Stubbornness Is Dangerously Close to Determination

Sean Baumstark avatar

by Sean Baumstark |

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The difference between determination and stubbornness is becoming more and more clear. With the recent fracturing of my hip and weeks of inpatient rehabilitation, I’ve found myself teetering on the thin line that separates the two.

I’ve always thought of myself as a determined individual; someone who wants to beat Friedreich’s ataxia, summit mountains over 14,000 feet high, and succeed in any job or effort I put my energy toward. 

I decided long ago that I wouldn’t be defined by my disability, mistakes, or failures. My personal resolve is to work through and around each setback and challenge.

The words decided and resolve can help define determined. So it makes sense for me to believe I am a determined individual.

The struggle is to remain determined without being stubborn. Resolved can also be used to define stubborn. Context is everything, but I think it’s fair to say the difference between determined and stubborn is a very narrow line.

Stubbornness is dangerous. Aside from being a characteristic that can irritate friends and family, being stubborn can cause us to be shortsighted or one-sided. Stubbornness causes us to be distracted by the “here and now” and forget the endgame. My stubbornness says to take more steps, even when my legs are shaking and the distance between me and a chair is growing.

Determination keeps the same goal in mind, but it tempers my drive and helps me understand the need to proceed with intentionality and caution. In the face of a struggle or a setback, determination says, “That’s OK, push a little further and a little harder tomorrow.” Right now, my determination says, “Take a rest, let your injured leg recover, and push harder in a little bit.”

If I’m not careful, stubbornness may take over my rehabilitation and I will push myself too far too soon. Doing so can damage muscles, tendons, or ligaments, further slowing my recovery. That thin line between determination and stubbornness could add weeks or months to the healing process.

This is sticking with me because of my current efforts in rehabilitation. I am undergoing intense, daily occupational and physical therapy that pushes my body to shaky and exhausted limits. I am determined to recover and get back on my feet as soon as possible. But my patience is tested by the 2,431 miles that separate me from home.

The last thing I want to do is allow stubbornness to dictate my actions and jeopardize my progress. My therapists often remind me to aim for quality over quantity. It’s better for me to take five strong, slow, and sturdy steps than 10 sloppy, half-extended, and hurried steps.

I am in a hurry emotionally and mentally, but that is no excuse for pushing my bones or my body to a limit that can disrupt the recovery process.

Resting isn’t always an excuse. It is often a clear and necessary reason.


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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