Are you going through a rough patch? Are you insanely busy with school and work and kids and life? You’re not alone. This phrase is repeated so often that it’s is cliche by now. But, it’s true! Maybe not in the way that many people mean, but you’re not alone because chances are that someone somewhere has gone through your situation and survived and possibly even thrived. Changing your perspective just a tiny bit can help you power through any situation you experience, and this post discusses one such tiny perspective change.
I Really Can Do This
During engineering school, I took a lot of hard classes. I stayed up late at night doing hard math problems like calculus and chemistry and differential equations (i.e., some really hard, complicated stuff), struggling because the problems were really hard. I’d get frustrated beyond belief, sometimes (many times) crying out of frustration because these problems seemed so hard. The examples in the book weren’t helpful, there were no resources online (for harder stuff), it was late at night so my friends and the professor weren’t available or we were supposed to do these problems on our own…for whatever reason, I’d be sitting there by myself trying to solve these nearly impossible problems and sometimes having a complete breakdown because I was so tired, so stressed out, and so overwhelmed. I would get so worked up until I hit a breaking point and have to take a timeout.
Taking a step back was the first helpful thing I did. Second, in 19 out of 20 times, I could eventually solve the problem if I took a deep breath and thought about it. Third, there was almost no situation where I couldn’t ask the professor or a friend for help the next day unless I had failed to plan ahead and the assignment was due the next day. Unfortunately, there were plenty of times when it was the night before the assignment was due and I couldn’t wait. The main thing that kept me going though was the thought that people less capable than me but with the same information (and sometimes less information) had gotten through these problems. Maybe these people weren’t completely correct, but they had gotten through the problems. Now, I like to think that I’m smarter than the average bear (which isn’t true, but it’s good to have some ego) and I’m also a proud person, so it galled me to think that others had figured this out but I couldn’t. This tiny perspective change from “woe is me” to “if they could do it, so can I!” made all the difference in how I approached the problem. If they could do it, then why was I being so dramatic? Why couldn’t I calm down and figure out an answer? Really, why couldn’t I? There was absolutely no reason (besides woe-is-me), so this thought encouraged me to collect myself (i.e., stop crying and shouting) and get back to it. As long as the professor and the textbook had done an adequate job of presenting the material, I was able to find a solution to those seemingly impossible problems (and get to bed). True, sometimes I really did need some outside help, but those occasions were few and far between
This Applies to Any Situation
Several years and 2 degrees later, the perspective change has helped me power through some hard times. While I try to think in positive terms, the simple thought that less capable people than me have gotten through harder things with the same or less amount of information has kept me going through some hard times in my life. And not just kept me going. It’s encouraged me to keep trying and not give up, because, gosh darn it, if they can do it and possibly do it well, then so can I!
While the example above is some hard stuff (e.g., math), this little perspective shift applies to both big and small challenges. Some of my real life examples: researching and writing my master’s thesis…while working full time; house training Way Pup; planning a wedding; getting ketchup stains out of shirts; working through rough patches in my marriage; learning how to talk to people while being an introvert; sharing photos on Instagram; get through some bouts with depression; finding time to exercise; picking a movie; cooking chicken so that it tastes good. Through big and small, this thought/perspective has helped me keep going.
It’s probably important for me to mention is that I don’t really have any specific people in mind. The less able person than me is just some generic person who isn’t as hard of a worker, or isn’t as clever, or isn’t as smart, or isn’t as talented. This is in no way to say that I think I’m particularly a hard worker, or particularly clever, or particularly smart. It’s that this generic person is not at my level – it’s all relative. See image below for relativity graphic.
Really, Any Situation
Whatever you’re going through, someone less capable than you has done it too. This includes working full time while going to school full time, maybe with 1, 2, or 3 kids, maybe they’re single, maybe they’re dating, maybe they’re married. Maybe this person had a diagnosed disability. Maybe they were planning a wedding or a funeral or caring for a loved one at the same time. Maybe they were homeless or buying a house or moving housing. Maybe this person is working 80 hours a week with no time for anything else. Maybe this person just got fired. Maybe this person is starting out in their career or ending their career. Maybe this person is depressed or even suicidal. Maybe this person just had their heart broken. Maybe they’re going through the same situation you are. While the specifics won’t be the same, the overall situation is still the same. Like I said, whatever you’re going through – big or small – someone has done it too, even if the specifics aren’t quite the same.
So, if you’re struggling to figure out how to learn how to cook or learn how to use Excel or learn how to use Instagram or how to get through a hard academic program while working full time, know and take comfort in the fact that someone else has already done it – someone who isn’t as awesome and talented and amazing as you are. Knowing that they got through can help you get through it too.
If someone you know is struggling with something big or small, please encourage them! And share this post/email with them at the same time! Hopefully, this perspective shift can help encourage them to keep on going and get through whatever they’re learning to do or going through.