Chapter 20. Determination

Definition of determination:

Firmness of purpose; resolve:  approached the task with determination and energy.

A fixed intention or resolution:  returned to school with a determination to finish.

The quality of being determined to do or achieve something; firmness of purpose; "his determination showed in his every movement"; "he is a man of purpose".


Resolute, single-minded, unrelenting, unstoppable, immovable, unbending, persistent, tenacious, unshakable

Determination is such a powerful attribute that it can even overcome shortcomings in technical ability and fitness.  Determination is unflinching, indivertible commitment.  It is motivation and will, and it ignores pain.

Determination is attitude rather than aptitude.  It is Vijay Singh practicing his golf swing for four hours on Christmas Day.  It is Stephen Hendry’s comeback against Jimmy White in the Snooker World Championship in 1992.  It is Nick Faldo deciding to become a professional golfer in 1971 before he had even picked up a club.

The Player and the Enforcer

Determination is something that most, possibly all, great sports performers have.  But due to different personality types, some perform best taking it onto the playing field, and some need to leave it in the locker room.  This is because of the impact it can have on two other important attributes, namely “relaxation” and “trust”.  To see why, let’s consider two types of performer.  We’ll call them the Player and the Enforcer.

The Player

He is extremely relaxed and playful.  He plays his sport with flair and imagination.  He uses a wide open, easy focus most of the time.  He has a magnetic charisma and elegance, and he appears to flow through competitive situations.  He laughs off his mistakes, and he appears to be enjoying himself while others might crumble.  He is often the people’s champion.

Examples are Shane Warne, Roger Federer, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Muhammad Ali, and Sergio Garcia.

The Enforcer

He is forceful and intimidating.  He plays with an intensity of focus and a high level of intent.  He behaves like a warrior, and treats every moment of every match as if it is life and death.   He is generally as cold as ice, and can be argumentative.  He is often the sportsperson we love to hate.

Examples are Michael Schumacher, Nick Faldo, Andy Murray, Roy Keane and Serena Williams.

The Player versus The Enforcer

The Player and The Enforcer personality types are equally effective at producing successful sports performers.  There are many great athletes from either camp and all of them show high levels of determination; they have to otherwise they wouldn’t have the motivation to practice and train as hard as they do in order to stay at the top of their sport.

However, the Player does not take his determination so overtly into a competitive environment.  This is because being intentionally determined can cause him to develop an overly internalised and intense focus.  This causes his physiology to become negative which leads to physical tension and the inability to stay mentally relaxed.  This lack of relaxation then leads to a lack of trust, and before long he is not relying on his subconscious to execute the skills he has so painstakingly learnt to execute automatically.  In order to avoid this destructive introversion, the Player replaces determination with playfulness, and keeps his focus easy and open as much as he can.

Unlike the Player, the Enforcer can take his determination into a competitive environment and it will improve his performance.  It’s a simple as that.  The Player and the Enforcer are equally successful as competitors; they are just different when it comes to determination.  Which are you?

Determination and staying in the present

Another risk of determination is that it can stop you staying in the present.  If you want to act in a determined way, then the next question is “determined to do what?”  If the answer is “determined to win”, then your focus is on the outcome of the event rather than the here and now.  However, if the answer is “determined to stay in the process and give 100%”, then you are much more likely to be successful.

Ideal determination levels

If you are an Enforcer then you should increment your determination to its maximum during competition, i.e. 10 out of 10.  You need to ensure it is increased to this level during the preparation phase, and reduced back towards a less intense value after the competition.

As mentioned above, if you are a Player then you shouldn’t need to manage your determination at all.  Instead you should be working towards performing with a degree of playfulness and an open, easy focus.

Incrementing methods for determination

Determination is a straightforward behaviour so you shouldn’t need much by way of incrementing methods other than “just do it”.  Having said that, here are a few excellent methods for getting you into a determined state if you need a little push:

The doubter

Imagine there is someone next to you or in front of you, who is doubting your ability, and that with every action you take you are breaking them down and proving to them that you can do it.

Imagine there is more than one of you

Literally, imagine there are several copies of you all around, all working positively together for success.  This can help you to overcome an opponent that is intimidating you.

The street fight

Sometimes it can raise your willpower and determination if you equate your competitive situation to a street fight.  If you are feeling a bit too detached then this can really help.  It can also help you to realise that you need to get it done “your way” which brings about some self-expression.


These incrementing methods are based around firing up your imagination and generating desirable behaviours as a result.

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