Determination and persistence were a way of life for me growing up as a hillbilly in Wyoming. We were among the poor and rural that make up most of this state—a two-hour drive from the nearest small town.
For this reason, we had a private tutor provided by the state who lived in the house with us. I was in first grade and her name was Mrs. Garrity. A retired school teacher from Chicago, she thought living on a remote cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming would be an adventure.
It was 10 miles on dirt road from our ranch house to the last gate on our property, and another 60 miles to town. Mrs. Garrrity went home for Christmas and was due back after the New Year. She didn’t arrive on Sunday evening as scheduled, and I was happily playing in the snow by the horse barn when I looked up and saw my grandfather screech his pickup to a halt. He didn’t even bother to open the gate and drive in. Instead, he jumped over it and motioned to my dad to join them. Immediately, both raced to the house.
The only communication available in this remote area was a two-way radio so I followed them. I knew something big was up and I couldn’t wait to find out!
It seems that Mrs. Garrity got her car stuck in a snowdrift just as she passed through that last gate that led onto our property. Perhaps she didn’t realize she was 10 miles from the ranch house, but she started to walk in the cold and dark. She made it 5 miles before she froze to death.
My grandfather had found her body beside a wire fence. He covered her up with an old tarp he had stashed in his pickup and weighed it down with 2 fence posts placed on either side of the body.
Saddened beyond words, our whole family reacted as only stoic and stalwart people can in a situation like this—we kept moving forward. We had no contingency plan for a tragedy like this. We had a body to protect from wolves and coyotes until a coroner arrived, no teacher, and absolutely no idea how I would graduate from first grade without one.
Entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders all understand how life and business can surprise us. You have plans, and they work fine, until you get sucker punched by new competition, market upheavals, or high employee turnover.
Often, your determination is the glue that holds your organization together when plans go awry or you’re confronted with an unexpected obstacle.
Here are 4 reasons determination is important to your success:
1. DETERMINATION HELPS YOU OVERCOME THE UNEXPECTED
When things do not go according to plan, it’s tempting to give up. We lose our confidence and think about moving on to something that is easier. This is exactly what most people do because we’re afraid of failure and shirk away from things that are hard and necessary.
Plans make us feel safe, but be ready when things spin out of your control so you can still land on your feet. You may need to change course and adapt in some way. Your goal remains the same, but your roadmap to get there may need to be changed.
My parents could never have anticipated Mrs. Garrity’s death, but they drilled into me the dangers of surviving winters at an altitude of 7,000 ft. We always had extra blankets and clothes in our pickup when we traveled in cold weather.
Mrs. Garrity was found wearing nothing but a dress, light jacket, low heels, and a flimsy scarf.
What It Means For You: Develop an agile mindset by trying to anticipate potential setbacks and have a contingency plan for them.
2. DETERMINATION ENABLES YOU TO KEEP FOCUSED
When things go wrong it is hard to maintain motivation and focus. Determination allows you to remain focused on long term goals so you can adjust your behavior accordingly.
Often, this requires you to keep emotions in check to prevent them from sabotaging your efforts to keep moving forward.
We were laden with grief when Mrs. Garrity died. Packing up her things and sending them, along with her body, back to Chicago was emotionally very difficult. Maintaining focus on our duty to her family remained at the forefront of our thinking.
What It Means For You: Visualize yourself accomplishing your goal no matter what it takes. Keep your eye on the goal and see yourself reaching the end.
3. DETERMINATION IS FED BY ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT
When things spin out of your control, find support and encouragement from those around you whom you trust and admire. Based on their experience and expertise, seek out their advice and suggestions on how to keep moving forward.
Successful people with determination understand that they still need to do the hard work, but it is very encouraging when you are surrounded with positive reinforcement. No one is their own island and we all need other people’s assistance. It might just be a short chat or a few words of support.
Be the person who reaches out when you need support rather than give up.
A former schoolteacher heard about our situation and agreed to replace Mrs. Garrity so I could graduate from first grade. Our predictament was shared by many good friends and neighbors who wanted to reach out and help.
What It Means For You: Do not be afraid to share your situation with others, but be picky about it. Make sure they are people who truly want what is best for you and will give you both constructive and positive feedback. Look for “mirror” friends who will be honest, loving, and objective.
4. DETERMINATION MAKES YOU DIG DEEP DOWN
If you are on a path that has value and meaning for you, you are definitely on the right path, so keep going. If you are not, then a setback or failure will be enough to make you give up and try something else.
Success can be very misleading because often it is where we stay, whether it’s what really fuels us or not. It is a success that is based in complacency because we are too scared of failure to pursue the type of work that would provide value and meaning.
What It Means For You: Don’t take the easy way out. Dig deep down and find the things that you can’t walk away from; that is your true north. When you are pursuing that kind of goal, it won’t matter what other people say because your inner vision is far stronger than any external obstacle you will come up against.
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