Determination with a Side of Wisdom, Please We can be anything we want-almost BY: Troy Murphy |July 2015
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Determination, grit, persistence: Do you have it, the drive to succeed? People with determination are more likely to get what they want. Underlying grit pushes us from where we are to where we desire to be. But determination alone is not enough. Every January new self-proclaimed fitness enthusiasts flood the health clubs. Resolutions—lose a hundred pounds, squat a small car or win the gold medal for the over forty division of the local Ironman competition—motivate epic returns to health. A few experience miraculous achievements; but the painful reality of difficult paths usually filters the mass of January goal-seekers to a few regular club attendees by the middle of February. Is the majority gritless quitters? With fitness goals, maybe so, but causes of failure, in any venture, is complex, with many contributing factors. We must examine failure skeptically with openness to complexity rather than simply blaming lack of determination.
No matter how determined I am to get to the west coast, if I drive east, I will never arrive. Some dreams are beyond our capacity—not realistic; other dreams require specific skill-sets and sacrifices that if ignored make determination futile, no matter how hard we try. We must recognize the achievability of a dream, and possess a workable knowledge of steps required for dream fulfillment so we don’t start driving east on our way to the west coast.
Why the worry? Isn’t chasing faulty dreams better than settling for less? Sometimes; but many spend a lifetime in a dream world, never settling, always hoping for more than life can ever provide.
We expend energy chasing unobtainable dreams, blindly dismissing opportunities decorated with less glitter. Determining which dreams are obtainable and which ones are impossible becomes the task. We must assess personal skills, available resources, and the path to accomplish the goal. With experience, in familiar fields, we hold more accurate mental representations—closer to reality. Our assessments resemble reality. But when our goals deviate from our expertise, requiring significant changes, our mental representations of costs and benefits likely will be hopeful guesses rather than accurate assessments.
Before jumping into the fray, seek advice, gather detailed information, many sought changes are only an escape from current overwhelm or boredom, and not well-planned opportunities with a likely payout.
We gather information; research relevant topics, speak with those experienced in the new field and conduct skeptical self-examination. Are we running away from the work to succeed where we currently are, believing the new endeavor will offer greater rewards without sacrifice? Often new endeavors stall on the same neglected character traits that interfered with previous paths to success. When we bounce between dreams, escaping failures, while never addressing the underlying blocks to success can waste years, leaving heartache and depression in its wake, we never arrive anywhere. Until we examine our self for significant detriments, there may be no saving options. The failures may not be our dreams but our resources. Do we have sufficient patience, self-discipline, and skills?
We never fully understand the requirements of a specific goal but as we work towards our goal new obstacles, personal inadequacies, and lacking resources become exposed. As new information arrives, we should occasionally reassess, deciding whether to continue or quit.
"We expend energy chasing unobtainable dreams, blindly dismissing opportunities decorated with less glitter."
A common physical asset for NBA players is Height. Short players need not apply, right? Over the past thirty years, there has been two notable players under five foot six inches—Muggsy Bouges and Earl Boykins. The rarity of a short basketball player makes the accomplishment notable. Muggsy and Earl’s determination to defeat incredible odds inspires us. We use their achievement as evidence of achieving the impossible—the determination factor.
But there is a looming fallacy with this logic; height and determination aren’t the only contributory factors.
Continuing with the NBA example, success in the NBA requires several physical and mental skills. Some of these skills are learned, others are biological, and most are a combination of the two. Countless young men have failed to achieve their NBA dreams; blaming young athletes’ failure on lack of determination is a great disservice. We harm self-esteem if we blame every personal failure on lack of grit. Perhaps perseverance is part of the cause, but lack of goal structure, resources, support, physical attributes, or just plain bad luck may also significantly factor into the failure.
Determination, the resilience to continue, certainly may alleviate the crippling impact of insufficiencies—lack of skill, support or resources—but determination doesn’t invalidate the other factors. At times, we may need the invigorating push from a RAH-RAH-YOU-CAN-DO-IT speech, the kind that employers gladly pay professionals motivators to increase production from a depressed workforce; but at other times, we may find, what we really need is more knowledge, skill, support and resources.
We can achieve many great things with dedication, overcoming horrendous odds, even when others believe it can't be done. History celebrates the heroes and heroines. The power to defeat the odds, however, is not unlimited. Many determined men and women gamble and lose. Most of their stories are not found in the history books. Their stories of spoiled dreams fade with time, failing to give wisdom to the dreamer.
With the spread of the new age philosophy—you can do anything you want to; the universe contains unlimited resources--we would expect an overwhelming flood of achievement; the down-trodden escaping the past and joining the exclusive club of the rich and powerful. The economic statistics paint a much different picture. The rich and exclusive club is becoming richer and more exclusive. A few dreamers make the leap; most don’t.
If we work hard, obtain an economically relevant education, and with determination, we climb the latter of success often modestly reaching a secure income and promising future—but not always.
Treasure your determination, it is an invaluable asset. Determination increases odds of success. Kindly embrace hope, dreams motivate. Undertake small challenges, developing self-confidence. Investigate opportunities. Courageously follow dreams. All these things are important, leading to greater achievement. Travel these new paths with wisdom and flexibility, adjusting to the unpredictable elements. Sometimes we must change directions, not all dreams are achievable or worth the costs, expanding knowledge of costs and benefits of a dream often arrives during the journey, after investing time and energy. We must examine new knowledge. Time spent following unobtainable dreams is not wasted; we learn, win or lose; succeed or fail, creating a stronger foundation and clearer mental representations when considering future endeavors. The hopeful basketball player may not obtain the NBA dream but the practice, team work, and self-discipline learned will graciously bless other important areas of his young life.