Sheer Force and Determination


A client this week was unpacking the reason for his stress around deadlines.  After exploring a number of situations, when I asked him how he was treating himself, he told me that he’s not the type to ‘beat himself up,’ that he has a positive outlook and high self-esteem.  He kept saying that stress is a motivator.  Meanwhile, it clearly impairs his effectiveness and keeps him up at night.

Then he said, sheer force and determination is what gets him through, gets him through hard times, through challenging cases at work, and is definitely what got him through law school. That was the ringer:

“Sheer Force and determination got me through.”  This is not only a universal belief, but a motto, words to live by, an MO.  If it were true and it worked, no problem.  However, when believed and attached to, it becomes pressure and tension.  Let’s face it: force is self-abuse.  

Notice both the belittling and arrogance of this tunnel vision. It is outcome driven, exhausting, and inhumane.

In my case, I become physically tense, hold my breath and overlook basic self-care.  When I force myself and am single-minded with determination, my creativity is hard to find, and I am inefficient.  I am also prone to be off, forgetful and overwhelmed.

Turned around, force and determination is actually an obstacle to success.  This lawyer found that he is successful in spite of this belief running, not because of it. It’s clear that his job would be easier without this mental pressure on top of the task at hand.  So if this is not a motivator, what is?  He found this turnaround:

Love is what got me through.

In law school, there were these examples: his love of problem-solving, his love of learning, his love for his family, and his love for himself. It is more true that love steadied him and got him through.

When I try to force myself to do something, I often rebel and refuse.  It’s so much kinder to find my true motivation. Love is what gets me through a challenge: love as patience with myself, love as finding balance with the rest of my life, and love as openness to the unfolding experience, wonder, and gratitude.  These are my true motivators.  

Submitted by Edie Thomajan

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