Often when we have a goal or project, we think that determination alone will help get us there.

It’s little wonder — we’re inundated with messages like “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and “If it is to be, it’s up to me”. As a result, we put all this pressure on ourselves and end up feeling overly responsible for outcomes. It is so, so stressful, and not much fun.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m not bagging determination. It’s such an essential quality to have, particularly when you want to make a difference in the world. Without determination, it’s easy to give up when it gets too hard.

But if, when things get tough, your default is to amp up the determination (“it’s not working out as quickly as I expected — I must therefore try harder!”) … well, this post is especially for you.

Introducing the other “D” qualities

When we’re in panic mode, or overwhelm, we often get tunnel vision and think that determination is the only way to move forward. Bizarrely, determination alone can actually counter-productive — too much determination can blind you to other options (including an “easier path forward”).

After observing many people work towards their goals — clients, friends, and especially myself — I’ve come to realise there are 3 complementary qualities to determination. And conveniently, they all start with “D”.

The 4 “D”s

Determination — the inner resolve to hang in there and do it, despite the hurdles that might come up. As mentioned before, this is the default that people think they need to work on their goals.

Discernment — letting your wisest self speak. Taking time to see the big picture. Asking questions to understand your deeper motivation. Doing what you intuitively know to do, not what your head or your best friend/colleague/bus driver/society says is the right thing to do. If you catch yourself saying ‘should’, there’s a good chance that your discernment is being thwarted.

Diligence — taking step-by-baby-step action towards your goal. And not just for a few hours or days. But regular, consistent action that bears fruit over time. Consistent action doesn’t have to be hard or boring, but it does need to be consistent. (Diligence is much more fun in community, rather than slogging it out alone).

Detachment — letting go of attachment to outcome. Not trying to control everything. Learning to experience your feelings without them taking over. Responding not reacting.

In other words …

When working on our goals, we need determination to hang in there, discernment to see the right way forward, diligence to do the groundwork and detachment to not get caught up in the minutiae and struggles.

Together, these 4 “D” virtues provide a balance. Although they aren’t always needed in equal measures, they are nearly always present in some way.

What about you?

What’s a project you’re working on right now? Which of the 4 “D”s are you needing more of?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.