23 Determination Examples


Examples of determination include: having a fighting spirit, persisting through difficulty, and being certain in your beliefs.

A real-life example is Terry Fox’s motivational run across Canada-Fox didn’t let Cancer and other setbacks stop him from running toward his goal. He was determined.

Determination is highly desirable by employers and academic institutions, because it suggests that you will work hard and achieve success.

A Quick Definition: Determination can be defined as having the resolve, discipline, and self-belief required to achieve a goal.

10 Real-Life Examples of Determination

  1. Terry Fox – Terry Fox ran across Canada in an attempt to raise money and awareness for Cancer research. He succumbed to his cancer, but his amazing effort goes down in Canadian history as a symbol of the fighting Canadian spirit.
  2. Oprah Winfrey – Born black, female, and poor, Winfrey refused to admit the odds were stacked against her. She rose to prominence in the media industry and became one of the most influential women in the world.
  3. Thomas Edison – Thomas Edison, the inventor of the lightbulb, is said to have tried 1,000 different ways to invent the lightbulb before finally succeeding. His problem was finding the right filament for the bulb.
  4. J.K. Rowling – The author had her famous novel, Harry Potter, rejected by 14 different publishers before finally having it accepted. Imagine if she gave up on the 13th time!
  5. Helen Keller – Despite being deaf and blind (and a woman in a highly patriarchal world), Keller was highly determined to make an impact on the world. She wrote books and travelled the world, becoming one of the most famous women in history.
  6. Elon Musk – When investors and pundits gave up on electric car company, Tesla, Musk lived in his office and worked relentless hours to keep the company running. Today, it’s one of the biggest car making companies in the world.
  7. Joe Biden – Suspend your political beliefs and look at this example of determination: Biden ran for president three separate times and didn’t give up on his goal. He started in 1988 until finally breaking through and getting the win in 2020.
  8. Matthew Webb – The first man to swim across the English channel, Matthew Webb failed in his first attempt. However, despite this massive setback, Webb returned two years later to swim from Dover to Calais in a mammoth 21 hour swim.
  9. Volodymir Zelensky – The president of Ukraine was encouraged by the president of the USA to flee his country when Russia invaded. But Zelensky refused, determined to stand firm and defend his nation.
  10. Tommy Caldwell – The famous rock climber lost his index finger in a backyard accident. Written off as never being able to be a high-performing climber again, Caldwell had to re-learn how to use his hands to climb and is today one of the legends of the sport.

13 Examples of How to Show Determination

Determination is important for every career. Without drive and determination, nothing would ever get done!

Below are some examples of determination that you can use for inspiration. Try to find some examples from your own life that you can fit into your resume skills section, application, or interview.

1. Being Single Minded

Single-mindedness refers to your ability to focus on just one thing. Most people who are determined don’t lose their focus on that one thing they want.

This shows determination because, too often, people change their mind or lose focus. But a truly determined person has one goal that they don’t lose track of.

For example, when applying for a job, you can show that you’ve had a single-minded focus on this one career move for years. Talk about all the preparation and training you’ve done to get the job – showing you’ve been determined to get it for a long, long time.

2. Having Work Ethic

If you’re determined to get a job or promotion, you need to demonstrate that you work hard and don’t slack off. We often call this ‘work ethic‘.

For example, turn up to work early, work as hard as you can while at work, and always go above and beyond. Let your boss know by your actions that you’re determined to get that promotion!

Similarly, when you’re applying for a job, show that you’re hard working by putting in the most preparation out of any candidate, and turn up so prepared and organized that it’s clear that you’re the candidate with amazing work ethic.

Exhibiting Delayed Gratification

Discipline requires delayed gratification. It means being able to push yourself to do things that you don’t want to do in order to achieve your goals.

The ability to put off instant gratification until later is strongly correlated with academic success, mental wellbeing, and overall health.

For example, you may decide not to eat that pizza you want until you’ve done your daily workout, so you can eat it without feeling guilty.

2. Putting In The Hours

Almost everyone has tried and failed to achieve some goal at some point in their lives. For example, many people have tried to learn a language, meet a fitness goal, or learn a new skill.

There are lots of new people in the gym on January 1st. There are far fewer on a cold December morning 11 months later.

If you have a skill or achievement that you’ve been working on for years, definitely include it in your resume.

It shows that you have the commitment and determination to practise, even when you don’t feel like it in the moment.

3. Showing Resilience

Resilience is the ability to stay on course even when things around you are falling apart.   

Resilience is closely linked to determination, since no matter how determined you are, there will always be setbacks and pitfalls that could distract you or impede your progress.

Some examples of resilience include retraining after losing your job, adapting to life in a new city, and balancing your work, home, and studies.

4. Doing Whatever It Takes

When someone says “It’s not possible”, usually, they mean it’s not practical. Sometimes you have to be that person who goes above and beyond everyone else.

If you want something bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to get it.

A good example of this from a few years ago is the story of James Robertson, who walked around 16 miles every day to get to and from his work in Detroit.

If you’re applying for a job, you can do this by not only putting in your application, but sending a personal email to all the people on the hiring committee or coming to the interview with a stellar pitch.

5. Finding an Alternative Route to Success

Determination means you don’t give up when things don’t go to plan. This is one of the best ways to show off your determination, since almost everyone has gone through this at one point.

A common example of this is mature age students at university. Not everyone has the resources, opportunity, or the grades to attend university straight out of school.

Mature age students (usually defined as over 25 years of age) have extra hoops to jump through to get to success. For example, they might be working a full-time job and raising children while studying.

Therefore, their determination has to be high.

6. Self-Advocacy

Self-advocacy is about accepting responsibility for your own life. Think about the greatest achievers in history – they forged their own paths, sometimes at great personal cost.

Self-advocacy doesn’t mean being selfish or ignoring the needs of others, but it does mean placing a high level of importance on achieving your own goals and not becoming distracted by things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

People who advocate for themselves believe that they can achieve their goals and they go out and make sure it can be done.

7. Demonstrating Academic Achievements

Academic achievements are a good proof of your determination because they are difficult to fake. Having a good university degree on your resume is a sign that you’re a person with determination.

Good grades don’t fall into your lap without consistent effort, so be proud of them and show them off.

If you’re using academic grades as an example of your determination in an interview, let the interviewer know what personal sacrifices you had to make to fit in your studies.

8. Demonstrating How you Overcame Adversity

Seemingly small achievements can take extreme dedication and determination depending on an individual’s life circumstances.

One thing that’s important to keep in mind when thinking about your achievements is that not everyone is on a level playing field.

If you’ve scrimped and saved every penny to send your kids to college, or you’ve got your life back on track after rough circumstances, these are absolutely things you can mention in an interview.

These types of achievements resonate with us on a human level and show a level of determination and a depth of character that will be valuable for any employer or academic institution.

9. Being Proficient in Music, Language, or Sport

There are many things in life that can not be learned quickly. Skills like proficiency with a musical instrument, sporting achievements, or language learning can not be “crammed” for.

If you have put the time into becoming good at a skill or hobby, it shows commitment and determination.

Key indicators that you’ve sustained the determination to achieve this proficiency include awards you’ve won, grades you’ve achieved, or certificates of merit.

10. Evidence of Ongoing Pursuit of Goals

If you want to demonstrate your determination, show what you’re currently determined to achieve, and what you’re doing to get there.

For example, you could provide evidence of your weight loss goals and how much progress you’ve been making. You could show how far you’ve come, and how far you’ve still got to go.

By showing that you’ve made hard-earned progress but also remain determined to reach your goal shows that you’ve not only been determined in the past, but are maintaining it in the present.

11. Trying Again after you Fail

Some of the most inspiring stories of determination involve people who succeeded after a long string of failures.

This is because it shows that your determination wasn’t swayed or pushed aside by setbacks. You were resilient, an that is what made all the difference for your success.

For example, on a college application, you can talk about how you had previously been rejected by a college, so you went away and worked hard on gaining the skills an experience to prove that you truly can succeed at college. This shows the college that you’re truly determined to get into college – and they’re more likely to let you in!

Determination FAQs:

What is the difference between motivation and determination?

Motivation describes your desire to work on any given task at any given time. Determination is your desire, discipline, and willingness to work towards your goals, whether you feel motivated or not.

Motivation can be fleeting, so it’s not a great method to use for getting things done.

Determination is established when you have intrinsic motivation rather than fleeting or extrinsic motivation.

How to improve self-determination?

You can improve your self-determination by finding something you’re passionate about.

thinking about what you really want, and why you want it. Fix your mind on it and don’t let external things distract you. If you truly want something, determination will follow. But if you are doing something that you’re not really passionate about, determination will wane.

Read Next: Self-Determination Theory


Determined employees and students are much more likely to succeed, so it’s understandable that businesses and schools seek out determined and dedicated applicants.

The best way to demonstrate your determination is to show off your hard-earned achievements and share the progress you have made towards your goals.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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