At our high school’s baccalaureate service, each student chooses an adjective that they think describes themselves and they write it on a poster that they will later show the entire audience. My brother’s word was determined. There were a lot of other kids who also chose determination as their word. It was by far the most commonly chosen word. This piqued my interest so I had Chance give me my phone and I typed “Determined: How to be? What does it mean? What does it look like in action?” into my notes. If all these kids are choosing to be determined, they ought to know what it means.
When I hear the word determined, I think of a person on a mission — someone with a goal in mind who has set out to achieve it, no matter the cost. I’d say this is a pretty accurate understanding of the word, but it’s not quite it. There’s more.
Determined is the adjective that comes from the noun, determination, which comes from the verb, determine. The Latin word for determine is “determinare” which means to limit or fix. When we look at the English definition of determine, it means to cause something to occur in a particular way; to be a decisive factor in. A determined person has his or her eyes fixed on a goal and has decided to work to achieve said goal.
It’s easy to say we’re determined to do something, but I guess I never realized the first step to becoming determined is starting with a decision. But a decision is a conclusion or a resolution reached after consideration.
Isn’t it funny that our journeys begin with the conclusion? It seems a bit counterintuitive, but I guess if we’re going to set out on a journey, we ought to have a destination in mind. So maybe we do need to know our conclusions before we begin.
I’ve never thought about it in this way before. What does it mean to begin with the conclusion? What does that even look like?
In some ways, we already know our ends and we all have the same conclusion: we’re all going to die. It’s the stuff in between our present situation and that fateful day that scares us. To overcome those fears, we like to think we have these plans and goals and we say we’re determined to see the plans unfold and the goals realized.
But I have a couple questions for all of those kids holding up that word on their posters in front of all those people.
You say you’re determined to achieve a goal, so have you really decided what that goal is? It’s okay if you haven’t, but I would highly recommend finding one — even a mini one — that you will work towards, because if you take that diploma out into the real world without a goal, you’re going to wander around for a while and wandering gets real lonely and frustrating, real fast. It can also get messy. Decide what your goal is going to be. It doesn’t have to be some huge lofty goal that impresses all of your parents’ friends. Think about what you’re passionate about, make a goal out of that, and pursue it fervently.
Once you’ve decided what that goal is going to be, I’m challenging you to ask yourself, do you really mean it? Let’s say you decided your goal is to become a nurse. I have a friend in a nursing program right now and it sounds tough. But she knows what she’s about. She’s got her head down and she’s working hard to achieve that goal. I’m sure there are days little lies creep into her mind, threatening her that she might not make it, but she’s already decided her conclusion. She decided she’s going to finish what she started and those lies don’t overcome her. When you tell people your goal, do you say it as if it’s some far off idea that you hope to maybe someday achieve, or is this goal of yours a passion, something you’re confident in accomplishing?
Say your goals aloud with some authority. Say it like you mean it. People are going to doubt you, discourage you, and deter you from achieving it, so if you don’t mean it, those people are going to stop you. Don’t let them stop you. If you don’t believe you can do it, if you can’t imagine your goal as your conclusion, how do you expect others to believe you? Your goal is yours — own it.
On all of my college visits, I told people I wanted to be a small town sports journalist and an author of a devotional book. I meant it when I said that. Nothing is going to stop me from achieving those goals. Things might slow me down but they won’t stop me because I believe in me and I’ve determined my conclusion.
I hope you have a goal you’re passionate about so that you really can be determined to achieve it. But the first step to becoming determined is a decision. Decide and don’t just wander aimlessly. You’re going to stray and get set back and wander a bit, but at least do it in the general direction of your goal.