Determination isn’t necessarily a trait that you need to have in life, but it’s conducive for achieving success, pursuing your goals, and reaching for your dreams. After all, whether you reach success or not largely depends on your determination. When you’re determined to achieve something, you’re focused, aligned, and unwilling to give up.
While some of us are born with an ingrained sense of determination, it’s learnable, too. By practicing perseverance and not giving up, we can teach ourselves to be determined little by little. It is all about healthy habits, a proper mindset, and creative strategies to reach your loftiest of goals. In this guide, we’ll teach you all about learning how to be determined.
Start with Your Strengths
When you are just starting to foster determination within yourself, you must link your commitment to things that make you secure. If you try to teach yourself persistence by expecting yourself to do something next to impossible, you’ll only end up frustrated and sad when you fail. Determination is a powerful tool, but just like with any other skill, you should start small and work up to more substantial things.
By tying your determination to one of your strengths or to something that you feel strongly about, you’ll have the personal fuel you need to drive you forward when you feel like giving up. You can tie this determination to something that inspires you emotionally, or it can be something that you excel at. While your commitment can break away from your strengths eventually, this gives you the best chance of cementing it and making it a habit as you practice.
For determination, it’s all about fueling yourself with something. If you’re still not sure what we mean, these examples should give you a better idea:
- Feeling determined to get better at a school subject because it’s your weakest
- Being determined to shine in sports because they’re your passion
- Working hard for the job you want so you can support the lifestyle of your dreams, even though it’s tough
Identify Your Future Self
The hopes and goals that you want to accomplish in the future are a reliable source of determination for many people. As such, if you don’t have many concrete goals or dreams that are driving you forward, this could easily be the culprit for your lack of determination. While it’s okay not to know entirely what you want to do with your life, everyone has some idea of the things they want to accomplish as they grow.
Even if your ideas for the future are small and under-developed, it’s a good idea to start there anyway. Round up all of the things you’d like to do in the future and write them down. If you can create a timeline out of them, that’s even better, but just writing them down is an excellent first step.
As you write them down, more and more desires and dreams should come to mind until you have a reasonably good idea of who you’d like to become. Use these tidbits of information to craft a “future you” that inspires you to work toward that self. This future you will serve as an authoritative source of motivation and determination in the months and years ahead of you, regardless of the age you started at.
Even for those who have a good sense of determination, it is always a good idea to go back and revisit your future self with regularity to update it to your current preferences. As you grow as a person, your future self will grow and change, too, and if you neglect to update it yourself, you may find that one day your dreams of the future no longer align with the self you created before.
Break Down Your Goals
If you are the type of person who already has a lot of future goals and dreams stored up, you might be having trouble with determination for the opposite reasons. When you have too much riding on your shoulders, you can end up paralyzed by all the hard work and all the choices ahead of you. This is even truer if the goals you set for yourself are large, multi-year affairs.
Most any goal can be broken down into smaller steps – even already-small ones! For the sake of this example, imagine that your most significant life goal is to amass a wealth of one million dollars. You might think about breaking this goal down into steps like:
- Work hard for good grades in school to get a scholarship for college
- Get a good degree in college to prepare yourself for a high-stakes, high-earning job
- Land an internship job at your dream company
- Work your way up the corporate ladder at said company
- Reach a professional level where you’re earning enough money to amass your desired wealth
Of course, the steps we listed above could be broken down into even smaller units if we wanted. It all depends on the level of detail you want, how much time you have to go into specifics, and how sure you are of your current goal. If it’s likely to change soon anyway, there is much less of a point to going so deeply into detail.
Another good strategy you can use to keep your goals manageable is to take them one day at a time. Give yourself a small goal that you can accomplish every day. That way, at the end of the day when you achieve that goal, you’ll be left with a feeling of fulfillment that will inspire you to keep working hard. If you’re having a rough day, you can even set something as simple as getting out of bed on time. While the goal itself and its difficulty are important, the secret lies in the fulfillment of the purpose.
Luck is a force that seems to be out of the realm of understanding for many of us. For some, it looks like luck consistently follows them around and makes their lives easier, while others feel like they’re shunned by lady luck instead. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, it’s crucial to remember never to rely on chance alone. In some situations, hoping for a bit of luck can be necessary, but you should try to avoid depending on it as much as possible.
Why should we avoid depending on luck when it can come through for us in so many ways? While chance is a great thing to have, it is one of the many forces in the universe that are completely out of our control. Luck and skill are two entirely different things, and you cannot be determined to be lucky. However, you can be determined to be skilled, and likewise, this is what leads to the acquisition of skills in the first place.
There is no way to depend on luckiness to see us through a tough situation. However, we can rely on our determination and skill to get us through when the going gets tough. As such, you should be thankful for luck when it comes by, but no more and no less.
Delayed gratification is a form of reward where we receive what we want some time after putting in the work. While delayed gratification often has its own set of rewards, we are conditioned to be more receptive to instant gratification as human beings. Take the lottery as an example. Winners are often given a choice between receiving their full payout in installments over a period of years or gaining a lump sum of less than their total winnings right away.
An alarming amount of people choose to accept the lump sum rather than the installment option, even though they could receive more the other way. While whichever option you or someone else decides is their business and theirs alone, from a purely logical point of view, it makes more sense to choose the installments unless you have previous debts or obligations that require you to take the lump sum.
It can be tempting to throw determination and patience to the wayside and accept the immediate gratification, but delaying that gratification is a great way to build your determination skills and reap the full rewards at the same time. You need to be able to withstand the temptation not to be determined and hold out for that higher payout if you want to reach your grandest goals and dreams.
Learn from the Past
Learning from the past is a delicate process. There’s a line to walk between focusing too much on our past mistakes and brushing them off. It is imperative that to succeed, we acknowledge and learn from our past mistakes, but we cannot obsess over them, either. If we dwell on them too much, we’ll never be able to move past them.
In the same way, we should never deny that the mistakes of the past happened. This goes for the mistakes made by others and for yours. Making a mistake, while often unpleasant, gives you a valuable opportunity to learn from it and prevent yourself from making the same mistake in the future. Determined people make many mistakes before they finally find the route to success.
A lot of us have trouble with both letting our mistakes go and with learning from them. Often, we don’t want to acknowledge that they happened, we want to blame others for them, or we just want to forget as quickly as possible. While there’s nothing wrong with putting your mistakes behind you, you shouldn’t try to ignore them completely. Mistakes made serve as a reminder of your strategies that did not work in the past.
A good metaphor for this situation is a popular carnival game called balloon darts. In this game, the players throw darts at balloons that are pinned to a wall. The balloons have prizes or gifts in them, but there’s no way to know what the lucky balloons are before you start throwing. However, each time you hit a balloon, you know not to throw at that one again, since it breaks open and shows you what’s inside.
Each balloon that we break open teaches us a valuable lesson. However, if you were to forget that you broke a balloon already, you would end up shooting at it again and wasting your darts. The same goes for learning from the past. The past can teach us things like:
- Our strengths
- Our weaknesses
- Things that matter to us
- Which relationships are important to us
- Things that bring us joy and happiness
Believe in Yourself
One of the crucial things to remember about determination is that it’s much, much harder to be determined – even impossible – if you don’t believe that you can achieve the outcome you want. For example, if you think that you can earn one million dollars by working hard and landing a good job, then you’ll be able to work hard to achieve that dream.
However, if you do not believe that you’re capable of doing such a thing, are you going to work hard for it? If you don’t think it’s possible, will you work for it at all? As humans, we loathe to put effort into something that will be wasted, so if we don’t believe that our work will pay off, we’re not going to try our hardest. This is where believing in yourself comes in.
As human beings, we have the innate potential to achieve whatever we set our minds to. However, the key is that we need to set our minds to it first, and we need to believe that we can do it. If we can’t fully devote ourselves to the outcome we desire, its likelihood of becoming real decreases dramatically.
This belief in ourselves ties in with the next logical point: believing that we are entirely in control of the future ahead of us. If we can achieve anything we set our minds to, then it follows that we’re in control of our destinies, too. Believing in this control is one of the keys to practicing determination and making it a part of your life.
By putting your energy into working towards what you want instead of worrying about it not happening, you increase the chances of it coming true.
Ignore the Extras
There are infinite things in life that can and do get us down. It’s natural to feel discouraged or set back by things. However, if you’re looking to achieve what you want, it is much more productive to learn to put these extra worries aside. After all, when you’re not wasting your energy and mental capacity on worrying about irrelevant things, you have more to put towards making your dreams a reality.
Don’t waste your energy on things that won’t pay off for you. For example, if you care about climate change, you can work to recycle and reduce your carbon footprint as much as possible. However, unless you’re specifically looking to devote your time to become a full-time activist, trying to convince others to do the same is a mostly-fruitless battle.
If you’re determined to change others, of course, and that’s the actual goal you’re working towards, things are a bit different. However, it’s a waste of time an energy to pursue a fringe benefit like this unless it really matters to you.
Just as you would celebrate your success, celebrating the success of others is very important. When you observe the success of others, not only do you show your goodwill, but you keep a bright, happy conscience, too. Plus, the success of those around you can serve as a motivator to achieve your own success.
However, when we resent the success of those around us; we end up both setting ourselves back and distancing others from us. Like we mentioned in the section above, by devoting our time and emotions to unnecessary things, like being jealous of others, we’re wasting efforts that we could use to further our own goals.
Success is not a limited resource – not in the workplace and not in the world, either. If someone you know gets a healthy serving of success in their life, there will not be less to go around. As such, there is no practical benefit to resenting the success that others feel. We might feel a bit jealous or envious – this is only natural – but as long as we don’t let those feelings cloud our regard for the other person, they’re okay.
In fact, success tends to breed more success in people. If you are looking to find more success, keeping successful people close to you and feeling genuinely happy about success can actually bring more prosperity into your life!
When people close to us experience periods of success, it can often inspire us to work harder to achieve our dreams and goals. However, if you are resentful about others’ success, not only will you not benefit from this effect, but people won’t want to associate with you, either. Instead, you’ll end up creating a vicious cycle of resentment, towards others and yourself.
Reduce Your Stress
Stress has a peculiar relationship with determination. While a certain amount of stress can actually help build your commitment, too much of it has the opposite effect. Our conviction stems both from our mental and emotional states, so when either or both of these are compromised, we suffer. An overabundance of stress tends to cause this effect.
As such, reducing your stress is a great way to give your determination a much-needed boost. You don’t want to eliminate your tension completely, of course, as this can leave you without that “push” you need to be determined in the first place. Keeping it at a healthy, helpful level is the goal.
Stress tends to pair with negative emotions that make us feel unsteady and tempt us to deviate from the path of our dreams. Fortunately for us, though, there are innumerable ways to reduce stress and help yourself stay on track. Some of these ways include:
- Spending time in nature
- Finding hobbies that you enjoy
- Spending time with people that make you happy
If you want your mental and emotional states to be strong enough to support a determined lifestyle, your body needs to be healthy, too. If your body is not healthy, not only will it put it under stress, but that stress will eventually compromise your mental and emotional states. None of us are perfect all the time, of course, and we’re not saying that you should go overboard here, but it’s essential to keep your bodily health and mental health in safe territory.
Our bodies and minds need specific things to stay healthy and happy. If your mental state is the problem, you may want to consider seeing a psychologist or therapist. If your body is the problem, eating better and exercising more should be on your list. However, there are thousands of different things you can do to give your health a boost! Some ideas for improving your health include:
- Venting to a friend regularly about your worries instead of bottling them up
- Sleeping regularly
- Toning down on junk food
- Staying active
- Making time for self-care
The Passing of Time
Time is always passing, regardless of what we do with our lives. If we decide to spend our time lounging and putting our dreams on the back burner, we won’t be able to get that time back. If we’re working hard at achieving our goals and dreams, that time investment won’t go away, even if we take a break.
If you’re to foster a sense of determination within yourself, it’s important to remember that time will pass whether you’re working towards your goals or not. This sense of time passing can be a huge motivator for many people. If you don’t pursue your goals now, you won’t be any closer to them months or years from now, either.
Time will pass you by regardless of whether you decide to do it for something productive or not. Whether you choose to be determined and use that time to further your goals or not is up to you, but take a moment to think before you decide. Do you want to go back to school, perhaps? Maybe you want to buy a house and move out of your apartment?
Think about whether you’ll be in a better place to pursue that goal or not in a few years. If you’re worried about being too old to go to school, well, you’re not getting any younger in the meantime. If you’re looking to buy a house, on the other hand, your finances may or may not be more stable in a few years, so that’s a decision worth thinking about.
Don’t Give Up
This almost goes without saying, but people who are determined to make something a reality don’t give up on it. They push through to the end regardless of how hard things get, how many times they fail, or how little others believe in them. This is what determination is all about, after all: it’s persevering in the face of adversity, failure, and doubt.
Many people think that the secret to success is avoiding failure. However, successful people know that the secret to success is actually in failure. After all, if you don’t succeed in something, failing is the only other option. And, contrary to popular belief, failure can often be a good thing. When we fail, we learn about one more way to avoid failing next time. This brings us closer to success, bit by bit.
Don’t give up on the things you want, no matter how impossible others might make them seem. If you stay determined long enough and keep pursuing your dream, eventually you’ll have no option left but to win!
All in all, the takeaway from this guide is that determination is both a mindset and a lifestyle choice. Sometimes, there are things we’ll need to give up if we want to be determined. That might mean pulling a bit of overtime at work if we’re determined to be promoted, or it might mean working fruitlessly to change others’ minds if we have a cause we care about.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that we must be at our best if we want to be determined. If our body is not healthy, our minds will follow suit, and if our brains are not healthy, you’ll have a much harder time devoting the energy necessary to what drives you. Determination takes a lot of power to sustain, after all, despite all of its benefits.
In the end, whether you want to be determined or not is essentially a decision. However, whether you’ll be successful at it or not is a lifestyle. In a way, determination functions similarly to self-care. Pursuing the dreams and goals that inspire us can improve our happiness and help us develop as people in innumerable ways.