Skills

Escaping negativity is hard.

I’ll be perfectly honest; when I first came up with the concept for this article (and it was probably about a month ago) I had big aspirations for how amazing and relatable it would be. People would laugh and cry reading it, it would be an article for the ages, lauded by all.

Needless to say, this is not that article. That article, which had potential (although probably not as much as I dreamed it would) was killed by my complete and utter lack of motivation, as well as persistent nagging from myself that whatever I did, the article wouldn’t be up to par anyway. The sad thing is, I really wanted to write a good article that people would appreciate. I want to live up to everybody’s expectations, and even go beyond that. I want my work to be acknowledged and appreciated. I’m only human, after all. Being human, however, entails other less positive things.

The negativity that keeps me from writing the inspired article isn’t unique to me. Most people go through phases where nothing seems to be good enough, no matter how much you give. The question then becomes, why bother trying? Once you’ve reached that particular question, with all the life-altering connotations it brings with, that’s when you really need to think about what you want and what makes you happy. In my experience, that’s what makes that negative cloud go away; by finding a little moment of happiness and stretching it, taking your safe zone and pushing its boundaries until you find purpose in even the things you don’t want to do.

This is the point in the year where a slump kicks in (at least for me). The jitters of the beginning of school have faded, and the mundanity of daily life has yet to be replaced by heart-stopping final jitters. Halloween has passed in all its sugar-spiked glory, and it’s really too early to be gearing up for Christmas. The important idea that will kick that negative voice to the curb for November is this – November is a time for thanks and family.

Wherever and whoever you are, there’s someone out there that cares, and that’s an amazing thing, a simple fact that can alleviate any foul mood. Dark clouds do come, and there’s really no way around it than to face it every day with a steely determination, a smirk worthy of Han Solo, and preferably a loved one. With the power of that trifecta, the negative voice in your head won’t dare to speak up.

How do you deal with your negative voice?

Image: Volkan Olmez

HealthSkills

Being a student isn’t a walk in the park. There’s always a paper to write, a homework assignment to complete, a book to read, a test to study for, and the list goes on.

This is why I like to think of both college and high school as four year careers. Sure, it doesn’t provide you with any kind of salary, but the lack of an income doesn’t stop any of you from hoping that all of your hard work will pay off in the end.

Why is that you ask? Well, I like to to think it’s because we all have a particular equation drilled into our heads. It might look different for you, but basically the equation goes like this:

Completing every assignment + Participating in class + Doing well on tests = __________

There are a number of outcomes to this mathematical problem. If you’re in high school, doing all of these things could mean getting straight As, graduating at the top of your class, and getting into the university of your dreams. In college, it could guarantee that you’ll make the Dean’s List every semester and possibly gain you admittance into your college’s honors program.

The point is, we all have our reasons for working hard in school. We all have short and long term goals that we strive to achieve during our scholarly careers.

But what happens when we don’t reach those goals? What happens when that equation, though simply put, becomes more complicated than we thought it would?

I know no one wants to think about the alternative to success. If we’re set on accomplishing all that we want to do, what is the point of thinking about that seven letter word that begins with an F? Some people might think they’re immune to this word because they’ve always gotten good grades, participated in class, and received stellar grades on their tests. While it’s always good to think positively and to never doubt yourself, it doesn’t do you any good to think you’re invincible or that the seven letter word, which almost always feels like a punch in the throat, will define us for the rest of our lives.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the word I’m talking about is failure. So many of us are afraid of it because, for whatever reason, we believe that if we ‘fail’ we have to automatically consider ourselves failures. Oftentimes, the standards of success and failure that we live by are the ones we set for ourselves.

Our greatest critic is the one living in our heads. No one else will be as hard on you as you are on yourself. This can be a good and a bad thing. Because while we have the ability to push ourselves to do better and to be better, we also can drive ourselves into a very negative place.

Failure is such a heavy word. And it hurts. Especially when you feel that you haven’t lived up to your idea of what success is. Again, we all have goals and dreams, but somewhere along our journey to achieving all that we set out to achieve, we forget that we are only human and that it’s okay to not succeed all the time.

You’re probably thinking I’m crazy and that I’ve never ‘failed’ in my life, otherwise I wouldn’t be saying this. However, I am writing from experience. This past year was hard for me because I was juggling six classes and set high expectations for myself. It really hurt when all of those expectations weren’t met. I started to see myself as a failure because I had ‘failed.’  As I’m sure a lot of you know, the bad thing about seeing yourself as a failure is that it affects every other aspect of your life. It makes you doubt yourself more and it makes you not want to strive for other things because you feel like it’s impossible for you to succeed now that you haven’t accomplished one or many of your goals.

Whether that goal is getting into the university of your dreams, making the Dean’s List, or graduating at the top of your class, don’t be so hard on yourself. You will always have opportunities to do better, be better, and learn from your mistakes. I know it hurts and I know you don’t see it now, but life will go on. You will be great and wonderful and you will not, I repeat, you WILL NOT be a failure if you ‘fail.’ If you have given something your all, that’s what truly matters. Don’t dwell on the past or what you haven’t accomplished because it’s only going to hinder future successes and, trust me, there will be an abundance of those if you continue to believe in yourself.

You just have to keep going and keep your head up; realize that not achieving a goal doesn’t make you a failure and being hard on yourself is not the answer to those questions that I posed earlier. If you don’t reach your goals, make new ones and try again. If you don’t get perfect grades or do well on a test, instead of wasting your time and energy on beating yourself over what you consider to be failures, learn from your mistakes and remember that failing, though it may hurt, is not a bad thing. How you deal with failure, on the other hand, is what can potentially tear you down and make you forget how amazing you truly are.

So again, don’t be so hard on yourself. I know this is easier said than done (trust me, I know) but once you relieve yourself from the guilt and the pain that tends to come with ‘failing,’ you’ll begin to see that success starts when you accept your failures and stop seeing yourself as one.

Image: morguefile

EducationSkills

Counting down the days until you are free from the vice-like grip of your job or internship? Dissatisfied with the work you are being asked to do? Wishing time would pass faster? We’ve all been there, and it really is no way to spend your time. Instead of using your energy being dissatisfied with your internship, use that energy to figure out how to make your internship work. Here are some tips to make the most of your internship when you are feeling frustrated with it:

1. Grab Lunch with People in Other Areas of the Company

If you are working in a certain division of a company, talk to people who work in other divisions. For example, if you work in the script reading division of a film production company, ask people in the marketing, finance, Human Resources, talent, and production divisions to go to lunch. You can walk up to someone or send a quick email introducing yourself. Be grateful for the time people give you, and meet with the intent of learning more about how those people got to where they are in their careers. This is a great way to network internally at your internship and to make the most of your time there. Even if you aren’t dissatisfied with your internship (or job), this is a smart way to meet more people and gain insight.

2. Focus on the Good and Write Down Positive Things That Are Happening

When you are frustrated, it’s easy to get pulled into a negativity spiral. Step back from your disappointment that the internship isn’t what you thought it would be, and instead focus on the things that are going well. Did you make a new friend? Did you deliver a project before the deadline? Was it a nice sunny walk to work? Pay attention to the little positive things, and you’ll see when you write them down that things might not be so bad after all. You might also try starting a gratitude journal for this same purpose.

3. Ask Your Boss for More (or Different) Responsibilities

Do you think your workload could be heavier? Too much free time? Maybe you see something that would be interesting to try? Once you determine whether you need more responsibilities, or maybe just a different project on your plate, approach your boss with a game plan. Have a clear “ask” and know what you want to say. If you approach your boss with an open-ended loose idea, he or she might think you aren’t serious or ready for more responsibilities. Ask for something specific and explain why you are feeling this way and how you would accomplish the tasks. If your boss approves, you now have a new exciting project to add to the original tasks that weren’t satisfying you. Even though you still have to get the other work done, your new tasks will help you break up the day and test new skills.

4. Be Honest with Your Boss About Expectations and Reality

If you are truly frustrated with the way things are happening in your internship or you feel like the job you applied for isn’t quite what you are being assigned, talk to your boss about it. Your time is precious and you should be making the most of it. While it’s important to pay your dues, you shouldn’t be spending every day for three months cleaning walls and getting coffee for people. You need to be learning and challenging yourself.

5. Take Initiative (While Also Getting Your Work Done)

If you see something around the office that needs to get done, be a self-starter and offer to do it without anyone having to ask. Be sure to get your main duties finished first, but then once those are completed, you have a project where you can shine and show initiative. This is a great way to be a rockstar at your internship even when you might feel dissatisfied with it.

6. Make Friends

Befriend the other interns or entry-level people you work with. Ask them to grab lunch or dinner after work. Is there a fun networking or social event this weekend or weeknight that looks interesting? Ask someone from work to join you! Having friends at work will help your internship feel more fulfilling.

7. This Internship is Temporary

Oftentimes, we figure out what we want to do by figuring what we don’t want to do. Even though you are disappointed with your internship, treat it as a learning experience for what you do not want to do. It’s a good lesson to learn now when you haven’t invested too much time or money into it. Additionally, once you realize that you only have a certain number of days of your internship left, you may start to feel inspired to make the most of it.

8. Create Healthy Competition with Yourself

When I feel frustrated with repetitive work, I create a healthy competition with myself. I try to get the work done faster than I did the previous day or see if there is a new strategy I can implement to accomplish the work. Setting goals against the work you did on previous days will keep you feeling sharp and attentive.

9. Plan After-Work Activities

When your days are filled with work you are not passionate about, they can feel long. Plan after-work activities to help keep you excited throughout the day. Search for networking or social events in your area, plan a dinner with a co-worker or friend, or catch a movie. There are many things you can organize after work that will help keep you from feeling too bummed out.

Bonus Tip #10: For Future Internships, Truly Know What You’re Getting Into

When you are applying for future internships, really understand what you are getting into. Just as the company interviews you, interview the company and ask them questions so you get a feel for what you will actually be doing on the job. Talk to other people who have interned at the company to hear what they have to say about their experience. Companies will be getting value from you during your internship, and you should gain value from your internships, as well. Ask lots of questions, do research, and if you can, ask to spend a day with a member of the team you are interested in to get a feel for what your summer, fall, or spring will look like.

How do you make things work when you are dissatisfied?