Are You Being Stubborn or Smart?

Feet of an athlete running on a deserted road - Training for fitness and healthy lifestyleI recently coached a woman who from the start, seemed to be daring me to coach her, She was convinced she would not change her mind. She was fighting for changes in her organization because so many people were burnt out, disheartened, and angry. She felt the same way too.

She said she wondered if she was being stubborn or smart, but declared that she wasn’t ready to give up. She felt that moving on was not an option. We explored what giving up meant to her. She admitted that if she quit fighting, she would feel she had failed.

I see this black and white thinking in many of my clients. They are stuck because they only see two options: Stay or go, push forward or give up, fame or failure, love someone or leave, obey or rebel, and even, live one way or die inside.

There are times when it is a virtue to stay on track toward your dreams and goals no matter what happens. Other times your stubbornness will keep you from seeing the reality of the vast number of options you can choose from.

The Most Important Question You Should Ask Yourself

A client once desperately asked me to help her prioritize. She was a successful executive who used to be a brilliant corporate attorney. I said, “With all you have achieved in your life, I think you learned how to prioritize somewhere along the way. I want to know why today, you can’t remember.”

After a long pause, she said, “Why am I here? I think I had a vision of what I wanted when I started this job. Now I can’t remember.”

Without knowing why we are doing what we do, it is hard to make decisions. You either keep pushing on with your daily grind and or entertain the thought of giving up.

The most important question you should ask yourself is, “What am I committed to?” To determine this, first ask yourself how are you spending most of your time and energy. What are you doing with your time? Do you know why you are choosing the actions and reactions you are taking throughout the day?

Then ask yourself, “What is the outcome I want to achieve? What result feels meaningful? What vision do I have for myself in the future that fuels my spirit with hope?”

Do your commitments — what  you spend most of your time and energy on — match your desired outcome?

Yes, you need commitment to complete a task or project. Yet your commitments aren’t always productive. You are always committed to something but it may have come untethered from your desired outcome.

The client at the start of this post realized she was committed to fighting. She felt she was an advocate for her peers. When I asked her what vision she had for the future that she could influence if not create, she described the changes she would like to see.

I then asked her, “You said you were tired of battling leaders. Instead of trying to force them to see your point of view, is there another way you could inspire them to see what else is possible for everyone? Could you make inroads toward your dream another way?” The conversation opened up to exploring other possibilities she could take now that could make the difference she wanted to see. Her fight had become a habit instead of choice.

The other client that wanted me to tell her how to prioritize found that she knew what her priorities were once she recalled her dream and why it was still important to her.

We generally think of commitment as a representation of our passion. Commitment is good. Commitment gets results. Unfortunately, these beliefs are not always true..

Are you committed to an action or to an outcome?

Steve Jobs said, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” What isn’t working anymore? What would better now that you can commit to?

Here are some tips to help you identify and choose how you commit your time:

  1. In one or two sentences, define the ultimate goal you want to achieve and why. Write the statements down and put the paper where you will see it often. Then when you make choices about how you want to spend your time, ask what would be best for you do to right now to help you achieve your desired outcome. If you change your approach, you aren’t giving up. You are choosing what is the best path forward right now.
  1. At least twice a day, and ask yourself what you are committed to. Is it what you want to be doing? Are you still convinced you are moving toward your desired outcome? What do you need to do to shift your commitments so you are moving forward toward your vision?
  1. Allow yourself to change your mind. What you thought was a good action plan yesterday could become a less than desirable strategy today. You are seeing new things and learning as you grow. You are not breaking promises if you change the steps. Be clear on what you want to achieve and why, then it should be easy to explain to people that you are changing your actions and direction based on what you now know. They may still be disappointed, but that is better than dealing with the loss of stubbornly staying on the wrong path.

Keep the dream, the vision, and the desired state in mind. Stay determined to achieve this. Then be willing to adjust your plans, shift your focus, or recommit to your strategy as needed.

If you would like to have me speak at your upcoming event or talk about leadership training and coaching, please reach to me at:

Marcia Reynolds

tel:+1 602 954 9030


  1. Supriya Desai says:

    Gosh, Marcia, you’re good! My intention is to become as powerful of a coach for my clients as I imagine you are for yours. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  2. Annette Wheatley says:

    Hi Marcia,
    Your article is very good and does remind me of a totally different situation: convincing your widowed mother that she needs to make changes and move into assisted living – and about her last wishes, should she become unable to decide by herself. She seems stubborn and won’t talk about any of these things – or is she smart? moreover, she is full of self-pity and blames me for her loneliness (I live in Australia and she lives in Belgium).
    Any advice?!
    Thank you in advance.

    Annette Wheatley

    • Hi Annetter,
      I am sure your mother is very scared. She could also be angry that her life is ending like this. I am sorry she is taking it out on you. She probably doesn’t know better than to look inward. Hopefully, you can let her words flow through you as you try to hold her with compassion. Then talk to the assisted living people about ideas for convincing your mother. They have a lot of experience with this. I wish we had made my mother move even though she didn’t want to. Because we didn’t, she fell and was wounded. The infection never healed and poisoned her blood. If someone had been there to help her right away, she could have lived longer and maybe left with more dignity than she could have imagined.
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