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What is Determination?

The “Little Engine That Could” is a story most of us have heard, or seen as an animated movie.  If you ask anyone the meaning, the response is usually “to never give up.”  That’s a good point, but not the most important one.

The Little Engine was not strong enough to pull her cars over the hill, but was determined to succeed.  Giving up was not an option, so she looked for another solution.  She went for help, and was turned down, not once, but twice.  She continued asking until she found someone who would help.  Together, they pulled the cars over the hill – success.

Determination is the ability to continue trying to do something, even though it is difficult.  Determination sees failure as a lesson and opportunity to find a new way.  It leads to finding different solutions, to seek help, to change methodology, to dedicate more time, to work harder, to believe in our ability to achieve.


The story:

A little steam engine had a long train of cars to pull.  She went along well till she came to a steep hill.  Then, no matter how hard she tried, she could not move the long train of cars.  She pulled and pulled.  She backed up and started off again.  But no! the cars would not go up the hill.

At last she left the train and started up the track alone.  Do you think she had stopped working?  No, indeed!  She was going for help.  “Surely I can find someone to help me,” she thought.

Soon she saw a big steam engine standing on a side track.  He looked very big and strong.  Running alongside, she looked up and said: “Will you help me over the hill with my train of cars?  It is so long and heavy I can’t get it over.”  The big steam engine looked down at the little steam engine.  Then he said: “Don’t you see that I am through my day’s work? I have been rubbed and scoured ready for my next run.  No, I cannot help you.”

The little steam engine was sorry, but she went on.  Soon she came to a second big steam engine standing on a side track.  He was puffing and puffing, as if he were tired. “That big steam engine may help me,” thought the little steam engine.  She ran alongside and asked: “Will you help me bring my train of cars over the hill?  It is so long and so heavy that I can’t get it over.”  The second big steam engine answered: “I have just come in from a long, long run.  Don’t you see how tired I am?  Can’t you get some other engine to help you this time?

“I’ll try,” said the little steam engine, and off she went.  After a while she came to a little steam engine just like herself.  She ran alongside and said: “Will you help me over the hill with my train of cars?  It is so long and so heavy that I can’t get it over.” “Yes, indeed!” said this little steam engine. “I’ll be glad to help you, if I can.”

So the little steam engines went back to where the train of cars were standing.  Both little steam engines went to the head of the train, one behind the other.  Puff, puff! Chug, choo!  Off they started!  Slowly the cars began to move.  Slowly they climbed the steep hill. As they climbed, each little steam engine began to sing:  “I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can! –”

And they did!  Very soon they were over the hill and going down the other side.  Now they were on the plain again; and the little steam engine could pull her train herself.  So she thanked the little engine who had come to help her, and said good-bye.  She went merrily on her way, singing: “I-thought-I-could! I-thought-I-could! I-thought-I-could! I-thought-I-could! –”


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