Determination & Stubbornness

Are you determined or just stubborn? What’s the difference? Is there a difference? Does it even matter?

Broken down into its simplest terms, and in terms relating to change, Merriam-Webster defines determination as:

  1. a quality that makes you continue trying to do or achieve something that is difficult
  2. the act of finding out something

and defines stubborn as:

  1. refusing to change your ideas or to stop doing something

The common theme of both is pushing forward – the difference lies in how that is accomplished

 The Maze


Imagine you signed up for a Maze Running Competition. You spent weeks researching the maze itself AND read everything you possibly could about how to navigate a maze successfully. Now you are standing in front of that long and difficult maze and you are given the ability to split yourself in two: Determined You & Stubborn You. Both You’s want to succeed more than anything, both feel equal to the task at hand, and both You’s are supplied with their own individual power to “push forward”.

The starting shot is fired and both You’s venture into the maze with an idea of how they are going to proceed. Despite all the planning and preparation however, viewing the maze from the outside was vastly different from being inside the maze. The paths feel tighter and doubt invades your mind with every turn. To overcome the doubts and fears, both You’s rely on their determination and stubbornness to keep going and follow their plan, but eventually they both come to a dead end. What happens next?

Dead End

Stubborn You draws on their stubbornness supply and is undaunted. Stubborn You knows that the plan is solid and just needs to be followed so Stubborn You returns to the beginning to start again. It takes a lot of the energy from their supply, but this time, Stubborn You says, you won’t make a mistake.

Determined You is also committed to continuing, and draws on their determination to persevere. But instead of returning to the beginning Determined You only draws a small amount of energy from their supply and decides to amend the plan slightly, then goes back to the last fork to mark the path that didn’t work for them and take the other path. There’s no need to start over, Determined You asserts. Just get back to the path that was working.

Time passes and Stubborn You keeps going down the same path…maybe…they think…honestly, they can’t tell anymore. They’ve gotten lost so many times they’re not sure where they are exactly and they lost sight of the start a long time ago. They still desperately want to finish the maze and get out, but their idea isn’t working and even worse, they are all out of energy…the plan failed them. Feeling disappointed and disillusioned, Stubborn You raises the white flag. No one can say they didn’t try. No one can say they didn’t work hard. It just wasn’t meant to be, Stubborn You hopelessly admits. They have nothing left to give.


Meanwhile, Determined You is still going. They too have run into several dead ends. They too can’t see the finish line. But their small course corrections have used very little energy from their supply. Plus, they find that the knowledge that they are not following the same paths that got them lost before is actually refueling their supply. True, their original plan didn’t work out quite like they hoped it would. True, they won’t be able to say that they finished the maze in record time or free from missteps. But their determination has become something more. Now they are fueled by hope and confidence as well.


The Moral

Don’t let preconceived ideas and beliefs hold you back. Do your research, prepare your plan. But then

  • be flexible enough to let go of what’s not working for you.
  • be resourceful enough to investigate and experiment and find what does work for you.
  • and be wise enough to understand that stubbornness is hard work, but determination is smart work

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