If you asked 100 people to make a list of the top 10 characteristics of the most successful people, Determination would appear on almost every single one. From driving a ball towards a goal in just about any sport, to getting homework done in time to play, Determination is constantly being tested in the life of any child. And those that develop their determination “muscle” the most, are the ones that have no problem flexing it into adulthood.
Why flex that Determination muscle?
When a child is taught to develop their willpower, “grit,” and determination, they begin to exhibit some pretty impressive characteristics. Here’s some traits that show through determined children into their teen years and adulthood.
- They’re Goal-Setters: Determined people are constantly aiming themselves like an arrow towards the next goal. They’re focused on achieving the target, and constantly have their goal in the back of their mind.
- They know their future is in their hands: Determined teens seize their future. If they set a goal to be a doctor, they know that their grades, work ethic, and performance will be the deciding factors in their college acceptance. If their goal is to be a mechanic, they know that they must either work under someone or go to a trade school to learn the necessary skills.
- They don’t whine or complain: Determined people don’t complain about what’s happened to them; they find ways to improve their situation, or make sure it doesn’t happen again. Determined teens don’t fret about a bad grade; they go to the teacher and ask how they can improve next time, and if there’s any extra work they can do to improve.
- They motivate others: When someone is focused, knows that their actions now will impact their future, and don’t complain, the natural path is that they become the motivators in a group. Determined adults become natural leaders, as the rest of the group will turn to them when they’re unsure or when they hit a road block.
- They’re focused on their own actions: We’ve all had those people that threw blame around like it was confetti. When it comes to a truly Determined person, they don’t blame others. When they embrace the determined mindset, they become the bow that fires the arrow. If the wind pushes it off course, they should have corrected it. If the target moves, they should have anticipated it. If someone bumps the bow, they should have been paying attention. Determined teens are responsible.
What does Determination feel like?
Now that we’ve looked at what Determination looks like on someone else, let’s move on to why you would want to become more determined, or why you would want to instill such a value in your child. What benefits does the power of Determination bestow upon its’ wielder?
- Hope: Determined adults find more hope in hard situations than most others. This comes about because they’ve experienced firsthand what happens when they keep pushing after everyone else has quit.
- Creative: Sometimes, the finish line isn’t exactly where everyone thought it would be. Determined teens are more creative than their peers, because they choose to look all around for the answer, instead of giving up when it’s not right in front of them.
- Drive (Above and Beyond): Adults who are determined are over-achievers because it feels good to do more than what’s expected. They take pride in their work, because quitting when they reach the finish line just doesn’t occur to them.
- Natural Leader: We talked about it in the last section, but people naturally turn to the most determined person in their group. This is because they know that the determination gets the job done.
How do you develop Determination?
So, how do we develop that determination “muscle”? There’s quite a few ways to train others, especially children, to exercise determination. Here’s a couple ways we do it.
1. Imagine what failure looks like, then keep going: Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Planning each step doesn’t always exercise that determination, since many people quit as soon as things don’t go their way. Another way to say this is, “What’s the worst that could happen?”, then imagine succeeding despite the setback.
Next time your child has a project that they’re afraid won’t come out the way they want, explain that yes, it might go wrong. Walk them through imagining that the project won’t be perfect. Then, walk them through how they’d handle it if that’s the case. Will they go back and try to fix it? Will they turn it in imperfect? Or will they start over? What will they learn from the experience?
2. Never rely on luck; rely on skill: Don’t play the lottery. Determined people appreciate luck just like anyone else, but they know that their future is determined by their own actions, not a flip of a coin.
To build this in your child, find any opportunity to sit down with them and ask, “How would you do it differently if you did it again?” This will push them to seek out the knowledge to improve next time, and to build their skills. They’ll start to understand that their future is shaped by their own actions, and they’ll start to take responsibility instead of blaming it on someone else.
3. Recognize and Avoid distractions: Recognizing the things that can pull you off your path beforehand can help you avoid them when the time comes.
This is a pretty easy one to build in a child. Simply have them identify anything that could distract them from their homework (or other project), then have them come up with ways to avoid them. With this simple exercise, your child will see more things to completion, faster. It’ll also train their brain to see roadblocks before they have a chance to derail their progress.
4. Outline your personal values: a person with a set of laws or guidelines that governs their life will find that it is easier to stay on the path they choose. For example, an adult that is determined to be able to run a marathon in the next few months, will outline their personal values of going to bed early, not drinking alcohol, and avoiding unhealthy foods. Then, when a friend invites them out for a late-night drink, it’ll be easier to say no.
For a child, they are more likely following your values. This task is one of the toughest, since you’ll have to demonstrate the values that you want them to follow. As an activity, actually sit down and outline one thing each week that you’ll both be holding strong to.
Determination is not an overnight trait, or something that someone is “just born with.” Every day is a test in determination; every project helps you or your child exercise this important characteristic.
At Legacy, we always challenge our students. One of the biggest things we do is promote the Don’t say the “C” word mindset. The “C” Word is Can’t. It’s not allowed in the studio, nor is it allowed at home or school. The idea is that, deprived of the word “can’t,” the student’s must find a way to accomplish it. They can say that the task is difficult, that the workout is exhausting, or that the path is hard, but they’re never allowed to say they “can’t” do it.
Be hard-working. Be creative. Be a Leader.
For more about “Grit,” a synonym of Determination, check out this amazing TED talk from Angela Duckworth: