A few weeks ago, I was enjoying a snowboarding adventure at Mammoth Mountain. After five tiring days, and a black diamond trail, comfort coursed through me as I realized this would be the last run of the trip. I needed a break. I was admiring the snowboarder and skier way out in front of me, carving new tracks in the snow with their equipment. They looked so smooth and graceful as they swished side to side. Midthought and suddenly my eyes go wide, I’m going head over heels, somersaulting, a piece of my helmet flies off, but with relief I land on my posterior. If you’ve never snowboarded before, imagine playing in the ocean as a child and a wave takes you out, causing you to tumble. Your head hits the ocean floor, you’re panicking, but you manage to rise to the surface, catch your breath, and keep swimming.
Life is often about getting up after falling down; to keep swimming both physically and metaphorically.
Ironically, while writing this blog post, my computer crashed and I lost my document. My initial thought was “wow, what a complete waste of time.” I relaxed my muscles, recognized and released the tension I felt and began again. I reframed my thought process to “now I have a chance to make this better.” Truth is, writing is therapeutic and enjoyable for me. So why did I have those initial negative thoughts? I recently began reading the classic book by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer called “Your Erroneous Zones-Escape negative thinking and take control of your life.” While I don’t agree with all he has to say, I learned to take the parts of his book that resonate with me. I believe it helped me in this moment. One of his principles is about taking charge of your life. He discusses how our thoughts shape our emotions and changing the way we think can change the way we feel. Dr. Dyer emphasizes that part of this process is recognizing that problems are a part of life and it’s important to try not to feel happiness or sadness based on the problems or amount of problems we have.
A friend of mine recently told me she is going to try and stop complaining so much. Both my friend and the book inspired me to do the same. While complaining may give some emotional relief, being more aware of these complaints can help reframe our thoughts and feelings in a beneficial manner. It is important to recognize the difference between holding in our complaints and feelings versus changing the complaint into an opportunity to build our emotional muscle. To be clear, I am not encouraging holding all feelings in, as this isn’t helpful or healthy, and complaining does have some advantages. However, if it’s a minor complaint, or mishap, that’s able to be reformed in one’s head, I recommend trying to think in a more mindful positive way.
I could give plenty of examples of when I’ve had a complaint, a problem, fallen down, or even failed, but I think what’s important is pushing through and looking at the result or the change that a mistake caused someone to make. For example, after doing poorly on an exam, people may permanently change their study habits. Maybe this one failure caused them to go from an average student to a top student. Or maybe you've failed a friend or sorority sister. Now you know how to better be there for someone. These emotions we feel when we make a mistake are important to recognize. It is what drives the change that we often make because of a setback.
We’ve covered a way to overcome small problems and that we can learn from bigger problems and apply them to future situations. But how do we prevent problems before they occur? From personal experience, I have found goal setting to be very helpful in staying on track. By having goals, I am automatically thinking through the process of how to reach this goal. Then I will be more likely to anticipate potential problems that may occur and think of how to avoid them. In my job search, I have a deadline for myself. A problem I may encounter could involve not knowing how to answer an interview question, which could result in myself not getting the job. Now if this happens, I will learn from it and be prepared to answer that same question in the future. However to help prepare and avoid this, I can research common interview questions and also think back to recruitment. As a sorority member, I have so much practice with interviewing and getting to know people. I know I could work through any question that came my way. This confidence will help me get through the process.
Lastly, it is important to take care of the body. I find that when I’m in a better headspace, I think more clearly and am less likely to accidentally mess up. Who knows, maybe I wouldn’t have fallen so hard snowboarding if I had been in this mindset instead of feeling so exhausted. I already can’t wait for my next trip to the snow!
University of California, Santa Barbara