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I'm looking for a word that means "to push yourself". Endurance sort of fits, except that it means enduring a situation where one can't change things. I'm looking for someone pushing themselves when they have a choice to stop or back out.

(In case you're wondering- I want it for the caption of a motivational poster)

ETA: I'm looking for a word that would fit more in the context of "to push yourself to continue when you're bored with what you're doing" rather than "to push yourself when things are physically / mentally challenging".

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22 Answers 22

up vote 7 down vote accepted

You could use "disciplined":

A controlled behaviour; self-control

Someone who is disciplined won't easily let himself back out.

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Hmm. A "disciplined" person might force himself to take a break and thereby avoid making mistakes through lack of concentration. A keen but inexperienced person could be prone to misguided persistence. – FumbleFingers Sep 8 '11 at 23:28
I chose this as the answer as opposed to strive (thank you @FumbleFingers!) because I am looking for an overtone of self-control rather than effort. – dmr Sep 9 '11 at 15:40
@dmr: Fair enough. The question text makes that clearer now than it did originally. But the title and first paragraph are still more evocative of efort/endurance than effort/discipline. Judging by the votes though, I think quite a few people just appreciate my effort to rescue strive from linguistic obscurity! :) – FumbleFingers Sep 9 '11 at 16:07
@FumbleFingers: My immediate thought when I read the title (before reading any answers) was "strive" and +1 to your answer for that. – MisterSquonk Sep 9 '11 at 21:57
@MisterSquonk: I think it's a great word. I must admit I'd always thought Thou shalt not kill; but needst not strive officiously to keep alive was actually part of The Hippocratic Oath. In fact it isn't, but I still like to think it could/should be. – FumbleFingers Sep 9 '11 at 22:19

strive - make great efforts to achieve or obtain something

persevere - continue in a course of action, in the face of difficulty, or with little chance of success

The choice mainly depends on whether you want to emphasise the difficulty or the continuing, but it's important to note that unless the context clearly rules it out, there's a risk of perseverance carrying those overtones of potentially futile effort.

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+1 for strive. – GnomeSlice Sep 9 '11 at 1:41

Perseverance comes to mind....

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This is not a verb – Louis Rhys Sep 9 '11 at 2:08
"Persevere" is a verb. – kathryn Sep 9 '11 at 2:37

Persist - you'll eventually find it worthwhile.

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Also "Driven" is a way to show that you push yourself.

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beat me to the punch – boomhauer Sep 14 '11 at 1:01
Although when I think of someone that is driven I imagine someone that is pushed by some outside force, perhaps genetic disposition, alien encounter (perhaps aliens, lightning), or a mystical force. – RetroCoder Sep 22 '11 at 1:23

Exert: To exert oneself.

  1. Apply or bring to bear (a force, influence, or quality).
  2. Make a physical or mental effort
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Perserverance fits, as does steadfastness

Perserverance: continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering : steadfastness

(from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perseverance)

Although if you are looking for a word that means "to push yourself", "to perservere" would probably be the best fit.

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  • firmly resolved or determined; set in purpose or opinion.
  • characterized by firmness and determination, as the temper, spirit, actions, etc.
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Sticktoitiveness (Stick-to-it-iv-ness). Extremely nonstandard but I've heard it said.

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It's a perfectly cromulent word! – DevNull Sep 29 '15 at 3:19

It's hard to eliminate "yourself" from the expresion. Without it every synonym will sound impersonal. Another good synonym for "to push yourself" is "to challenge yourself" and from there to one word I have seen people using "self-challenge".

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The term I'd use is "self-starter." Someone who exerts themselves without being told to do so.

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I like it better than persevere but they're both good.

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Strain. By definition, it implies an effort beyond one's normal ability.

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Without looking too much at other answers:

  • Focused
  • Targeted
  • Committed
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DRIVEN (is much shorter than 30 chars)

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If your answer is so short you need to add filler, add an example sentence. This is more helpful than a short peeve. – Matt E. Эллен Sep 9 '11 at 8:04
driven is a short word that means someone is driven. – boomhauer Sep 12 '11 at 22:21
I beat you to the punch. – RetroCoder Sep 13 '11 at 2:31
appears you did sir. appears you did. I'll go vote for you ;) – boomhauer Sep 14 '11 at 1:00
lol, i voted for you as well. – RetroCoder Sep 22 '11 at 1:17

PSR mentioned business jargon, which reminded me of gaming jargon.

Grind is used commonly among gamers to convey working towards a distant goal often though a repetitive or boring task. The grind is often used to refer to the type of work you mentioned. I presume these uses may refer to the phrase, “Putting one’s nose to the grindstone.” All these phrases seem to me to convey a sense of work which attempts to wear-down the person attempting the task.

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"Toil" may be one answer. Toil - to work hard

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This sounds like it might be used in a business setting so why not invent some jargon, with bonus points for using nouns as verbs? In that spirit I suggest to "hero", to "robot", or to "CPA" through a situation, depending on what connotation you wish to convey.

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Strive, strain, labor, and fight are all synonyms for "push yourself," depending on the context.

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persistence, determination, resolution, resolve, doggedness, tenacity, diligence, application, assiduity, dedication, commitment, purpose, purposefulness, constancy, steadfastness, stamina, endurance, indefatigability

Chambers Thesaurus

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I think picking just one which you think would be best would improve your answer. – simchona Sep 9 '11 at 4:54

"to push yourself to continue when you're bored with what you're doing"

Sounds like progress for the sake of progress. Progressive might be a good fit, though it lacks the sense of determination that other words have, and has political connotations that could be distracting.

I don't have any other new words to suggest, but it might help the thinking process if you consider particular reasons to push yourself in a given situation.

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Our company's personal-evaluation jargon for this is stretch.

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protected by tchrist Jul 15 '14 at 13:44

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