It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing again and again, hoping for a different result.
Someone then asked, “What’s the difference between that and persistence? Isn’t it irrational to keep trying, failure after failure, expecting this time the outcome won’t be the same?”
Business leader Seth Godin had something to say about this.
“Persistence isn’t using the same tactics over and over. That’s just annoying. Persistence is having the same goal over and over.”
There’s a story in the gospel of John, after the resurrection of Jesus, when the apostles had spent the entire night fishing, but caught nothing. Jesus called out to them from the shore…
“Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. (John 21:6)
It was like he was saying: “Keep trying, just do it a little differently this time.” The goal didn’t change. The strategy didn’t change. But they modified their method a little bit, and it worked.
If you’ve been in pursuit of an elusive goal — one that you know is worthwhile — the solution is not to give up. Instead, consider what you might do differently. Consider how you might approach things from a new angle. Instead of giving up, ask yourself: What would it mean, in this case, to cast my net on the other side of the boat?
The how of persistence is not that you keep doing the same thing again and again, trying and failing, trying and failing, hoping for a different outcome.
The how of persistence is that you keep pressing on, toward the same goal, adapting as you go.