President Calvin Coolidge said:
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Determination, according to the Webster dictionary, is “a quality that makes you continue trying to do or achieve something difficult.” Other dictionaries closely associate determination with persistence, courage, and boldness – any quality that enables us to try when we’d rather not.
The Character Council defines it as “purposing to accomplish the right goals at the right time regardless of the opposition.” It’s opposed to faintheartedness, defined again by Webster as lacking resolution or courage.
Determination is a self-leadership trait. But it can also be contagious. Often, demonstrating determination inspires others; it breathes life into the idea that they too can achieve their goals.
But I see two challenges of determination that we should guard against: determining wrongly and determining too often.
The Character Council makes a reference to the challenge of choosing poorly (or determining wrongly) in their definition – “purposing to accomplish the right goals.” If we fix our determination on lesser things, we will miss the opportunity to achieve the greater ones. Someone once said that discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most. Determination is choosing to overcome obstacles in pursuit of whatever you want, either now or most. Your greatest impact and your greatest rewards will come from wanting most, the highest greatest good for the most people. It’s not a question of right or wrong; it’s a question of good, better, or best.
Determining Too Often
For me, the greatest challenge of determination is how many times we can re-determine. Maybe it’s not true of you, but I’ve been described as “Often wrong but seldom in doubt.” I’m OK with wrong, but doubt is a great enemy of determination. Only when I’m focused on the best things can I manage to stay determined. The longer it takes to reach a goal, the greater my chances are of letting doubt slip in. Then I will re-determine. I’ve found that I can re-determine, or re-resolve daily. Can’t you? Did you make a New Year’s Resolution this week? Have you bailed on it yet? A friend once told me that to “de-cide” is like “homocide;” you must kill all the other options. My problem is re-determining too often. I don’t mind choosing, but I never kill the other options.
Determination patiently pursues change. I’m determined and love change, but I’m very impatient. If we fail to persist, we fail to accomplish our most valuable objectives. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy or quick. Determination won’t let us quit. It calls us every day to pursue the greatest accomplishments with extreme patience.
In Holy Discontent, the author, Bill Hybels, asked, “In what other life are you going to go all out?” In what other life will we do whatever it takes to push our best goals through to the end? At what other place? In what other time?
Determination’s answer… “This one!”