Character Chats

Lack of Determination

What happens when you lack determination?

Here at True Balance Karate in Downers Grove, Illinois, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character. I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio, and we have developed this curriculum to best meet the needs of our youngest students to our oldest students.


This month we’re talking about determination. We started off talking about what determination looked like, having a go for it kind of attitude, having a goal and working towards it until it’s achieved or accomplished. And then last week we talked about, well, you said a determined person has a goal, but how do I set it? What do I need to do to accomplish that? How do I even begin to brainstorm what that goal would look like? And we talked about what that looks like.

Determination as a Skill

This week we’re talking about, well, what happens when you don’t have determination? What happens when you lack that ability to go for it? The short answer is, you miss out on the sense of pride, the sense of accomplishment, the sense of achievement, the ability to recognize how you’ve learned and grown through whatever was difficult for you. And that’s what happens when we lack determination.

We’ve all seen it. Here at the studio, I’ve watched kids attempt to do a jump spinning crescent kick for the very first time and they fall, or they don’t quite throw the kick, or they don’t spin enough. We call them black belt challenges.

We do that because we know it’s going to be hard. We know it’s going to be difficult. We don’t want them to get discouraged because if they choose to not be determined to learn the skill, they’re going to miss out on doing something that’s kind of a cool trick, kind of a interesting thing, higher level skill, if you will. And we don’t want to pre-frame them as, “This is going to be hard.” Because then they’re going to lack that determination to learn it because it’s already going to be hard.

Determined Attitude

Very similar to learning to ride a bike. Yeah, it’s going to be hard. I remember when I was learning how to ride it, I fell and I fell and I fell again. I literally told my mom, “No, I quit. I’m not going to do it. I keep falling down. I will never learn how to do this.” And she goes, “Yeah, you’re right. You won’t.” And that phrase is one that I use to this day. If you say you can’t, you definitely won’t, which means, you lack the determination. You’re not determined. You’ve already given up. You said you can’t. You definitely won’t. You’ve made up your mind.

And she walked away, which was the best thing she could have done. I got back on my bike and I tried again. And I fell again. And it probably took another three or four times before I actually figured out how to do the balance part of it. But the idea of when you have already determined that you can’t, you definitely won’t, has stuck with me.

You Can Do It

When I was teaching in the classroom, we had a big circle with a line drawn through it and the word can’t inside of it because it was along the same lines as that phrase. I didn’t want to hear somebody say that they can’t. I wanted to hear them say things like, “I’m working on it. I’m trying. I don’t understand.” When you lack the determination, you’ve already given up. You already said you can’t, you already said you’re not able to.

When you continue to be determined, when you continue to move forward, you see that it’s something you want to accomplish and you know you need to ask questions, you know you need to find help, you know you need to figure out what exactly is not working so that you can eventually achieve the goal you set.

Push Yourself

One of the other phrases we use here at the studio is that no one grows in the comfort zone. You’ve got to push yourself a little bit. You’ve got to try the hard things. You’ve got to take a risk.

Determined people, people who have a go for it kind of an attitude, they understand that, and they look at the situation and they ask the questions and they find out the information, and then they take the actions needed to meet their goals, to accomplish what they set out to do. The ones that lack that determination, they’ll hang back, they’ll be afraid. They’ve already made up their mind that they can’t, and they don’t. They don’t achieve what they set out for.

So as we’re talking about determination, we have to look at both sides of it. We have to understand that some things we fully understand where determination comes from and some things we fully understand where a lack of determination comes from. And it’s teaching those skills of, how do we move past that? How do we help ourselves when we’re faced with those hardships, those scraped knees, those falling down moments, those I have to take a risk and it scares me opportunities? How do we help students? How do we help adults? How do we help kids? How do we help teenagers, because we all face them at some point or another. How do we help them go past that?

Thanks, and I’ll see you on the mat!

True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here