Power Tool: Determination Vs. Frustration

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By: Maria Ermioni Papastefanou

Health and Wellness, GREECE

“The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man’s determination.” Tommy Lasorda

Have you ever watched toddlers trying to stand up and learn how to walk? There is a clear determination in their faces that leaves no doubt that they are going to make it.  Have you ever met a child that gave up and never learned how to walk because it seemed too hard in the first place? Clearly not!

Determination is defined as “the act of coming to a  decision ; firmness of purpose”. It implies purpose, energy, drive, courage, dedication, willpower and perseverance. The driver of determination is a clear and powerful purpose that gives us courage and guides our energy. The opposite of determination is hesitation, indecision, doubt. In order to achieve a goal , “pushing” ourselves to do it is not enough but putting ourselves in a state of determination is; the difference is that acting with determination means that we have taken the decision to commit hundred percent to the desired result and that we have cut off any other possibility. With determination we can accomplish anything because we cultivate courage and willingness to do whatever it takes and act despite of fear, hesitation, insecurity.


Important “ingredients” to build determination

Before we invest our energy on any goal it is important to check that the goal is inspiring enough! Then it needs to be specific, measurable, meaningful to us and ecological, meaning that we know the purpose and the reasons for achieving it and that it is according to our values. Some questions to ask are the following:

  • what specifically do I want?
  • where am I now in relation to my goal?
  • how will I know when I have achieved it?
  • for what purpose do I want it?
  • is it according to my values?
  • what will I gain or lose if I have it?

Another thing to keep in mind is that we can do everything… but not at the same time! Chasing a specific goal allows us to concentrate our focus and energy on one thing at a time.

Once we are confident and clear about the end result the next step would be  to decide to fully commit and do whatever it takes to acheive it. Then it is important to plan the structures to put in place to support this decision.

Action will follow commitment and baby steps will be taken to move us forward. Without action there is no movement. Action is the process, the journey we will embark on in order to get to our final destination. The journey includes  new experiences, new learnings, experimentations, adventures and even risk. It is up to us to decide how to travel: with fear and insecurity or with curiosity and excitement? It is all about the experience of growing and taking our thinking and our life to the next level.

In a journey of discovery it is importnat to cultivate flexibility in order to drive our determination to the right direction. At times we may need to change our approach,  and break our limiting patterns otherwise we risk smashing through a rock instead of taking a right or left turn and finding another passage. If you are determined to get to the top of a mountain, you will need to try any possible  trail. The top (the goal/the dream) doesn’t change. What can change is the routing. And if one trail doens’t work, it is up to us to decide if we will determine this experience as failure or if we will take feedback in order to be successful the next time. Remenber that “the reed that bends will survive the windstorm, while the mighty oak tree will crack”.

The final “ingredient” is to always be at cause, meaning to be in charge of our thinking and of our actions. It is our responsibility to reach our goal. What is between where we are now and where we want to be are our excuses and all the reasons we give ourselves for not having what we want. There is no place for blame, as blame belongs to loss of freedom and disempowerment.

“If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.”

Samuel Johnson



One of the definitions of frustration is the following: “a deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs”. As we keep putting effort but not receiving the respective result, we tend to feel the emotion of frustration. A blend of strong disappointment and overwhelm lead to stagnation, the place where we feel “stuck’ and we cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel. Despite our efforts we are not going anywhere close to our destination. We may feel inadequate, angry and helpless. This is where a coach can help the client get a new perspective and reframe the situation to a more empowering one: feeling frustrated  means that we could be doing better than what we currently are!  It means that we are already taking action but we may need to think of different ways to get to our result, try new approaches and new patterns. Frustration can be just one state along the journey where we have the power to reframe, change and use it to our benefit. Frustration means that we are not getting something that we want very strongly and that we are not happy to settle for less. This feeling has power, it can move us forward and this is when it is up to us to choose to transform our frustration to determination!

“You’ve done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination”. Ralph Marston 


Self Application

Think about a time in your life that you felt really frustrated. What other feelings were there? What were your reactions?

The fist step would be to increase awareness about what we feel frustrated for. Often times, we don’t take the time to search this feeling and we tend to blame circumstances, people and ourselves for not being able to achieve our goals. There is a blurness around that feeling and if we were to return to the moment and ask ourselves what it is all about, then we can remind ourselves that it is all about deciding to be in charge of our lives again. And at that moment this intense negative feeling can be transformed to pure determination for change. It is as though this uncomfortable feeling has the power we were lacking to take our risks and move forward.


  • Remember a time in your life that you felt frustrated. What was the belief behind this feeling?
  • What does determination mean to you?
  • When do you feel mostly determined to achieve something?
  • How can you use the feeling of frustration to your benefit?
  • What structures can you put in place to build your determination?
  • If you were hundred percent determined to achieve your goal, what would you do? What would be the cost of not achieving your goal? What would you gain if you achieved it?

Coaching Application

Coaches support clients to get clarity about what they want, about how they feel, about shifting their perspective to an empowering one and about how they can overcome their limiting beliefs and move forward to achieve their goals. If we have to deal with a client that is in a frustrated state, we can help them gain more clarity about the real reasons behind it and help them reconnect with their end goal.  Energising them and help them visualise the end result is important to change their state. We can then test with them to make sure that their dream is in accordnace with their values and that it remains significant to them. This is when we can help them hold their vision alive, support them and move them towards taking action again.



  • What would be some powerful questions to ask your clients when they feel frustrated?
  • What are some behaviors that would reinforce determination?
  • How do you model determination as a coach to your client?