When you feel out of control…

My life seems to have deteriorated and it mainly stems from the fact that my perspective on things have changed greatly. I feel like I have a more jaded view of the world since I’ve come into contact with not-so-honorable people. I also think it’s because of my tendency to be so judgemental. It was essentially my negative views of myself that played a huge part in ruining what could’ve been my chances at success.

I think I’ve gotten to believe that life is limited–that I’m limited. Not good enough. Any failure I had experienced, I had taken to heart. It was as if that was proof that I didn’t have what it takes to make it because, before those failures, everything had come easily to me. When my efforts became unfruitful, I felt that it would be impossible for me to succeed.

If I’m absolutely honest about it, some of the time, I didn’t really expend as much effort as I should have. But then, there were those times when I had worked as hard as I thought I could, and I still couldn’t achieve my goals. (Keyword: thought. I always seemed to hold back a bit, I guess to leave a cushion…a bit of room for excuses later.)

I didn’t realize that because I had succeeded previously, I was at a higher level and that would mean that I needed to expend more effort than was normally required of me in the past. No, I was of the fixed mindset. Which basically meant that I believed my abilities were innate and unchangeable. Essentially, that meant that anytime I faced a challenge I couldn’t overcome right away, I felt that I never would.

The truth of the matter is, as discovered by Carol Dweck (and outlined in her Mindset book), that everyone is able to grow and get better at tasks the more we attempt them (barring certain physical limitations). The only limitations we really have are the ones we place on ourselves.

It is imperative when you feel out of control, that you remember you have absolute control and your efforts do matter, if for the simple fact that expending effort, even at a failed attempt, means that you’ve just practiced that task. No effort would equal no experience/practice, which means that your abilities have no way of growing. That implies that the only real issue is that your efforts may not yield the results you desired. If the results aren’t as great as you imagined them to be, then realize that you will need to increase your efforts and this time, not by just applying more brute force but by reflecting on why the previous abysmal results occurred and then formulating a strategy to overcome it.

For example, I think one of my biggest issues with learning complex subjects is that I get lost in the details…and that I procrastinate. So I had decided to go “back to the basics” in order to be reminded of the bird’s eye view of the concepts and then start delving back into the details in order to practice. As for the procrastination problem, it’s mainly connected to my fixed/perfectionist mindset. I feel like if I do anything, it should be done right the first time. Or that there’s so much to do and to be done perfectly, that I don’t feel like getting started. To counter that, I’ve decided to do just a bit everyday (i.e., one chapter a day or even just reading a page a day if it feels like I’d be pulling my own teeth if I attempted to read a whole chapter). I haven’t been able to read & take notes everyday right off the bat, but I have noticed an improvement in the frequency to start (and I haven’t given up, which, in and of itself is huge improvement from before).

To summarize, if you feel like you have no control over your successes/failures, remember:

  1. Your abilities grow.
  2. Your efforts matter, for the simple fact that it is what enables your abilities to grow.
  3. If your efforts don’t yield the results you want, take time out, reflect, and try again, strategically.
  4. Take note of your improvements to help fuel your growth.
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