Are you resolute or just obstinate?


Years ago I was working with a counselor to help me deal with having been widowed at a very young age. Once we did most of the grief work, we started exploring other areas.

During one of those later sessions, I had an exciting Aha! moment: I realized I had a stubborn streak. Mind you, this was the good kind of stubborn – as in “determined; won’t give up” – and not the bad kind of stubborn – as in“My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with the facts.” This was great news, because I had tended to view myself as not particularly tenacious. Let’s hear it for empowering epiphanies!

Because this was such a fun discovery, I happily shared it with my older sisters and father: “Guess what I found out: I have a stubborn streak!”

Commitment leads to success; obstinacy...not so much.I never realized anyone could roll their eyes that far back in their head.

While nobody actually laughed out loud (quite), there was a fair amount of strangled coughing, and they all traded a very significant look with each other. Finally, my sister Barbara said, with as much gentleness as she could muster, “Honey, we’ve known that since you were an infant.” Funny how something that was so obvious to others was hidden from my own perception for so long.

Sometimes clients don’t understand why I challenge them on their language, because they feel it’s “just a matter of semantics.” The reality is that words can make or break your business success, whether they’re part of your marketing copy, your face-to-face discussions with clients, or your own self-talk.

“I have a stubborn streak” is a case in point. I was implicitly defining stubborn as “fixed or set in purpose or opinion; resolute”. That’s a good thing, right? However, I got the distinct impression that my family felt my behavior often reflected a less productive side of this trait, that of being “unreasonably obstinate; obstinately unmoving; not yielding to argument, persuasion, or entreaty.”

So are you resolute, or are you just obstinate? It’s not just semantics! The former will propel you through any obstacles between you and your desired outcome; the latter will make it nearly impossible to change course, even in the face of clear marketplace feedback that your approach just ain’t working.

Here are some clues to help you discern whether or not you’ve gone over to the Dark Side of Stubborn.

Obstinate: “Yes, but…”

This is your default response to any feedback or input that doesn’t support your chosen course of action. This phrase is often followed by such comments as “everybody says this is the way to go”, “I’ve put so much time/money/effort into it, I can’t quit now”, and “I’m doing this anyway.” Note that this is closely related to Obstinacy Red Flag #2 (next).

Resolute: “Yes, and…”.

You acknowledge and consider input and can clearly identify how and why that leaves your well-considered activities unaffected.

Obstinate: “La-la-la-la….I can’t hear you!”

You put up so many emotional and logistical barriers that you prevent all potentially challenging opinions of your course of actions from even getting through to you. After all, what you know can’t make you question your decision, right?

Resolute: “Say more about that.”

When you’re determined to create a successful outcome, you’re open to any and all input that may increase the probability of you achieving it. You may or may not act on that input, but you certainly give it due consideration.

How you view yourself can support or sabotage your outcomes.

Obstinate: There’s a little voice inside your head telling you you’ll look like an idiot if you back down from your position now.

This would be Mr. Ego talking. It’s this voice that has caused so many otherwise smart businesspeople to throw good money after bad in a cause that everyone else is willing and able to see as a dead end.

Resolute: You adopt as your mantra “No guts, no glory”.

You’re less concerned about looking good than about creating results. You’ve assessed the pros and cons, the possible risks and rewards, and you’ve concluded that you’re willing and able to address any unexpected obstacles that arise.

Obstinate: When you think about staying your course, you feel tense and uncertain; each additional bump in the road makes you feel burdened and beat up.

You’re stressed when you consider moving forward on your current path, especially if your gut is desperately trying to tell you that you’re on a sinking ship. Any setback feels like an additional weight on your back.

Resolute: When you think about staying your course, you feel calm and confident; any bumps in the road make you feel even more determined and capable of getting where you want to go.

While you don’t ignore the ups and downs of your chosen course, you do act from a position of confidence that you’ll handle whatever needs to be handled on the way to your goal. You view the bumps in the road as molehills, not mountains.


What are your experiences with resolution and obstinacy? Do you ever mistake one for the other? What’s been the result of that?

Or are you in a position where you’re neither resolute nor obstinate, because you seem to flit from one potential business-building activity to another, never sticking with one long enough to see if it bears fruit for you? If that’s the case, I have a suggestion.

My specialty is showing entrepreneurs who are plagued by distractions how to figure out the course of action that makes the most sense for them right now, then start striding down that path – and I hold them accountable for the actions they’ve committed to.

Is that something I could effectively do for you? There’s no way to know unless we explore the possibility. So my suggestion is this: How ‘bout we set up a time for a phone call where we can get acquainted and do that exploring? Neither one of us will be committed to anything other than this “first date” conversation, but both of us will feel confident about whatever decision we reach about working together, whether that decision is yes, no, or not yet.

The call is easy to set up. Just email me with “I’m ready to be resolute!” in the subject line and tell me some times you’re available for a phone call. We’ll talk and see what works out best for both of us.

BTW, thanks to Jannes Pockele for posting the image of the mule in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.

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