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How to Be Determined

Three Parts:Changing Your ThinkingBuilding Good HabitsMaintaining Your Determination

Determination is a skill that can be learned! It requires setting goals and being willing to work hard, but it can definitely be done. Practice your confidence, and flexible thinking, and learn to treat failures and obstacles as learning possibilities. See step 1 to get started!

Part 1
Changing Your Thinking

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    Define success for yourself. Being determined doesn't just happen out of nowhere. It comes from a strength of character that you build to succeed in the manner that you want to do succeed. Remember that one person's idea of success is going to be incredibly different than another person's.[1]
    • Start with your fundamentals. Decide what exactly it means to succeed. Is success about getting a psychology degree and becoming a child psychologist? Is success about getting married and having ten children?
    • Ask yourself questions like: what do you daydream about? how do you want people to see you? how would you like to make an impact in the world? what would you want to leave behind (troubles, attributes, people, etc.)? Questions like these will help you figure out more clearly what success means to you and what determination will help you gain.[2]
    • Consider what would make you happy rather than what would make your parents happy, or your friends happy, or society happy. If happiness for you is having a llama farm out in the middle of nowhere, then start considering how to make that a reality.
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    Figure out your type of determination. There are different kinds of determination, which people use at different times. Some of them are more useful than others, and some of them can be combined with others.[3]
    • Up hill determination is when you work to achieve a difficult task despite many or large obstacles in an effort to achieve your goals. An example of this might be a college student taking on more classes than the other students in an effort to graduate early, while simultaneously holding down a job. This type of determination trudges on through obstacles, but it can be incredibly draining and isn't something that can be sustained over long periods of time.
    • Coasting determination is when you're delaying short-term gratification for the success of long-term goals. This type of determination acts rather than reacts, so that you are making things happen through self-discipline and an understanding of what it is you want. And example of this type of determination in action would be someone who is saving money for a big trip. Instead of going out to dinner (short-term gratification) they save the money for the big trip (success of long-term goals).
    • Both of these types of determination are good in their own ways, and they should be used in conjunction with one another. There are times when you will need to employ the uphill determination rather than the coasting determination, because there is an immediate obstacle that you need to work through.
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    Set personal goals. Once you know what success means to you, you will need to come up with goals that will help you achieve that success. It's best to have a combination of big goals and small goals so that you are constantly accomplishing things, which will bolster your determination to keep going.
    • This will also help you take your goals step by step. If you focus too much on the overall picture (the big goal, or the achieving success) you'll probably start to feel overwhelmed which will make your determination harder to maintain.
    • For example: If you define success as publishing a novel, your goals will include writing the book itself, editing it, learning about the publishing industry, figuring out which literary agents to send it to, writing a synopsis and cover letter, and sending it off to the different agents and publishers.
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    Develop specific strategies. Once you have the goals that you want to achieve, then it's time to develop the specific ways you're going to achieve those goals. The more specific your plans and strategies, the easier it will be to be determined when you have actionable steps to keep you motivated.[4]
    • Create a timeline for your goals. Mark them down on your calendar to keep you on track. Make a list of the long-term "big" goals and the shorter-term smaller goals that will help you achieve the bigger ones.
    • Remain flexible with your goals and your timeline. Don't beat yourself up if you end up needing more time to complete something, or if you decide that a goal you had is actually not that important to you.
    • Make a plan to deal with temptations. Things will happen that will make it so you'll want to give up, or you'll want to give yourself a break. Have a plan to deal with the temptations so you don't end up giving in to immediate gratification. For example: for the person who is planning the big trip, they might keep a reminder of the trip with them so that when they are tempted by eating out, they remember what they're saving for. Also, they could make meal plans so that they don't end up on a situation where it's simply easier to eat out.
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    Set clear boundaries. It's hard to accomplishing things, even when you're determined, if you don't have a clear idea of what you're accomplishing and what is outside of that limit. This doesn't mean that you restrict yourself, because you don't want to limit yourself too much, but being clear about your boundaries will make accomplishing things much easier.
    • For example: instead of saying I'm going to work on my novel every day, set aside a specific time. Say, "I'm going to write from 6:00 am to 8:00 am every morning." There are no vague boundaries with this, you have set very specific parameters, which makes it easier to follow.
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    Play to your strengths. Often, when you get feedback or work on improving yourself, you focus on the things that need to be improved. Don't ignore those things, but figure out your strengths and use those to help you succeed and use your determination to achieve your goals.[5]
    • Have friends/coworkers/family/teachers give you examples of times when you excelled (when you used your strengths). Locate common themes throughout the examples and create a picture of your strong suits.
    • For example: if people choose examples of times when you were incredibly honest, or worked really hard, or came up with creative solutions to problems, then use those to craft the image of yourself based on those strengths.

Part 2
Building Good Habits

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    Practice flexibility. One important habit to learn and to cultivate is being flexible. This doesn't mean folding your body up into a pretzel, but it does mean being able to deal with life when it throws you a curve-ball. When you're too caught up in making exactly what you think should happen, happen, you forget to pay attention to the surprising opportunities.
    • Check in with your goals and strategies. Don't just assume that something that seemed important when you were 24 is going to be important to you when you're 34. People change and grow and you have to make sure that your priorities and goals are changing to reflect that. Don't keep doing something because you think you have to do it. If it isn't helping you to succeed, then scrap it.
    • Try something new. Getting outside of your comfort zone helps keep you flexible and prepares you for dealing with the unexpected. It's also a good way to practice your determination. For example: if you've never really experienced the outdoors, you might try out hiking, starting small and working your way up to climbing a whole mountain, or doing overnight hiking.
    • Change up your regular routine. A good way to keep yourself from getting into a rut and then not being able to handle surprises in life. One day instead of driving home, take the bus, or ride your bike. Do something spontaneous after work, or go to a different coffee shop than you usually use.
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    Eliminate negative thinking. This is a hugely important part of being determined and achieving your goals. Negative thinking will keep you mired in negativity, which in turn makes the obstacles and curve-balls of life far more difficult to deal with. Positivity, on the other hand, allows you to persevere.
    • Pay attention to your negative thought patterns. Learn to identify the negative language you use on yourself and situations. For example: if you find yourself thinking "I'm so weak I can't even do one push-up," change that thought. Instead think, "My goal is to be super strong and to that end I'm working on doing push-ups."
    • Use the list of positive qualities your community help you to create in the previous section. When you start in thinking negatively about yourself, stop and consider the list that they made.
    • You, just like everyone else, have areas that you need to work on. Maybe you're a less than effective communicator or you have a bad temper. Acknowledging that there's room for improvement is great! The problem comes from focusing exclusively on those traits and seeing yourself as determined only by those traits.
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    Build your self-confidence. Confidence is the ability to believe in yourself, no matter how bad things are looking. Self-confident people experience a hurdle and believe that they can overcome it. This, in a nutshell, is determination. Determination is seeing a roadblock and believing that you can get past it, not necessarily because you have evidence that you've done so in the past, but because you can't picture yourself not getting past it.[6]
    • Practice confidence until you actually start to feel confident. Walk tall, stand in a power pose and act like you take up space and that you matter (because you do matter). The more you practice acting like you matter, the more you'll trick your brain into believing that you do.
    • Don't compare yourself to other people. You might feel like you aren't as determined as your older sister, or you aren't accomplishing as much as your best friend. Ask yourself whether what they are doing is important to you. The things you are accomplishing are going to be different than what your friend is accomplishing. You have different goals in life and different definitions of success. Don't limit yourself by comparing your accomplishments to other people.
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    Be realistic. You'll need to make sure that goals you're setting for yourself and the timeline you're setting is actually achievable. This is why it's important to keep your goal load manageable, but still challenging enough that you have to maintain your determination.[7]
    • Pick your battles. Don't try to force your way through every single obstacle and goal. When you hit a really big obstacle, it's good to stop and consider what's the point for going ahead.
    • For example: say you feel you really want to go into space as an astronaut, but you end up with a debilitating disease which makes it impossible to pass the physical tests. You would have to reconsider how to follow your passion in a new way (possibly by becoming an astrophysicist, or helping to design space ships, or even finding a way for someone with your limitations to go into space).
    • An example of a situation where you're being too hard on yourself might be: one of your goals is to excel in college, so you decide to take on the hardest classes you can take, and to tutor other students as well, while simultaneously trying to work, as well. At some point, you'll need to give yourself a break, either by dropping the tutoring gig or taking a least one, less difficult course.
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    Make healthy choices. Keeping your determination going can be greatly bolstered by making healthy life choices. It can be much easier to function when you're body is being sustained by good fuel, enough sleep, and a good amount of exercise. All these things can help deal with things like depression and anxiety that can make it much harder to be determined.
    • Sleep is a big factor in mental health and abilities. try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, with as many of those hours before midnight as possible. To help your body get into sleep mode more quickly, turn off your electronic devices (like computer, phone, iPod) at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.
    • Make healthy food choices. Eat lots of veggies and fruits (especially the dark green and colorful ones, which have more nutrients). Avoid eating lots of sugars and salty or processed foods, which can make you feel sluggish or depressed. Go for good carbohydrates like brown rice, oatmeal, and sprouted wheat. Definitely get enough protein (like eggs, fish, lean meats, etc.).
    • Exercise for 30 minutes every day. Exercising releases good chemicals like endorphins which can give you more energy and make you feel happier. Exercise can be anything from putting on a music playlist and having a dance party, to going for a long run.

Part 3
Maintaining Your Determination

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    Learn from obstacles. People who are determined and use that determination are people who don't call things "failures." Obstacles and learning experiences will crop up in your path no matter how prepared you are. In most cases, obstacles and "failures" are actually opportunities (as clichéd as this sounds).
    • Re-frame the problem. One good way to do this is to consider the "why." For example, if you're asked to build a bridge across a river and you ask why you need to build a bridge. The answer might be "because you have to get to the other side." But, of course, there are different ways to get across the river (a ferry system, a tunnel, fly a hot air balloon, etc.). Considering why a bridge, can open you up to further possibilities (why do you need to cross the river? what kind of materials are available, etc.). Asking these questions will open up a realm of possibilities.
    • Ask yourself what you've learned from a supposed "failure." What would you do differently next time? What factors combined to cause the "failure" to happen? Was failing really as bad as you feared?
    • Fear of failure is one of the main things that stops people from gaining their goals, however determined they think they are. Seeing "failure" as a learning opportunity instead makes you less likely to fear it happening, which in turn makes it easier to accomplish your goals.
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    Find creative solutions. Thinking outside the box will greatly help you stay on track and accomplish your goals. This is especially important when you do hit an obstacle, because creative solutions can often provide you with an avenue that you might not otherwise have considered.
    • Daydreaming is actually an incredibly useful tool. When you're confronted with a problem, taking some time to daydream and let your mind free to consider the problem without restrictions. A good time to practice a little daydreaming is right before you go to bed at night, but you can do it any time.
    • Asking yourself some questions to open up your creative problem-solving: if you have any resources in the world, how would you approach the problem? If there were no possibility of failure, what would you try? If you didn't have to worry about budget, what resources would you use? If you could ask anyone for help, who would you ask?
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    Use visualization. Although it sounds a bit weird, visualization is actually a really powerful technique for boosting your determination. Practice visualizing yourself accomplishing the goals that you are working towards accomplishing. The more clearly you visualize this (with sound, smells, and specific details) the more likely you are to actually accomplish them.
    • try to meditate every day. This helps to calm your mind and makes it easier for you to stay focused on the things you've chosen as important. try to meditate for at least 15 minutes each day (or choose a specific number of breaths to meditate for, so you aren't constantly checking the clock).
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    Remind yourself why determination is important to you. When you forget why you're doing something, it becomes that much harder to keep on doing it. If you lose sight of the things that are important to you, you'll be less likely to accomplish them.[8]
    • When you're confronted by temptation ask yourself "what do I lose if I give in to this?" For example: if you're tempted by spending money on eating out instead of saving it for your big trip, remind yourself what you'll lose (i.e. it'll take more time to collect the money to go on your trip, or you won't be able to go as many places, because you won't have as much money to use).
    • Think long term. Envision the future and your life pathways opening up as a result of your hard work and determination now. Realise that being resilient now will be good practice for the future.
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    Re-energize. Sometimes you really and truly need to take a break to get your energy back into the game. There's nothing wrong with that! Taking a break doesn't mean that you aren't determined, it simply means that you're getting yourself rested for continuing to work hard towards your goals.
    • Take a break. This can be a big break, like taking a vacation, or it can be a small thing like taking the afternoon off and going out for coffee or going book shopping.
    • Do something you love. Make sure that you reward yourself for accomplishing things and being determined. This will make you more likely to succeed.


  • Cut down on alcohol consumption. Alcohol lowers your blood glucose levels, which has been shown to weaken your willpower.[9]
  • Reward yourself for your efforts and achievements, as well as being deserved. This will also be a good incentive!
  • Boost your ambition by recalling all moments that you have achieved positive things. This will remind you that you've accomplished things and keep your determination going.

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