I have an almost insatiable curiosity about many things in life–including why ‘curious’ is spelled with a U and ‘curiosity’ isn’t… who decided on this path of lunacy?! Sorry, squirrel moment. Back to my natural inclination towards curiosity. I read a lot. A. Lot. I own approximately 4,200 books (I know, at last count it was approximately 4,000… I didn’t stop reading!), I subscribe online to newspapers of choice, I have subscriptions to a handful of periodicals, and I’ll read any number of random articles online. I like to learn. I like to exercise the muscle between my ears. Medical experts will tell you the brain is most definitely not a muscle. I disagree. It may not have all the hallmarks of a muscle, but if you don’t exercise it, it will atrophy. As I have no intention of allowing this to happen, I’m constantly making the sucker work. Unlike going to the gym, this is rarely a trial for me! I rather enjoy it, actually.
Anyway, a friend of mine posted a link on FB that caught my attention, and being the curious person that I am, I clicked on it and read the article: Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid. I had very mixed feelings about this article, to be honest. First, tucked into the last sentence of the second paragraph is an important qualifier to this list, the author of the article slanted everything toward how they would apply to an entrepreneur. And let’s face it, most people skip the fine print and read the bullet points–or in this case, the boldface type–so they may miss this little detail. However, I tracked back to the original article, and there is no such qualifier. That brought me back to my original concern with the line of thinking taken by the authors (now there are two people on the ropes).
I realize these lists are generalizations and there will always be an exception to the rule. As such, it fails to take into account situational deviations and personality traits. Huh?! Let me ‘splain as we walk through this list of things “mentally strong people” supposedly avoid:
1. Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. For the most part, I’d say this is true. Mentally strong people aren’t likely to sit and have a one man/woman pity party or spend weeks on end licking their wounds. They are, to quote a song, going to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again. Or at least pick up where they left off. That doesn’t mean, however, they won’t encounter a situation that levels a knockout punch. Life can throw some pretty unexpected and nasty curves that require recovery time. Not everything can be sloughed off nonchalantly. Not everything can be explained away flippantly. No, sometimes very serious things happen in life that require you to grieve in order to properly recover. In so doing, even a mentally strong person is likely to have a pity party or two. The difference is they won’t be living in that mental space for the rest of their lives. They’ll move through the process and recover, a little wiser, more compassionate, more driven, more determined, or whatever else has grown from the experience. They’ll move past it. But was it a waste? No. One can learn many things and grow exponentially even when feeling sorry for themselves is part of their recovery process when they’ve been knocked around by something of consequence.
2. Give Away Their Power. I can see where the author was going with this one, but it is by no means complete. I can make decisions for myself about who and what I will allow to affect me. To some extent. There are many variables in life over which I have zero control. And I do understand that I have about 95% control over my reactions to things. And let’s be honest, no one has 100% control over their emotions and reactions. Everyone has a button that if pushed, will cause someone to crumble into tears or fly off the handle with temper. I agree that some people have buried those buttons so deeply and constructed such impressive defensive walls, that locating and/or breaching them is something that seldom occurs. However, it’s impossible to protect ourselves forever from everything. Eventually, something causes an uncontrollable reaction. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s not. Also, giving up control and power sometimes requires more strength than holding onto it. This avoidance principle fails entirely to consider this point.
3. Shy Away from Change. I admit this point brought about the most vehement reaction from yours truly. A violent, “Uh-uh!” complete with a mulish expression and head shake may or may not have occurred. Why? Okay… clearly I don’t avoid change at all costs. The entire existence of this blog is a prooftext for that. I started the blog when I embarked on a journey to change physically. But in the past few months, I quit my stable, well-paying job (that I hated) to go back to school for culinary training with the intent to change careers. I’ve tackled it, sure. That doesn’t mean I like change. In fact, I hate it. I hate change with every fiber of my being. I’ll do it, but I’ll complain through a lot of it. I’ll be grouchy and cranky, I’ll be unpleasant and snap at people, I’ll be intimidated by obstacles I hadn’t anticipated, I’ll be leaky and cry a lot. In short, I will not handle it gracefully. I understand change is an unavoidable part of life, but that doesn’t mean I have to embrace it lovingly! No way, Jose! I am, and always have been, slow to change. I’m an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of girl. I have to see benefit in the change or I won’t even begin to consider it. Even then, I’ll probably drag my feet. Shoot, it was May 1 when I decided I was quitting my job… I’d been considering it for a good year and without going into detail, the proverbial straw broke this camel’s back and I announced I was quitting my job. It didn’t appear to the world that I spent a great deal of time pondering my options, but that’s far from the truth. I’d already been considering for months when I would leave my job. It was a foregone conclusion in my mind, all I had to do was line up my ducks. I will admit the finer details weren’t in place in May, but the escape plan was definitely in motion. I didn’t give notice until August. I started speaking with Le Cordon Bleu mid-May, but much to the consternation of the advisors, I refused to commit until I had my ducks lined up. I maintain God made me intelligent and expects me to use said intelligence! I wasn’t moving forward with the escape plan until I knew what and how everything was going to play out. I don’t regret the change at all. I’m convinced I’m right where I’m supposed to be. However, I have not always been the best version of me throughout this process. I have been stressed to the point that I would cry at the drop of a pin. I have been snappish. I have avoided people in order to spend more time in my own company. When I say that I don’t handle change gracefully, I’m not exaggerating. I really, really don’t like it! For this reason, I’ll probably tolerate something a lot longer than many in an effort to see something through, rather than trying to turn around a runaway train. It’s a bit of a cost-benefit analysis where I decide what is less palatable, keeping on or changing. If changing is more stressful, I’ll often stay the course. My mom will tell you’ve I’ve held to this practice since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I’ve never liked change. Does that make me less mentally strong? No. It means it’s an inherent tendency of mine. I will change, I just won’t embrace it and pretend everything is peaches and cream. And I can come out on top in change and still dislike it inordinately. See? Look at that paragraph! Toldya I had a huge response to this one!
4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control. I saw where the authors were going on this one, and didn’t have an issue with it. I actually thought of my trip to visit Jackie in Valdosta, Georgia in November 2012. Do you remember that trip? The one where I booked a flight to Jackson, MISSISSIPPI instead of JacksonVILLE, FLORIDA?! And found out while I was deplaning in Chicago? I never got mad, never cried… I just rolled with the punches. There was nothing I could really do except roll with the punches. And I had a fantastic visit and saw the humor in the whole ordeal from the beginning. I said then that it was a comedy of errors and I maintain that today.
5. Worry About Pleasing Others. Alright, this one is kind of “six in one hand, half a dozen in the other” for me… There can be a time and a place for being a people pleaser. “They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset and will navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.” Right… like a family member’s wedding is the time to put this into play. Nope. You’re going to people please so as not to raise a ruckus in the middle of the most important day of a loved one’s life. You can choose to challenge that person some other day and some other time when it’s more appropriate. The overall principle is fairly sound, though. Calling someone on poor behavior and choices and placing responsibility for an action with the responsible person can be done gracefully, and should be done.
6. Fear Taking Calculated Risk. Can I rephrase this? They don’t let fear prevent them from taking calculated risk. Courage isn’t doing something you’re not afraid of… it’s doing something in spite of that fear. And there is a difference between courage and recklessness. Notice the principle pertains to a “calculated” risk.
7. Dwell on the Past. I concede the authors are referring to someone who remains mired in the past. After all, the only way to avoid the eighth principle is to look at the past.
8. Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. See? Toldya you have to look at the past to avoid this one. I was a history major in college–I know, I know… total nerd alert. Anyway, history is cyclical. Sadly, humans repeat the same mistakes over and over. All the time. And on a colossally large scale, too. In that regard, we’re not the brightest. I’d go into that further, but it’s an entirely different soapbox for an entirely different day. But you must look to your past in order to find areas that need improvement and to see where you have grown in order to avoid repetitious failure. Failure isn’t a problem, per se, but repeating the same mistakes over and over is. We need to learn from our mistakes and grow. We may fail at the same thing twice, but if the measurement of failure lessens because we have grown since the first occurrence, it’s actually improvement. I hope that convoluted sentence made sense!
9. Resent Other People’s Success. I’m in total agreement with this one. Don’t resent their success. Get off your butt and work hard to achieve your own success! Don’t begrudge someone else their success. I have marveled at promotions throughout my prior career, but I’ll admit I wasn’t involved in the hirings and don’t have all the information. I don’t know what led to the decisions. And I don’t blame the person who got promoted.
10. Give Up After Failure. This one seems self-explanatory. It goes back to those song lyrics again… you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. And in the words of Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.” So go at it!
11. Fear Alone Time. Alright, I admit it. This one hit my funny bone. The day I fear alone time (as a hyper-introvert) is the day the Earth ceases to spin on its axis. But, here’s where personality traits can kick in. Some people are more creative and successful when other people are involved. Not me, necessarily, but extroverts aren’t wired the same way as myself. In many ways, introversion and extroversion are completely misunderstood. They affect our problem-solving methods, where we obtain energy, how we process information, how we process emotion, and a myriad of other things. However, our thought process plays a major part in how we think things through to completion and that, ultimately, can affect success or failure. For some extroverts, that means bouncing everything under the sun off of others. For many introverts, that means closeting ourselves away, like a turtle, and thinking everything through ad nauseum. (I’m not insulting introverts… I’m a HUGE fan of my turtle shell!) Alone time is depressing for a lot of extroverts. Literally. So this principle dismisses a crucial element of people and introversion/extroversion is something over which you have very little control. As a hyper-introvert, you can trust me on that one. Being around too many people can be physically painful and unbelievably stressful. I’m fairly certain the converse is true for some extroverts.
12. Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Could someone embroider this on a pillow? We live in a world of entitlement. It’s a disease. And a damn obnoxious one at that. It’s pervasive. The world owes me nothing. I’m perfectly capable of going out and earning things, though. And an organization may owe me something, but that’s usually because we have a contractual agreement of some sort in place. (Keep that in mind next time you chew out a claims adjuster… read your policy. It’s a contract. You might find out the adjuster is 100% correct about denying you something you think you’re entitled to. Okay. I’m stepping down from my soapbox now.) A contractual obligation and entitlement are not the same as you are only entitled to the stipulations lined out within said contract… not the kitchen sink you think you should get.
13. Expect Immediate Results. Oy vey. While we’re embroidering, can we have a pillow made with this, too? Instant gratification in the technology world has spilled over into expectations of everything else in life. But the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of things in life that don’t happen instantaneously. With all of our medical developments, you still can’t bring the baby home from the hospital the day after you take the pregnancy test (unless, for some odd reason, you opt to take a pregnancy test to confirm the belly that has grown and wiggled throughout the past few months really has a kid in there the day before you go into labor). Those results aren’t immediate. Yes, I know that’s a very simplistic example; however, there are times in life where situations must evolve over the course of months or even years. Not everything is a bag of microwave popcorn. For that matter, I’d rather have popcorn from an old-fashioned popper that involves heating oil and then popping the kernels while they’re agitated. The popcorn tastes far superior when done the slow way. There are many things in life that are worth waiting for. Don’t give up just because something hasn’t happened as fast as you wanted it to! I have to continually remind myself of this because I’m still single… it’s a two person operation so it’s not something over which I have control. But I’m not giving up on my “happily ever after” with an imperfect man, imperfect kids, and a messy, imperfect house. It’s just going to take longer than I ever anticipated. But is it worth the wait? You bet your boots!
Alright, this has to be the longest blog post I’ve ever written. I’ve always known I’m longwinded. Now you do, too! But I’ve been percolating all of this for the past eighteen hours and needed to both think through it and get it out of my system. Hello, really looong blog post–I think my posts from Europe and last year’s east coast trip rival this for length, but they’re loaded up with photos so they don’t really count! I try not to abuse my blogger-person privileges too often, but sometimes we just need to climb onto a soapbox and if you author a blog it’s a great pulpit for soapboxing (surprisingly, this appears to be a real word according to Sean’s spell check (yes, my trusty laptop has a name, it’s Sean… feel free to say hello to Sean, he’s very nice)).
Okay, I have homework to do and an episode or two of Top Gear to watch (it’s the BBC version so don’t get your knickers in a twist). Then I have to figure out how I’m going to engineer the hanging of Christmas lights on my apartment’s porch as they were purchased yesterday. Twinkle lights and all! I can’t wait!