Mind & Meaning

DETERMINATION: The Most Powerful Ingredient For Success

I remember being 7 years of age, sitting in a class of 33 when our teacher asked us a couple of questions. She started off with, “What does success mean?” We all had very similar ideas; big cars, lots of money, nice clothes, plenty of holidays, laying on the beach all day, having enough maids etc. She then asked us, “Who wants to be successful in life?” Automatically all our hands went up. It looked like we all wanted to be successful. Our teacher went on to say that to be successful, we had to embrace a powerful success strategy called DETERMINATION. She asked us if we knew what the word meant. None of us raised our hands. At the age of 7, most of us immediately switched off our minds and started doing other things rather than try to grapple with such a big word.

The reality behind success stories that we read, hear or see is often camouflaged.  We are in awe of successful people as we witness the glitz and glamour that comes with their success but we are seldom aware of the setbacks and disappointments that these successful people have had to endure.

When I was 15 years of age, the coach of my hockey team told us a story that left an everlasting impression on me. This story dripped with courage, determination and perseverance. It was a story of a farmer whose mule fell in the well. The farmer decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. He asked his neighbours to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.

Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbours continued shovelling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, he would shake it off and step up! This he did, blow after blow. “Shake it off and step up . . . shake it off and step up . . . shake it off and step up!” he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful or distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought panic and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up! It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed to bury him actually helped him!

This story has stuck with me until now because it demonstrates the power of Determination in overcoming an adversity.


We forget that the road to success is often marked with challenges, problems, setbacks and disappointments. Those who make it through this rough, tough terrain are mentally prepared for these challenges whilst those who are not prepared will panic and struggle.

So how do these people overcome these challenges and end up becoming successful? The unanimous answer to this question is DETERMINATION. At the tender age of 7 years, none of us scrambled around for a dictionary when our teacher asked us what the word meant. At that age, I remember thinking to myself that this big fanciful word occupies a lot of space on the blackboard.

But DETERMINATION is a powerful word that bridges the gap between failure and success. Determined people work hard at their dreams, goals and vision every single day. They do not make excuses, complain or blame others when things go wrong. They know that when they fail, they have to get up and try once more.



How Do You Become a Determined Person?


Overcome your fear of failure                                                                                   

At some stage or another we experience fear of failing at something. It is natural to feel anxious every-time your inner critic comes up with countless of excuses as to why you should not embark on a new project or take up an opportunity. Fearful thoughts such as “What if I fail” “What will people say when I fail” “what if this does not work for me” can take precedence over your normal reasoning self and it is very easy to be swayed by these fearful thoughts.

The natural course of action is then to abandon the idea, project or opportunity altogether. To be successful, you however need to face challenges head on, embrace opportunity and tackle difficult projects with great enthusiasm. How can you do that when you are drowning in thoughts that reflect your inner fears and doubts? This is where self-talk comes into play. You need to talk to yourself in a re-assuring manner. As soon as doubts and fear cloud your mind, talk to yourself in a calm and friendly manner “Hey buddy it is going to be okay. Everything will work out just fine. We are going to nail this together. I know we can do it”. Immediately you will feel lighter, happier and more enthusiastic about tackling your new project. Every-time you are filled with fear or doubt, try this technique. I assure you it will work in brushing away your worries.

Take smaller steps towards your bigger goal

You may feel overwhelmed when you think of your goal and have thoughts such as “How will this be possible” “Who am I kidding, I will never get that far” “Maybe I should think of another goal. This is a risky goal”. Maybe your goal is to speak at a well-known conference that will be attended by experts from all over the world. If this goal overwhelms you and you break out into a sweat every-time you think about it, then change your focus.

Set yourself up for some smaller goals before going to this conference. Ask some of your friends to come over and present in front of them. Then venture out abit more and advertise in your local community newspaper that you will be giving a free talk. Go to a networking event and talk to other people about your presentation. These small victories you gain along the way to your bigger goal will give you the confidence you need when it comes to presenting to a larger audience.

Embrace the possibility of rejection (become resilient)                                                                

Let’s explore two scenarios. Ben and John are both auditioning for a role in a TV commercial. They both arrive early and await their turns in the waiting room. John goes in first and auditions to the casting director, a representative from the advertising company and the camera operator. He comes back to the waiting room, a smile on his face, confident that he will be given the role. Ben also goes into the audition room, gives his audition and comes back to the waiting room.

Half an hour later, the receptionist beckons them and gives them both an envelope. Inside the envelope is a folded paper that contains a typed message which reads “Thankyou for coming in to the audition today. However, at this time, we do not feel you have the necessary skills and talent for this particular job”.

Ben throws the letter and walks out telling himself “That’s ok. These things happen. I will look for another audition”. On the other hand, John walks out, letter still in his hand feeling very dejected. He wonders if he should pursue another career. He goes home and reads and re-reads the letter. Finally he throws the letter in the bin deciding to give up his dream on acting and proceeds next day to enrol in a business course.

Successful people acknowledge and accept that they will get rejected numerous times before they finally find the success they are after. Successful people see the glass half full in every situation and they learn to believe in their own abilities. They say “Yes it is possible” even when the rest of the people around them say “it is impossible”

Stop yourself from making excuses

We use excuses to justify our reasons for postponing action, neglecting responsibility or defending our behaviour.  However,  living a life of excuses can stop you from reaching your full potential and embracing opportunities, recognising your strengths, and skills you might have that could help you overcome your life’s problems.

Excuses can paralyse you and prevent you from moving ahead in life. Sylvia wants to start her own cosmetic company selling cosmetics that are free of phthalates, parabens, nanoparticles and butylated hydroxyanisole. She has an excellent business idea, there is a huge market for her products and she has the scientific know how on making these cosmetics chemical free. However, every-time she thinks of starting her company she has thoughts such as “I can’t work from a small office, I need a bigger place” or “I will start my business as soon as this year is over” or “I cannot start on my own, I to need find a few employees first…but where will I find the money to pay them”.

Imagine if Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had said to themselves that they need an office and not just a garage before they start their company, we would not be reading their success stories today.

To overcome your excuses, you need to become aware of your negative thinking pattern. Ask yourself the following:

Why am I am making this excuse?

What will I gain by making this excuse?

 Is this excuse preventing me from achieving my full potential?

This is a necessary exercise to do if you want to avoid falling into the trap of making excuses and avoiding taking action.


Focus on what you want                                                                                          

Determined people focus their attention on their goal until it yields the desired result. They channel all their energy and concentration on a particular goal until they are satisfied that they got the result they wanted.

Focus requires the commitment to one’s goals despite all the distractions that float around you. As an example, take the incredible story of Gladys Burrill, a courageous and determined woman who focussed on her goal of running a marathon one day. She had her first marathon at the age of 86 years and completed the Honolulu marathon at the age of 92 years. Even though it took her almost ten hours to finish, she was very proud of reaching the goal she set for herself. She was quoted as saying “It’s so important to think positive. It’s easy to get discouraged and be negative. It makes such a difference in how you feel and your outlook on everything.” Burrill was recognised by the Guinness book of world records and Hawaii House of Representatives for her accomplishments.

Life has become a better place for all of us because someone somewhere continuously focussed on their goal despite facing endless challenges, rejections, disappointments, mishaps and failures. Today, we have many examples of people who kept their focus and left lasting impressions on all of us.

In concluding, each and every-one of us has 1,440 minutes allocated to us every day. No one gets more and no one gets less. Of that 1,440 minutes, an average of 480 minutes is spent on sleeping. This leaves you with 960 minutes. Showering, eating, travelling to work takes away another 150 minutes. You are therefore left with 810 minutes. How you decide to use that 810 minutes is dictated by your pattern of thoughts. Therefore engage in powerful determined optimistic thoughts that will propel you forward towards your goal. Be the type of person who can set their mind to something and make it happen. If you want to improve any area of life, the first step you need to take is to stop making excuses and take action, go forward boldly and take charge of your life.


This article was researched and compiled by Dr. Sonia Shah

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