Sometimes it is difficult to find the difference between being persistent or just plain stubborn. The difference may seem only slight on the surface but underneath the gulf is wide. While persistence is a good thing especially when done in the right way, stubbornness never is. It is important to understand this disparity.

Stubbornness is not persistence. Stubborn people will continue to do the same things even when there is overwhelming evidence to show that they should stop. Some stubborn people fear being shown that they are wrong. Others may be convinced that they have been right all along and that they will prove it in the end.

Stubbornness is like banging your head against a wall that won’t break. There’s no future in that and youwon’t achieve your goals with this approach. You’ll eventually just look stupid. Remember the argument about WMDs in Iraq?

It’s better to quit when you believe you can still succeed by changing direction or making new plans.

Some people ascribe to the ethos of Winston Churchill’s famous WWII catch cry – “never give in.” It’s aromantic notion but I think a slightly amended approach might be more practical. In my view it’s actuallybetter to give in, on occasion, if it puts you in a stronger future position. Winning every battle might make you feel good but sometimes it’s better to retreat occasionally if it helps you win the overall war.

A slight adaptions of Churchill’s words to “never give in easily” might better describe how persistent you should be. But what does this mean in practice?

On the one hand it means that you have to stay open-minded to sound arguments presented to you even when you would rather ignore them and keep doing what you’re doing. It means that you need to be prepared to admit to mistakes, learn from them and then move on quickly.

This needs a balance with grittiness and a determination to succeed. To do this you can’t take no for an answer unless it is obviously a lost cause. You must be ready to make that last call and arrange that last meeting “just in case.” Whatever else, you can never EVER give in easily.

The lines between persistence and stubbornness can seem small at times and may only be obvious in hindsight. The trick is to keep a clear head, be persistent and relentless in only doing the things that will contribute to achieving your longer term goals. Doing this honestly (and diligently) should knock any stubbornness out of you…

image via Red Bull Illume