge of the clouds that keep us on course, toward our end goals, when the sun emerges.

Wishing you perseverance, and the positive feelings and accomplishment that accompany it this week!

Tonia Carfora, Year 7-9 Wellbeing Initiatives Leader