Perseverance vs Stubbornness


Are they two sides of the same coin? Is being stubborn the same characteristic as persevering? If so, why is there a negative connotation associated with the former?

I have been called both, stubborn when scrutinised, perseverant when celebrated. “Why can’t you skip tonight’s training session, stop being so stubborn”, “Just take ones bite of the donut, it won’t kill you, you stubborn b**ch”.
In contrast, I’ve also heard my fair share of “Wow, how do you persevere through the pain, to run 100 km”, “You must be so dedicated to train so much and persevere through the boredom of so many hours of workout” etc.
So which is it, stubbornness or perseverance, a dedicated pursuit towards something grander or a selfish, close minded activity that needs to have more ‘flexibility’ attached to it?

I guess it comes down to the implications of one’s actions on others. Will my choices negatively impact those around me? How many sacrifices need to be made to satisfy those who don’t understand the necessity of the persistent task? Will reducing my commitment impact on my sense of self?

I have chosen a very particular lifestyle that might not resonate with many. Being asexual, I don’t yearn for the intimate company of another. I get along quite superbly with my immediate family, such that my mother, sister, grandmother and I all reside together in one house. We each live our own unique, independent lives. My sister is either at home or at her partner’s house, my mum quite the same. My gran and I are the ones that are guaranteed to be staying the night at home; we’re the guard dogs.

During the working week, I leave my humble abode at either 3:30 am or 4:30 am, and I don’t return until 6:30 pm. My day is shaped by a morning training session, work, an afternoon training session and finally home time. Once at home, after dinner and preparations for the next full-on day, the only task I have energy for is falling into bed. Clearly, this lifestyle choice limits my involvement and commitment to other activities. Consequently, I don’t put myself in positions where my presence, or rather lack of, will bear negative repercussions. I don’t have a partner and children waiting for me to come home and spend time with them, I don’t keep a pet that feels no human interaction, I don’t make plans that I know I cannot fulfil. I wouldn’t be able to feel any moral sense of righteousness if I was to commit to someone or a lifestyle which would leave another feeling lonely, destitute or secondary; so I don’t.

I’ve shared this decision and my reasoning with those that I tend to be more overt with. They admittedly don’t relate, but they understand the logic behind it. I’ve been told that they feel sorry for me, that I’m missing out on so much and that my decision now will lead to regrets later. I don’t feel offended by these views, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I guess I just can’t quite understand exactly what amazing experiences I’m missing out on. Every night, as my head hits the pillow, I feel absolutely satisfied, both physically and psychologically. My body has experienced extensive physical exertion, my mind has traversed a multitude of realities through the reading and writing I’ve indulged in. My tummy is full and satisfied having been blessed with a wholesome meal….or two. I’m pretty content. I don’t have flailing sensations of emotional lack – I don’t feel I need to share my bed with ‘the other half’. I feel love from my family, my mother the ultimate representation of selflessness, my sister the quirky weird one who brings joy into the house, my granny the wise, deep soul who lives to help. We all play our roles.

So, does my stubborn/perseverant nature impact negatively on anyone? I don’t think so. Instead of hitting town and smashing copious amounts of alcohol, returning home at ungodly hours and wasting the next day battling a hangover, I train in those hours, read, write and learn. Is that such a bad thing? Instead of heading out on a date, I’ll catch up with a close friend for a meal, cup of coffee, or otherwise phone or Facebook chat. Is that a crime?

Instead of spending my annual leave renovating a house that I don’t have (barring an investment apartment), I’ll travel overseas and run an ultra marathon, meet new people, embed myself in a new culture, explore. I don’t throw money around, but I don’t need to factor in expenses such as nappies, school fees, toys and other child-related purchases. That said, I miss out on the smile from a product of my love, I don’t experience the unconditional hug from my offspring, the pride of watching him or her take their first step; sacrifices in their own right.

This is a choice that permits me to be as stubborn or determined as I see fit. When other commitments call for my attention, I’ll change my routine (slightly) to adapt. I’ll wake up at 5am on a weekend (my usual day for a sleep in), train early so that I can go mushroom picking with my ma as promised. I’ll start my afternoon training session at 2 pm, so that I can still complete my 3 afternoon hours and meet up with my friend for dinner. The stubbornness remains (train as scheduled), but there is malleability around the times.

I still don’t know which it is; perseverance or stubbornness. I guess it depends on who you ask. Regardless of the terminology, the act remains the same; I will make all efforts, exhaust all options to stay true to my passion and fulfill the yearn to train.


Joanna Kruk is an Australian Police officer who runs Ultramarathons around the world in her spare time. Having completed events from 160 km outright events to 250 km multi stage races, she uses her training to contemplate ideas and delve into the inner workings of the mind.

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