Skip to main content
SFU Health and Counselling Services
Registered Clinical Counsellor

empty
Eddard Stark
The funny thing is, even the most logical, rational-minded people are prone to stubbornness. In fact, they might be the most stubborn of all.

There's a thin, temperamental line between persistence and stubbornness.

It's one that I've brushed up against, rushed past without realizing, and/or carefully tread over with purpose many times. Like most things, persistence is something of a double-edged sword: it can be either a huge strength when applied in a constructive direction, or an outright flaw when clung to too tightly in situations that call for more flexibility. Like Ned Stark's honour, it can earn you respect and carry you to high places, but it can just as quickly get you into serious trouble.

It's no coincidence that many people I talk to who identify themselves as persistent (or who come to see themselves as persistent while talking about their story) also say that their friends and family think of them as stubborn. They are the same quality in essence, distinguished by matter of degree. Naturally, it's often difficult to know where the shift from one to the other will occur.

As is often the case, I'm flirting with stubbornness currently. After injuring both my knee and my ankle playing soccer over the last several months, I've continued to play, and continued to aggravate these injuries from time to time doing things that I know, on some level, I'm not ready to be doing. So, I find myself in a frustrating situation. To quit would be to give up, to remove something fun and healthy from my life, and in some terrible way acknowledge that my body isn't up to the physical challenge the sport takes on my lower body. To continue means I run the risk of further injury.

For a long time, I was stubborn about continuing to play, almost as if I were willing my body to stop being so finnicky by trying to ignore the occasional discomforts it would give me. It wasn't that hard - even if I hurt myself one night, I would feel fine the next day. As time went on, though, things predictably got worse. After a while, I acknowledged that I was being stubborn, and decided to shift gears a bit. I didn't want to give up, but I wanted to be smarter about how I was going about things. I saw a doctor and a physiotherapist. I cut down from playing twice a week to playing once a week. I resolved to not play the position in which I had hurt myself in the past (goalkeeper), even though I enjoy the position.

I wanted to be persistent, not stubborn.

The acknowledgment is the hardest part. I see it all the time: in myself, in my friends and loved ones, in the students that I work with. It's hard, because backing down is not in your nature if you're a determined, persistent person. It's not in your nature to view obstacles as insurmountable. That's not how you do things, and it's not how you've gotten to be where you are.

Deep down though, we all know when we're being stubborn. We just resist acknowledging it for whatever reason. Might be that it's pride keeping you from admitting it. Maybe somebody told you something you didn't like and you wanted to prove them wrong. It could just be the principle that matters behind it all. Or, in the end you might just really love the feeling you get from overcoming obstacles, so you put yourself in situations that are full of them.

The funny thing is, even the most logical, rational-minded people are prone to stubbornness. In fact, they might be the most stubborn of all. The "objective" lens through which we look at the world becomes decidedly coloured when turned inward, and there's nothing less objective than someone who thinks they see black and white in a sea of gray.

Stubbornness is the crutch that persistence becomes when leaned on too heavily. It might be time to do yourself a favour, as I eventually did, and ask yourself: will I fall over if I let go?

SFU Health and Counselling Services
Registered Clinical Counsellor
David Lindskoog is a Registered Clinical Counsellor at Health & Counselling who used to work as a Career Advisor with Career Services. David is passionate about suicide prevention, social justice, career and professional development concerns, and the use of role-playing games in therapy. Check out his group: Dungeons & Worry Dragons. While you're here, check out Dave's Diary! It is an ongoing series of journal entries touching on various aspects related to careers and well-being. Want to hear Dave's thoughts on a particular topic?  Send him an email, and he'll do his best to include it in his next post!  

You Might Like These... Professional Development, Personal Development, Career Exploration, Life Experience

Marble statue of Socrates
Know Thyself

So you have graduated from university and are hanging your well-earned degree on your bedroom wall, and all of  a sudden, a tiny, yet unavoidable voice in the back of your head is quietly screaming “No time to celebrate, you need to find a job!” or “I’ve got my degree…what do I do with it?!’.

Mike, author
Indigenous Stories: Mike, SFU Alumni

"I have no solid plans for the future and I love it...I know that every experience that I have had, every failed plan, was really an excellent mistake that gave me the skills I need to handle any situation that gets thrown my way in the future."  Read Mike's story of career exploration, and how to handle constant change.

picture of glichelle pondering a though
Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.

 

You Might Like These... Leadership

IKEA logo
Goals: Not Ikea Instruction Manuals

Given my past rantings on such things as happenstance, chaos theory, and the general unpredictability of life and the world, I would forgive you if you thought that I would be opposed to any sort of goal-setting or similar such planful activities. I actually believe goals can be quite helpful - but only if we stop thinking of them as Ikea instruction manuals.

Theresa Contois
Ojibwa Business Owner, Theresa Contois

Theresa Contois is a Coast Salish business owner. She took possession of Marmalady catering company November 1st and is in the process opening a café in January. Here is an interview touching on various aspects of her business experience.

student leaning on a bannister smiling
Work Safe, Work Healthy

Workplace safety is a critical topic for new workers. This article contains useful information on Occupational Health and Safety regulations in BC, and important tips on how to stay safe and healthy in an office environment.